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Osama Bin Laden Mission Skeptic to Head Spy Agency

Intel 05 041113 445x295 Osama Bin Laden Mission Skeptic to Head Spy Agency
Clapper and CIA Director John O. Brennan testify at a House Intelligence Committee hearing in April 2013. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A lesser-known Pentagon-housed spy agency that garnered some of the spotlight for its role in killing Osama bin Laden is about to be led by a man whose vocal dissent reportedly almost scuttled the operation entirely.

The Pentagon announced Monday that the departing head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Letitia A. “Tish” Long, will be replaced by Robert Cardillo, the deputy director for intelligence integration in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

According to the Associated Press’s Lara Jakes Jordan, Cardillo acquired the nickname “Debbie Downer” within the intelligence community for casting intense doubt on whether bin Laden was at the compound in Pakistan in advance of the U.S. mission that ended the terrorist leader’s life. But in the same AP article, the DNI, James R. Clapper, Jr. stood up for the concept of dissenting with intelligence assessments.

Cardillo is one of Clapper’s “people.” He was among Clapper’s earliest choices to join him in the office of the DNI in 2010, serving as the newly created position of deputy director for intelligence integration, where he had chief responsibility for the president’s daily briefing; before that, Cardillo was the No. 2 man at the Defense Intelligence Agency. While the DNI and the Pentagon have been at odds at times since the office was created in 2005, Clapper, an old Pentagon hand himself, has been fairly deferential to Defense-related intelligence turf.

Cardillo has pushed the innovative use of technology in the deputy director role, including the use of a tablet to deliver the president’s daily briefing. That gives him something in common with the NGA leader he’s succeeding, as Long developed a reputation for expanding the horizons of her agency in a time of evolving technology. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden put the agency’s budget at $4.9 billion in fiscal 2013.

Cardillo has regularly briefed lawmakers on the Hill, including last month on Ukraine. Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., praised Cardillo’s service in that role, and overall. “His extensive experience in the intelligence community will certainly help advance NGA’s mission. I look forward to continuing our productive relationship,” she said. But the head of the NGA is not a position the Senate gets to confirm, despite attempts by Feinstein to make it so, since past provisions to elevate several intelligence offices’ leader to Senate confirmation have been stripped out of the annual intelligence policy bills under veto threat.

Read below for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s comments on Cardillo’s appointment and Long’s departure:

The Department of Defense announced today Robert Cardillo as the next director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The current director, Letitia A. Long has announced her decision to retire later this year after four years at the helm of the agency and more than 35 years of government service.

“Tish Long and Robert Cardillo both have led the transformation of intelligence to address the complex global strategic challenges we face as a nation. They both have ensured intelligence is relevant to the needs of its important customers – from the president to the warfighter. I congratulate Tish on her successful tenure and very much look forward to having Robert’s leadership and talent for the important work ahead at NGA,” said Dr. Mike Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

Long took the reins at NGA in August 2010. Under her leadership, the agency has shifted from providing static products, such as maps, to providing geospatial intelligence services that enable users to access information that provides “time and place” context in a variety of formats, in real time, for users on all security domains. The agency has developed the initial launch of its “Map of the World,” which for the first time presents an integrated view of collection assets from across the intelligence community (IC); mapping information for military operations; geospatial intelligence observations; and NGA analytic products, data and models.

NGA was the first intelligence agency to join in open-source software development, making easily available its software that enables collaboration between first responders in natural disaster situations. The agency also has played a key role in the development of the intelligence community desktop environment, which ultimately will link together the tools and operating systems of users across the intelligence enterprise and enable better collaboration and faster, more robust intelligence products for decision makers.

Taken together, these and other initiatives will enable the next phase of intelligence, immersion, where analysts interact with data — and each other — in virtual, 3D, and cloud-enabled environments where information can be shared and examined from multiple angles, by multiple people, in real time.

Over Long’s tenure, NGA played key roles in supporting military operations and other crises. The agency’s support to FEMA and other domestic agencies in time of natural disasters has helped speed response and recovery efforts.

“Being entrusted with leading the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime,” said Long in a message to the NGA workforce.

“I am very pleased that my successor will be Robert Cardillo. Robert is a truly distinguished intelligence professional who knows the intelligence community, NGA and many of our employees well.”

Prior to NGA, Long served as the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), as the Defense Department’s deputy undersecretary for intelligence, as deputy director of Naval Intelligence, and as executive director for Intelligence Community Affairs, the predecessor organization to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

Cardillo brings a depth and breadth of knowledge and experience that will enable him to seamlessly continue the work the agency has begun. He currently is serving as the deputy director for national intelligence for intelligence integration, and previously served as the deputy director of the defense intelligence agency, the deputy director for analysis at DIA, and the director of analysis and production at NGA.

“I am honored to be asked to lead NGA and humbled by the opportunity to succeed Tish Long,” said Cardillo. “As someone who began my career as a member of the NGA family, I am excited to have the privilege to build on the progress NGA has made under Tish’s leadership. As much I’ve enjoyed working with the DNI to help him integrate our IC, I look forward to teaming with the talented men and women of NGA as we continue to improve our analytic service to NGA’s wide-range of military and civilian customers.”

Cardillo will formally succeed Long in October 2014.

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