At the height of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency realized that conventional methods of obtaining information from sources were no longer adequate to provide answers to policymakers’ questions. Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) John McCone believed that using science and technology could provide better intelligence. However, the science and technology offices were scattered across the Agency. McCone knew that he had to consolidate and coordinate all of these offices in order to provide policymakers with accurate information.
Using Science and Technology in Intelligence
During World War II, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)—the predecessor of today’s CIA—was the first to use science and technology as part of the intelligence process. In the OSS, the Research and Development (R&D) Branch invented weapons and gadgets and adapted Allied equipment for new missions. Silenced pistols, tiny cameras and a uniform button containing a compass are a few of the items created by the OSS R&D Branch.
When President Harry S. Truman founded the CIA in 1947, many R&D veterans signed on to work at the Agency. They were ready to apply the latest scientific advances to support Agency operations. However, these efforts were uncoordinated and scattered across the Agency.
During the following years, the concept of how science and technology could be used in intelligence changed dramatically. Inspired by Cold War fears of a Soviet surprise attack and encouraged by prominent government advisory commissions, the use of science and technology—especially technical collection with aircraft and satellites—quickly moved to a position of great importance among CIA activities.
Creation of the Deputy Directorate of Research
When McCone became DCI in November 1961, his top priority was the establishment of a new directorate that would consolidate the Agency’s far-flung and uncoordinated science and technology research, collection, and analysis.
Previously an engineer and manager of large corporations, McCone thought CIA’s science and technology efforts needed a major reorganization and redirection to promote efficiency, productivity, and innovation. This led to the formation of the Deputy Directorate of Research (DDR) on February 19, 1962, under Herbert “Pete” Scoville.
The initial attempt did not go as well as either McCone or Scoville envisioned. After nearly a year of attempting to organize the new directorate, Scoville had only managed to form three new offices:
- the Office of Special Activities—dealing with aerial and space-based reconnaissance issues at the National Reconnaissance Office,
- the Office of ELINT, and
- the Office of Research and Development, which was organized to maximize the Agency’s use of science and technology across the directorates.
By early 1963, McCone was growing impatient with the DDR’s slow development. Facing increased White House pressure, McCone criticized Scoville for failing to form a more robust directorate. A frustrated Scoville submitted his resignation on April 25, 1963.
Organizing the Directorate of Science and Technology
At this point DCI McCone realized that establishing the role of science and technology in the Agency and the intelligence community required a more dynamic, assertive leader. McCone turned to 34-year-old Albert “Bud” Wheelon—the Directorate of Intelligence’s Assistant Deputy for Scientific Intelligence—as Scoville’s replacement.
Then, on August 5, 1963, McCone officially announced the creation of the Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T) and established a clear mission. This set the stage for the development of an unparalleled group of offices to advance the use of science and technology in intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination.
Wheelon wasted no time in establishing the new directorate as the Agency’s lead in science and technology, although not without some opposition within the Agency and elsewhere in the intelligence community.
Within the first year, Wheelon fully integrated OSI and the Office of Computer Services into the new directorate. He then took steps to create a Foreign Missile and Space Analysis Center and a Special Projects Staff (the future Office of Development and Engineering) to ensure a prominent CIA role at the NRO. By the time of his departure from CIA in September 1966, Wheelon had created a solid foundation for science and technology within CIA.
While the original six-office DS&T has changed in size and organization during the last 46 years—eventually growing to 10 components by 2009—the directorate made many significant contributions toward understanding and overcoming the strategic threats the Soviet Union and other adversaries posed during and after the Cold War. The DS&T helped launch and perpetuate the global post-World War II technological revolution in intelligence. Today, the DS&T continues to develop innovations that directly benefit the nation’s intelligence and defense communities.