On October 15, 2018, The Institute of World Politics hosted Dr. Richard Schroeder, a former CIA officer who authored The Foundation of the CIA: Harry Truman, The Missouri Gang, and the Origins of the Cold War. The book highlights themes about how the U.S. conducted intelligence prior to and after the creation of the CIA.
The United States had come late to the world of intelligence because, in its early years, it tended to shift its focus away from international affairs and intelligence after achieving a military victory. Instead, the U.S. would focus on developing and expanding its domestic power and infrastructure. At the end of the 19th century, when the U.S. realized that its military power, particularly its naval capability, was lagging behind other nations, it decided to refocus on international affairs, intelligence, and building up its military.
Dr. Schroeder stressed that the U.S. Navy became a solid foundation for intelligence as it grew in strength. The Navy began utilizing many sailors as naval attachés to conduct intelligence work overseas. Naval attachés were, in Dr. Schroeder’s opinion, the first generation of professional intelligence collectors. The first U.S. national intelligence organization created in 1882 was the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Several ONI officers, known for their “Missouri Gang” moniker, helped create the CIA.
For Dr. Schroeder, Pearl Harbor was a classic example of an analytic and military coordination failure. At the time, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) considered himself to be his own chief of intelligence; however, Pearl Harbor caused him to realize the need for someone to focus on the coordination and cooperation of the Navy and Army. He named this position the Coordinator of Information, and it became the first formal Chief of National Intelligence for the United States.
The OSS was created under FDR, and it focused on analysis, technical development, and intelligence collection. However, after the Second World War, President Truman abolished the OSS, since it was originally created to be a wartime organization. Whatever pieces remained were transferred to the Army. Truman still wanted intelligence resources, and he assigned this project for a center of intelligence to one his men. It was eventually delegated to three men who were writing the National Security Act of 1947, which is what officially established the Central Intelligence Agency.
This event was a part of the Global Impact Discussion Series, organized and moderated by IWP alumna Patricia Schouker.