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Ask Molly: IC History

May 29, 2024

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Dear Molly,

Which of the agencies in the Intelligence Community are the oldest and newest? Was CIA the first?

~ Sibling Spies


Dear Sibling Spies,

For those who don’t know, the Intelligence Community (or IC as we like to call it) is made up of 18 separate government elements that collect and analyze intelligence in order to better protect our nation and our people. IC agencies contribute to our nation’s security through their work in different fields, such as satellites and military intelligence to combating illegal drug trafficking and countering terrorism.

It’s a good guess that the CIA, America’s central intelligence agency, would have been the oldest IC agency… I thought the same thing!

However, according to our historians, the oldest agency within the IC is the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), which dates back to 1882! In that year, Secretary of the Navy William Hunt issued General Order No. 292 authorizing the creation of an Office of Intelligence within the Bureau of Navigation. Today, from its headquarters at the National Maritime Intelligence Center in Suitland, Maryland, ONI serves as the nation’s premier source of maritime intelligence.

As for the newest IC member, many people think it’s the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). According to our historians, Coast Guard Intelligence has been around organizationally since 1915 when a Chief Intelligence Officer was assigned to USCG Headquarters. However, it didn’t become a formal member of the IC until 2001, when President George W. Bush signed legislation that amended the National Security Act of 1947.

However, there is a new kid on the block—or should I say, in space…

The U.S. Space Force (USSF) is both the newest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and newest member of the U.S. Intelligence Community! USSF was established on Dec. 20, 2019 when the National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, creating the first new branch of the armed services in 73 years. Space Force technically falls within the Department of the Air Force, meaning that the Secretary of the Air Force has overall responsibility for USSF under the guidance and direction of the Secretary of Defense. USSF officially become the 18th member of the IC in January 2021.

Now, for all you trivia nerds like me: Can you name all 18 IC Agencies?

I’ll give you a hint: The IC is made up of nine Department of Defense elements, seven elements of other Federal Government departments and agencies, and two independent agencies (one of which, of course, is CIA).

~ Molly


P.S. If you’re still stumped, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is a good place to start. <wink>

ask molly

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