By Rear Admiral Tom Brooks, U.S. Navy (Retired)
The Office of Naval Intelligence was created in March of 1882, but the history of U.S. Naval officers collecting and reporting intelligence goes back to the very beginnings of the U.S. Navy in 1775. An example of early intelligence collection tasking is the 18 June 1777 letter from the Secret Committee of the Continental Congress to Captain John Paul Jones, commanding USS Ranger:
“... Any useful intelligence which comes to your knowledge must be communicated to us whenever you have the opportunity.”1
The requirement for commanding officers to report observations of matters of “general naval interest” found their way into navy regulations and standing orders to commanding officers.2 In providing collection tasking to the ships of European Squadron in 1869, Rear Admiral William Randolph exhorted his captains to observe and report:
“Officers cannot employ their time in a manner more improving of themselves or more useful to the goal (than collection and reporting of intelligence).”3
Thus, intelligence was collected and reported to the local commanders, with some of it ultimately finding its way to the Bureau of Navigation in Washington D.C. It was the need to organize, analyze, and structure this accumulation of handwritten intelligence reporting and provide for an orderly collection process that led to the formation of ONI.
For the first 150 years of the U.S. Navy, intelligence was collected and reported by line officers who had received no formal intelligence training and little in the way of guidance and support. In 1882, shortly after the establishment of ONI, commanding officers were encouraged (not directed) to appoint an officer as what would later come to be called the ship’s Collateral Duty Intelligence Officer, but this would not become a structured program until World War II.
During World War I some 300 reservists were assigned to assist in the intelligence process, but by 1919, almost all had returned to civilian life.4 In the post-World War I Navy, intelligence duty was not considered to be career-enhancing. Few officers sought the duty and, of those who did, even fewer were willing to serve repeated tours. The development of intelligence expertise was further complicated by the requirement for every other tour of duty to be sea-going.
Nonetheless, there are examples of officers who performed intelligence duties early in their careers and then went on to significant leadership positions in the Navy. In 1913 a young, German-speaking lieutenant named Chester Nimitz was sent to Germany to study German diesel engine technology as it applied to submarines. In1923, Commander William Halsey was sent to Germany as a naval attaché; and in 1939, Lieutenant Hyman Rickover, commanding a minesweeper, was sent to observe and report on Japanese naval activity on the Yangtze River. It is noteworthy to observe, however, that none of these men returned for subsequent tours in intelligence.
Fortunately for the Navy and the nation, a small number of Unrestricted Line officers did choose to become de facto intelligence subspecialists. A number of these were graduates of the Navy’s Japanese language program which, beginning in 1910, sent junior officers to three-year tours in Japan with no duties other than to learn the language and the culture. Prominent graduates of this program include Joe Rochefort, Edwin Layton, Ellis Zacharias, Arthur McCullum, and Rufus Taylor.
The experience of World War I caused the Navy to recognize that it had a need to create a cadre of reserve officers with particular areas of expertise that could be called to active duty in time of war to flesh out the Naval Intelligence establishment. Thus, in 1925 the Naval Intelligence Volunteer Service was created, with officers designated I-V(S). These officers were drawn from professions whose skills were required by the Naval Intelligence establishment—police and other investigators, newspaper reporters, businessmen with overseas experience, etc. They would be offered reserve commissions and receive several weeks of active duty training with pay. They would return to civilian life and continue to “assist” the navy as inactive reserve officers. They received no pay nor did their time count toward retirement, but they were eligible for credit toward promotion. The rank they received upon commissioning was determined by their age, degree of expertise, etc.5 By 1936, the Navy had a mobilization requirement for 536 I-V(S) officers. By 1938 that number had grown to 2023. Selected I-V(S) officers were called to active duty in 1939 and 19406 and by 1941, over 2500 I-V(S) officers and warrant officers (and some 3000 enlisted) had been called-up.7 Later designated as S(I) – Special Duty (Intelligence) officers, these reserve officers, plus several hundred officers recalled from retirement, filled most non-aviation Naval Intelligence billets during World War II. The majority of these billets were in the district intelligence offices in the continental United States and dealt with investigations, counterintelligence, security, counter-sabotage, collection, censorship, etc.8 Operationally-focused billets were on senior staffs, combat intelligence units, and intelligence centers, both Navy and joint. Sea-going billets were not numerous but included afloat staffs, particularly numbered Fleets and amphibious commands.9 At the end of the war, the preponderance of these reservists returned to civilian life. Those few who elected to remain on active duty or affiliate with reserve units would later form the backbone of the 163X Special Duty Officer (Intelligence) community.
