Subordinating Intelligence Cover

Subordinating Intelligence

The DoD/CIA Post-Cold War Relationship

David P. Oakley

University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, 2019, 264 pages

Book Review published on: June 14, 2019

When I first speak to my students at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College about the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), I often begin by asking if anyone has any knowledge about the CIA Associate Director for Military Affairs (ADMA). At most, one or two in the class may have heard of ADMA, and even fewer claim to have ever worked with or even encountered anyone from that office. Perhaps that should come as no surprise. The current high level of cooperation between the CIA and the Department of Defense (DOD) is today, more or less, taken as a given. The story of how ADMA became an important, if unheralded, link supporting CIA and DOD interaction is told in few places. With Subordinating Intelligence: The DoD/CIA Post-Cold War Relationship, author David P. Oakley helps remedy this lack of general familiarity with ADMA through a comprehensive study of the roots of the DOD/CIA interagency relationship.

Oakley observes that although the CIA and DOD share a common origin story stretching back to World War II and the Office of Strategic Services, the two organizations have distinct and unique organizational cultures. Like any agencies working together in the interagency arena, different organizational cultures can hinder forging members from separate organizations into an effective team. The recent U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Foundation publication, A Practitioner’s Handbook for Interagency Leadership, discusses finding a “coupler” that helps bridge the gap between organizations to foster cooperation and a mutual comprehension of each other’s roles, limitations and capabilities.1 In a nutshell, that is precisely the role Oakley describes for ADMA.

Oakley argues that calls for national security reforms in the early 1980s, although directed primarily at the U.S. military services, simultaneously kicked off change within the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). Through the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, Congress “did not tackle the DoD/CIA partnership directly, but it introduced policy changes that made increased DoD/CIA collaboration necessary and structural changes that made it easier.”2 For example, Oakley highlights the creation of the U.S. Special Operations Command as a major structural change that made it easier to lash up CIA capabilities to the military, fostering improved overall DOD/CIA collaboration.

Gen. Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf’s criticisms of the intelligence support he received during Desert Storm became an even greater catalyst for change within the IC. Notably, the CIA proactively established the Office of Military Affairs to provide a centralized internal office for working with the DOD. The CIA also brought in a senior military officer to serve as a deputy director in its Directorate for Operations. Oakley describes how events of the 90s then brought these two CIA offices together to become the current ADMA.

If all Oakley accomplished was to describe ADMA’s origins and current role, he would have done a service by simply documenting this history. However, he takes the book’s analysis to another level by assessing the benefits and, more importantly, the potential costs resulting from a closer relationship between the CIA and DOD. Oakley explains how the CIA/DOD relationship that lawmakers and military commanders called for in the 1980s and pursued in the 1990s was fundamentally different than previous CIA/DOD relationships. The CIA was created in 1947 to be an independent service that provides strategic intelligence collection and analysis to national-level leaders. Lawmakers, however, were now criticizing the CIA for inadequately supporting military combat operations, a mission that was not originally envisioned for the agency.

Oakley, an assistant professor at National Defense University, began his study of DOD/CIA relations while a student at the U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies.3 Oakley’s U.S. Army School of Advanced Military Studies monograph was a “good-news story,” emphasizing the history and the benefits of the improved DOD/CIA relationship, but his book takes a more developed and balanced view. Oakley claims that the CIA’s focus on broader, more strategic intelligence collection and analytic support to national-level decision-makers, “has been significantly distracted by the CIA’s support to military operations.”4 While working together to achieve a common purpose is preferable to working separately in competition, Oakley argues that promoting a closer relationship between the CIA and DOD has also come with a price.

Although still a positive overall assessment of DOD/CIA cooperation, the potential long-term costs that Oakley highlights are worth considering.5 Interagency cooperation and the improved capability to synchronize operations among multiple organizations that have been honed since 9/11 should be continually studied, reevaluated, and adapted as needed to better cope with whatever new security challenges the twenty-first century may pose. This book makes an admirable and useful contribution to that effort.

Disclaimer: All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or any other U.S. government agency. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying U.S. government authentication of information or CIA endorsement of the author’s views. This material has been reviewed by the CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information. This does not constitute an official release of CIA information.

Book Review written by: Kevin Rousseau, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas


  1. Christopher Andrew, The Secret World: A History of Intelligence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press), 2018, 13.
  2. William J. Davis, A Practitioner’s Handbook for Interagency Leadership, in collaboration with Janet K. Benini and Michael S. Choe, ed. Roderick M. Cox (Fort Leavenworth, KS: Command and General Staff College Foundation Press, 2018), 25.
  3. David P. Oakley, Subordinating Intelligence: The DoD/CIA Post-Cold War Relationship (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2019), 25.
  4. David P. Oakley, Partners or Competitors?: The Evolution of the Department of Defense/Central Intelligence Agency Relationship Since Desert Storm and Its Prospects for the Future (Tampa, FL: MacDill Air Force Base, 2014), accessed on 11 May 2019,
  5. Oakley, Subordinating Intelligence, 160.
  6. For a discussion on the overall militarization of U.S. foreign policy, see David P. Oakley, “The Problems of a Militarized Foreign Policy for America’s Premier Intelligence Agency,” War on the Rocks, 2 May 2019, accessed on 11 May 2019,