Intelligence Community

Intelligence Community

The United States Intelligence Community (IC) is a group of 14 agencies and organizations responsible for conducting intelligence activities necessary to the national security of the United States and the success of its foreign relations. Headed by the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), its members include the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a number of Department of Defense (DOD) agencies and organizations, and intelligence-gathering agencies within the departments of State, Energy, Justice, the Treasury, and Homeland Security.

Defining the Intelligence Community

In contrast to the generic term "intelligence community," the United States has a formal Intelligence Community established as a result of Executive Order 12333, signed by President Ronald Reagan on December 4, 1981. The order directs, in part, that the United States intelligence effort shall provide the president and the National Security Council with the necessary information on which to base decisions concerning the conduct and development of foreign, defense, and economic policy, and the protection of United States national interests from foreign security threats. All departments and agencies shall cooperate fully to fulfill this goal.

In addition to the CIA, the IC includes 13 other agencies and organizations. Those from DOD include the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Agency (NSA), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO),

(l to r) Former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, former Senator Warren Rudman, former FBI director Louis Freeh, and CIA National Intelligence Officer Paul Pillar are sworn in during intelligence hearings, 2002. AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS.
(l to r) Former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, former Senator Warren Rudman, former FBI director Louis Freeh, and CIA National Intelligence Officer Paul Pillar are sworn in during intelligence hearings, 2002.

National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), and the intelligence agencies of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Non-DOD members include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (a part of the Justice Department), the United States Coast Guard (part of the Department of Homeland Security as of 2003), the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the intelligence agencies of the Energy and Treasury departments.


The 14 members of the IC work separately and together in fulfillment of a number of functions. They collect information required by the president, the National Security Council (NSC), the secretaries of state and defense, and other officials of the executive branch. In meeting the needs of these and other customers, they produce and disseminate a variety of intelligence gathered through the four traditional methods of intelligence collection: human, signals, imagery, and measurement and signatures intelligence (HUMINT, SIGINT, IMINT, and MASINT respectively).

Intelligence collection is directed toward information on international terrorist and narcotics trafficking activities, as well as other hostile activities against the United States by foreign powers, organizations, persons, and/or their agents. Members of the IC are also involved in the conduct of special activities, which can and do involve covert action against entities deemed a threat to national security.

Leadership and oversight. The DCI serves a triple function as head of the CIA, principal intelligence advisor to the president, and director of the IC. He reports to the president, directly and through the national security advisor and/or the NSC. Each year, DCI presents the president with the annual IC budget, known as the National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP).

As head of the IC, the DCI is responsible for directing and coordinating national foreign intelligence activities, though he only exercises direct authority over CIA, as well as staff organizations outside the CIA. The latter include the National Intelligence Council (NIC), responsible for preparing national intelligence estimates, and the Community Management Staff, which assists DCI in his IC executive functions.

Advisory boards. DCI also chairs two advisory boards, the National Foreign Intelligence Board (NFIB) and the Intelligence Community Executive Committee (IC/EXCOM). Membership of both is made up of representatives from IC agencies. The NFIB exercises authority over approving national intelligence estimates, coordination of interagency intelligence exchanges as well as exchanges with the intelligence and security agencies of friendly foreign nations, and development of policy for the protection of intelligence sources and methods.

The IC/EXCOM advises DCI on national intelligence policy and resource issues, including matters relating to the IC budget, the establishment of needs and priorities, evaluation of intelligence activities, and formulation and implementation of intelligence policy. Its members include, in addition to DCI, the Deputy Secretary of Defense and undersecretaries whose roles relate to intelligence; the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the directors of NSA, NRO, NIMA, and DIA; the Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research; the NIC chairman; and the executive directors for IC affairs and CIA.

Internal and external oversight. A number of mechanisms exist for providing oversight and accountability to the IC. These include entities within its membership, as well as from both the executive and legislative branches of government. Within the IC is the CIA Inspector General, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, who is responsible for investigating allegations of impropriety and mismanagement within CIA. DOD has its own inspector general, a position created by statute, while DOD elements of the IC have non-statutory inspectors general appointed by the directors of the respective agencies. Independent inspectors general exert oversight for non-DOD member organizations.

At the executive level, the Intelligence Oversight Board of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board provides oversight, and reviews the functions of IC over-sight mechanisms. In the area of budgeting, controlled ultimately by the President, the Office of Management and Budget ensures that IC activities comport with the President's overall program. Within the executive branch, Congress provides checks and balances through the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and other committees concerned with activities relating to national security.



Fain, Tyrus G., and Katharine C. Plant. The Intelligence Community: History, Organization, and Issues. New York: R. R. Bowker, 1977.

Gore, Albert. The Intelligence Community: Accompanying Report of the National Performance Review, Office of the Vice President. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.

Hopple, Gerald W., and Bruce W. Watson. The Military Intelligence Community. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986.

Kirkpatrick, Lyman B. The U.S. Intelligence Community: Foreign Policy and Domestic Activities. New York: Hill and Wang, 1973.

Richelson, Jeffrey T. The U.S. Intelligence Community, fourth edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999.

Smist, Frank John. Congress Oversees the United States Intelligence Community, 1947–1989. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990.


Intelligence Agency Profiles. Federation of American Scientists. < > (April 14, 2003).

U.S. Intelligence Community. < > (April 14, 2003).


Air Force Intelligence, United States
CIA (United States Central Intelligence Agency)
Coast Guard (USCG), United States
DCI (Director of the Central Intelligence Agency)
DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency)
DOD (United States Department of Defense)
DOE (United States Department of Energy)
FBI (United States Federal Bureau of Investigation)
INSCOM (United States Army Intelligence and Security Command)
Intelligence & Research (INR), United States Bureau
Intelligence, United States Congressional Oversight
NIC (National Intelligence Council)
NSC (National Security Council)
NFIB (United States National Foreign Intelligence Board)
NIMA (National Imagery and Mapping Agency)
NMIC (National Maritime Intelligence Center)
NRO (National Reconnaissance Office)
NSA (United States National Security Agency)
PFIAB (President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board)
President of the United States (Executive Command and Control of Intelligence Agencies)
Treasury Department, United States

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