As noted above, the focus of the Naval Intelligence Volunteer Service was non-aviation billets. Recognizing the need for trained officers to provide intelligence support to naval aviation, the Bureau of Aeronautics (BUAER) established an Aviation Intelligence branch in December 1941. They created a cadre of “Technical Air Information Officers” whose mission it would be to assess captured enemy aircraft, weapons, etc.10 These officers, typically engineers, would be provided training by the Army Air Corps at Randolph Field, Texas, and together with specially trained navy Machinist Mates, would form teams to forward-deploy, find, report on, and even retrieve crashed enemy aircraft.
BUAER then set about creating a pool of reserve officers who would be designated Air Combat Intelligence Officers (ACIO).11 Initial 1942 graduates of the ACIO training course at Quonset Point, Rhode Island were designated A-V(S), or Aviation Volunteer (Specialist) and dispatched to the Pacific. They concentrated on preparing pre-mission intelligence, briefing pilots, debriefing them after mission completion, and compiling and reporting the intelligence which the de-briefed pilots provided. The program expanded during the war years, and ACIOs were assigned to almost all tactical squadrons, aircraft carriers, patrol squadrons, intelligence centers, and deployed aviation headquarters activities. In January 1944, sponsorship for the ACIO program was transferred to the Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI). Later in 1944, WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) officers were allowed to apply for ACIO duty, filling ACIO shore billets to free male ACIOs for sea duty.12 In 1946 the program was transferred back to the naval aviation establishment under the cognizance of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air).
At the end of World War II, there were some 1700 ACIOs on active duty. Although an active ACIO program remained in the reserves, only a very small cadre of ACIOs remained on active duty13 after the war and, from 1948, many of these were assigned to work in Air Force intelligence activities since the Secretary of Defense had determined that the Air Force had the “dominant interest” in air intelligence.14 The ACIO functions in navy squadrons were assigned as a collateral duty to a junior pilot in the squadron. In 1949, the navy established an ACIO training course for reservists.15
Within a year, the Korean War broke out and all pilots were needed for full-time flying assignments. Virtually the entire ACIO reserve organization was recalled to active duty. After the Korean War, as the nuclear strike mission for U.S. aircraft carriers expanded, Naval Aviation recognized the need to retain an active duty ACIO capability. As a result, they designated the ACIOs as Air Intelligence officers and made them a de facto subspecialty within the Aviation Ground Officer category (designator 135X).16
In the Spring of 1941, recognizing the successful use of aerial photography by the British both in World War I and the early days of World War II, Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley, U.S. Navy Special Observer in London, requested that BUAER send an officer to London to study the British aerial photography program. Lieutenant Commander Robert S. Quackenbush was sent, and because of his recommendations, CNO established a photo interpretation school at NAS Anacostia under BUAER. Lieutenant Commander Quackenbush was appointed officer-in-charge. The first class of 28 Marine and Naval officers graduated in January 1942. Most were sent to the Pacific where they were assigned either to squadrons or intelligence centers/augmentation pools supporting the Pacific campaign.
