The term G–2 refers to the intelligence staff of a unit in the United States Army. It is contrasted with G–1 (personnel), G–3 (operations), and G–4 (supply). In the navy, these sections have their counterparts, each with an N– designation, while at the level of the Joint Staff, the sections use the prefix J–.
The G– system, as well as the basic structure of military intelligence and even the concept of an army general staff, are surprisingly modern creations. Although George Washington proved shrewd at gathering and using intelligence in the American Revolution, it was only in 1885 that the army formally instituted its Division of Military Information under the Adjutant General's Office.
European armies had meanwhile adopted the G–designations, which originated in France. In 1903, the U.S. Army implemented the concept of a permanent general staff, and with it the four sections pioneered in Europe. The Division of Military Information thus became G–2.
Interest in military intelligence grew during World War I, which saw the formation of an intelligence division under the War Department General Staff. The army also instituted the use of staffs that included intelligence officers all the way down to the battalion level. This emphasis on military intelligence, however, subsided after the armistice.
The army treated the work of G–2 as a function that any officer could fill, hence there was no need for any permanent military intelligence organization. In 1950, General Dwight D. Eisenhower commented in an address to the War College, "I think that officers of ability in all our services shied away from the intelligence branch in the fear that they would be forming dimples in their knees by holding teacups in Buenos Aires or Timbuctoo."
Although the army had developed a Military Intelligence Division (MID) at the end of World War I, its resources were limited, even during World War II. At the same time, the war finally saw the transfer of signals intelligence from the signal corps to G–2. In a 1946 reorganization of the army, MID was placed over the Army Security Agency (ASA) and the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC), but in contrast to this emphasis on signals intelligence, there was no command concerned with human and imagery intelligence.
Those demands would be met in the postwar era, which saw an explosion in the growth of G–2 functions. Today, military intelligence is as critical a component of army operations as logistics, and it may seem difficult to imagine a time when commanders did not recognize that fact.
█ FURTHER READING:
Berkowitz, Bruce D., and Allan E. Goodman. Strategic Intelligence for American National Security. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.
Finnegan, John Patrick, and Romana Danysh. Military Intelligence. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1998.
Miller, Nathan. Spying for America: The Hidden History of U.S. Intelligence. New York: Paragon House, 1989.
Suvorov, Viktor. Inside Soviet Military Intelligence. New York: Macmillan, 1984.