“First of Many…America’s First Female Intelligence Agency Chief” – with former NGA Director Letitia “Tish” Long
Erin Dietrick: Welcome to "SpyCast", the official podcast of the International Spy Museum. I'm Erin Dietrick, your host, Dr. Andrew Hammond's content partner. Every week, we explore some aspect of the past, present or future of intelligence and espionage. Please consider leaving us a five-star review so that other listeners can easily find us. Coming up next on "SpyCast".
Letitia Long: I will tell you, as I walked into NGA every day, up until the last day, so grateful for the opportunity, kind of still pinching myself that I was just able to have that job, that I was given the opportunity. And you do not forget the responsibility.
Erin Dietrick: This week is our final installment of our five-week-long "Spy Chiefs" special series. So far, we've had former CIA Director David Petraeus, the man who turned around Kenyan intelligence, Wilson Boinett, the current head of intelligence for Ireland Sangarda Sikana, Michael McRubin, and the former number two at India's research and analysis wing, Vappala Balachandran. This week's guest is Tish Long. Tish was the first female head of a major U.S. intelligence agency when, in 2010, she became the Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, or NGA, paving the way for many more to come. I'm so glad we're doing this interview so that it becomes part of the historical record. Prior to her time at NGA, Tish served as Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence. In this episode, Tish and Andrew discuss lessons in leadership from Tish's extraordinary career in intelligence, geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT and its importance, Tish's recollection of the Bin Laden raid, and the differences between the NRO and NGA. The original podcast on intelligence since 2006, we are "SpyCast". Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Andrew Hammond: Well, I'm so pleased to speak to you, Tish. We've been trying to make this happen for a while, and I'm really glad that it's happening now. So thanks ever so much for joining me to share your expertise and your story.
Letitia Long: Well, and thank you, Andrew, for inviting me to speak with you. I'm just delighted to be here. Thank you.
Andrew Hammond: I think a good place to start would be you take over NGA in 2010. So the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, so the first woman to become the director of an American intelligence agency. Could you tell our listeners what it's like just to be in that position of taking over one of these jobs? Most people that listen to this podcast will never be director of an intelligence agency. So I just wondered if you could enlighten them. What is that like? It's a lot of responsibility, a big challenge. I assume it was exciting. Tell us what it was like in that process of being just about to start as the director.
Letitia Long: Sure, Andrew. So you know, it's a great question. I'll just start with, you know, what an honor and what a privilege to be selected as the director of NGA, as you said, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. I was the fifth director from August 9th, 2010 until October 2014. I will tell you, I actually raised my hand for the job. I knew that there was a search underway for the next director of NGA. And I also knew that the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had requested nominations from each of the military services. And they just didn't find, in their view, the ideal candidate or a candidate that they wanted to select. I knew that process was going on. I also knew that Secretary of Defense Bob Gates had been a part of the stand-up, the establishment of NGA. It was first named NIMA, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. And he specifically ensured that Congress wrote into the establishing documents that you could have a civilian director of NGA. NGA is a combat support agency. So usually it's a military officer that's the director. And while I was the first woman, I was also the first civilian to run NGA. Now, Jim Clapper was a civilian when he ran NGA. He was the third director. But really, Andrew, we all know he was Lieutenant General retired James R. Clapper running NGA. So I raised my hand, I go through the interview process, I get selected. And I think, oh, what now? Now, I had about four months to prepare for the job. The selection was made and the announcement was made. And it was really a gift that I had those four months. I was still the director of DIA, but I had four months to think about and plan the transition and the turnover from the fourth director, Vice Admiral Bob Moret, who I was friends and colleagues with. We'd known each other throughout our career. So to plan for that until the actual change of director ceremony in August. So I was actually able to put together a little transition team, some individuals from inside NGA, outside NGA, customers, industry, to help me formulate what my first 90 or 100 days would look like. When I was in my interview with Secretary Gates, actually, when he called to offer me the position, I asked him, was there something I should be focused on? Were there any issues from his perspective with NGA? And he said, no, Tish, you know what to do. So I didn't have any marching orders from the secretary or the chairman. And I will tell you, Andrew, as we were planning that transition