Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Legacy Today - Military Intelligence Corps

"There is nothing more necessary than good intelligence to frustrate a designing enemy, & nothing requires greater pains to obtain."
--George Washington

George Washington as case officer in chief meets an agent

The Yankee Doodle Spies series is intended in part as a tribute to the United States’ first army – the Continental Army, and to its first intelligence entity. In a sense, it is also a tribute to today’s Army and today’s Army intelligence.

John Jay
Unlike today’s Army, the Continental Army lacked a holistic intelligence structure.  Instead, various militia units and continental forces scattered across the states recruited their own local spy networks and attempted, with varying degrees of success, to detect British and Loyalist spy networks.  In 1775, Congress created a Committee of Secret Correspondence to oversee all intelligence activities – essentially America’s first intelligence entity (I hesitate to say agency). Benjamin Franklin was a member. A year later, Congress created a Committee on Spies. John Adams was a member of that one.  Also, New York’s “Committee to Detect Conspiracies” oversaw counterespionage operations in and around New York City. It famously uncovered a plot to assassinate George Washington.  John Jay was the committee’s original Chairman.

Benjamin Tallmadge
                                                                                                                                                                                As for military intelligence, Washington personally directed much of the intelligence activity centered on the main Continental Army. He was both the consumer and producer of intelligence.  His action-arm was first under the direction of Thomas Knowlton, and later Benjamin Tallmadge. Both play cameo roles in the Yankee Doodle Spies series. As commander in chief he personally spent a great deal of time fretting over and developing sources of information; whether spies, informants, prisoners, intercepted correspondence and even what we today call “open source.”

Thomas Knowlton
But after the war, and for most of the Army’s history, there was no holistic intelligence organization.  Instead, the function came and went. The Army finally adopted the modern staff system with intelligence centered around an appointed G2 with intelligence officers detailed from other Army branches. In war time things got done and were generally done well, but intelligence needs to be engaged in peace and war.

MI Corps Regimental Insignia
Fortunately, 50 years ago this year the Army finally resolved the issue by creating Military Intelligence as a Branch, professionalizing its intelligence officer corps for the first time.  The Army went a step further 25 years ago when it established the Military Intelligence Corps, incorporating its enlisted cadre into a professional body aimed at furthering the quality of intelligence provided to the United States Army.

The benefits of the creation of the MI Branch and Corps were many but first among them is a trained and dedicated cadre of men and women advocating for the arm of the service that George Washington valued so greatly.  

1 comment:

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