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The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) was established in the United States Navy in 1882. ONI was established to "seek out and report" on the advancements in other nations' navies. The oldest member of the United States Intelligence Community, ONI is headquartered at the National Maritime Intelligence Center in Suitland, Maryland, though subordinate to the Washington-based Defense Intelligence Agency.

ONI was founded by the Secretary of the Navy, William H. Hunt with General Order 292, dated March 23, 1882, which read:

An “Office of Intelligence” is hereby established in the Bureau of Navigation for the purpose of collecting and recording such naval information as may be useful to the Department in time of war, as well as in peace.

To facilitate this work, the Department Library will be combined with the “Office of Intelligence,” and placed under the direction of the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.

Commanding and all other officers are directed to avail themselves of all opportunities which may arise to collect and to forward to the “Office of Intelligence” professional matters likely to serve the object in view.[1]

ONI's position as the naval intelligence arm began in earnest when the United States declared war on Spain in 1898 in response to the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in the harbor of Spanish-controlled Havana, Cuba. ONI's powers grew as it became responsible for the "protection of Navy Personnel, censorship and the ferreting out of spies and saboteurs."

In 1929, the Chief of Naval Operations made these functions the permanent duties of ONI. During World War II, Naval Intelligence became responsible for the translation, evaluation and dissemination of intercepted Japanese communications, and its budget and staff grew significantly. While other parts of the Navy were downsized after the war, Fleet Admiral Nimitz ensured ONI's continued strength, which was to prove important during the Cold War.

Directors of Naval Intelligence from 1882[edit | edit source]

United States Navy
Director of Naval Intelligence


Portrait of VADM Ted N. Branch

First Theodorus B. M. Mason
Formation June 1882
Website Official Website

Final ONI seal.jpg
Note: Prior to 1911 the head of the ONI was known as the Chief Intelligence Officer.

Notable Naval Intelligence Officers[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. General Order No. 292. History.navy.mil (2012-08-22). Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  • Packard, Wyman H. (1996). Century of U.S. Naval Intelligence. Naval Historical Center. ISBN 0-945274-25-4. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Naval History & Heritage Command document "General Order No. 292 (23 March 1882)".

External links[edit | edit source]

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