and what we actually said the first 90 days would look like, it was really that I was going to embark on a listening tour. So on my first day, I held a town hall with the senior executives. On the second day, I held a town hall. We didn't have headquarters in Springfield, Virginia at that point. Headquarters was in Bethesda. So I held a town hall in Bethesda with the workforce. And then I flew to St. Louis. And I held a town hall in St. Louis where NGA has 4,000 employees. And then I came back and I held town halls all over Washington, D.C. Because at the time, NGA was dispersed around Washington, D.C. in eight different locations. So I spent, you know, like those first two weeks talking with as many NGA employees as I could. Then over the next 90 days, I started on a listening tour with customers, just talking to as many customers as I could. What was working? What wasn't working? What did we need to work on? You know, what did we need to keep doing as far as what was working? And that's is really where we devised the strategy, if you will, the vision, to put the power of GEOINT in the hands of the user. And the two goals, which was to strengthen and broaden our analytic expertise, strengthen and deepen our analytic expertise and to unlock the data, to make the data available to our analysts and our customers. I mean, that kind of, you know, lays out the first 90 days in very broad. What was it like personally? You know, as I mentioned, you know, what an honor. I can still remember the change of director ceremony. We held it on the top level of the parking garage for the new headquarters at Springfield, Virginia. Of course, it wasn't open. It was still under construction. And we put up tents. It was about 95 degrees, as hot as it could be in August. And we just had an amazing ceremony where the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence, in waiting, if you will, Jim Clapper, was there. And, you know, we did that change of director ceremony, which was really to recognize Admiral Moret and all the just outstanding work he had done and then to welcome me into the position. And then a little tidbit, Jim Clapper then was sworn in as the Director of National Intelligence that afternoon.
Andrew Hammond: And he was a mentor throughout your career?
Letitia Long: He absolutely was a mentor throughout. When I raised my hand to say, why not me for this position, he was in the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence job at the time. And so I went to see him. And, you know, that's where I actually said, Jim, why not me for this job? That's a separate interview, Andrew, and a separate story on how that really all came about. But I first met Jim in 1994. He was the Director of DIA. And I was in Naval Intelligence. And he hired me to come work for him at DIA. And so over the next, you know, 20 years, he continued to be my mentor, is still a mentor and a very good friend.
Andrew Hammond: And I'm wondering if this is just a question that a historian would ask rather than somebody that was, you know, a senior American intelligence community member. How much was the fact that you were the first woman to take over a director job part of the ceremony? Or how much was this part of the consciousness of the transition of director? Was that really just sort of incidental?
Letitia Long: You know, I will say both. It was, I think, incidental to my selection. I can still recall the interview with Secretary Gates. And one of the things I said to him was, you, the department and the community, have invested in me over the last 20 years. Now, I've been in the community for longer than 20 years. But in that last 20 or so years, I ran the community management staff under what was then the director of CIA in his role as the director of Central Intelligence. So I worked at the community level. I then was a deputy director of Naval Intelligence, so at a service level, and then the deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence at the policy level in DOD, and then the deputy director of DIA. So there was a big investment in me as an intelligence professional. And that's what I told the secretary. I'm ready for this job. You know, worked at the service level, the department level, a combat support agency, and the national level. And, you know, my bona fides were well known. I was well known across the community. At the same time, I was the first woman. And, you know, it's important to see people like yourself in positions of leadership. And so I was very conscious being the first, not that I had to do it better than my male counterparts, but to be as inclusive as I could be, to make those opportunities available to other women, to be present and be very available across the community, visible across the community, so that women knew that if I could do it, they could too. A number of people -- and I don't think this is a historian asking this question. You know, any number of people have asked me, did you plan your career? Did you always know you were going to be director? And the answer was no. I, in fact, didn't see myself as a director because there had never been one. So I didn't have a role model, you know, to say, oh, yeah, so-and-so woman is the director of fill-in-the-blank, I can do that too. Clearly, it never held me back, but I didn't have this plan mapped out, you know, where I was going to be, you know, the director of one of our intelligence agencies.
