Each of the 16 Intelligence Agencies has a unique function. Take our quiz and see how well you know your agency roles and responsibilities.

Different agencies have different responsibilities, and while some jurisdictions may overlap government agencies are set up with specific duties. Do you know which agency handles specific matters of state, or what an agency is chartered to do?


The National Security Agency, or NSA, is a Department of Defense agency that deals with foreign intelligence gathering. The agency had been described as “America’s cryptologic organization,” and its two primary functions are to convert cryptic foreign intelligence communication into comprehensive text (codebreaking); and protecting U.S. government information systems by using cryptography (codemaking).


The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)’s five main functions are to gather human source intelligence; analyze technical intelligence, distribute intelligence to other agencies; to provide advice and support to the Joint Chiefs of Staff with foreign military intelligence; and to provide military intelligence to combatant commands.


The CIA does not “investigate” crimes, and rather provides foreign intelligence information to assist the president and senior U.S. government policymakers in making decisions relating to national security. The FBI is responsible for protecting U.S. interests and today has 64 legal attaché offices—commonly known as legats—and more than a dozen smaller sub-offices in key cities around the globe.


The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is the nation’s primary source of geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT for the Department of Defense and the U.S. Intelligence Community. As a DOD combat support agency and a member of the IC, NGA provides GEOINT, in support of U.S. national security and defense, as well as disaster relief.


While the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms’ responsibilities include the investigation and prevention of federal offenses involving the unlawful use, manufacture, and possession of firearms and explosives; acts of arson and bombings; and illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco products; this agency does not manage or oversee the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The NICS is managed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It was mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and launched by the FBI on November 30, 1998.

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.