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Directorate of Science and Technology: Technology so Advanced, it's Classified

Here at CIA, most of the work we do is classified. And the work done in the Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T) is no exception. In fact, the men and women—the scientists, engineers and technical experts—in the DS&T produce technology so advanced, it’s classified. Think back to a James Bond movie and the work developed by the “Q Branch.” What our men and women do is even more impressive.

The use of science and technology is critical to the intelligence process, and the DS&T’s mission is to attack intelligence problems with cutting-edge technical solutions to help protect the nation.



The use of science and technology originated with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – CIA’s predecessor organization – during World War II. During the Cold War, it was critical to the clandestine and analytical officers abroad to have the latest scientific advances, specifically with technical collection.

In the early 1950s and 1960s, the CIA’s forward-thinking officers assumed a dominant role in the development of state-of-the-art aerial, space-based, and ground technical collection systems and devices.

Overhead reconnaissance was one of CIA’s most important missions during this time. Because of these needs, CIA developed two extraordinary aircraft: the U-2 and the A-12. The U-2 was developed in 1954 to take photographs of Soviet Bloc military facilities, beyond the range of Soviet fighters and missiles. The U-2 could fly at altitudes of 65,000 to 70,000 feet at subsonic speed. Although the U-2 was built to fly deep inside the Soviet Union, it was soon vulnerable to Soviet air defenses. The CIA soon embarked on the A-12 program (code-named OXCART) to provide a successor to the U-2. When the A‑12 was declared fully operational, it sustained speed of Mach 3.2 at 90,000 feet altitude.

Recognizing the important role of science and technology in this new aerospace age, the CIA created a single CIA entity responsible for all of the Agency’s technological needs.

In 1962, CIA formed the Directorate of Research – the predecessor to the DS&T. A year later, in August 1963, Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) John A. McCone established the Directorate of Science and Technology.

Since its formation, the DS&T has evolved steadily into a diverse organization that provides wide ranging products and services in support of CIA’s mission. The overarching purpose of the DS&T is to bring technical expertise to collection and analysis on the most pressing intelligence issues.


Who We Are

The DS&T consists of over 50 different disciplines, ranging from computer programming and engineering, to scientific research and analysis. Our officers are stationed around the world, side-by-side with case officers and military personnel. They create uniquely tailored equipment for operations.

The outstanding men and women of today’s DS&T - like their predecessors in the OSS and the accomplished scientists and engineers who served CIA during the Cold War - are some of the most creative people in the US Government. They are a diverse work force of skilled, inventive, and flexible people - technical specialists with an interest in "hands-on" problem solving. They stand ready to produce "one of a kind" items of unequalled quality under short deadlines. The DS&T is a vital part of our nation’s defense.


What We Do

The DS&T continually seeks to push the boundaries of the state-of-the-art, infusing cutting-edge technologies with effective targeting and tradecraft. The majority of work produced in the DS&T is classified.

The DS&T partners with many Intelligence Community agencies and uses best practices to support creative thinking and coordination. The Agency must continue adapting technology to the needs of intelligence to ensure future success.


In the Community & Across the Nation

Not only does the DS&T invest in future technology, but they invest in their officers. The DS&T is active in the community and across the nation. Our officers participate in local projects, such as regional high school science fairs, and they also support several minority conferences.

Learn more about these programs.


Technology Artifacts

The DS&T has created scientifically advanced, “one of a kind” items, including:

Dragonfly Insectothopterdstimage.JPG
The first flight of an insect-sized vehicle (insectothopter) was developed by CIA’s Office of Research and Development in the 1970s. Insectothopter had a miniature engine to move the wings up and down. A small amount of gas was used to drive the engine, and the excess was vented out the rear for extra thrust. The flight tests were impressive. However, a crosswind of any kind proved too difficult to control its flight movement.

Lithium-Iodine Battery
The CIA often develops technology and conducts research that not only advances its mission but, when declassified, can have significant impact on the world. The lithium-iodine battery improved the reliability and longevity of technical surveillance operations. It also ensured the prolonged operation of reconnaissance satellites.

In the 1970s, the Agency shared its research on lithium-iodine batteries with the medical community. This same technology is used in heart pacemakers today.

For more information on technology-related artifacts, please visit the CIA Museum virtual tour.


Is the DS&T for you?

Changing trends around the world constantly challenge DS&T’s officers. They must stay ahead of the technology curve to ensure that our analysts and collectors operate effectively.

The DS&T offers a team-oriented environment and needs a broad range of technical scientific and engineering skills to support its activities. If you are looking for a unique opportunity in the scientific and technical disciplines, see what positions are currently available.

Historical Document
Posted: Feb 12, 2009 10:32 AM
Last Updated: May 12, 2016 12:54 PM