A history for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency

The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) traces its origins to two distinct missions – personnel security and industrial security.  Over the past 50 years, the agency has been defined and redefined by these inextricably linked core mission sets.

On April 24, 2019, Executive Order (EO) 13869 directed the transfer of the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), the primary investigative service provider (ISP) for the Federal Government that conducts ~95% of all federal background investigations, from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to the Department of Defense (DoD), effective October 1, 2019. This realignment of the federal personnel vetting mission enlarged the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) and ushered the next era of personnel vetting.

The Department’s unified handling of its personnel security began on December 29, 1971, when the Secretary of Defense established the Defense Investigative Service (DIS) effective January 1, 1972. DIS’s tasks, responsibilities, and authority were published in DoD Directive 5105.42 and designated DIS as a separate operating agency under the direction of the Secretary. In 1999, DIS underwent a reorganization to become the Defense Security Service (DSS). DSS retained the personnel security investigation (PSI) mission for the Department until February 20, 2005, when the function was transferred to OPM. This transfer also included PSIs for industry personnel under the National Industrial Security Program and the transfer of approximately 1,850 personnel, which was stipulated in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004.

OPM, as the successor to the Civil Service Commission, has been conducting PSIs for the majority of non-DoD programs since 1953, when EO 10450 established the requirement for a government-wide PSI program and granted authority for the program to the Civil Service Commission. OPM assumed its role as the government’s largest ISP in 2005 after assuming the DSS program and personnel. In October 2016, the semi-autonomous NBIB was established under OPM and began the process of transforming the PSI mission. NBIB retained that mission until the program and its personnel were moved to DCSA in October 2019.

Under DCSA, the PSI mission was broadened to encompass the entire spectrum of personnel vetting, to include consolidated adjudication of DoD elements, insider threat analysis for the Department, and the development and maintenance of a continuous evaluation/continuous vetting program.

The second historical lineage of DCSA is related to the Industrial Security Program.  In 1965, the Office of Industrial Security was established under the DCAS and DSA with U.S. Air Force Col. James S. Cogswell its first chief. The consolidation brought together more than 100 different offices of the Army, Navy and Air Force that had cognizance over plants handling defense contracts. In the reorganization, 11 CAS regions were established with uniform policies and regulations.

On Oct. 1, 1980, the Industrial Security Program, the Key Asset Protection Program and the Arms, Ammunition and Explosives Security Program were transferred to DIS from DLA. For 25 years (1980 until 2005) both the personnel and industrial security missions were resident in DIS/DSS.

The National Industrial Security Program was created in January 1993 by Executive Order 12829, and was intended to replace not only the DISP, but the industrial security programs of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Later that year, in June, DIS was directed to assume responsibility for finalizing the draft National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM).  The team completed their draft NISPOM on Oct. 15, 1993. The NISPOM replaced the nearly 45-year old DISP and its Industrial Security Manual. The NISPOM wasn’t effective until April 1995, but DIS began implementation of many of its provisions immediately.

The Counterintelligence mission was assigned to DSS in of May 1993. The Counterintelligence Office was established pursuant to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Counterintelligence and Security Countermeasures memorandum of Feb. 26, 1993. The memo establishing the office stated the “basic components of the program will consist of essentially the following:

  • “Prepare a CI awareness program for DIS employees, train and sensitive DIS investigators to the types of CI flags to look for in this rapidly changing threat environment.
  • Review subject interviews that contain information of a possible CI relevance and extract significant information.
  • Serve as a clearing house for referrals of potential espionage cases to CI agencies for investigation
  • Develop an in-house CI program; conduct internal inquiries into incidents that may be CI-related.”
  • Brigadier General Joseph Cappucci, USAF, 1971-1976
  • Bernard J. O'Donnell, 1976 - 1981
  • Thomas J. O'Brien, 1981 - 1988
  • John F. Donnelly, 1988 - 1996
  • Margaret R. Munson, 1996 - 1998
  • Steven T. Schanzer, 1998 - 1999
  • Charles J. Cunningham Jr., 1999 - 2002
  • William Curtis, 2002 - 2004
  • Heather Anderson, 2004 - 2005
  • Janice Haith, 2005 - 2006
  • Kathy Watson, 2006 - 2010
  • Stanley L. Sims, 2010 - 2016
  • Daniel E. Payne, 2016 - 2019
  • Charles Phalen 2019 - 2020
  • William K. Lietzau 2020 - Present

Underpinning both missions is security education and training.  Between 1953 and 1955, a central training facility to bring more uniformity to the DISP was established at the existing Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, Md. Army representatives were security-trained agents of the Counterintelligence Corps, the Air Force assigned a civilian with industrial security experience and the Navy assigned an officer with little direct experience.  

The Army Intelligence School continued to provide training in the DISP until 1972 when the school was relocated to Fort Huachuca.  The Defense Logistics Agency re-established the industrial security section under its control and chose the Defense General Supply Center, Richmond, Va., as the location for the Defense Industrial Security Institute.

An Information Security Management Course was added in 1974, a Personnel Security Investigation Course in 1981 and a DoD Security Specialist course in 1986. Because of the mission expansion, the name was changed in 1984 to the Defense Security Institute.

The school was founded in 1972 under the Defense Logistics Agency to train industrial security specialists and Facility Security Officers. After the transfer of the industrial security mission from DLA to DIS, which also included DoDSI, the institute began training Special Agents to conduct PSIs.  This training mission grew to include personnel security specialists working at DISCO and the Personnel Investigative Center and further expanded to include training for the military services and DoD agencies in the areas of information, personnel and physical security, adjudications and Special Access Programs.

On Jan. 1, 1984, DoDSI was redesignated the Defense Security Institute to more accurately reflects its mission and scope of responsibilities. In 1999, the Defense Security Service Academy was formally established, replacing DSI and in 2010, the Center for Development of Security Excellence was established. Furthering solidifying its security training mission, the Director of DSS was named the functional security manager for DoD Security Training in December 2007.