The Pentagon is to create a new spy service to focus on global strategic threats and the challenges posed by countries including Iran, North Korea and China. The move will bring to 17 the total number of intelligence organisations in the US.
The Defense Clandestine Service is supposed to work closely with its counterpart in the CIA, the National Clandestine Service, recruiting spies from the ranks of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and deploying them globally to boost the flow of intelligence on perceived long-term threats to US national interests.
US military news website Insidedefense said the defence department had asked Congress for authority for spies to work undercover posing as businessmen when conducting covert operations abroad.
The move by the defence secretary, Leon Panetta, emerged in briefings to US journalists.
"You have to do global coverage," a senior defence official said, according to the Los Angeles Times. The new service would seek to "make sure officers are in the right locations to pursue those requirements", the Washington Post quoted the official as saying.
The Pentagon argues that the new service is necessary because the DIA spends most of its time and manpower reporting tactical intelligence about battlefields such as Afghanistan, and not enough time looking at strategic issues.