INSCOM -- 20 Years of Excellence


By the INSCOM History Office

    On January 1, 1977, the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) was organized at Arlington Hall Station, Virginia. The formation of INSCOM provided the Army with a single instrument to conduct multidiscipline intelligence and security operations and electronic warfare at the level above corps and to produce finished intelligence tailored to the Army's needs.

    The new major command merged divergent intelligence disciplines and traditions in a nontraditional way. Its creation marked the most radical realignment of Army intelligence assets in a generation. The major building blocks brought together to form INSCOM were the former U.S. Army Security Agency (ASA), a signal intelligence and signal security organization with headquarters at Arlington Hall; the U.S. Army Intelligence Agency (USAINTA), a counter-intelligence and human intelligence agency based at Fort George G. Meade, Md.; and several intelligence production units formerly controlled by the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence and U.S. Army Forces Command.

    Brig. Gen. (later Maj. Gen.) William I. Rolya, the former ASA commanding general who became INSCOM's first head, managed a wide array of diverse assets. Initially, these included eight fixed field stations on four continents inherited from ASA, various single-discipline units commanded by USAINTA, and the production centers in the Washington, D.C. area and at Fort Bragg, N. C.

    On Oct. 1, 1977, the former U.S. Army Intelligence Agency headquarters was integrated into INSCOM. The command established a unified intelligence production element, the Intelligence and Threat Analysis Center (ITAC), on Jan. 1, 1978. Additionally, INSCOM assumed command of three military intelligence groups located overseas: the 66th MI Group in Germany, the 470th MI Group in Panama, and the 500th MI Group in Japan. These groups were transformed into multidisciplinary units by incorporating former ASA assets into the previously existing elements. A fourth such group, the 501st MI Group, was soon organized in Korea.

    INSCOM faced certain problems when it began. The command had been formed at a time when the American military had been cut to the point of becoming a “hollow army.” In 1978, INSCOM had an assigned strength of only 10,400 military and civilian personnel. However, the situation steadily improved, as the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan forged a new national consensus regarding the importance of both military strength and intelligence and brought a greater infusion of resources.

    As a result, INSCOM steadily expanded. The assistant chief of staff for intelligence resubordinated the Army's Russian Institute in Germany to INSCOM in 1978 and in 1980, gave INSCOM command of the Special Security Group (which disseminated compartmented information to the Army). That same year, INSCOM established an Army presence in a joint service field station in Kunia, Hawaii. This was the first new Army field station created outside the continental United States since the Vietnam War. Two years later, the command organized another new field station in Panama from resources already in place. Later, INSCOM fielded Army technical control and analysis elements to provide better cryptologic support to tactical military intelligence units.

    In 1982, INSCOM activated a major new military intelligence unit based in the United States, the 513th MI Group. The group was formed to support possible operations conducted by the Army component of Central Command, the unified command created that year to deal with contingency situations in Southwest Asia. Alternatively, in case of Soviet aggression against the nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the group could redeploy to Europe. As initially configured, the 513th included the only technical intelligence battalion in the Army.

    By 1985, 15,000 people were assigned to INSCOM. By that time, INSCOM was redefining its structure and practices along a wide variety of fronts. One of them was counterintelligence. As revelations of successful penetrations of America's most sensitive agencies by hostile intelligence services mounted, 1985 became the “Year of the Spy.”

    The U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command moved to reconfigure its limited counterintelligence assets into more productive arrangements which would meet the Army's needs. In the process, the command moved away from a concept of providing generalized operational security support to all Army elements in favor of a narrower focus on priority objectives. This included expanding polygraph examinations and technical services countermeasures, and providing counterintelligence support to the Army's growing number of Special Access Programs (highly sensitive projects which required exceptional security measures).

    INSCOM did suffer some institutional setbacks during this period. Originally, all Army intelligence production was to have been placed under INSCOM. However, this had not come to pass, since the Army Materiel Command continued to operate two major centers. The problem of how to impose a satisfactory organization on all Army intelligence production elements was temporarily solved in 1985.