Andrew Hammond: And one of the things that I'm hoping that this interview accomplishes is just be part of that, getting the word out there that, you know, there's other people that have done this. There are firsts, and hopefully this won't be a thing in a short period of time. It will just be completely normalized. Some people that may be listening to this, they may say, you know what, I want to be like Tish Long. I want to be the director of an agency. And it's a very small universe of people that get to become the director of an agency. So you know, I'm just wondering if there's any advice that you would, you know, you would pass on to them. And as much as you're available, what's some of the secrets of the sauce? Like, what kind of tips would you pass on to people that are listening that would like to replicate what you've done?
Letitia Long: First of all, I do want to say that I have not been the only director. And I do think that is a reflection of how far we have come -- the only woman to be a director of one of our agencies. Of course, we've had Betty Sapp, who two years through my tenure at NGA became the director of the National Reconnaissance Organization. And we've had Gina Haspel as the director of CIA. We've also had women to head up a number of other parts of the community, our smaller organizations, whether it's the head of Coast Guard Intelligence, State INR, Ellen McCarthy, the head of Treasury, today is Shannon Corliss, previously Leslie Ireland. So we've had a number of other firsts, if you will, within their organizations. And a couple of things I would say really to anyone aspiring, not just women, not only women, but anyone aspiring to be a director. A couple of things. Get that foundational background, whatever it is, whatever you are expert in. Whether you're an analyst, somebody in the collection arena, a policy or budget analyst. It takes a wide array of skill sets to run the intelligence community. Become that expert at what your background and training is. And then try some different things. Move across the intelligence community. Get out of your comfort zone. Learn a new skill. Go to a different organization. Maybe go to industry and come back. But really broaden your expertise. Truly understand how the intelligence community works. Because we are better when we are working as a community. I mean, integration is truly key. Take on mentors. We've already talked about Jim Clapper. I've had a half a dozen or more mentors, some of whom are still my mentors today. Sometimes you need them for a certain point in time. Some you keep over a decade or more. We can all use a different point of view, some advice. Take on mentees. It's not only those who are helping you, but you helping others. And I will tell you, Andrew, today, I learn a lot from my mentees. It is a very different intelligence community today than it was 40 years ago now when I started my career. And so I'm not experiencing what they are. They're adding to my wealth of knowledge and background. And just be curious. Be open to new experiences. I said I didn't map out my career. Some people do. Great. But don't be so rigid that you're not open to something that you've never thought about before and kind of comes to you out of left field, out of the blue. Be open to new challenges, new experiences. And the last thing I would say, and this is really for moving into any position, make sure that you are taking care of yourself, that you're getting that balance, work-life balance. And when I say that, I mean many different things because everybody is different. So whether it's family, friends, spiritual, physical and working out, you got to take care of all aspects of yourself so you're ready to give 110% because that's what the intelligence community takes.
Erin Dietrick: Tish just mentioned Jim Clapper. Now, everybody in American intelligence knows who he is, but that certainly doesn't mean that all of our listeners do. Basically, whenever his name comes up, you'll find it uttered with reverence. He was enlisted in the U.S. Marines before transferring to the United States Air Force, then rising to become the senior uniformed intelligence officer in the Department of Defense, then rising to become the director of national intelligence, overseeing the entirety of U.S. intelligence. He was the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the premier all-source military intelligence organization, all-source simply meaning based on all available information, whether that be human sources, photographs, intercepted communications, you name it. He was also, like Tish, the director of the NGA, a little bit earlier than her, before going on to become undersecretary of defense for intelligence, which is a civilian role that is the principal intelligence advisor to the secretary of defense. Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, he was the director of national intelligence, the head of the entire intelligence enterprise, military and civilian. In fact, he is the only one thus far to have held the job for a significant period of time, in his case, over six years. This and his long career, not least including mentoring people like Tish, means that he has left an indelible mark on the contemporary U.S. intelligence community.