Schools and photo interpretation centers expanded as did the number of Photo Interpretation Officers (PIOs). By 1943 PIO billets were created on aircraft carriers, amphibious commands, and patrol squadrons/wings. By war’s end some 1500 officers had graduated from photo interpretation schools. In February 1945, the Navy Photographic Intelligence Center was established at NAS Anacostia under ONI sponsorship. Management of the Navy’s photo interpretation capability reverted back to BUAER in October 1946, but operational tasking was exercised by the DNI. In 1964, after DIA assumed control of many of Navy’s photo interpretation efforts, the Naval Reconnaissance and Technical Support Center (NRTSC) was created to execute the remaining navy photo intelligence/interpretation responsibilities. On 1 July, 1964, NRTSC was transferred to the management control of the DNI.17
As was the case with ACIOs, PIOs were reserve officers who eagerly returned to civilian life at the end of the war. Like the ACIOs, they could apply to remain on active duty or affiliate with the reserves as Aviation Ground Officers (designator 135X). A very small number remained on active duty, some affiliated with air reserve units, and a handful became civilian photo interpreters at Naval Intelligence and national-level photo interpretation facilities.18 As was the case with reserve ACIOs, many reserve PIOs were recalled to active duty during the Korean War. At the end of the Korean War, the ACIOs and PIOs who remained on active duty formed the backbone of the Air Intelligence “subspecialty” within the 135X Aviation Ground Officer designator.
In 1945, Fleet Admiral Nimitz recognized that the Navy was about to lose an invaluable pool of intelligence talent when the S(I), ACIO, and PIO reservists returned to civilian life. He directed that a pathway be created for them to remain on active duty and ultimately be integrated into the Regular Navy. A Restricted Line “Special Duty Officer, Intelligence – SDO(I)” community was created under the code sponsorship of the DNI. ALNAV 338-45 invited reservists (of any designator) who had served in non-aviation intelligence billets to apply to transfer to the new SDO(I) designator. ALNAV 335-45 invited ACIOs and PIOs to apply for Regular Navy status as 1350 Aviation Ground Officers, a community which would remain under the code sponsorship of BUAER/DCNO Air.19
ALNAV 206-46 of April 1946 listed the first reserve officers to be selected for the new SDO(I) community. Several other ALNAVs followed, with the listing of the final selectee for Fiscal Year 1946 contained in ALNAV 539 of 4 October 1946. A total of 28 selectees formed the nucleus of the SDO(I) Community (see Figure 1). The designator 163X would be applied to this community with the passage of the Defense Procurement Act of 1947.
Subsequently, applications were invited from Regular Navy officers who wished to transfer to the new SDO(I) Community. ALNAV23-48 of March 1948 listed six Regular Navy officers for transfer to the new 1630 designator. A seventh was selected later that summer (Figure 1). These thirty-five men (28 original selectees and seven additional officers) formed the Regular Navy nucleus of the 163X Community, a large portion of which remained 1635 reserve officers serving on active duty. This pattern would continue for the next decade or more.20
In the meantime, a small number of ACIOs and PIOs transferred into the Regular Navy as Aviation Ground Officers, designator 1350. But this active duty community would not grow to any appreciable size until after the Korean War.
In 1958, the DNI and the DCNO, Air, recognized the inefficiency of depending heavily on one-tour reservists for air intelligence support and convened a special board to make recommendations on how to strengthen the navy’s air intelligence capability. As a result of the board’s recommendations, air intelligence training was significantly expanded as was the opportunity for augmentation of reservists into the Regular Navy.21 This resulted in an increase in Regular Navy air intelligence officers, but did not solve the longer-term promotability issue (see TWO PARALLEL INTELLIGENCE SPECIALIST COMMUNITIES, below).
In 1946, the Naval Intelligence School (NIS) was established at Anacostia, Maryland. Unrestricted Line officers who graduated were designated Intelligence Subspecialists.22 A structured subspecialty program was established whereby URL billets requiring intelligence expertise would be flagged with a code: “P” for a billet requiring an NIS graduate and “S” for a billet requiring a URL officer who had gained his expertise by experience in previous intelligence billets. Officers graduating from NIS received a corresponding code as did URL officers who had served in intelligence billets. The number of “P”-coded billets would drive the input for the Naval Intelligence School, which counted as postgraduate education.
