April 23, 2012
By ERIC SCHMITT
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is revamping its spy operations to focus on high-priority targets like Iran and China in a reorganization that reflects a shift away from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan that have dominated America’s security landscape for the past decade.
Under the plan approved last week by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, case officers from the new Defense Clandestine Service would work more closely with counterparts from the Central Intelligence Agency at a time when the military and spy agency are increasingly focused on similar threats.
“It will thicken our coverage across the board,” said a senior Defense Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss with a small group of reporters on Monday what he called a “realignment” of the military’s human espionage efforts.
Case officers from the Defense Intelligence Agency already secretly gather intelligence on a range of global issues — including terrorism and weapons proliferation — typically working out of C.I.A. stations in American embassies and undercover like their C.I.A. counterparts.
But a classified study completed last year by the director of national intelligence found that while the D.I.A. was effectively conducting its traditional, and much larger, mission of providing intelligence to troops and commanders in war zones, it needed to focus more attention outside the battlefields on what is called “national intelligence” — gathering and distributing information on global issues and sharing that intelligence with other agencies.
The senior Defense Department official said the new intelligence service aimed to ensure that “officers are in the right locations to pursue those requirements.” The official declined to give specific examples of where such shifts might occur, but the United States in recent years has increasingly focused on counterterrorism and nonproliferation. The Obama administration has also begun to focus on security issues in Asia, including rising powers like China.
The new intelligence service is expected to grow “from several hundred to several more hundred” in the coming years by shifting people’s assignments, but the defense official sought to allay concerns that the Pentagon organization would take over functions of the C.I.A. or its National Clandestine Service. He said it would seek no additional personnel, authorities or money, and would strive for “closer integration” with the C.I.A. and other American intelligence agencies.
Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who heads the House Intelligence Committee, said in an e-mail that he supported the plan in principle “because it will allow for greater value from our intelligence officers through integration.”
The plan, which was worked out by Michael G. Vickers, the top Pentagon intelligence policy official, and his C.I.A. counterpart and presented to Congressional committees last week, comes a week after a top Army officer with experience in special operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and close ties to the intelligence agencies, was nominated to be the next D.I.A. director.The officer, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, was the top intelligence officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff before he went to Kabul to oversee a revamping of the mission in Afghanistan. He pioneered new intelligence techniques to understand terrorist and insurgent networks, and to track and attack their leadership.