Andrew Hammond: And I think it would be good at this point just to explain a little bit more about what NGA is. So we have, you know, people that listen to the podcast that are current or former intelligence community, but we also just have the average person on the street that loves a good spy story. So just help them get their heads around the NGA, Geospatial Intelligence, GEOINT.
Letitia Long: So thanks for that question, because I love to talk about NGA, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. I mentioned that it started out as NEMA, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. And that right there tells you what geospatial intelligence is. It's the integration of imagery and maps. Now, let me talk about each of those. So imagery, in its most basic form, are pictures that come from satellites, from aircraft, from handheld cameras, which then broaden that to social media. All of that is considered imagery. And it's not only the pictures, it's also radar. So when we say pictures, it's electro-optical imagery. And then there's radar. And then there are some other phenomenologies that also make up imagery when you're looking at very discrete parts of the spectrum. And so that might be hyperspectral imagery, where you're looking at hundreds and hundreds of very discrete bands that can give you characteristics that you can't actually see with the human eye. And so an imagery analyst using hyperspectral or multispectral imagery can see or can learn about effluence from nuclear power plants, what vegetation looks like, what stage that vegetation is in. So that's imagery. And then maps are exactly what you think, as far as how to get from here to there, point A to point B. And it's also the terrain. So how hilly is it? Just what does the terrain look like, as well as vertical obstructions? So if a plane is flying and it's flying low, or a helicopter, you need to know those vertical obstructions so you don't hit them. The terrain, mountains, where is a helicopter going to land? And so it's the integration of the terrain data and the imagery data to give a complete picture. And NGA's mission is to take all of that information and then analyze it, make sense of it, and provide it to their customer. The customer is the policymaker. If someone is going into arms control negotiation, NGA will have characterized the number of missiles, the types of missiles, depending on what that negotiation is. The policymaker, go all the way back to the Cuban Missile Crisis, we had undeniable, indisputable evidence of those missiles in Cuba that President Kennedy was able to use to the soldier in the field. Here's what it looks like for you. Here's the best way into and out of area ABC. Is it an exercise? Is it an actual operation? What's the best way, as I said, of getting there, getting out? What are you going to encounter? And then NGA also has a humanitarian assistance and disaster recovery mission. So they support FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as state and local. What did the area look like prior to the hurricane? What does it look like now? What do the bridges and roads look like? How do the emergency responders get to the area as quickly as they can and support that disaster recovery humanitarian assistance? Whether it's a hurricane, a wildfire, an earthquake, fill in the blank, NGA is supporting when they lead federal agency requests. The bulk of their mission is foreign intelligence, so they are looking at imagery and mapping information outside of the United States. But if the FBI asks for help for a counterterrorism or a terrorism operation here in the U.S. or any of the DHS or elements within DHS ask for help within the U.S., they are allowed to use their capability to look at imagery and the terrain inside the U.S. It's an exciting mission. It's a really important mission. They are also supporting other intelligence analysts so that they can integrate that imagery information with maybe signals intelligence or human intelligence to give a complete picture. And NGA has upwards of 15,000 people stationed all around the world. They are deployed forward with military forces. They are deployed forward with diplomatic forces. Headquarters is in Springfield, Virginia, about 9,000 people, 4,000 people in St. Louis, Missouri, and the remainder deployed around the world.
Andrew Hammond: Wow. And just for some of our listeners that are maybe thinking about this, for the imagery part of it, they can maybe understand why, okay, well, a tank was there on Monday, but it wasn't there on Tuesday, so the imagery is important. But on the mapping part of it, they may be thinking, surely the mountains and the rivers and all the other stuff, the topography, surely that doesn't change. So is it really more just about the pictures and we already know all the topography? Help our listeners understand that.
