Defence Intelligence

Defence Intelligence (DI) is an organisation within the United Kingdom intelligence community which focuses on gathering and analysing military intelligence. It differs from the UK's intelligence agencies (MI6, GCHQ and MI5) in that it is an integral part of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) rather than a stand-alone organisation. The organisation employs a mixture of civilian and military staff and is funded within the UK's defence budget. The organisation was formerly known as the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS), but changed its name in 2009.

Defence Intelligence

The Pathfinder Building at RAF Wyton
Organisation overview
Formed1 April 1964 (1964-04-01) (as Defence Intelligence Staff)
Preceding agencies
JurisdictionHM Government
HeadquartersPathfinder Building, RAF Wyton, Cambridgeshire
Employees3,697 (31 March 2015)[1]
Organisation executive
Parent departmentMinistry of Defence
Parent OrganisationJoint Forces Command

The primary role of Defence Intelligence is that of 'all-source' intelligence analysis. This discipline draws information from a variety of overt and covert sources to provide the intelligence needed to support military operations, contingency planning, and to inform defence policy and procurement decisions. The maintenance of the ability to give timely strategic warning of politico-military and scientific and technical developments with the potential to affect UK interests is a vital part of the process. DI's assessments are used outside the MoD to support the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and to assist the work of other Government departments (OGDs) and international partners (such as NATO and the European Union). It is this 'all-source' function which distinguishes Defence Intelligence from other organisations such as SIS and GCHQ which focus on the collection of 'single-source' Human Intelligence (HUMINT) and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) respectively. As such Defence Intelligence occupies a unique position within the UK intelligence community.

Defence Intelligence also performs an intelligence collection function, primarily through the military capabilities lodged within the Joint Forces Intelligence Group (created in 2012 from what was formerly known as the Intelligence Collection Group or ICG).


Defence Intelligence can trace its ancestry back to 1946, when the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB) was established under the direction of General Sir Kenneth Strong.[2] The JIB's was structured into a series of divisions: procurement (JIB 1), geographic (JIB 2 and JIB 3), defences, ports and beaches (JIB 4), airfields (JIB 5), key points (JIB 6), oil (JIB 7) and telecommunications (JIB 8).[3]

When the Ministry of Defence was formed in 1964, Naval Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Air Intelligence were combined to form the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS).[4] Although the DIS focussed initially on Cold War issues, more recently its attention has moved to support for overseas operations, weapons of mass destruction and international counter-terrorism activities.[5] Like the rest of the MOD, Defence Intelligence was subject to the 2008 'Streamlining' initiative in which 20–25 percent of Central London staff were cut and it has had to continue to find additional savings since. It changed its name to Defence Intelligence (DI) in 2009.[5]


Defence Intelligence is headed by the Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) who is a serving three-star military officer and who, as the MOD's 'intelligence process owner', is also responsible for the overall co-ordination of intelligence activities throughout the Armed Forces and single Service Commands. He is supported by two deputies—one civilian and one military. The civilian Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence (DCDI) is responsible for Defence Intelligence analysis and production and the military Director of Cyber Intelligence and Information Integration (DCI3) is responsible for intelligence collection and capability.[6]

Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence (DCDI)

DCDI manages the intelligence analysis and production directorates of Defence Intelligence. These include directorates for:

  • Strategic Assessments (regional and thematic)
  • Capability Assessments (weapons systems and platforms)
  • Counter Proliferation
  • Counter Intelligence

DCDI is responsible for intelligence analysis and production, providing global defence intelligence assessments and strategic warning on a wide range of issues including, intelligence support for operations; proliferation and arms control; conventional military capabilities; strategic warning and technical evaluations of weapons systems. These intelligence assessments draw upon classified information provided by GCHQ, SIS, the Security Service, Allied intelligence services and military collection assets, in addition to diplomatic reporting and a wide range of publicly available or ‘open source’ information such as media reporting and the internet.[5]

Director of Cyber Intelligence and Information Integration (DCI3)

DCI3 is responsible for the provision of specialised intelligence, imagery and geographic support services, and for the intelligence and security training of the Armed Forces. In addition to a Head Office policy staff he is responsible for two major groupings within Defence Intelligence:

Joint Forces Intelligence Group (JFIG)

The JFIG was established in 2012 under the new Joint Forces Command and superseded the Intelligence Collection Group (ICG). Making up the largest sub-element of Defence Intelligence, JFIG is responsible for the collection of signals, geospatial, imagery and measurement and signature intelligence and comprises:[7]

  • The National Centre for Geospatial Intelligence (NCGI) formerly known as the Defence Geospatial Intelligence Fusion Centre (DGIFC) and prior to that JARIC (the National Imagery Exploitation Centre)
  • The Defence Geographic Centre (DGC)
  • Joint Services Signals Organisation (JSSO)
  • Defence HUMINT Unit (DHU)

