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Posted at 10:59 AM ET, 12/14/2010

With O'Sullivan, DNI gets another top spy-world woman

By Jeff Stein

Is the DNI a hot place for women to work or what?

Last week’s nomination of senior CIA official Stephanie O’Sullivan to be No. 2 at the Directorate of National Intelligence sure makes it look that way.

Several women already occupy senior posts at the DNI, starting with Dawn Meyerriecks, deputy director for acquisition and technology, and Jamie Smith, perhaps the DNI’s most visible woman as head of public affairs.

In addition, the DNI's chief financial and technology officers are women, as are its inspector general, North Korea mission manager and top two personnel officers.

Asked whether the DNI was indeed a “hot” place to work, spokeswoman Smith chuckled but demurred.

“Director Clapper is deeply committed to building an intelligence community that reflects the diverse and multi-dimensional world in which we live,” she said.

DNI chief James R. Clapper called O’Sullivan, currently associate deputy director at the CIA, a “stalwart in the Intelligence Community, whose reputation for innovation, leadership and management are revered by all who have had the honor of working with her.”

O’Sullivan, by training and background a systems engineer, previously headed the CIA’s Science and Technology Directorate -- “Q” in the James Bond movies.

“I know her,” said a retired CIA operations official who asked not to be named. “She is a good lady, and it is always nice to see women making it into the senior ranks.”

“All that said,” the former official added, “the center of gravity at the CIA remains the D.O.,” or directorate of operations, the old name for where the spies work. It morphed into the National Clandestine Service a few years ago.

“Within the D.O., the people who run the show are case officers. Female case officers in the D.O., particularly those who really make a career of running ops overseas, remain a rarity,” the former official continued.

“Partly that is because it is no picnic being a female officer running foreign sources in much of the world, where local attitudes toward women are far from ‘enlightened.’ In large measure, though, it is because the environment inside the organization remains hostile to women.”

The CIA would no doubt contest that characterization, citing a number of women who have worked on the agency’s seventh floor, from Jami Miscik, who held several senior posts through the years, including deputy director for intelligence from 2002 to 2005, and Nora Slatkin, executive director in the mid-1990s.

With O’Sullivan’s expected Senate confirmation, however, the only woman left in the CIA’s top ranks will be Fran P. Moore, head of the agency’s intelligence analysis directorate.

By Jeff Stein  | December 14, 2010; 10:59 AM ET
Categories:  Intelligence  
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I would argue that the culture inside the DO/NCS is not hostile to women, it is only hostile to women who think they deserve some special treatment inside the DO because they are women. In reality, it is only in the non-secular parts of the Islamic world where women have an inherent difficulty in working "out in the field."

The problem comes when Hqs sends out a senior women without ops experience to supervise men with lots of ops experience. Good for politics but not good for results. Not for the gender part of it, but for the lack of experience part of it. FOB Chapman is a good example of the woman without experience screwing up, the examples of success cannot be heralded but there are a lot. As a male, I would rather work for, and have worked for, a competent and experienced female boss than some big macho guy on an ego trip.

Posted by: DCNative41 | December 19, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I hoped the best person available was hired. With the penchant of the D.C. Lefties to be soft in Military and Intelligence affairs and our top diplomat being an admirer of the late fellow-traveler and Marxist Saul Alinsky, I sure don't get a warm and fuzzy from these D.N.I. appointments

Posted by: nomobarry | December 19, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

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