The INSCOM Story
By the INSCOM History Office
On January 1, 1977, the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) was organized at Arlington Hall Station, Va. The formation of INSCOM provided the Army with a single instrument to conduct multi-discipline 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 way that was unique to the Army. Its creation marked the most radical realignment of Army intelligence assets in a generation. Several major building blocks were consolidated to form the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command. They were the former U.S. Army Security Agency, a signal intelligence and signal security organization with headquarters at Arlington Hall, Va.; the U.S. Army Intelligence Agency, a counterintelligence 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, former commanding general of the Army Security Agency and INSCOM’s first commander, had a wide array of diverse assets at his disposal. Initially, these included eight fixed field stations on four continents inherited from the Army Security Agency, various single-discipline units commanded by the U.S. Army Intelligence Agency, 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, and the command established a unified intelligence production element, the Intelligence and Threat Analysis Center, on Jan. 1, 1978. Additionally, INSCOM assumed command of three military intelligence groups located overseas: the 66th Military Intelligence Group in Germany, the 470th Military Intelligence Group in Panama, and the 500th Military Intelligence Group in Japan. These groups were transformed into multidisciplinary units by incorporating former Army Security Agency assets into the previously existing elements. A fourth such group, the 501st Military Intelligence Group, was soon organized in Korea.
INSCOM faced several issues 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. The situation steadily improved, as the Iranian hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan forged a new national consensus regarding the importance of military strength and intelligence. The situation 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 Military Intelligence 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."
INSCOM moved to reconfigure its limited counterintelligence assets into more productive arrangements to 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 service countermeasures, and providing counterintelligence support to the Army’s growing number of Special Access Programs -- highly sensitive projects which required exceptional security measures.
INSCOM suffered 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 Materiel Command 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.
Change continued in 1986. INSCOM operations had long been impeded because 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 too limited to permit consolidation. Attempts to find a suitable central headquarters location either at Fort George G. Meade, Md., or at Vint Hill Farms, Va., were repeatedly stymied by political and fiscal constraints. The withdrawal of the large Defense Intelligence Agency presence from Arlington Hall made it possible for all headquarters elements to consolidate 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 warfighting, rather than having structures geared to national collection requirements in time of peace. In the event of mobilization, INSCOM leaders thought Reserve Component units could be called up to bring the brigades to full strength.
Finally, INSCOM took action to redesignate some of its table of distribution and allowances units manning fixed sites as numbered military intelligence brigades, battalions, and companies in the 700-series. Units redesignated included the Continental United States Military Intelligence Group that supported the National Security Agency and a number of field stations. The rationale behind this decision was to provide units with designations to enhance the pride and esprit of their assigned soldiers and also to be better understood by the rest of the Army.
INSCOM relocated to Fort Belvoir, Va., in the summer of 1989, occupying the Nolan Building. The new headquarters structure was named in honor of Maj. Gen. Dennis E. Nolan, Pershing’s G2 in World War I. Ironically, 1989 was the 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.
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 could -- and did -- take place around the world. At the end of 1989, the threat posed to American interests in Panama by the country’s narcotics-linked strongman 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 successfully met these demands. Its 470th Military Intelligence Brigade had been in place in Panama when that crisis broke. INSCOM’s 513th Military Intelligence 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, 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 war all 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 Military Intelligence Brigade readied for war on short notice. Additionally, INSCOM found itself tasked with supporting treaty verification, conducting counterdrug operations, and protecting the Army against an espionage threat posed by nations not traditionally our adversaries.
All this meant that INSCOM faced its greatest reorganization since its beginning. The command regained Army intelligence production functions, assuming command of the Army Intelligence Agency in 1991. The Army Intelligence Agency was soon discontinued, and INSCOM merged the two remaining Army production elements into a single National Ground Intelligence Center. The mission of the Special Security Group that had disseminated Sensitive Compartmented Information since World War II was drastically realigned. The unit was redesignated and resubordinated to the 902d Military Intelligence Group. With the Soviets no longer a menace, INSCOM’s U.S. Army Russian Institute was resubordinated to the 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 control. INSCOM turned over most of its human intelligence operations to the Defense Intelligence Agency’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 Military Intelligence Brigade was reduced to a provisional group; the 470th Military Intelligence 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 Military Intelligence Group. Since its 513th Military Intelligence 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. This allowed the Army to be involved with the most advanced communications technologies.