The National Centre for Geospatial Intelligence (NCGI) is based at RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire (since moving from RAF Brampton in 2013) and provides specialist imagery intelligence to the armed forces and other UK government customers. They deliver this through the exploitation of satellite imaging systems, as well as airborne and ground-based collection systems. DIFC uses these sources, together with advanced technologies, to provide regional intelligence assessments and support to strategic intelligence projections.[5]

The Defence HUMINT Organisation (DHO) is a Tri-Service organisation that provides specialist support to military operations. The DHO manages strategic aspects of defence human intelligence and is under the command of a Colonel. It draws staff from across the three services.[5]

The Joint Services Signals Organisation (JSSO) conducts research into new communications systems and techniques in order to provide operational support to static and deployed units. The JSSO is based at RAF Digby in Lincolnshire under the command of a Group Captain with some 1,600 staff drawn from all three services.[5]

In 2013, JFIG HQ moved from Feltham in Middlesex to RAF Wyton.[8][9]

Joint Intelligence Training Group (JITG)

The Joint Intelligence Training Group (JITG), at Chicksands, Bedfordshire, provides a single defence focal point for intelligence, security, languages and photography training in the UK, though photography training is carried out at the Defence School of Photography (DSoP) off site at RAF Cosford.[10] The organisation consists of a headquarters, the Defence College of Intelligence and a specialist operational intelligence capability. JITG is co-located with the headquarters of the British Army's Intelligence Corps.[11][12]

Defence intelligence roles

To support its mission, Defence Intelligence has four essential roles:

Support to operations: DI plays an integral part in the planning process throughout all stages of military operations, by providing intelligence collection and analysis at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. Examples of the support DI has provided to operations are:[5]

  • Coalition action in Iraq
  • NATO led forces in Afghanistan and Bosnia
  • UN humanitarian and peace-support operations in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cyprus, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo

DI has deployed intelligence analysts, linguists and reservists overseas, and provide geographic support by supplying both standard and specialised mapping to overseas theatres.[5]

Support to contingency planning for operations: DI provides intelligence data and all source assessments that assist in preparations for future situations with the potential to require the commitment of UK Armed Forces. These products, which cover political and military developments, country and cultural information, critical infrastructure and internal security, all aid contingency planning.[5]

Provision of early warning: A fundamental responsibility of Defence Intelligence is to alert ministers, chiefs of staff, senior officials and defence planners to impending crises around the world. Such warning is vital for short and medium term planning. DI meets this responsibility by focusing on current areas and topics of concern, highlighting the effects of changing circumstances, predicting security and stability trends, and assessing how these trends may develop. The assessments are distributed to decision-makers throughout the MOD, the Armed Forces, other government departments, allies, and UK Embassies and High Commissions.[5]

Provision of longer-term analysis of emerging threats: Defence Intelligence provides longer-term assessments of likely scenarios around the world where UK Armed Forces might need to operate and of the equipment that they might face. It also provides technical support to the development of future military equipment and to the development of countermeasures against potentially hostile systems.[5]

How Defence Intelligence carries out its work

Direction: The Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) receives direction from the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and Permanent Under Secretary (PUS) on MOD's Intelligence needs and draws national guidance from the Cabinet Office Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).

Analysis and production: Intelligence assessments are written to meet the needs of customers and must be timely and relevant. The assessment process involves judging the authenticity and reliability of new information and its relevance to existing intelligence. Assessments focus on probable and possible outcomes, to provide the best available advice for developing a response or resolution. They are continually adjusted in light of new intelligence or events.

Chiefs of Defence Intelligence

The Chiefs have been as follows:[13]
Director-General Intelligence

Chiefs of Defence Intelligence

See also


  1. House of Commons (5 July 2016). Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament Annual Report 2015–2016, page 16. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  2. Dylan, p. xiii
  3. Dylan, p. 31
  4. Dylan, p. 184
  5. "Defence Intelligence: Roles". Ministry of Defence. 12 December 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  6. "Defence Intelligence". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  7. "Joint Forces Intelligence Group Achieves Full Operating Capability". Ministry of Defence. 22 September 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  8. "New Defence Intelligence buildings handed over to MOD". Ministry of Defence. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  9. "UK JARIC Transitions to Defence Geospatial and Intelligence Fusion Centre" (PDF). November 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 February 2013.
  10. "RAF - Defence School of Photography". Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  11. "Defence Intelligence and Security Centre". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  12. "Bedfordshire - Joint Intelligence Training Group Chicksands". Sanctuary (44): 74. 2015. ISSN 0959-4132.
  13. "Ministry of Defence Senior Posts" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2015.


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