Letitia Long: Yeah, so the topography is changing. I think many of us truly understand that, you know, with global warming, seawaters are rising, so shorelines are changing, and it's really important when the Marines are going to land someplace, they really understand what that coastline looks like. When the Coast Guard has to go in, you know, for an interdiction, they need to understand what that coastline looks like, and it does change. And when you think about, you know, for the Marines, a global mission, you know, it's not just the East Coast and the West Coast of the United States, it is all around the world. Riverbeds are drying up, so places where they used to be able to maneuver, they can't maneuver any longer. Same with the U.S. Navy, with submarines, you know, they can only operate in certain depths with ships. That's the same thing. When you think about how the Arctic is changing, with the glaciers melting, and the waters rising there, and now the fight over natural resources in the Arctic. You know, NGA recently mapped all of Alaska to help them understand how the tundra is changing, and again, how the glaciers are changing. So it is not static at all. And I talked earlier about vertical obstructions, you know, for aircraft. You know, new cell phone towers are being erected every day. Those are real hazards to aircraft. And one thing, Andrew, I forgot to mention, as part of NGA's mission, is safety of navigation. That's a statutory mission, and that's not only military safety of navigation, so for military aircraft and military ships, it's for all civil aircraft. So small planes, cell towers really matter, and small ships, pleasure crafts. You know, if you have your own boat, you rely on those notice to mariners. Those are done by NGA. They, you know, put out the notice to mariners that, you know, there's a new shipwreck that you need to understand. So again, it is not at all static when it comes to mapping.
Andrew Hammond: That's helpful. So both sides are evolving. It's not that one's static and one's evolving.
Letitia Long: You nailed it when you said, yeah, it's really important to know a tank moved. I mean, NGA watched the buildup of Russia with Ukraine in 2014, and they watched it again in 2022. And I think many of your listeners know about the way the United States used commercial imagery, unclassified, and showed the world what President Putin was doing. It wasn't a buildup for an exercise. He was getting ready to invade Ukraine for a second time. So that change in military weaponry is very important, and NGA keeps track of that every single day. On the mapping side of things, it's just as important, and they keep track of that every single day.
Andrew Hammond: And just briefly, before we move on from what the NGA does, I found that some people struggle to get their heads around the difference between NGA and NRO. They think, well, should the NRO not just be part of the NGA or something? Like, just give them like a few sentences on, like, from your perspective, the differences.
Letitia Long: Yeah. And so, it's actually pretty easy. It starts with NGA. They know what their customers need. So they give requirements to the NRO. The NRO builds and operates the satellites, and they make sure that the data comes down from the satellite in such a way that it can feed into the NGA systems for NGA to analyze everything. Now, NRO should not be part of NGA because NRO also does that for the National Security Agency where all of the SIGINT analysts are. And so, NSA gives requirements to NRO for them to build and operate the SIGINT satellites. So that signals intelligence, that's listening to communications, again, foreign intelligence outside the U.S., and then the NRO makes sure that they collect and, you know, do some preprocessing of that data. And then it goes back to NSA into their systems for their SIGINT analysts to analyze and, you know, publish those reports just like NGA publishes the geospatial intelligence reports. The NRO has just extremely smart folks who understand how to build and fly satellites. They are acquisition executives, acquisition experts on acquiring those because it's really our U.S. industry that builds them. The NRO builds some small experimental satellites. They're always looking at the future and thinking about what they should be doing next, again, working with NSA and NGA. But they build and operate, or we say fly, satellites, and then they make sure the data is usable for NGA and NSA. And NGA and NSA have all the analysts who really understand how to make sense of the data and understand the target sets, the deep regional expertise and country expertise on our foreign adversaries' militaries.
Andrew Hammond: So the NRO, they operate the satellites, but the satellites don't just see things. They also hear things. They do a bunch of other things.
