Fall 2017 Letter from ISP Director Steve Slick

Oct 16, 2017

Dear Friends of the Intelligence Studies Project,

With your support and (often) participation over the past year, the Clements-Strauss Intelligence Studies Project (ISP) broadened its institutional base and continued growing in a purposely sustainable manner.  Our tactical aims are unchanged: to offer rigorous academic courses on national security topics, to promote policy-relevant research, and to host public events that draw attention to the most serious intelligence policy debates.  We are making progress toward our strategic goal of building at The University of Texas at Austin a premier academic center for the study of U.S. Intelligence.  Much, though, remains to be done.
 
The ISP added notable talent and experience to our team this year.  Paul Pope, an accomplished former CIA officer, agreed to join the ISP as a Senior Fellow after completing a successful tour as the Agency’s Officer-in-Residence at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.  Ashley Thibodeau, an education professional, came on board as ISP’s first Research Coordinator.  And, as President Greg Fenves recently announced, former CIA Director John Brennan was appointed a "Distinguished Scholar" at the University.  John has also agreed to serve as a “Senior Advisor” to the ISP.  John plans to be on campus in early November when he will make public remarks on The Ethos of Public Service as well as meet with students, lecture in ongoing classes, and participate in research interviews.  Separate announcements will be forthcoming regarding John’s planned visits to Austin during the Fall and Spring semesters.
 
In addition to a recurring LBJ School (graduate) seminar on Intelligence and National Security Policymaking and Paul Pope’s popular skills development course Thinking, Writing, and Briefing for Intelligence, the ISP delivered its first large-scale intelligence familiarization course for UT undergraduates last Spring.  Paul did a terrific job coordinating this course that included guest lectures by Strauss, Clements and ISP principals, Admiral Inman, and a number of outside experts.  The student reviews were positive, but we also learned a great deal.  We will make adjustments and plan to offer this course again in Spring 2018 and in succeeding years.  I am currently developing a new course on Covert Action and U.S. National Security Policy for graduate students next Spring.
 
We prioritized improving the range, quality, and impact of the ISP’s research activities.  We can report some progress.  For the third year, we sponsored the Inman Award Competition that recognizes and rewards outstanding student  scholarship in the intelligence field.  From another large pool of submissions, we recognized three exceptional papers that reflected well on the calibre of the authors and the quality of instruction and mentorship available at their home universities.  The Inman Award Competition is now well established among students and faculty counterparts at the dozens of U.S. universities that now offer courses in intelligence. Paul is currently leading a team of LBJ School students in a year-long Policy Research Project (PRP) that aims to document the most important lessons from the close "war zone" cooperation between intelligence and special forces operators that has emerged in the last decade.  This is the second LBJ School PRP we have sponsored.  Earlier this year, the ISP awarded its first post-doctoral fellowship in intelligence studies.  Dr. Kiril Avramov, a professor at the New University of Bulgaria and an expert in Russian interference in foreign elections, will join us in January 2018.  Finally, the ISP is supporting a promising book project on the National Intelligence Council and strategic/estimative intelligence that is being co-edited by former NIC chairmen Bob Hutchings (an LBJ School colleague) and Greg Treverton.
 
Last year’s speaker and event schedule was full - - or possibly overfull when ISP’s events were combined with those of the Strauss and Clements centers and other organizations on campus.  The ISP hosted Jim Clapper, John Negroponte, David Shedd, Leslie Ireland, Guillermo Valdes, David Priess, Angelo Codevilla, and Marc Theissen. Our 2017 symposium Intelligence in Defense of the Homeland was co-sponsored by the Business Executives for National Security and featured keynote remarks by (then) FBI Director James Comey and the president’s Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert.   Discussion panels that included scholars of terrorism, senior military and intelligence officials, as well as civil liberties advocates considered the challenges of countering violent extremism in the U.S. while respecting our fellow citizens’ civil liberties and privacy rights.  The 2017-18 speaker and event schedule is likely to be equally full.  We hosted CIA Director Mike Pompeo and former IC officials John McLaughlin, Marcel Lettre, David Shedd, Leslie Ireland, and Janice Gardner at last week’s Strauss-Clements Texas National Security Forum.  Perhaps more than any other ISP activity, our students appreciate these regular opportunities to engage in person current and former intelligence officials who place the intelligence history and policy they are studying into real world context. 
 
Of course, we are satisfied to learn that many of our graduates have landed entry-level professional positions with national security and intelligence organizations in Washington, D.C. and overseas.    

Beyond those future plans already described, I will highlight two other initiatives we are undertaking in the coming year.  First, we have reached an agreement with the CIA to participate in the Agency’s Visiting Intelligence Officer Program.  The Agency will assign a Resident Intelligence Officer on a full-time basis to the LBJ School faculty to teach, conduct research, and counsel students interested in national security careers.  We are also coordinating with the CIA a series of short-term visits by Agency experts to UT Austin and other UT System campuses for classroom lectures, research projects, and simulation exercises.  Second, in connection with the Chancellor’s Texas National Security Network, we plan to offer to UT System students, on a competitive basis, the opportunity to participate in an academic program on intelligence in Washington, D.C in late May 2018.  The "Texas Intelligence Academy" will enable UT students interested in intelligence careers to learn in the classroom from leading intelligence scholars and practitioners and also to participate in unique field trips and site visits in the Washington, D.C. area.  More details on this initiative, including application instructions, will be posted on the ISP website later this Fall.
 
I greatly appreciate the support of ISP’s many friends in Texas, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.  We look forward to seeing you at our events, and I welcome your comments or suggestions on how we may improve our service to students, the University, and the intelligence profession. 
 
Steve Slick 
Director, Intelligence Studies Project
The University of Texas at Austin
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The Intelligence Studies Project was established in 2013 as a joint venture between the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the Clements Center for National Security.

 

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