The Pentagon will send hundreds of additional spies overseas as part of an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size, U.S. officials said.
The project is aimed at transforming the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has been dominated for the past decade by the demands of two wars, into a spy service focused on emerging threats and more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units.
When the expansion is complete, the DIA is expected to have as many as 1,600 “collectors” in positions around the world, an unprecedented total for an agency whose presence abroad numbered in the triple digits in recent years.
The total includes military attachés and others who do not work undercover. But U.S. officials said the growth will be driven over a five-year period by the deployment of a new generation of clandestine operatives. They will be trained by the CIA and often work with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, but they will get their spying assignments from the Department of Defense.
Among the Pentagon’s top intelligence priorities, officials said, are Islamist militant groups in Africa, weapons transfers by North Korea and Iran, and military modernization underway in China.
“This is not a marginal adjustment for DIA,” the agency’s director, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, said at a recent conference, during which he outlined the changes but did not describe them in detail. “This is a major adjustment for national security.”
The sharp increase in DIA undercover operatives is part of a far-reaching trend: a convergence of the military and intelligence agencies that has blurred their once-distinct missions, capabilities and even their leadership ranks.
The Pentagon is revamping its spy operations to focus on high-priority targets like Iran and China in a reorganization that reflects a shift away from the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan that have dominated America’s security landscape for the past decade.
Under the plan approved last week by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, case officers from the new Defense Clandestine Service would work more closely with counterparts from the Central Intelligence Agency at a time when the military and spy agency are increasingly focused on similar threats.
“It will thicken our coverage across the board,” said a senior Defense Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss with a small group of reporters on Monday what he called a “realignment” of the military’s human espionage efforts.
Case officers from the Defense Intelligence Agency already secretly gather intelligence on a range of global issues — including terrorism and weapons proliferation — typically working out of C.I.A. stations in American embassies and undercover like their C.I.A. counterparts.
But a classified study completed last year by the director of national intelligence found that while the D.I.A. was effectively conducting its traditional, and much larger, mission of providing intelligence to troops and commanders in war zones, it needed to focus more attention outside the battlefields on what is called “national intelligence” — gathering and distributing information on global issues and sharing that intelligence with other agencies.
Fresh water supplies are unlikely to keep up with global demand by 2040, increasing political instability, hobbling economic growth and endangering world food markets, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment released on Thursday.
The report by the office of the Director of National Intelligence said that areas including South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa will face major challenges in coping with water problems that could hinder the ability to produce food and generate energy.
The report said that a “water war” was unlikely in the next 10 years, but that the risk of conflict would grow with global water demand likely to outstrip current sustainable supplies by 40 percent by 2030.
“Beyond 10 years we did see the risk increasing,” a senior U.S. intelligence official told reporters. “It depends upon what individual states do and what actions are taken right now to work water management issues between states.”
The official declined to discuss the risks for specific countries, but in the past water disputes have contributed to tensions between rivals including nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, Israel and the Palestinians, and Syria and Iraq.
The report, drafted principally by the Defense Intelligence Agency and based on a classified national intelligence estimate, said that water in shared basins would increasingly be used by states to pressure their neighbors.
“The use of water as a weapon or to further terrorist objectives also will become more likely,” it said, noting that vulnerable water infrastructure was a tempting target.
The U.S. State Department requested the report, which is part of an effort by the Obama administration to assess how long-term issues such as climate change may affect U.S. national security.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to hold an event on Thursday to announce a new public-private initiative to grapple with water issues.