How a Purple Pen Brought Cohesion to the Defense Intelligence Agency

Published with Permission by:
Lint, James R., “How a Purple Pen Brought Cohesion to the Defense Intelligence Agency”, In Military, 21 October 2016, Web,

By James R. Lint
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University

Lieutenant General Patrick M. Hughes, Retired, served in multiple capacities in numerous Army and joint commands as senior intelligence officer of the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) before he served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. DIA is a Combat Support Agency (CSA) of the Department of Defense.

General Hughes Faced Obstacles with Interservice and Interagency Rivalries

After his appointment, Hughes encountered interservice and interagency rivalry. Inside the DIA, Hughes, led and managed members of the Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and his own branch of service, the Army. There were also a significant number of U.S. Civil Service civilians who were DIA employees.

Part of Hughes’ role was to orchestrate mission priorities and direct the allocation of National Intelligence Program (NIP) resources, specifically the General Defense Intelligence Program throughout the DoD. Competition for resources created a level of friction that often exceeded the normal, healthy levels that successful organizations need for success.

Hughes’ success depended upon his ability to maintain perspective and common mission priorities. He also needed to achieve a healthy balance between an “organizational” focus and an “enterprise” focus.

Hughes’ Purple Pen Was Lesson in Leadership and Organizational Cohesiveness

The general brought to DIA many years of leadership experience in working with U.S. and foreign intelligence organizations. He had learned long ago how to blend organizations and capabilities for cohesive, high-performing results.

One of his unique ways of showing he was the leader of DIA rather than an Army organization was his use of a purple pen. Purple is a color designation that symbolizes joint organizations. The color purple combines the blue colors of the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard with the scarlet and gold of the Marine Corps and the green of the Army.

This simple, direct and visual message had a significant impact on DIA employees. By using purple ink, Hughes was demonstrating that he was there to lead a joint organization and would not show parochial favoritism to any specific organization. He was always known for being fair in all discussions.

Hughes continued his tradition for using a purple pen after his retirement from the U.S. Army. Hughes used the purple pen while he was the senior intelligence officer for the Department of Homeland Security. The pen indicated his support for the best decisions and actions in support of the 20-plus DHS organizations and the national intelligence community.

Hughes is famous for his purple pen, which is just one of several techniques he used to drive success and innovation. Because Hughes successfully led organizations during times of turbulence and threat, he is considered one of our strongest leaders.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded their 43rd scholarship for national security students and professionals. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence within the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, contractor and civil service.

James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. In 2016 he was accepted as a member of the Military Writers Guild. He has served in the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and at the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office. James had an active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and also served 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba in addition to numerous CONUS locations. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” and a new book in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea.”

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