Erin Dietrick: To help you digest this episode, here is a short snippet on spy satellites. A satellite is simply something that orbits something else. They're not as far away as you may think, though, because you are on one right now. That's right. Earth is a satellite of the sun. We orbit it. Artificial satellites, as opposed to natural ones like the Earth, are a more recent phenomenon and are closely linked to the Cold War. The first artificial satellite was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, Sputnik 1, while the U.S. closely followed in 1958 with Explorer 1. The first commercial satellite, Telstar 1, was launched in 1962, while in 1969, everything came full circle when we landed on our very own natural satellite, the moon, which travels around Earth once every 27 days or so in an elliptical orbit. Satellites can be used for surveillance and intelligence gathering, monitoring natural disasters and environmental change, and increasingly commercial functions, such as Elon Musk's satellite internet service, Starlink. They orbit the Earth in a variety of ways, so let's go over just a couple. There is the low Earth orbit, or LEO, which, as its name suggests, stays pretty close to the Earth. Most satellites travel this way. Many spy satellites in the International Space Station today or Sputnik 1 back in the day. There is also geosynchronous orbit, or GEO, which move at the same speed as the Earth's rotation, so they stay in one spot relative to the ground. Unlike LEOs, these are way up there at 20,000 miles plus above the equator. In between LEO and GEO, in terms of distance from the Earth, is MEO, which is medium Earth orbit. And the last one we'll discuss is HEO, which is highly elliptical orbit, which means that it will range from very close to the Earth to very far away, because it's an ellipsis. Each of these then has a different orbital range, that is, the time it takes them to complete one orbit around the Earth. Say a LEO has an orbital range of two hours, that means it will pass over a certain area 12 times in a 24-hour period. Pretty interesting, right?
Andrew Hammond: Before we jump back to the beginning of your career, because there's a number of firsts there, it's not just the NGA, and you had a lot of preparation for the director of NGA. I've heard you describe yourself elsewhere as a professional deputy before you became the director, so you were well-bloodied and stuff. But I think it would be interesting, and I feel like I would be shortchanging our listeners if we didn't discuss something important that happened when you were the director. So the Osama Bin Laden raid. I used to work at the 9-11 Museum in New York, and we put on an exhibition on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, and I know the NGA play an important role there. And as much as you're able, can you tell our listeners about the role that your agency played and what you were up to?
Letitia Long: Absolutely. It really was a combination of CIA, NSA, and NGA through a small working group. We were working very closely together in the hunt for Bin Laden. Now, the hunt for Bin Laden had been going on for a decade, but when President Obama came into office, he asked the director of CIA to just really double down again in the hunt. And so that's when this new working group was formed, and we had a handful of analysts in that working group. And through a signals intelligence tip, the area for search was narrowed down, and so our analysts were just searching and searching and searching through imagery. And they actually narrowed it down to two compounds where they felt Bin Laden could be, and then really honed in on one of those. And there were any number of indicators from a geospatial intelligence perspective. Knowing the area in Pakistan where land is very, very expensive, typically individuals would buy a parcel of land and then they would build their home out to the perimeter of the land that they owned. This particular compound, there were several buildings in a very large area, so there was a lot of open space. Very unusual because land is so expensive. The walls to the compound were built much higher than the average height. You could not see over them. And there was even concertina wire along the tops of the walls. Very unusual. The home was three stories tall. Very unusual. The top floor, which had a balcony, one would assume partially for the view, one to be able to be outside, but also for the view, but there was a big wall blocking the view. So a number of indicators, and there were a few others that are still classified because they're still part of the tradecraft. But those indicators, along with some of both the SIGINT and the COMINT, really had that analytic group focus in on that particular compound. So the first thing was finding it in the identification. The second thing that NGA did, and this is something that they had done many times before, was to build a scale model of the compound. And that scale model traveled the world because, you know, we say a picture is worth a thousand words. A model is probably worth 10,000 words because you can really visualize it. You can really, you know, see how things look and potentially operate inside the compound. And then our analysts helped the assault team build a full-scale model because that's what they used for their training to get ready for the actual operation. And, you know, down to the details of does the door swing in or out? You know, where are the doors? What is the best way to get into the compound? Now, Andrew, we did not have, and we went back in our archives, we did not have imagery from the compound being built. So we didn't actually know what it looked like inside. But we did talk to some Pakistani Americans who said, this is probably how it looks inside. So our analysts helped the assault team, you know, if you go in this door, stairs are probably here. You know, this is what you might find on the second floor and this is what you might find on the third floor. And then we had some folks forward, not a part of the team, they did not go into Pakistan, but just really helping with the visualization as the operation was underway.