    The Intelligence and Threat Analysis Center was removed from INSCOM and, along with the Army Material Command's centers, resubordinated to a new Army Intelligence Agency, a field operating agency of the assistant chief of staff for intelligence with headquarters in Northern Virginia.

    In 1986 change continued. INSCOM operations had long been impeded by the fact that its headquarters elements had been split between two Army posts 40 miles apart in two different states. The physical facilities inherited by INSCOM from its predecessor organizations, were simply too limited to permit consolidation. Attempts to find a suitable central headquarters location either at Fort Meade, Md., or at Vint Hill Farms, Va., were repeatedly stymied by political and fiscal constraints. However, the withdrawal of the large Defense Intelligence Agency presence from Arlington Hall at last made it possible for all headquarters elements to be consolidated at that site in 1986.

    Beginning that same year, INSCOM's five multidiscipline intelligence groups were redesignated as brigades. The transition to brigade status was intended to be more than cosmetic; the units would now be organized for possible warfighting, rather than having structures geared to national collection requirements in time of peace. In the event of mobilization, INSCOM leaders envisaged that Reserve Component units could be called up to bring the brigades to full strength.

    Finally, INSCOM redesignated some of its table of distribution and allowances units. They redesignated units manning fixed sites as numbered military intelligence brigades, battalions, and companies in the 700-series. Units redesignated included the Continental United States MI Group that supported the National Security Agency and a number of field stations. The rationale behind this decision was to provide units with designations which would enhance the pride and esprit of their assigned soldiers and also be more intelligible to the rest of the Army.

    Arlington Hall was to be only a way station for INSCOM headquarters. The command finally relocated to Fort Belvoir, Va., in the summer of 1989, occupying the Nolan Building, a brand-new headquarters structure named in honor of Maj. Gen. Dennis E. Nolan, Pershing's G2 in World War I. Ironically, that same year, the Berlin Wall fell. Shortly afterwards, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, Germany was unified, and the Soviet Union disintegrated. For a generation, the Army had confronted Soviet masses at the Fulda Gap, and the Warsaw Pact had been INSCOM's principal intelligence target. Now the Cold War was over and the main threat seemed to have vanished.

    However, it soon became apparent the post-Cold War world would continue to hold unforeseen and unforeseeable perils. In the unstructured international environment created by the sudden collapse of the bipolar world order imposed by the Cold War, crises took place in almost any region of the globe. At the end of 1989, the threat posed to American interests in Panama by the narcotics-linked strongman there provoked an American military intervention, Operation JUST CAUSE. Eight months later, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq resulted in a massive deployment of American forces to the Arabian peninsula and the subsequent liberation of the emirate in Operation DESERT STORM. The challenges of JUST CAUSE and DESERT STORM—successive crises occurring half a world apart and in totally unrelated linguistic environments—made large demands on military intelligence and appeared to serve as a portent for the future.

    INSCOM met these demands successfully. INSCOM's 470th MI Brigade had been in place in Panama when that crisis broke. INSCOM's 513th MI Brigade, with a long-standing contingency mission to support U.S. Army Central Command, was positioned to meet Army intelligence requirements when deployment to the Persian Gulf began. Once brigade elements had moved to Saudi Arabia, INSCOM was able to augment the unit by “lifting and shifting” its own assets around the globe. As the situation reached its climax, the brigade's echelon-above-corps intelligence center was expanded to a full operations battalion and placed in support of the G2 of Central Command's Army component.

    In JUST CAUSE and DESERT STORM, however, the Army had been able to draw on the resources built up during the height of the Cold War. The future challenge for Army intelligence was to do more with less. During the course of the 1990's, the defense budget shrunk inexorably, and the size of the Army and INSCOM steadily decreased. At the same time, INSCOM was drawn into contingency operations other than warall over the globe, supporting a series of humanitarian relief and stability missions in the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans.

    On the Pacific Rim, North Korea showed increasing belligerency, and INSCOM's 501st MI Brigade had to be ready to go to war on short notice. Additionally, INSCOM found itself tasked with supporting treaty verification, conducting counter-drug operations, and protecting the Army against an espionage threat posed by the services of nations not traditionally our adversaries.

