Army and Navy cryptologic organizations had a long and inglorious history of failing to coordinate their efforts, dating back to the 1920s.
In 1940, when the Army’s success in breaking Japanese diplomatic cipher systems became known to the Navy, there ensued lengthy and difficult negotiations to determine how the effort was to be divided. They finally arrived at a Solomonic solution by which the Army processed Japanese diplomatic traffic originating (i.e., cipher date) on even days of the month while the Navy would process traffic from odd days. This resulted in a fair division politically, but from the standpoint of cryptanalytic continuity it was a horror. To make matters even worse, there was in those days no thought, no concept, of centralized and coordinated intelligence analysis. What little analysis and interpretation was done (and there was very little indeed) was accomplished by each service on the traffic which it had decrypted, leaving for each a checkerboard pattern of information in which every other day was left out. This almost inconceivable situation persisted until 1942, when diplomatic traffic was, by mutual agreement, left to the Army, while the Navy concentrated on Japanese naval material.
The disaster at Pearl Harbor resulted in a thoroughgoing Army internal investigation. Secretary of War Henry Stimson picked Yale lawyer Alfred McCormack to lead the way. McCormack discovered a scandalously incompetent Army G2 and a nonexistent SIGINT analysis and dissemination system. He set up a separate system called Special Branch, Military Intelligence Division, and was picked as the first deputy. (Colonel Carter W. Clarke became the first commander.) At the same time, the Army and Navy arrived at a joint modus operandi regarding the division of overall SIGINT responsibilities. Each service was to work what we now call “counterpart” targets. Since there was little in the way of Japanese Army traffic to work, the Army took on the task of diplomatic intercept. The third partner was the FBI, which shared Alfred McCormack with the Navy the task of working Western Hemisphere agent and clandestine traffic. These three were to be the only participants in SIGINT for the duration of the war. Roosevelt’s directive of July 1942 specifically excluded the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), Office of Censorship, and the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) from SIGINT production.
At the same time a standing committee of Army, Navy, and FBI COMINT officials was established. It met only a few times and had little lasting impact on organizational matters. Meetings were frequently marred by vituperative arguments, especially between Navy and FBI, which were supposed to be sharing Western Hemisphere clandestine traffic. It was not cryptology’s finest hour. Meanwhile, the COMINT activities of the FCC and Censorship Bureau continued virtually unabated. Only the OSS seems to have been temporarily frozen out of the COMINT community. Resurrected after the war as the CIA, it exacted revenge over a period of many years for having been excluded from wartime cryptology.
The Army and Navy cryptologic organizations, Signal Security Agency (SSA) and OP20-G, respectively, found cooperation difficult. The Army was willing to share everything it had with the Navy, but OP-20-G would not reciprocate. What finally brought matters to a head was the breaking of the Japanese Army code in early 1944. This produced information vital to the Navy in the Southwest Pacific. SSA decided to withhold information from it until the Navy agreed to expand cooperation. The Navy quickly came around, and the result was a wartime agreement signed by Army Chief of Staff General George Catlett Marshall and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Earnest J. King. Called the Marshall-King Agreement, it provided for the total exchange of COMINT materials (but at the Washington level only).
It quickly fell apart, and for a time this informal agreement seemed a dead letter. But the need to cooperate was by then so vital that the two services were driven to a more permanent solution. Thus was formed the Army-Navy Communications Intelligence Coordinating Committee (ANCICC) in April of 1944. The committee was to coordinate and settle “such controversial matters as can be resolved without reference to higher authority,” a plain attempt to keep disagreements out of the offices of Marshall and King. Although the Navy was consistently the more parochial of the two services in COMINT matters, the “godfather” of this cooperation was almost certainly Joseph Wenger, a naval commander and career cryptologist within OP-20-G. Meanwhile, coordination under the terms of the Marshall-King Agreement continued its bumpy course, now underpinned by this policy committee.
In late 1944 the Navy (probably Wenger) once again suggested improving cooperation. This time they proposed creating a new board called the Army-Navy Communications Intelligence Board (ANCIB). Representation would be of a higher level – instead of the heads of the cryptologic organizations, the members were to be the heads of intelligence and communications for the two services. The board would be formally established (ANCICC was informal) and would be approved by Marshall and King. Although the Army initially answered “No,” it later changed its mind, and ANCIB became official in March 1945. ANCICC became a working committee of ANCIB, insuring that the heads of COMINT organizations would continue to meet. To keep COMINT out of the JCS arena (in order to tighten security), ANCIB reported directly to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rather than through the Joint Staff.
FBI was not invited to be a member of the board, a deliberate move which was occasioned by Navy-FBI friction over the control of clandestine intelligence. But in December 1945, the State Department was invited, and ANCIB became STANCIB. This recognized the existence of a small COMINT exploitation unit at State and implicitly acknowledged that State would have to be invited if ANCIB were to represent the United States in postwar COMINT negotiations with the British. In 1946 the board changed name once again, to USCIB (the United States Communications Intelligence Board), a lineal predecessor of today’s National Foreign Intelligence Board. At virtually the same time, the newly created Central Intelligence Group, soon to change its name to CIA, accepted an invitation to join. Through all this, ANCICC changed to STANCICC and then to USCICC.
No matter what the name of the board, cooperation remained purely voluntary, and all decisions required unanimity. There was no higher authority imposing central control of COMINT. The British, who had a unified COMINT service under the Government Code and Cipher School (GCCS), were scandalized. During the war they were forced to deal separately with the three organizations with COMINT interests – the Army, Navy, and FBI. British officials regarded negotiations with the Americans as a little like dealing with the former colonies after the American Revolution – disorganized and frustrating at times, but they could still play one off against another to achieve their objectives.