In theory, intelligence subspecialists would spend almost every other tour (after sea duty tours) in intelligence billets. Thus, if there were 500 billets coded for subspecialists, there should be a community of over 1000 subspecialists in the Navy. This, of course, assumed that the Navy would maintain an adequate throughput of URL officers at NIS and that it would always detail subspecialists to intelligence billets when on shore duty. Unfortunately, neither happened.23 As a result, some critical intelligence billets were filled by inexperienced/unqualified officers. Over time, claimant commands requested that the URL billet be changed to a 1630-designated billet to ensure they would receive qualified officers to fill the billet. This resulted in substantial growth for the 163X community, but ultimately accounted for the withering of the subspecialty as the most important billets were converted to 163X billets.24
The 163X community, under the sponsorship of the DNI, was a Restricted Line community. Officers competed for promotion only against other 163Xs. The law provided that the Restricted Line receive “at least” the same percentage of promotion opportunity as the Unrestricted Line, and it was possible for a greater percentage if that could be justified.25 But the same law limited the size of the entire Restricted Line of the Navy to 2.5 percent of the strength of the Unrestricted Line, thus restricting growth of the 163X community.
On the other hand, the Aviation Ground officer (135X) community, of which Air Intelligence (AI) officers were part, was an Unrestricted Line community. Officers designated as 135X competed for promotion against rated pilots, bombardier/navigators, etc. Their opportunity for promotion (particularly to the more senior ranks) was dismal. For example, when the 135X AI community of some 1200 officers transferred to the 163X community during the mid-1960s, they brought with them only seven captain billets (six of which were TAR billets) and only one captain – about one-tenth the number of captain billets a community of that size could be expected to generate. Thus, retention in the 135X AI officers was poor, at least partially due to the poor promotion opportunities.26
The original 163X officers who transferred into the new community were veterans of World War II, mostly in the lieutenant/lieutenant commander rank. The source of new officers was limited to a small annual number of “black-shoe” URL subspecialists who applied and were selected for transfer to the Restricted Line. They, too, were lieutenants and lieutenant commanders. There were no ensigns being commissioned. Over time, the 163X community became “top-heavy” with a disproportionate number of officers in the commander to captain grades and almost no ensigns/lieutenant (junior grades). On the other hand, after the Korean War, when the Navy sought 135X junior officers to become squadron AIs, the 135X community became heavily weighted toward junior officers, with a significant number of ensign/lieutenant (junior grade) billets and comparatively few senior officers for the size of the community.27
After the Korean War, a program was established to commission a small number of 163X ensigns to supplement the lieutenant/lieutenant commanders who were entering the community via Restricted Line transfer. Naval Academy graduates who were not physically qualified for the URL were allowed to apply for commissioning as 1630 ensigns, and civilian college graduates with particularly relevant backgrounds or education were also encouraged to apply. Naval Academy graduate ensigns were typically sent to Naval Intelligence School (NIS) as their first assignment. Civilian college graduates, on the other hand, were normally sent directly to intelligence billets and could apply for NIS at the lieutenant grade. Typically, this program resulted in the commissioning of six to ten ensigns per year, not all of whom remained in the Navy after completing their obligated service.28 The program lasted until 1961, but the principal source of officers remained Restricted Line transfer of lieutenant/lieutenant commanders from the URL, and the ensign commissioning program did little to redress the top-heavy nature of the 163X rank structure.
The military draft was in force during the entire period from the post-Korean War re-activation of an active duty Air Intelligence program to its mid-1960s integration into the Special Duty (Intelligence) community. There was always a potential pool of men applying for Navy commissions from which candidates could be selected for commissioning as 1355 Air Intelligence officers. The primary source was Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Newport, Rhode Island, after which AIs received six to eight weeks of training as Aviation Ground officers in Jacksonville, Florida. These officers then went to either NAS Norfolk for an eight-week course in air intelligence or, in a few cases, to the nine-month NIS postgraduate AI curriculum. Other (non-AI) 135X officers were typically sent to patrol or VQ squadrons as Naval Flight Observers or to heavy attack squadrons as bombardier/navigators.29
For their initial tour of duty 135X, AIs were typically sent to squadrons, ashore and afloat. Most left the Navy at the completion of their obligated service. Those who remained were typically detailed to billets at a Fleet intelligence center, one of several photo interpretation commands or centers, at an ONI analysis center, targeting staff, or (after 1962) to the Defense Intelligence Agency. As lieutenants they could anticipate returning to the naval aviation establishment, perhaps as airwing AIs. Lieutenant commander-level sea-going billets included aircraft carrier intelligence centers or (in Forrestal and later classes) ship’s Integrated Operational Intelligence Centers (IOICs). Commander-level sea billets included duty as IOIC Supervisors and Carrier Division Intelligence Officers.30 Captain-level 135X billets were sparse,31 but 135X captains could be selected to command Fleet intelligence centers, and other shore-based intelligence or photo interpretation centers.32
The “Brown Shoe” AI community was a community comprised primarily of junior officers. It also was a sea-going community. Career officers could anticipate sea duty in every rank up to commander. The AI community also remained heavily weighted toward reserve officers on active duty, with some regular navy officers coming from augmentation and others from transfers into the AI community of former pilots, bombardier/ navigators, etc.
