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Words to the wise from CIA-bound tech guru

How was Dawn Meyerriecks planning to spend her last week on the job as the U.S. intel community’s assistant deputy director for acquisition, technology and facilities? By touring Silicon Valley with an entourage of intel officials before taking some time off and heading over to CIA on June 17, where she will be deputy science and technology director.

Dawn Meyerriecks will become deputy director of CIA's science and technology directorate in June. (Credit: ODNI)

The trip was to include a meeting with billionaire web pioneer Marc Andreessen. One of Meyerrieck's goals has been to push the intel community to make more use of commercial technology in its spy gadgetry and networks. That's been “counter cultural to the community," she said.

Meyerriecks met with reporters at the intel community's Liberty Crossing headquarters May 22. In an interesting twist, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper stepped into the conference room briefly to thank Meyerriecks for her three and half years at the intel headquarters.

Meyerriecks in her own words >>

Meeting Marc Andreessen >> “We’re going to talk to him and we’re also going to talk to some of the In-Q-Tel investments with the senior leadership in the community.”

Advice to big contractors >> “Help us with mission. Stop with the infrastructure stuff. You’ll be more interesting, and we’ll be more interested.”

Priorities >> "...in face of sequestration and budget reductions, the
three priorities that the leadership established, the first one was people, and you can see that in some of the recent discussions about furloughs...The second is is CT, counterterrorism, of course (A spokesman clarified later that Meyerriecks should have said cyber here). And number three, every year that I’ve been here has been preserving our R and D investment.

Tech wish list >> “New phenomenologies in terms of collection… Who’s not flying microsatellites with cameras on them, or, you know, airborne stuff with cameras on them? We draw arbitrary lines in the spectrum that say this is visible, this is IR, this is HF. Really, the spectrum doesn’t know that…We’re shooting a lot of holes in the old paradigm in terms of, you know, SIGINT versus other things.”

ICITE buy in >> “It feels like there’s an inflection point we hit, maybe a month ago, maybe six weeks ago, just in terms of the leadership getting it. That sounds like – they’re certainly not stupid -- but it feels more like a moral commitment…”

Human language translation >> "There’s lots of people that are
doing that. It turns out, though, based on some really good research – and IARPA has done
some in this space...you can inflect, based on the inflections but also the kinds of nouns and verbs that are used, who is actually the leader in a group as opposed to who is at the top of the work chart."

Technology as coping mechanism >> "I would say...we have to be more efficient with what we’ve got. The budget is not going to go up. I was with OMB this morning in the sit room and -- flat on our best day, flat is the new up, as we say. So we’re not going to hire more analysts."

Space acquisition >> "...it takes three years to get on a space manifest, and it takes six years to build a satellite. So the duty cycle on doing something innovative there compared to IT
and the investment that we get from industry – I mean, that’s like apples and oranges."

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