Robert W. Schmitt

RADM Robert W. Schmitt, passed away March 8, 2012 after a long illness. He died peacefully at home in the company of family members. RADM Schmitt had a lengthy career in military intelligence. He was an integral part of the Defense Intelligence Agency's leadership during a time when its roles and missions expanded enormously.


Bob was born in Homestead, Pa., a town that grew around the Carnegie Steel Works along the banks of the Monongahela River, a few miles east of Pittsburgh. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1956 and was one of a half-dozen graduates that year that went in as intelligence specialists who immediately proceeded to the Navy Intelligence School before reporting to the Office of Naval Intelligence for duty.


For the next three decades he served in a variety of intelligence-related positions and steadily climbed in rank. Schmitt held positions, with the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam (the predecessor to the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam); as the Assistant Naval Attaché in Stockholm; and in several posts in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He served as assistant chief of staff for Intelligence for the Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean), for the Pacific Fleet (when selected for Flag) and for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). He also served as Director for Intelligence and Space Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In 1988, Schmitt became DIA's Deputy Director for JCS support.


Schmitt arrived at DIA during what subsequently came to be known as "The Second Cold War," a period of intense hostility between the U.S. and Soviet Union. These years had followed a decade of warmer relations. In this position, he was responsible for providing the JCS with intelligence requirements for both nuclear and conventional warfare, prospects that seemed to inch closer to reality every day during his tenure. In addition, Schmitt presided over the expansion of DIA's intelligence capabilities into operational and tactical support, a move ordered by then DIA Director LTG James Williams.


While deputy director for JCS support, Schmitt helped oversee the establishment of the Central America Joint Intelligence Team, a national-level intelligence fusion center that became the grandfather of intelligence fusion centers after 2000, and the provision of all intelligence support for Operation URGENT FURY, the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983. These were entirely new and revolutionary developments for an agency primarily responsible for strategic intelligence rather than operational and tactical intelligence.


The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 designated DIA a "combat support agency," giving it specific responsibilities in support of operationally deployed forces around the globe. As DIA's operational and tactical intelligence responsibilities expanded, Schmitt was the clear choice for deputy director, a post he assumed in October 1985 under then-Director Lt Gen Leonard Perroots. During his time at DIA he was notable for helping to shape the agency to meet its expanded responsibilities —transforming DIA from an organization providing strategic intelligence up the chain of command to being also responsible for sending intelligence down-range directly to the warfighter. Schmitt helped manage the development of many of these capabilities, serving as deputy director during a period that required DIA to quickly respond to major international crises such as Iran's attacks on Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, and Operation EL DORADO CANYON, the bombing of Libya in 1986. Rear Admiral Schmitt retired in 1991. He was a key, though sometimes overlooked, figure in the history of DIA.


Following retirement, Bob and Marianne enjoyed spending time with their Wildenberg-Schmitt extended family, numbering some three dozen. They included nine children, their spouses and at least 17 grandchildren. Their family is scattered around the nation but half live in the Maryland, DC and Baltimore area, so he enjoyed traveling often for events and reunions in Northern Virginia and as far afield as northern and southern Tuscany and a Montana dude ranch. Life at home was spent around their log cabin surrounded by woods, fields, a broad creek and local animals. Activities included church work, reading, and gardening, walking, dabbling in oil painting and entertaining guests. Indeed, a full life. Marianne continues to reside in Wicomico Church, VA.

Condolences may be addressed to Mary Ann at the following address:

Mrs. R.W. Schmitt

Box 396

Wicomico Church, VA 22579