Washington, US: Letitia “Tish” Long, a veteran national security officer, become the first woman to head a major intelligence agency. She was sworn in as director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the office responsible for collecting and analysing overhead imagery and geospatial information.
On the occasion, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, said that the installation of a woman to run a spy agency with a multibillion-dollar budget and thousands of employees is a key milestone. “This is an important appointment and I hope that she will bring new and determined management ability to this agency,” Feinstein said.
Women have served as second-in-command in most of the major intelligence agencies. Long spent the last four years as the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Women have also held the No. 2 two position at the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office and at NGA. The CIA has never had a women in the No. 2 slot. However, the person currently in the third-ranking position at the agency is a woman, as is the person in charge of all of the CIA’s analysts.
“The intelligence and defence communities have gained an incredible range of talents, skills, knowledge, and insight by welcoming not only women, but also more minorities, to the field,” Long said. “I believe that when you have a more diverse population exploring any type of intelligence problem, you will develop a broader and deeper range of solutions. I like to refer to that wider scope as ‘cognitive diversity.'”
Long began her career in 1978 as a civilian engineer in training for the Navy, working mostly on submarine acoustic sensor programmes. After a decade as an engineer, she joined the staff of Naval Intelligence. As she climbed the career ladder, Long served a tour of duty at the CIA before holding a succession of No. 2 positions: as the deputy to the director of naval intelligence, followed by the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and finally, at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
John McLaughlin, the former CIA deputy director, who worked with Long while she was at the agency said, “A woman at the helm of one of our major intelligence agencies is a long overdue step recognising that the contribution of women to intelligence success has long been equal to that of men.”