Tom Clancy's "The Bear and the Dragon" offers numerous examples of omission of "the" before "CIA":

"It covered intelligence information developed by CIA, was prepared late every night and printed..."

"CIA's economics troops have pretty decent track record"

"Troughout the 80's, CIA overestimated the Soviet economy."

What might be the reason for such omissions?


2 Answers 2


With most acronyms, you have to think about how they fit into your speech. If you feel that the acronym is actually replacing the words it stands for, then use, or don't use articles as you would if you were saying the name in full.

"CIA" is a proper noun - it is the name of a government agency. You would normally say "the Central Intelligence Agency", so you should use the same article with the abbreviation:

  • I work for the CIA.
  • I work for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Sometimes though, we use nouns as adjectives - for example, "car door", where "car" which is a noun is acting as an adjective for the noun "door".

When "CIA" is used as an adjective, such as in "CIA Officers", or "CIA Troops", you would use the article appropriate to the subject noun, or not at all, for example:

  • CIA officers hammered at the door (no article needed)
  • A CIA officer hammered at my door (article needed for "officer")

I can't really explain why the above has not been applied in Tom Clancy's novel, except that the author is known for his high level of technical detail in his novels. It may be that referring to agencies in an abbreviated form is common within related government agencies. If that is the case, like a lot of terminology, the rules of grammar do not always strictly apply.

  • 3
    "It may be that referring to agencies in an abbreviated form is common within related government agencies." Pretty much this. Particularly in the US intelligence community, there are over a dozen members and it very quickly becomes annoying to say "the CIA thinks this; the FBI says that; while the NSA, the DIA, and the NRO feel otherwise." The articles get dropped because everyone knows what you're talking about. Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 15:00

People who actually work for the CIA insist that I made an error in this sentence by using an article in front of "CIA".

I do not know WHY (and in fact came here trying to find out why). But Tom Clancy is using the conventions preferred by the people he writes about.

  • I think you've answered the original question yourself -- Tom Clancy doesn't use "the" because the CIA themselves don't use "the". This sadly doesn't answer your question of how that came to be, but thanks for the info. If you could link to a source that indicates the CIA themselves don't use "the", that would improve this answer significantly. It could be a direct quote of someone in the CIA or closely related to the CIA dropping "the".
    – gotube
    Commented Apr 22 at 5:28

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