Andrew Hammond: And where were you when the raid took place, Tish?
Letitia Long: I was actually at CIA headquarters at Langley. I was in the director's conference room with Director Panetta. Emma Olson, the special operations command commander was there. Mike Vickers who was then the undersecretary of defense for intelligence was there, and a number of other folks. And of course Director Panetta had the overall responsibility for the operation, which he delegated to the JSOC commander, Admiral McRaven. And we were in constant communication with Admiral McRaven, who was in Afghanistan at the time.
Andrew Hammond: I think one thing that just before we move on, that would be interesting to know would be for the directors of American intelligence agencies, is there some kind of like formal monthly meeting where all the directors get together and have a conversation or they all meet up for an informal working breakfast every Tuesday or something? Help us understand how the how the sort of the directors interact and pool knowledge and work together. So there's a little of both. There's a lot of informal communication. I would just pick up the phone and call Keith Alexander, the director of NSA, because our folks would have been working on something together. Or pick up the phone and call Leon Panetta or his deputy on a particular issue we might be working on. NGA has analysts deployed inside all of the other intelligence agencies and organizations. So a lot of informal interaction. As far as formal, the director of national intelligence convenes an executive committee meeting, really on an as-needed basis, because it's the deputies who really work out the issues. And the principal deputy, DNI, director of national intelligence, convenes the deputies. And that's called the deputy ex-com, at least on a monthly basis, sometimes more often. And they're really working through all the issues. And then if something needs to come to the directors, then the DNI convenes the ex-com. Now, you mentioned the Department of Defense. And remember, about 85% of the national intelligence community is actually within the Department of Defense, NGA being part of the Department of Defense. The Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence has a very similar ex-com, dex-com, with a very similar setup. The deputies do the heavy lifting, and then the directors are brought together. I'd say on an as-needed basis, there is also a cadence where you know you're going to get together to finalize the budget. You know you're going to get together if there are any big policy changes afoot. So there are regular meetings, but it's not the directors get together once a month kind of thing. Okay. And because we don't have time to discuss all of your deputy jobs, I think it's quite interesting there you mentioned that the deputies work through a lot of the issues. And you've been both the director and the deputy. And it's quite interesting looking at your experience, the Deputy Director for Naval Intelligence, the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, the Deputy Director of DIA. This is something I think that often gets overlooked, sort of the way that deputies keep the whole system functioning, because a lot of the limelight understandably in many ways goes to the directors. But help our listeners understand a little bit more about the deputies.
Letitia Long: Yeah, so the deputies are so important. And I had two deputies while I was director at NGA, and they were both amazing. And it makes all the difference in the world when you have a really strong deputy. In each of my deputy positions, I worked in Naval Intelligence and at DIA. The director was a military officer, and the deputy was civilian. So in addition to you do anything the director asks you to, which sometimes translates to whatever the director doesn't want to do, and I do say that jokingly, I was responsible for all civilian matters, because I was the senior civilian. So at DIA in particular, where it is a large agency, responsible for the selection of all civilians into senior executive positions, big positions of responsibility, responsible for what positions they are in. So who goes forward to Afghanistan and Iraq? Because at the time I was deputy, we were in Iraq. We were in the middle of the surge. We had upwards of 500 people in each country. So ensuring the right people were in the right jobs, the right people were out at the combatant commands, at the other agencies, as well as all of the leadership positions at headquarters. I was also responsible for the development of the budget, which you get your top line information from Congress and the Office of Management and Budget. But it's a year-long process. And at any point in time, you are in the middle of actually three budget years. You are executing the year that you're in. So for right now, anybody in an organization in federal government is executing fiscal year '23. They're advocating for fiscal year '24 with Congress. And they're developing fiscal year '25. And they're also looking at a five-year out-year budget. That's a lot of moving parts. And your chief financial office has