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From Pearl Harbor to the Digital Age: Open Source Enterprise Celebrates 75th Anniversary

FBMS headquarters
It all began in 1941 with $150,000 from President Franklin Roosevelt’s emergency fund and a building at 316 F Street in Washington, DC. The rest, as we say, is history. Though it may have sounded like an early start-up venture, it was instead the beginnings of the Open Source Enterprise (OSE), which celebrated its 75th anniversary this year.

The First Report

When OSE began in 1941 as the Foreign Broadcast Monitoring Service (FBMS) under the Federal Communications Commission, little was known about open source intelligence (OSINT) – there were no college courses, no how-to guides, but there was a national imperative.

Radio broadcast technology developed rapidly in the 1930s, and the Axis powers used this tool for “for breaching international boundaries to propagandize and subvert.”

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941
The president saw this unique ability as an important intelligence edge and the Office of Strategic Services and Office of War Information agreed since they relied heavily on FBMS. The Service proved its worth on December 6, 1941, when it released its first analytic report [PDF 2.41MB*] warning of “Tokyo’s increasingly belligerent tone.” The next day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Joining CIA

In 1947, FBMS joined with the newly created CIA and became the Foreign Broadcast Information System (FBIS).

Though the office has had different names over the years – FBMS, FBIS, OSC (Open Source Center), and now OSE – 75 years later the demand for its collection and insights from its talented people around the world has never been greater.

Though proud of its history, OSE has never been constrained by it, always looking for the newest technology to optimize its collection. The women and men of FBMS in the 1940s could not have conceived of the information environment of today. The shortwave of yesterday is a universe of digital communication platforms today.


When the new Directorate of Digital Innovation (DDI) stood up in 2015, OSE joined the DDI, playing a major part in and benefiting greatly from the digital revolution driving the modernization of CIA.

Recently, in an interview, Associate Deputy Director of DDI Sean Roche said, “The old story is that open source [intelligence] was always doing good things. But unless a paper was marked ‘top secret,’ it didn’t seem to have the same weight. We know that not to be true today.”

Seventy-five years and many successes later, OSE still remains the hallmark of OSINT, continuing to give intelligence collection the edge it needs to be truly effective. Not a bad investment of $150,000.

Interested in working for OSE?

For more information about the early years of OSE, see:

Posted: Dec 07, 2016 03:25 PM
Last Updated: Dec 12, 2016 11:56 AM