The United States Intelligence Community is a cooperative federation of sixteen United States government agencies and organizations that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities considered "necessary" for the conduct of foreign relations and the protection of the national security of the United States. Among their varied responsibilities the members of the Community collect and produce foreign and domestic intelligence, contribute to military planning, and perform espionage. The Intelligence Community was established by Executive Order 12333, signed on December 4, 1981 by President Ronald Reagan.

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Purpose

Executive Order 12333 charged the Intelligence Community with six primary objectives:

  • Collection of information needed by the President, the National Security Council, the Secretaries of State and Defense, and other Executive Branch officials for the performance of their duties and responsibilities;
  • Production and dissemination of intelligence;

  • Collection of information concerning, and the conduct of activities to protect against, intelligence activities directed against the U.S., international terrorist and/or narcotics activities, and other hostile activities directed against the U.S. by foreign powers, organizations, persons and their agents;

  • Special activities (defined as activities conducted in support of national foreign policy objectives abroad which are planned and executed so that the role of the United States Government is not apparent or acknowledged publicly, and functions in support of such activities, but which are not intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media and do not include diplomatic activities or the collection and production of intelligence or related support functions);

  • Administrative and support activities within the US and abroad necessary for the performance of authorized activities; and

  • Such other intelligence activities as the President may direct from time to time.

Organization

Intelligence Community members

The Intelligence Community consists of sixteen members (also called elements). The Central Intelligence Agency is an independent agency of the federal government. The other fifteen elements are offices or bureaus within executive branch departments. The Community is led by the Director of National Intelligence whose Office is not listed by the Community as a member.

  • Independent Agencies

    • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

  • United States Department of Defense

    • Air Intelligence Agency AIA

    • Army Intelligence

    • Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)

    • Marine Corps Intelligence Activity

    • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)

    • National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)

    • National Security Agency (NSA)

    • Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)

  • United States Department of Energy

    • Office of Intelligence

  • United States Department of Homeland Security

    • Coast Guard Intelligence

    • Office of Intelligence and Analysis

  • United States Department of Justice

    • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Directorate of Intelligence

    • Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of National Security Intelligence

  • United States Department of State

    • Bureau of Intelligence and Research

  • United States Department of the Treasury

    • Office of Intelligence and Analysis

Intelligence Community programs

US Intelligence Community activities are performed under two separate programs: the National Intelligence Program and the Military Intelligence Program.

  • The National Intelligence Program (NIP), formerly known as the National Foreign Intelligence Program as defined by the National Security Act of 1947 (as amended), "refers to all programs, projects, and activities of the intelligence community, as well as any other programs of the intelligence community designated jointly by the Director of National Intelligence and the head of a United States department or agency or by the President. Such term does not include programs, projects, or activities of the military departments to acquire intelligence solely for the planning and conduct of tactical military operations by United States Armed Forces." Under the law, the Director of National Intelligence is responsible for directing and overseeing the NIP, though his ability to do so is limited (see the Organization structure and leadership section).
  • The programs, projects, or activities of the military departments to acquire intelligence solely for the planning and conduct of tactical military operations by United States Armed Forces comprise the Military Intelligence Program (MIP). The MIP is directed and controlled by the Secretary of Defense. In 2005, the Department of Defense combined the Joint Military Intelligence Program and the Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities program to form the MIP.

  • Since the definitions of the NIP and MIP overlap when they address military intelligence, assignment of Department of Defense intelligence activities to the NIP and MIP sometimes proves problematic.

Organizational structure and leadership

The overall organization of the Intelligence Community is primarily governed by the National Security Act of 1947, as amended, and Executive Order 12333. The statutory organizational relationships were substantially revised with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 amendments to the National Security Act of 1947.

Though the Intelligence Community characterizes itself as a "federation" of its member elements, its overall structure is better characterized as a confederation due to its lack of a well-defined, unified leadership and governance structure. Under the law, the head of the Intelligence Community is the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The DNI exerts leadership of the Intelligence Community primarily through the statutory authorities under which he:

  • Controls the National Intelligence Program budget;
  • Establishes objectives, priorities, and guidance for the Intelligence Community; and

  • Manages and directs the tasking of, collection, analysis, production, and dissemination of national intelligence by elements of the Intelligence Community.

However, the DNI has no authority to direct and control any element of the Community except his own staff, the Office of the DNI. Neither does the DNI have the authority to hire or fire personnel in the Intelligence Community except those in his own staff. The member elements in the executive branch are directed and controlled by their respective department heads, who are all cabinet-level officials who report to the President. By law, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency only reports to the DNI.

In the light of major intelligence failures in recent years that called into the question how well Intelligence Community ensures US national and homeland security, particularly those identified by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission), and the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (the WMD Intelligence Commission), the authorities and powers of the DNI and the overall organizational structure of the Intelligence Community have become subject of intense debate in the United States.

Legislative oversight

The Intelligence Community is overseen by a number of US Congressional committees. Primary jurisdiction over the Community is assigned to the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, though the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services and U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services draft bills to annually authorize the budgets of Department of Defense intelligence activities, and Appropriations Committees of both chambers annually draft bills to appropriate the budgets of the Intelligence Community. The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs took a leading role in formulating the intelligence reform legislation in the 108th Congress.

 


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