people focused on each of those three things, those who are the forward-looking ones, those who are interacting with Congress, and those who are making sure you're spending all your money the way Congress appropriated it, and the way the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, because that's where a lot of your requirements come from, asked and tasked you to spend it that way. So the deputy, a good deputy, is really on top of not only spending what you have, but advocating and then planning for the future. And then often, like I said, it's the day-in, day-out requirements of running a large organization. It's about people, so there are sometimes issues. So personnel actions that you have to deal with, or your IG, your investigative arm of the agency, making sure you are fully in compliance with all laws and policies and regulations, whether it's coming from, as I said, law, legislation from Congress, or policy from the Director of National Intelligence, or the Department of Defense. And it's listening to your folks. It's getting out, and walking around, and understanding, how's the workforce feeling? That internal policy that you just set, is it doing what you intended it to? Is it actually helping the workforce? How's morale? How are things going? And if you take care of your people, your people are going to take care of the mission. The leadership is setting the vision, setting the policy, ensuring things are in compliance, providing the resources, and getting out of the way. I mean, there are so many expert fill-in-the-blank, whether they're developing the budget, or they're hiring talent, or analyzing the data, or collecting the data. You have really smart professionals across the board. It's leadership's responsibility to listen, make sure you understand how it's going. Are they happy? Do they have what they need? And enabling that, getting the barriers and the roadblocks out of the way, making sure that the deputies are working together, and providing what's necessary for your folks to be able to do their jobs.
Andrew Hammond: Just as a final question, being a little bit playful as we close out, does the NGA, so it looks at images and mapping of Earth, is it also looking at images and mapping of other planets, or the rest of the solar system, or would that be a separate agency?
Letitia Long: To the extent it can be done, it is NGA. Now, certainly, Hubble Telescope, James Webb Telescope, that's NASA. Cislunar and beyond, that's NASA. But looking at other objects in space, that is NGA's mission. It is a new capability that NGA and the intelligence community talk about, the fact that, and there is a term for it, non-Earth imaging, the fact that we do look at other objects in space. And if you think about it, there's a lot of debris in space. And NGA doesn't keep track of all the debris. Space Force does that, and Commerce Department does that as well. They're working out the responsibilities between the two, Space Force and Commerce for military and civil applications. But NGA is looking at and characterizing other satellites. What are they? What is their purpose? Are they getting too close to our satellites? What exactly is it that they're doing up there? This is NGA's responsibility.
Andrew Hammond: Okay, wow. Well, there's so much more that I would love to talk about, but I think we've done a pretty good job in the space of an hour. So thanks ever so much for speaking to me and sharing your expertise. I really appreciate that.
Letitia Long: Well, Andrew, thank you. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about NGA, best agency ever. When folks tend to say the agency, they're often referring to CIA. And I tell them the agency is NGA. But also, just thanks for your questions and giving me the opportunity to talk a little bit about my career. It was truly an honor and a privilege to serve the American people and to work with all of our allies around the world. We really didn't touch on how well we work with our allies and share information. And it's extremely important. So thank you very much.
Andrew Hammond: Thank you.
Erin Dietrick: Thanks for listening to this episode of "SpyCast." Please follow us on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Coming up on next week's show. >> Why am I telling this story? Because it's the first time that the Jews basically, since the biblical times, you could say, or since the Roman times, the late Roman times, that a military intelligence or diplomatic intelligence apparatus was put up in Palestine. If you have feedback, you can reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @INTLspycast. If you go to our page, thecyberwire.com/podcasts /spycast, you can find links to further resources, detailed show notes, and full transcripts. I'm Erin Dietrick, and your host is Dr. Andrew Hammond. The rest of the team involved in the show is Mike Mincy, Memphis Vaughn III, Emily Coletta, Emily Renz, Afua Anakwa, Ariel Samuel, Elliott Pelzman, Trey Hester, and Jen Eiben. This show is brought to you from the home of the world's preeminent collection of intelligence and espionage-related artifacts, the International Spy Museum.