Defence Intelligence

Defence Intelligence provides strategic defence intelligence to the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces.

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Defence Intelligence (DI) is an integral part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the main provider of strategic defence intelligence to the department and the Armed Forces. It provides timely intelligence products, assessments and advice to guide decisions on policy and the commitment and employment of the Armed Forces; to inform defence research and equipment programmes; and to support military operations.

DI is also an essential element of the UK’s central intelligence machinery (this includes the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Security Service) contributing staff and resources to the Cabinet Office in support of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) the UK’s national intelligence committee and also to the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC).

DI supports other government departments with advice and intelligence assessments. Its assessments also support intelligence analysis and operations undertaken by NATO and the EU.

Chief of Defence Intelligence

The Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI), a serving 3-star military officer, is responsible for the overall coordination of defence intelligence throughout the Armed Forces and single-service commands. He reports to the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Permanent Secretary of the MOD and is supported by 2 deputies, 1 civilian and 1 military.

The Deputy Chief of Defence Intelligence (DCDI), a 2-star civilian equivalent, is responsible for the Defence Intelligence analysis and production, the Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Intelligence Capabilities) (ACDS(IC), a serving 2-star military officer is responsible for intelligence collection, mapping and training.

Intelligence analysis and production

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.

Intelligence collection

ACDS(IC) is responsible for the provision of the joint intelligence collection in support of the defence and wider government requirements, joint and single service intelligence training and future intelligence collection strategy and policy. ACDS(IC) also has a broader responsibility for drawing together defence related Intelligence, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) equipment requirements, in support of the MOD policy, commitments and equipment capabilities areas.

Responsibilities are shared among three areas. Intelligence Collection Strategy and Policy, based in London; the Intelligence Collection Group, based at various locations including Brampton and Feltham; and the Defence and Security Centre, based at Chicksands in Bedfordshire.

The history of DI

Defence Intelligence can trace its ancestry back to 1946, when the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB) was established under the direction of General Kenneth Strong, General Eisenhower’s wartime Chief of Intelligence.

The JIB’s main areas of interest were economic, logistic, scientific and technical intelligence - subjects of interest to all 3 services (which retained their separate intelligence organisations), as well as to the War Office and other government departments.

Following the creation of a unified Ministry of Defence in 1964 under the Mountbatten reforms, the JIB and the 3 single-Service intelligence organisations were amalgamated to form the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS). In 2009 the DIS was renamed Defence Intelligence (DI).

For most of its early history the DIS was preoccupied with Cold War topics. However, the focus of Defence Intelligence has now shifted towards providing intelligence support to operations overseas, countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and supporting the global war on terrorism.

At the same time the responsibilities of the Chief of Defence Intelligence have expanded to include not only intelligence analysis and collection, but also a range of other activities, including environmental and geographic information and intelligence training.

Defence intelligence roles

To support its mission, Defence Intelligence has 4 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:

  • 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.

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.

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.

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.

How Defence Intelligence does its work


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).

Collection and sources of intelligence

Analysis and assessment of intelligence involves interpretation and experience. Defence Intelligence personnel receive a large amount of information from a wide range of sources, as described previously. Sources include:

  • human intelligence - intelligence that can be gained from human sources such as informants
  • imagery intelligence - this ranges from hand-held photography to overhead imagery from satellites or aircraft
  • signals intelligence - this is the interception and exploitation of communications, both data and voice
  • open source - information in the public domain, such as the media and the internet

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.

Published 12 December 2012