    All this meant that INSCOM faced its greatest reorganization since its conception. Flux was the order of the day. The command regained Army intelligence production functions, assuming command of the Army Intelligence Agency in 1991. The Agency was soon discontinued, and INSCOM ultimately merged the two remaining Army production elements into a single National Ground Intelligence Center. The mission of the Special Security Group which had disseminated Sensitive Compartmented Information since World War II was drastically realigned and the unit redesignated and resubordinated to the 902d MI Group. With the Soviets no longer a menace, INSCOM's U.S. Army Russian Institute was resubordinated to European Command. Joint operations had become a main focus of the Department of Defense; in 1993, the Secretary of Defense ordered service human intelligence assets consolidated under Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) control. INSCOM turned over most of its human intelligence operations to the DIA's Defense HUMINT Agency in 1995.

    The changing nature of the threat coupled with treaty restrictions led to drastic decrements in INSCOM strength in Europe and in Central America. The 66th MI Brigade was reduced to a provisional group; the 470th MI Brigade prepared to stand down. Concurrently, INSCOM's major field stations in Europe and Panama were discontinued and Army cryptologic organization radically restructured.

    To meet changed requirements, INSCOM set up a Regional SIGINT Operations Center at Fort Gordon, Ga., manned by personnel of the newly organized 702d MI Group. Since its 513th MI Brigade concurrently relocated to Fort Gordon, this allowed strategic and tactical assets to be combined. At the same time, the command assumed host responsibilities for new sites in Europe which would allow the Army to be involved with the most advanced communications technologies.

    INSCOM also found itself involved in applying new intelligence and electronic warfare technologies, some of which initially were used in the Persian Gulf War. Among the new systems fielded by the command in the 1990s were the SANDCRAB jammer, the TRACKWOLF high frequency direction finding system, and the PREDATOR Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and the Air Reconnaissance Low platform. INSCOM provided manning for the Army portion of the Joint Surveillance and Target Acquisition Radar System and for a time deployed Small Aerostat Surveillance Systems from motor vessels in the Caribbean. Advances in automation and dedicated intelligence communications led to unprecedented connectivity among INSCOM headquarters and subordinate units.

    As the Army itself restructured and pulled back from Europe and Panama, its leaders planned to merge INSCOM's five existing theater support brigades into two force projection brigades. The new-type units would be designed to operate in a split-based configuration and would have the capability to deploy tactically tailored force packages to meet any level of contingency requirements. Additionally, beginning in 1993, INSCOM provided personnel to augment corp-level production centers and (for a time) joint intelligence centers within the unified commands. The role of INSCOM was no longer that of simply operating at echelons above corps, but of providing the Army “seamless connectivity” between national level agencies and the warfighters on the ground.

    Finally, in 1994, the Army set up the Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) within INSCOM, operating under the staff supervision of the Department of the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. This was inspired by the precedent offered by DESERT STORM, in which the centralized Iraqi command structure had been effectively befuddled by deception operations and decapitated by the electronic and physical destruction of its communications system.

    Still in the formative stage, LIWA seeks to bring together several techniques. These include electronic warfare, psychological warfare, deception operations, command and control targeting, and operational security to attack the information resources of the enemy while simultaneously defending those of our own armed forces. Once fully operational, LIWA will offer the larger Army a place for “one-stop shopping” in these areas.

    On Jan. 1, 1997, INSCOM will celebrate its twentieth anniversary under the leadership of its eighth commanding general, Brig. Gen. John D. Thomas, Jr. This occasion will mark another milestone in the command's long history of service to the Army, the intelligence community, and the nation. The command is still a work in progress, steadily evolving to meet the intelligence requirements of tomorrow. Deeply rooted in the past, with a rich heritage which stretches back to the old Army Security Agency and the Counter Intelligence Corps, INSCOM continues to reshape itself to provide better support to America's Army.


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   Last Updated: January 23, 1997