The partnership between the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has stood for decades and often involves Pentagon officials offering a variety of support, including logistics and transportation, to the spy agency.
Citing sources familiar with the matter, ABC News reported Thursday that the DoD is considering the possibility of ending the majority of the Pentagon’s military support to the CIA by January 5, 2021.
It’s reported that acting US Defense Secretary Christopher Miller recently addressed a letter to CIA Director Gina Haspel, explaining that the longstanding agreement was under review as the department considered turning its focus elsewhere.
Military outlet Defense One was the first to report the development late Wednesday, and indicated that the move was largely based on the idea of shifting Pentagon personnel “detailed” to the CIA toward “missions related to competition with Russia and China, rather than counterterrorism.”
With little details available, it’s unclear how a cut in support would affect the CIA’s ongoing, global operations.
The transition away from the department’s CIA partnership is rooted in the 2018 national defense strategy (NDS) announced by former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that stated the US’ primary concern in regards to its national security would be its competition with growing powers – not so much counterterrorism.
At the time, Elbridge Colby, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, explained to Defense News that the NDS would essentially work in a way that allows for more “cost-effective” and “tailored” methods to carry out counterterrorism missions.
The Pentagon presently provides the CIA with support in a multitude of ways that often includes logistics, air transportation and medical evacuation and ultimately serves as a backbone for intelligence operations.
Additionally, although the spy agency does have its own independent Special Activities Center (SAC) that taps service members for covert and paramilitary missions, the center still relies on the Pentagon to provide more support. One unidentified former administration official remarked to Defense One that military detailees moved under the CIA often become “a permanent houseguest” under the division.
Mick Mulroy, an ABC contributor who previously also served as assistant deputy secretary to Mattis, told the outlet that if reports of the Pentagon’s split from the CIA are true, “they mark a serious setback to a very strong and effective relationship” between the two organizations.
“This could increase the risk to CIA officers until it can be readdressed by the incoming administration,” he added. “If it is not reversed, the CIA needs to be increased in personnel and funding to make up for the difference to continue their critical missions.”
Mulroy echoed concerns that were previously raised by a former military official who told Defense One that the potential shift would “pull the rug from under” the CIA. The individual added, “If they start dying in Afghanistan, this is going to be a big deal.”
The development comes after reports emerged late last month, detailing that a veteran CIA paramilitary officer had been killed in combat in Somalia. The unidentified service member was formerly part of the US Navy’s SEAL Team 6 before transitioning to the SAC. Incidentally, days later, US President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon and US Africa Command to withdraw nearly all American troops from Somalia.