What is the Central Intelligence Agency?

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an independent federal agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to our nation’s policymakers. The foreign intelligence the CIA gathers is used to provide tactical and strategic advantages so as to preempt threats and further U.S. national security objectives. The covert activities and the objective analyses that result are used to keep the nation safe.

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The CIA works as an advisory agency on matters related to foreign intelligence, and it conducts missions and other covert activities under the direction of the President. The Director of the CIA, who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, is responsible for managing the agency’s budget, operations, and personnel.

Although the CIA is operated as an independent federal agency, Congress and the executive branch oversee the activities and monitoring programs of the CIA.

The CIA works to:

  • Close intelligence gaps through enhanced foreign collection and analysis
  • Fulfill the global mission of providing national policymakers, including the President, with intelligence regarding issues that are most critical to the President and senior national security team members
  • Utilize technological advances as to ensure better performance in all mission areas, including collection, analysis, covert action, and counterintelligence


The Five Offices of the Central Intelligence Agency

The CIA is organized into five units:

  • Directorate of Intelligence
  • National Clandestine Service
  • Directorate of Science and Technology
  • Directorate of Support
  • Offices of the Director

Directorate of Intelligence (DI) – The Directorate of Intelligence (DI) involves taking intelligence information and transforming it into “unique insights” that are used to influence U.S. policy decisions. CIA agents and analysts within the DI are called upon to provide intelligence analyses of any number of national security and foreign policy issues. Their work involves producing reports, briefs, and papers regarding foreign intelligence issues.

National Clandestine Service (NCS) – The National Clandestine Service (NCS) is responsible for collecting foreign intelligence, which includes human source intelligence and coordinating and evaluating it for the Intelligence Community. The work of the NCS is accomplished according to existing laws, executive orders, and interagency agreements and is considered the “front-line source” of clandestine information regarding critical foreign issues, including terrorism, military and political issues, and weapons proliferation.

Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T) – The Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T) is responsible for collecting and exploiting the information needed to facilitate the agency’s mission. CIA employees working in the DS&T may come from a wide array of disciplines, including engineers, scientists, and analysts.

Directorate of Support (DS) – The Directorate of Support (DS) provides a full range of support for the agency’s mission. Support services include financial management, medical services, facilities services, and logistics, among others.

Offices of the Director – There are a number of centers/programs under the Director of the CIA to deal with a number of issues, including acquisitions, communications, human resources, strategic resource management, and internal oversight, among others.

CIA Leadership

The CIA is under the direction of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (D/CIA), who reports to the Director of National Intelligence. The leadership positions under the D/CIA include:

  • CIA Deputy Director: Assists the Director in all duties and exercises the power of the Director when the position is vacant or when the Director is absent or disabled
  • CIA Executive Director: Responsible for managing the CIA’s daily operations
  • Director of Intelligence: Responsible for ensuring that the production and dissemination of foreign intelligence is accomplished
  • Director of the National Clandestine Service: Responsible for the covert collection of foreign intelligence
  • Director of Science and Technology: Ensures the creation and application of innovative technology as to support the agency’s mission
  • Director of Support: Provides the coordination of the agency’s support foundation, which includes people, information, security, property, and financial resources
  • Director of the Center for the Study of Intelligence: Maintains historical materials and ensures the study of intelligence is promoted
  • Director of Public Affairs: Advises the Director on all media, public, and employee communications relating to his role with the CIA
  • General Counsel: Advises the Director on all legal matters relating to his role as the CIA director
  • Inspector General: Ensures the productivity and accountability of all CIA activities through audits, inspections and investigations


The History of the CIA

The nation began coordinated efforts to carry out intelligence activities during World War II, when President Roosevelt appointed William Donovan as the first Coordinator of Information and then head of the Office of Strategic Services. The Office of Strategic Services, an immediate predecessor to the CIA, was tasked with collecting and analyzing strategic information.

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Following World War II, President Truman, upon recognizing the need for a centralized intelligence agency, signed the National Security Act of 1947, which created the Central Intelligence Agency. The National Security Act included language that detailed the coordination of the nation’s intelligence and the act of disseminating information relating to national security issues.

The CIA underwent its most significant change in 2004, when President George Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which created the position of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and the Director of National Intelligence, both of whom are responsible for overseeing the Intelligence Community and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

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