A leading U.S. newspaper says the Defense Department has an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network, rivaling the Central Intelligence Agency in size.
The Washington Post reported late Saturday the project is aimed at transforming the Defense Intelligence Agency into a spy service focused on emerging threats and more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units.
The newspaper said the DIA is expected to expand to as many as 1,600 intelligence collectors around the world. The report said that number represents an unprecedented total for an agency whose presence abroad has numbered in the triple digits in recent years. The total will include military attaches and others who will do undercover work.
According to the newspaper report, U.S. officials say the deployment of a new generation of clandestine operatives will happen over a five-year period. The account says the intelligence agents will be trained by the CIA, but will receive their spying assignments from the Department of Defense.
The Washington Post says the Pentagon’s top intelligence priorities are Islamist militant groups in Africa, weapons transfers by North Korea and Iran, and military modernization under way in China.