The total includes military attachés and others who do not work undercover. But U.S. officials said the growth will be driven over a five-year period by the deployment of a new generation of clandestine operatives. They will be trained by the CIA and often work with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, but they will get their spying assignments from the Department of Defense.
Among the Pentagon’s top intelligence priorities, officials said, are Islamist militant groups in Africa, weapons transfers by North Korea and Iran, and military modernization underway in China.
The DIA has also forged a much tighter relationship with JSOC, the military’s elite and highly lethal commando force, which also carries out drone strikes in Yemen and other countries.
Key aspects of the DIA’s plan were developed by then-Director Ronald L. Burgess, a retired three-star general who had served as intelligence chief to JSOC.
The DIA played an extensive and largely hidden role in JSOC operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, sending analysts into war zones and turning a large chunk of its workforce and computer systems in Virginia into an ana-lytic back office for JSOC.
The head of U.S. Special Operations Command, Adm. William H. McRaven, who directed the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, has pledged to create between 100 and 200 slots for undercover DIA operatives to work with Special Forces teams being deployed across North Africa and other trouble spots, officials said.
“Bill McRaven is a very strong proponent of this,” the senior Defense official said.