Billet structure and career patterns for SDO (Intelligence) “Black Shoe” officers were quite different. Up until the early 1960s when the 135X community began to transfer, there were only a small number of ensign/lieutenant (junior grade) officers, with the preponderance of the officers having entered the community via Restricted Line transfer from the URL at the lieutenant/lieutenant commander level.33 Sea duty billets were few, with most of the community having had their sea duty as junior URL officers before they applied for transfer to the SDO (I) community. Sea-going billets for junior 163X officers were restricted to assistant intelligence officer billets on numbered Fleet or amphibious group staffs—and these never numbered more than a dozen billets. Commander-level sea duty billets were fewer than a half-dozen. All were hotly contested. Thus, the 163X community was decidedly not a sea-going community (see Figure 2). It was possible (if unlikely) for a 163X officer to enter the community as a junior officer and progress all the way to the rank of captain without ever having had sea duty.
Figure 2 is a representative snapshot of the 163X billet structure as of 1 July 1962. A career-oriented 163X junior officer could anticipate one or more tours in investigations/counterintelligence/collection within the DIO structure. The Naval Investigative Service (NIS) replaced the DIO structure in the mid-1960s, but investigative/counterintelligence billets remained more than 20 percent of the 163X billet structure, to include the possibility to command an NIS office as a senior officer. The “black-shoe” 163X officer could anticipate a tour as an assistant naval attaché and perhaps one or more additional tours in collection.34 He certainly could expect analytic tours of duty at ONI, DIA, etc., and staff intelligence officer billets on CONUS and overseas shore-based staffs. As a commander, he could hope to be selected for the very prestigious billet of N2 on a numbered Fleet staff. As a captain, he would aspire to command an ONI activity, Fleet intelligence center, or a NISO. He would hope to ultimately be selected to be a Fleet CinC N2, the single most prestigious billet for a senior 163X captain.
By the late 1950s, it was apparent —indeed obvious—that the 163X and the 135X communities had compelling synergies. It was also clear that the 135X community would profit greatly from being included in the Restricted Line SDO(I) community where the officers would have greatly improved promotion potential. Likewise, the 163X community would benefit from the influx of junior officers to create a more normal pyramid billet structure and provide more sea-duty opportunities. Finally, the URL of the Navy perceived that it would benefit because the newly integrated community would “grow their own” junior officers and would not require as many transfers from URL communities.
But there were two major obstacles. First, the Naval Aviation establishment did not want to lose the 135X AI community and the flexibility that it brought in terms of filling aviation ground and support billets, not to mention the additional promotion opportunities for rated pilots and Naval Flight Officers that the 135X officers represented. Second, the Restricted Line was, by law, limited to 2.5% of the strength of the URL. Thus, there was no room for significant growth in the SDO (I) community.
