The Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS, now re-named DI), was formed after World War II by merging the civilian Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB) and three single-service intelligence directorates. The retired Major General Sir Kenneth Strong, General Eisenhower’s former head of intelligence and ex-director of the JIB, became the first director general of intelligence.
About 1000 staff constituted the largest number of intelligence analysts in Whitehall addressing external threats. It was a unique amalgamation of career civilian intelligence analysts, retired second-career officers, scientists, linguists, and short-tour serving officers and NCOs.
Broadly, DIS had three main tasks – which remain at the heart of the business. First, to give timely warning of events and trends likely to have an impact on the interests of the UK and its allies.
Second, to provide intelligence support to MoD policy development, planning and operations. Third, to inform and guide the defence equipment programme. The defence establishments and activities of a broad range of countries were studied to achieve this end. Flexibility in the face of changing and emerging risks and threats continues as a constant theme, in recent years more so than ever.
Over 50 years the original DIS has changed radically. The chief of defence intelligence (CDI) is now responsible for both the former Directorate General Military Survey and the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre. Service and civilian intelligence training has been centralised as a DI function.
Today, DI employs some 4000 people. CDI has assumed overall authority for ‘C4ISR’ (Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and cyber.
As for the future, DI is evolving and this will continue. The creation and stabilisation of structures and ways of working for C4ISR and cyber joint units are progressing. Support for the Afghanistan ‘main effort’ continues. Contingency planning and operational support in other areas, through provision of intelligence analysis and assessment, remains routine business.