New intelligence-related technologies were key advantages that helped INSCOM to effectively respond to the proliferating number of contingency operations that took place during the 1990’s. Developments in satellite communications allowed INSCOM’s forward-deployed intelligence support elements to “reach back” and exploit data bases located in Europe, CONUS, or other secure areas. New types of sensors and aerial platforms enhanced collection capabilities. The Enhanced TRACKWOLF high-frequency, direction-finding system became part of INSCOM’s inventory. The new discipline of Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) assumed a growing importance. During the 1990’s, INSCOM’s Military Intelligence Battalion (Low Intensity) evolved from a developmental test bed into a fully operational unit, eventually becoming the 204 th Military Intelligence Battalion. After experimenting with aerostats and unmanned aerial vehicles, the battalion fielded the Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) platform, which would support Army operations on four continents. INSCOM personnel also helped man the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), which had first seen service in Operation DESERT STORM.
INSCOM reorganized its units to respond more effectively to regional crises of varying scope. INSCOM’s National Ground Intelligence Center, the command’s production element, provided deploying troops with the necessary threat data. Its capabilities were enhanced in 2001 when it moved into new quarters in Charlottesville, Virginia. INSCOM’s new mission sites at Bad Aibling, Germany, and Menwith Hill, United Kingdom, were joint-service organizations in which INSCOM soldiers worked closely with Air Force, Navy, and civilian counterparts using cutting-edge technologies. The 513 th MI Brigade, the command’s rapid response unit, was restationed and collocated with the Gordon Regional Security Operations Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia, a step that allowed theater brigade personnel to take part in national missions. It was also restructured to provide tiered, scalable elements sized to meet the demands of any contingency. Personnel from the 513 th formed the core of an American-led Military Intelligence Battalion that supported NATO forces in Bosnia. Additionally, INSCOM was able to coordinate the movement of intelligence specialists from its units worldwide and deploy them where needed. Whether in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Persian Gulf, or East Timor, INSCOM personnel were on hand to support the Army’s needs. INSCOM also began to include Army Reserve and National Guard personnel in the same units with Active Army soldiers.
In 1994, INSCOM established a completely new type of intelligence element, the Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA). The LIWA was the Army’s first venture into the uncharted field of information operations. It was designed to defend the Army’s automated communications and data systems from outside intrusion and to give the Army full capabilities in both the defensive and offensive aspects of any future conflict in cyberspace. The LIWA/INSCOM-staffed Information Dominance Center commenced operations in 1999, providing unparalleled capability for harvesting, synthesizing and producing unique, operational intelligence. INSCOM became a major player in managing a seamless intelligence information system that provided the United States with global reach and coverage. As part of this process, INSCOM found itself working more closely with the overall intelligence community and with the Army’s own tactical military intelligence assets.
A NEW MILLENIUM: A NEW CHALLENGE
INSCOM had originally been formed to meet the intelligence needs of the Cold War. However, by adapting and tailoring its multidiscipline capabilities, the command had successfully positioned itself for the 21 st century and was now prepared to confront an increasingly diverse world threat and the new menaces posed by terrorism, weapons proliferation, and cyber war.
On September 11, 2001, the scope and dimension of the challenges that America would have to face in the new millennium became manifest. It soon became apparent the attacks on the Pentagon and the twin towers of the World Trade Center had been orchestrated by a major worldwide terrorist network headed by Saudi multimillionaire Osama bin Laden. The nation responded swiftly, using a variety of diplomatic, law enforcement, and military means to dismantle the terrorist apparatus and destroy its protectors. As part of the national effort, America launched a military campaign against the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the remote and backward country that Bin Laden had chosen as his base.
INSCOM would necessarily play a major role in this campaign. INSCOM assets deployed to Southwest Asia in support of the US Central Command. Its force protection units were put on highest alert around the world and throughout CONUS and production elements greatly increased analysis and reporting to every level of Army command. INSCOM took immediate and decisive action to accelerate its ongoing restructuring into an operational headquarters. The command committed its unique worldwide, multidiscipline capabilities to prosecute what promised to be a long intelligence war against a global threat. Utilizing the resources of the Information Dominance Center, INSCOM became the Army’s critical information conduit, compressing, processing, and analyzing huge amounts of raw data gathered by national and service sources into actionable intelligence that could be funneled to commanders and national law enforcement agencies in near real time. As America prepared to wage war against a new kind of enemy, INSCOM was ready to respond to the challenges facing the nation and its Army.
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The INSCOM History Office is continually seeking photos and information pertaining to the INSCOM and the former Army Security Agency. You can contact the History Office at (703) 706-1638.