In 1964, the Combs Board was convened to study specialty and subspecialty communities. The panel, which studied the intelligence specialist/subspecialist communities, consisted of three officers—two URL officers and one 1630. The 1630 member was Commander Emory Sourbeer, a former fighter pilot who had long advocated for the integration of the 135X AI community into the 163X community. He was able to persuade the panel to unanimously recommend that sponsorship of the AI community be transferred to the DNI with an eye toward integrating the 135X AI community into the 163X community. He also succeeded in persuading the panel to pursue a change in the law to allow the Restricted Line to grow beyond the 2.5% limit. The panel directed that 97 AI billets be immediately changed to 163X and that 135X officers be gradually re-designated to 163X as legal limits allowed. The first group of 25 AI officers transferred into the 163X community in December 1965 (see Figure 3), with additional groups transferring over the next three years. In 1968, Congress passed HR 13050, which lifted the 2.5% limitation. By 1970, some 600 reserve and 250 regular AI officers transferred into the 163X designator. The 1970 Register of Commissioned Officers reflected that the 163X community, whose strength had hovered around 200 officers, was now a community of 1120 officers.35
With over 80% of its billets and a roughly equivalent number of AI officers having been transferred from the 135X community, the 163X community of the early 1970s had effectively become an AI community, particularly in the junior officer ranks. Figure 4 is an excerpt from a 1972 career-planning guide and illustrates the billet structure for the 163X community of 1972—vastly different from the 1962 billet structure illustrated in Figure 2.36 Had a similar career-pattern graphic been created in 1990, it would not have been strikingly different from the 1972 structure—particularly in the junior officer ranks. Figure 5 illustrates a sample career pattern that an officer entering the 163X community in 1972 might anticipate. By 1990, investigative/counterintelligence/collection billets in the Naval Investigative Service just about disappeared, as did CTF 157 HUMINT billets. Billets supporting the Ocean Surveillance Information System (OSIS) proliferated in the grades of lieutenant through commander. There were additional joint billets in the senior grades, to including captain billets as J2 of joint commands.
Now the primary source for 163X officers was commissioning as ensigns via AOCS. A small number of ensigns continued to come from the Naval Academy and a sprinkling were sourced from OCS. In the early 1970s, with the Vietnam War in full swing, the URL was experiencing retention problems, and Restricted Line transfers from the URL were curtailed (see below: “BLACKSHOE GROW-YOUR OWN” PROGRAM). Ironically, at the end of the 1970-1991 timeframe, the Navy implemented reductions throughout the force, reduced commissions from AOCS/OCS and force the community to rely on Restricted Line transfer once again for new officers.
Throughout most of the 1960s, flag officer strength for the 1630 community was capped at one, then two. In the 1970s, this was raised to three (not including officers of three stars or above who were serving in “reimbursable” billets such as Deputy Director CIA, etc.). In the mid-1980s, the number of flag officers increased to four. Thus, by the end of the Cold War, the 163X community had a healthy, viable, “pyramid” billet structure with promotion opportunity all the way to flag rank.
In 1968, with the URL experiencing retention problems, the Navy curtailed transfers into the 163X community. This decision was appealed to the Chief of Naval Personnel based on the requirement for the 163X community to have access to a source of “black shoe” officer experience. BUPERS responded by ordering the creation of a 163X “grow-your-own” program whereby 163X ensigns would be commissioned and sent to the surface force as excess-of-allowance officers to be assigned to surface combatant and afloat surface warfare staffs. The intent was for a program of six to ten officers per year leading to a cadre of about two dozen officers. They were given a brief intelligence indoctrination course and most were sent to CIC training. Most of the first officers in this program were sent to cruisers and destroyers serving on the “gun-line” off Vietnam. The ships were delighted to have an additional watch-stander and someone to perform the function of Collateral Duty Intelligence Officer plus, in many cases, assistant CIC officer. But there was precious little intelligence work to do. The “Black Shoe Grow-Your-Own” officers left the navy.37 The Vietnam war ended, the program withered away and, by the mid-1970s, URL officers from the surface warfare community were allowed to apply for transfer to 163X.
The merger of the two communities was only beginning when U.S. involvement in Vietnam expanded. The first 1630 Vietnam billets were established in 1963: a lieutenant commander and five lieutenants as advisors to the Vietnamese Navy. The initial focus was on coastal surveillance to detect seaborne infiltration. Detachments of P2V aircraft rotated through Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut air base and the Navy “advisors” acted as aerial observers, reporting sightings of possible infiltration craft to Vietnamese naval headquarters.38 Billet strength grew very slowly: six in 1963, seven in 1964, eight in 1965, nine in 1966 (by which time the focus was beginning to shift to riverine operations and coastal Swiftboat patrols). The concept of Naval Intelligence Liaison Officers (NILOs) that forward deployed and provided intelligence support to River Boat divisions was introduced in 1965-66.39 However, it didn’t get underway in earnest until after the Tet Offensive in 1968 and after Vice Admiral Zumwalt placed an emphasis on vastly expanded riverboat interdiction operations. In 1967, there were thirteen 1630 billets in Vietnam. By 1968 this grew to 48, then 55 in 1969, and a high of 57 in 1970 (the high-water mark for U.S. presence in Vietnam). At the high point of the NILO program, there were some three dozen 163X lieutenant (junior grade) or lieutenants serving in forward areas as NILOs, in addition to a growing number who were URL lieutenants (junior grade). By 1969, there were 27 URL NILO billets. Gradually the number decreased as the U.S. Navy withdrew its presence. There were ten 1630 billets in 1972 and none in 1973.40 In all, some 150 163X officers served in-country Vietnam tours.
