34 min

SPY CHIEFS: “From Navy Analyst to State Dept. Intelligence Chief” – Ellen McCarthy’s Journey (Part 2 of 2‪)‬ SpyCast

    • History

Summary
Ellen McCarthy (Twitter; LinkedIn) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss her career and time as head of the State Department’s intelligence agency. INR is one of the 18 U.S. intelligence agencies.

What You’ll Learn
Intelligence

Her start as a Soviet submarine analyst in the Office of Naval Intelligence 

Bringing the U.S. Coast Guard intel. program into the Intelligence Community (IC) 

Working for DoD and Geospatial-Intelligence

Why she admires the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) 

Reflections

Government/for-profit/non-profit life

Managing complexity and change 

And much, much more…

Episode Notes
Imagine seeing a pyramid from different angles and different heights instead of from one vantage point? You get a better sense of what it truly looks like, its dimensions, colors, idiosyncrasies, and the shadows it casts, right?
Ellen McCarthy has seen more of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) pyramid than most: she started as a junior analyst for the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence and ended up as the head of the State Dept.’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). Along the way, she was with the U.S. Coast Guard, in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, and at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. 
Quite the journey, I am sure you will agree…
And…
INR has been called the “biggest little intelligence shop in town” and its morning intelligence summary, “Better than Wheaties.” The NYT called it the “least wrong” intelligence agency on Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and it has been credited for a more accurate assessment of Ukraine’s ability to withstand Russia than its peers. “They get paid attention to because they’re good and they tend to be contrarian,” notes a former chair of the National Intelligence Council. How do they manage this? Well, big question, but the deep, deep expertise of their staff – who are on average on their regional or functional area for over a decade – as well as an “intolerance for mediocrity” would be good places to start.

Quote of the Week
"The Geographer of the United States sits in INR. I don't think a lot of people know that. So, when there's a boundary dispute or you've got countries trying to build islands, it's INR that's actually working what the legal boundaries are. The other thing that INR does that a lot of folks don't know about is polling. Polling in the intelligence community is conducted at INR…And I will tell you that the polling capability at INR is the best I've ever seen." – Ellen McCarthy 

Resources
*SpyCasts*

“State Department Intelligence: Inside the INR” – INR Leadership (2020)
Beginner Resources


Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Wikipedia [webpage]


Learn About the Smallest Organization in the IC, YouTube (n.d.) [1:45 minute]


Geographer of the United States, YouTube, (2011) [13:24 minute]

Books

“Intelligence Informs Policymaking at DoS: INR,” T. King in T. Juneau, ed. Strategic Analysis in Support of Policymaking, R&L (2017), pp. 95-110.


Reducing Uncertainty: Intelligence Analysis & National Security, T. Fingar, SUP (2011)


INR, Intelligence & Research at State, U.S. DoS (1973)

Article

The U.S. Intelligence Community Needs a ‘Wild Bill’ Moment, E. McCarthy & M. Scott, Cipher Brief (2021)
Video


SPYCHAT: Ellen McCarthy & Chris Costa, YouTube (2021)


The New IC: Ellen McCarthy Keynote, YouTube (2019)


FedMentor: NGA’s Ellen McCarthy, YouTube (2014)

Primary Sources


INR: 2025 Strategic Plan (2022)


Oral History with Teresita Schaeffer (1998)


Oral History with Thomas F. Conlon (1992)


Oral History with Frank Burnet, (1990)


Oral History with Daniel Zachary (1989)

*Wildcard Resource*

The Ralph J. Bunche Library

State Dept. Library named after OSS intelligence analyst, diplomat & Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Bunche

Summary
Ellen McCarthy (Twitter; LinkedIn) joins Andrew (Twitter; LinkedIn) to discuss her career and time as head of the State Department’s intelligence agency. INR is one of the 18 U.S. intelligence agencies.

What You’ll Learn
Intelligence

Her start as a Soviet submarine analyst in the Office of Naval Intelligence 

Bringing the U.S. Coast Guard intel. program into the Intelligence Community (IC) 

Working for DoD and Geospatial-Intelligence

Why she admires the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) 

Reflections

Government/for-profit/non-profit life

Managing complexity and change 

And much, much more…

Episode Notes
Imagine seeing a pyramid from different angles and different heights instead of from one vantage point? You get a better sense of what it truly looks like, its dimensions, colors, idiosyncrasies, and the shadows it casts, right?
Ellen McCarthy has seen more of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) pyramid than most: she started as a junior analyst for the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence and ended up as the head of the State Dept.’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). Along the way, she was with the U.S. Coast Guard, in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, and at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. 
Quite the journey, I am sure you will agree…
And…
INR has been called the “biggest little intelligence shop in town” and its morning intelligence summary, “Better than Wheaties.” The NYT called it the “least wrong” intelligence agency on Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and it has been credited for a more accurate assessment of Ukraine’s ability to withstand Russia than its peers. “They get paid attention to because they’re good and they tend to be contrarian,” notes a former chair of the National Intelligence Council. How do they manage this? Well, big question, but the deep, deep expertise of their staff – who are on average on their regional or functional area for over a decade – as well as an “intolerance for mediocrity” would be good places to start.

Quote of the Week
"The Geographer of the United States sits in INR. I don't think a lot of people know that. So, when there's a boundary dispute or you've got countries trying to build islands, it's INR that's actually working what the legal boundaries are. The other thing that INR does that a lot of folks don't know about is polling. Polling in the intelligence community is conducted at INR…And I will tell you that the polling capability at INR is the best I've ever seen." – Ellen McCarthy 

Resources
*SpyCasts*

“State Department Intelligence: Inside the INR” – INR Leadership (2020)
Beginner Resources


Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Wikipedia [webpage]


Learn About the Smallest Organization in the IC, YouTube (n.d.) [1:45 minute]


Geographer of the United States, YouTube, (2011) [13:24 minute]

Books

“Intelligence Informs Policymaking at DoS: INR,” T. King in T. Juneau, ed. Strategic Analysis in Support of Policymaking, R&L (2017), pp. 95-110.


Reducing Uncertainty: Intelligence Analysis & National Security, T. Fingar, SUP (2011)


INR, Intelligence & Research at State, U.S. DoS (1973)

Article

The U.S. Intelligence Community Needs a ‘Wild Bill’ Moment, E. McCarthy & M. Scott, Cipher Brief (2021)
Video


SPYCHAT: Ellen McCarthy & Chris Costa, YouTube (2021)


The New IC: Ellen McCarthy Keynote, YouTube (2019)


FedMentor: NGA’s Ellen McCarthy, YouTube (2014)

Primary Sources


INR: 2025 Strategic Plan (2022)


Oral History with Teresita Schaeffer (1998)


Oral History with Thomas F. Conlon (1992)


Oral History with Frank Burnet, (1990)


Oral History with Daniel Zachary (1989)

*Wildcard Resource*

The Ralph J. Bunche Library

State Dept. Library named after OSS intelligence analyst, diplomat & Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Bunche

34 min

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