1935-1945: COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AND CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS
Lieutenant Junior Grade Cecil H. Coggins, a Navy physician assigned to ONI, discovered a Japanese spy ring operating in the United States in 1935. Later, he wrote the Naval Intelligence Service’s first manual for investigations.
In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt formalized ONI’s authority to investigate espionage, sabotage, and other subversive activities posing a potential threat to the U.S. Navy.
Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal expanded ONI’s charter in 1945 to include major criminal and security investigations. In addition, he determined that the agency needed civilian investigators to provide professional continuity that military officers could not.
1966: NAVAL INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE ESTABLISHED
The Naval Investigative Service (NIS) was created as a separate entity within ONI and given exclusive authority to conduct counterintelligence and criminal and security background investigations. The new command answered to the Director of Naval Intelligence and consisted of three functional components: Director and headquarters staff, NIS Offices (led by military commanding officers), and NIS Resident Agencies (the basic operating elements).
1970s: SPECIAL AGENT AFLOAT PROGRAM & MARINE SPECIAL AGENTS
The Deployment Afloat program began in the early 1970s with one Special Agent serving a six-month deployment aboard the USS Intrepid (CV 11). The initiative developed into the Special Agent Afloat program, which provided Special Agents to deploy for one-year assignments aboard aircraft carrier battle groups (and later Amphibious Readiness Groups).
In 1977, the Commandant of the Marine Corps began providing U.S. Marine Corps criminal investigators for duty as NIS Special Agents, ensuring their proficiency in felony criminal investigations and enabling the Marine Corps to sustain an organic capability during combat operations.
Early 1980s: FLETC AND THE ATAC
In 1982, NIS began sending Special Agents to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia. Previously, Special Agents received training at the NIS Training Academy located in Suitland, Maryland.
The Chief of Naval Operations directed NIS to stand up a terrorist watch center in 1983, shortly after the bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The Antiterrorist Alert Center (ATAC)—the U.S. government’s first 24/7 operational center to coordinate and fuse intelligence and law enforcement data from around the world—issued indications and warnings of potential terrorist activity to U.S. Navy and Marine Corps commands.
1985-1988: EVOLUTION IN MISSION AND NAME
NIS was elevated to a full command in 1985 and given responsibility for the U.S. Navy’s Information and Personnel Security Program. Rear Admiral Cathal L. “Irish” Flynn was assigned as Commander of the newly renamed Naval Security and Investigative Command (NSIC).
In 1986, the Department of the Navy Central Adjudication Facility was established under NSIC to adjudicate security clearances for uniformed personnel within the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, and for civilians working within the Department of the Navy.
In 1988, NSIC Commander Rear Admiral John E. Gordon changed the name to the Naval Investigative Service Command.
Early 1990s: NAVAL CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE
The Secretary of the Navy assumed direct supervision of NCIS in 1992 as part of reforms initiated to preserve the agency’s investigative independence. No longer under the command of the uniformed Navy, the newly named Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) welcomed its first civilian director, Special Agent Roy D. Nedrow, a former Secret Service agent.
In 1993, the Special Contingency Group was created to provide Special Agents to deploy in support of Navy and Marine Corps operations in major conflict areas, including the Balkans and Middle East.
The Cold Case Homicide Unit was formed in 1995, after an NCIS-led task force quickly resolved a cold death investigation. In just weeks, the Virgin Islands Task Force identified and arrested three suspects in the murder of Robert D. Bartlett, a Navy lieutenant found dead two years earlier. All three suspects were convicted and received maximum sentences.
1996: NEW NCIS STRUCTURE
Director Nedrow reorganized the agency—some 900 Special Agents and 600 support staff—in response to a Congressional mandate to reduce the size of the agency by 16 percent. The regional office structure was replaced by a network of 14 field offices that reported to NCIS Headquarters. The strategically placed offices directly oversaw field operations in more than 140 locations throughout the world.
Early 2000s: NCIS AUTHORITIES EXPANDED
The Secretary of the Navy granted civilian NCIS Special Agents the authority to execute federal warrants and arrest civilians starting in 2000. The special permission required an act of Congress.
In response to the bombing of the USS Cole (DDG 67) and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the ATAC’s mission was increased and its name changed to reflect new responsibilities. Beginning in 2002, the mission of the Multiple Threat Alert Center (MTAC) was to identify and issue warnings on terrorist, foreign intelligence, criminal, security, and cyber threats to U.S. Navy and Marine Corps equities worldwide.
By 2003, NCIS personnel were deploying regularly to conflict areas throughout the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa.
2005-PRESENT: TODAY'S NCIS
The Contingenc Response Field Office was created in 2005 to respond to ongoing requirements for support to expeditionary or combat operations.
Also in 2005, the Secretary of the Navy issued SECNAVINST 5430.107, the first document to codify the full scope of NCIS’s mission, functions, activities, and relationships with other Department of the Navy and law enforcement organizations.
In 2012, Army and Air Force representatives joined the MTAC, enhancing information sharing and access to military personnel and intelligence databases.