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Navy Goats and Army Mules: Military Directors of CIA

Did you know that five of CIA’s former Directors graduated from either the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD or the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY? In celebration of the Army-Navy game on December 13, 2014—one of the most enduring and intense U.S. college football rivalries—we’ve compiled short profiles of these directors.

Although some cheered for the Navy “Midshipmen,” while others waved the black and gold of the Army “Black Knights,” outside of the stadium these former intelligence directors share the same passion and commitment to their country that exemplifies all CIA officers, military and civilian alike, who serve this great nation.

As the storied 124-year rivalry gains a new chapter this Saturday, we hope you enjoy these few short tales of CIA’s past directors, whether they belong to the Navy “goats” or will forever be Army “mules.”

Lt. Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg (June 1946 – May 1947)

Hoyt Vandenberg, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in 1923, was pivotal in establishing what would become the CIA. In the summer of 1946, US military forces quickly demobilized and transferred many components to civilian agencies. Vandenberg—appointed DCI in 1946 by President Truman—moved aggressively to claim some of the components for CIA’s institutional predecessor, the Central Intelligence Group (CIG), including the Foreign Broadcast Information Service and the intelligence portion of the Manhattan Project (the program that produced the atomic bomb). Vandenberg built up the CIG’s analytical and operational offices and increased its workforce threefold, but he sought to create a new organization independent from the State Department and military. He used his personal contacts to gain political support for President Truman to enact legislation establishing the CIA in 1947.

Rear Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter (May 1947 – October 1950)

Roscoe Hillenkoetter, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1919, was assigned to the battleship USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor: He was the most senior officer of his crew to survive the Japanese attack on December 7, 1941. As the U.S. entered WWII, Hillenkoetter became the officer in charge of intelligence for the Pacific Fleet Staff, and in the spring of 1947, President Truman appointed him DCI. Hillenkoetter oversaw the development of CIA after its establishment with the passage of the National Security Act in 1947, but eight months into his tenure, Hillenkoetter came under fire after the National Security Council released a highly critical report outlining a lack of intelligence sharing and organizational structure at the Agency. Hillenkoetter established the first ever interagency intelligence estimate in an effort to create more objective, balanced estimates by CIA.

Vice Adm. William Raborn (April 1965 – June 1966)

William Raborn graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1928. Raborn was best known for directing the Navy’s Special Projects Office, where he completed the Polaris submarine-launched missile program three years ahead of schedule. President Johnson appointed Raborn as DCI in 1965. He had extensive military and technical experience but was inexperienced in foreign affairs; nevertheless, his tenure was dominated by increasing US involvement in Vietnam and concern over the potential spread of communism in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Raborn’s most lasting legacy was his restructuring of CIA’s Operations Center, including staffing the Ops Center with Senior Managers on weekends to ensure emergencies are managed effectively; a policy that continues to this day.

Adm. Stansfield Turner (March 1977 – January 1981)

Stansfield Turner, commissioned into the U.S. Navy in June 1946, was a career naval officer and former classmate of President Carter at the U.S. Naval Academy. Turner served as president of the Naval War College from 1972–1974. In 1977, President Carter appointed Turner as DCI. Familiar issues, like the spread of communism, and new ones, like the Islamic fundamentalist movement, were the pivotal intelligence problems of Turner’s tenure. He was an analyst at heart and an experienced leader who liked to challenge the ideas of those around him to spur action and debate. Turner sought to create a more integrated Intelligence Community and to reshape some of the Agency’s traditional roles, but ran into controversy when he made deep cuts to CIA’s operational side based on the belief that satellite imagery could provide the bulk of intelligence collection.

Gen. David H. Petraeus (September 2011 – November 2012)

David Petraeus, who served for 37 years in the U.S. military, graduated with distinction from the U.S. Military Academy in 1974. He went on to earn a Masters and a PhD degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in the mid and late 1980s. Petraeus served several tours in Europe, Central America, South-East Asia, and the Middle East before becoming commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was appointed DCIA (formally DCI) by President Obama and sworn in on September 6, 2011. Petraeus led the Agency during a period that saw significant achievements in CIA’s global counter-terrorism efforts, the expansion of diversity and outreach programs, and the enhancement of the Agency’s IT infrastructure.


Posted: Dec 12, 2014 01:17 PM
Last Updated: Dec 12, 2014 01:18 PM