The impact of the Vietnam war on the deployed “brown shoe” 1630s is more difficult to measure, but it was substantial. A very conservative estimate based on an assumption of a steady state of two “big deck” carriers on station off Viet Nam (and in fact, there were often three and sometimes even four carriers on station) during the period 1965-1972 suggested that more than 400—perhaps 500—AIs spent at least one tour supporting strike/recce operations off the coast of Vietnam. Their squadrons and ships (Atlantic Fleet as well as Pacific Fleet) were often sent on extended Vietnam deployments. Air Intelligence augmentation teams were forward-deployed to assist in the workload. Tours of duty for shipboard AIs were extended and occasionally ‘release from active duty’ was extended as well. Forward detachments were formed in the Philippines and in Saigon to augment photo interpretation capabilities. With round-the-clock targeting, mission planning, pilot briefing/debriefing, photo reconnaissance and photo interpretation, and bomb damage assessment, etc., Air Intelligence in the U.S. Navy came of age and proved itself in the waters off Vietnam 1964-1972.
When the 135X and 163X communities merged, neither community had female officers. The decade of the 1970s brought the commissioning of women as 163X officers. By 1980, 47 of 976 billets were filled by women (~4%).41 Within eighteen months after the fall of the Soviet Union, 152 of 1194 officers were women (~12.5%—the legal limit at the time).42 Although women were not yet allowed to serve in shipboard billets and thus were restricted to serving as AIs in VP and other shore-based squadrons, their career patterns were otherwise identical to their male counterparts.
Operations Desert Shield (1990) and Desert Storm (1991) witnessed the deployment to Saudi Arabia of teams of Navy Air Intelligence officers to augment CENTAF.43 Unlike the Vietnam War, reservists were called up as well. Almost 400 Naval Intelligence reservists were voluntarily called up and served either in theater or as augmentees in supporting billets.
Even before the December 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, there were cries for a “peace dividend,” resulting in pressure to cut back on defense spending and to draw down intelligence spending as well. The Fleet Intelligence Centers were to be eliminated and the Ocean Surveillance Information system was drawn down and eventually eliminated. Beginning in the mid-1980s, investigative, counterintelligence and collection billets which had been part of the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) were sharply reduced after NIS was transferred out of ONI. Joint billets and anti-terrorism billets increased as did billets dedicated to the support of operations in the Middle East. But the billet structure of the 163X community at the end of the Cold War was not greatly different from the 1970 merged billet structure. Indeed, “peace dividend” calls notwithstanding, the size of the 163X community in 1990 was 1405 officers, as opposed to 1112 in 1970 and 1232 in 1973.44
By any measure, the 163X community which existed at the end of the Cold War was vastly superior to that which had existed prior to 1970. Two parallel communities had been integrated and a viable community serving the entire navy—“black shoe” or “brown shoe”—had been created. Owing to the significant expansion of sea-going billets and the experience of the Vietnam War and Operations Desert Shield/ Desert Storm, the integrated community enjoyed a closer relationship with the operating forces. The billet structure allowed for orderly career progression, and promotion opportunity was guaranteed to equal that of the URL. Quality of officers accepted for the 163X designator remained high. Training was greatly improved. Retention was excellent. Morale was high. Perhaps most importantly, the senior URL leadership of the navy held the 163X community in high regard. Even those who once questioned the desirability of integrating the two communities could be heard to say, “we should have done this long ago.”