OBITUARY: Lt-Gen Daniel Graham

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The Independent Online
Daniel Graham was a career intelligence officer and "ardent hawk" who twice played a major part in shifting the centre of gravity of American national security policy.

The first was in the 1970s when he was a key member of "Team B", the secret intelligence panel convened by President Gerald Ford, which persuaded Washington to take a more pessimistic estimate of Soviet capabilities. The second was when he was perhaps the most persistent advocate in converting the Reagan Administration to the virtues of the Strategic Defence Initiative, widely known as Star Wars.

Graham grew up in a poor farm family in Oregon, and worked in sawmills and orchards as a young man. He won a nomination to West Point and became a career army officer. He served in Germany, Korea and Vietnam, where he worked in intelligence. He was investigated by Congress for reports underestimating the strength of the Vietcong and predicting it would soon run out of troops. He then became convinced that Washington was underestimating the rapid growth in Soviet military expenditure.

In 1973-74 he was deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the civilian agency responsible to the President, and from 1974 to 1976 the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the military agency responsible to the Secretary for Defense. On his retirement he was one of the moving spirits in a classic Washington bureaucratic manoeuvre with lasting effects on US policy towards the Soviet Union.

Its result was that in 1976 the CIA concluded it had greatly underestimated the cost of Soviet weapons production. This estimate did not reflect any growth in Soviet military strength: the Agency had simply increased its estimate of the share of Soviet GNP spent on defence from 6-8 per cent to 13 per cent. "About 90 per cent" of the increase was accounted by the Agency's new estimate of Soviet prices in dollar terms.

President Ford had been persuaded to set up an alternative group of analysts to review the CIA's estimates. "Team B", as it was called, was headed by Richard Pipes, a Harvard Professor of Russian History, but Graham was a dominant intellectual influence in what was in any case a deliberately hardline panel.

Team B finished its report in December 1976 and sent it to President- elect Jimmy Carter. It concluded that Soviet capabilities were greater than had been reported in the CIA's intelligence estimates, and that there was little evidence that Moscow shared Washington's faith in "mutual assured destruction", or "MAD", which had been the central assumption of US policy for many years.

The Team B report was used as the basis for a formidable lobbying effort by Paul H. Nitze and other powerful figures in Washington in support of their conviction that the Soviet Union was embarked on a dangerous new strategic policy. They formed the Committee on the Present Danger, which in 1977 published a report called What is the Soviet Union Up To?, warning that the Soviet Union would continue its "expansionist policy" regardless of agreements with Western powers. In this manner Graham's hardline views had a considerable effect on Washington opinion through the late 1970s and 1980s.

As early as 1976 Graham advised Ronald Reagan in his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency. In 1979 Reagan visited Norad (North American Air Defence Command) at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado and was horrified to discover that the US had no defence against Soviet missiles. When he became president in 1981 he set up a secret group in the White House, including Graham and the physicist Edward Teller, "father of the H-Bomb", to "shift from defence to offence; move to space", as one of its members noted.

Graham and Teller were convinced that technological innovations had given new life to a concept, rejected by the Eisenhower Administration, for shooting down incoming ballistic missiles in flight. Graham founded a non-profit organisation, High Frontier, to lobby for an American defence system against ballistic missiles, adopted by the Reagan Administration in 1983 as the Strategic Defence Initiative. In later years High Frontier focused more on systems for transport and support in space.

Godfrey Hodgson

Daniel O. Graham, soldier and intelligence officer: born Portland, Oregon 13 April 1925; deputy director, CIA 1973-74; director, DIA 1974-76; married Ruth Maxwell (died 1989; two sons, five daughters), 1994 Adele Piro; died Arlington, Virginia 31 December 1995.