Approaching its 40th anniversary in 2019, INSA is proud of its rich history and the many senior leaders who have contributed to its growth. Each of them has been essential to INSA’s meaningful engagement across government, academia, and the private sector to address national security challenges.
INSA Origins: The SASA Years (1979-2005)
INSA was founded as the Security Affairs Support Association (SASA) in 1979. Prominent among its plank owners were Len Moodispaw and retired U.S. Air Force Major General John E. Morrison, Jr. Both men had recently retired from the National Security Agency (NSA), where Moodispaw was a manager for 13 years and Morrison – who would go to become SASA’s longtime executive vice president – had served as chief of Intelligence Community (IC) Affairs. Not surprisingly, SASA’s initial membership consisted of current and former NSA officers and contractors. Its first office was in Annapolis Junction, Maryland, not far from the NSA campus.
Moodispaw, Morrison, and others sought to create an environment where members of government and the private sector could openly discuss how to strengthen public-private partnerships within the IC. The mission of SASA, according to one 1988 memo, was to “enhance the relationships and understanding amongst those in government, industry and academe who are involved in and concerned with the well-being and success of the national intelligence endeavor.” Efforts to enhance “relationships and understanding,” however, were strictly limited – SASA did not lobby policymakers in Maryland or at the federal level, nor did it express support for more government contracts. Improving the quality of public-private cooperation in all its forms was SASA’s early aim. INSA has continued to operate in that spirit.
In 1984, SASA named Dr. William Oliver Baker – the former president of Bell Labs and an advisor to five U.S. presidents on intelligence and scientific affairs – the inaugural recipient of its Medal of Achievement. Henceforth known as the William Oliver Baker Award, the medal is presented annually at a black tie gala that serves as one of INSA’s tentpole events.
While some SASA events were social occasions, many more were substantive in nature, bringing leaders from government and industry together – in classified and unclassified settings – to discuss what they anticipated to be the future needs of the IC. SASA’s 1988 spring symposium included sessions on how to support intelligence consumers in the year 1995, while its 1990 symposium was titled “Strategic Directions for the Nineties.”
Since its inception, SASA benefited from the involvement of senior IC leaders during and after their government service. Retired Air Force Lieutenant General James R. Clapper, having already served four years as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), briefly served as SASA’s president in 1999. He would later return to government to serve as director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI), and finally as the longest-serving Director of National Intelligence (DNI) from 2010 to 2017.
Replacing Clapper would be Kenneth Minihan, also a retired Air Force Lieutenant General, who had served as the director of DIA and then NSA between 1995 and 1999.
During Minihan’s tenure from 1999 to 2002, the IC and its private sector partners would face unprecedented scrutiny from the public and policymakers. Like many organizations within and out of government, the traumatic events of September 11, 2001, would dramatically reshape SASA’s purpose and mission. It would be several years later, following passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), before SASA would implement the organizational reforms necessary to better serve its members, the IC, and the public.
Early INSA (2005-2009): Expanding to Meet the Needs of a Broader Community
Signed by President George W. Bush in December 2004, IRTPA dramatically altered the U.S. Government’s intelligence and national security structure. Among its reforms was the establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to help coordinate the priorities and activities of the IC’s 16 other elements across the military and federal government, which now included the Department of Homeland Security. The SASA membership recognized the need to broaden its scope beyond the NSA and to foster discussions about public-private approaches to national security that involved a much wider community of professionals.
In November 2005, the SASA Board of Directors voted to change the organization’s name to the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) and elect former NSA director Mike McConnell as its chairman. INSA relocated its offices from Maryland to Arlington, Virginia, in a physical as well as symbolic move away from its NSA-centric origins. McConnell served two years as chairman, 2006 to 2007, before returning to government to serve as the DNI. John O. Brennan followed McConnell, also serving two years as chairman. Brennan returned to government as President Obama’s homeland security advisor, and later served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2013 to 2017.
INSA’s founding member companies included BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, CSC (now CSRA), General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems (now General Dynamics Mission Systems), Hewlett Packard (now HP), Lockheed Martin, ManTech, Microsoft, the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies (PIPS), and SAIC (now Leidos).
The newly constituted INSA, under the leadership of president Tim Sample and executive vice president Frank Blanco, established a number of councils, task forces, and other working groups to structure its numerous policy efforts examining acquisition practices, security clearance reform, cybersecurity, and other topics.
Modern INSA (2009-Present)
INSA enjoyed tremendous growth in the late 2000s under its first woman chairman, Frances “Fran” Fragos Townsend, and first woman president, Ellen McCarthy. INSA selected McCarthy, the former director of human capital management for the Office of the USDI, in October 2008. Townsend, assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism to President George W. Bush from 2004 to 2008, succeeded Brennan as chairman in June 2009.
Under Townsend and McCarthy’s leadership, INSA expanded its council and task force activities and established new programs, including the R&D-focused Innovators’ Showcase and the INSA Achievement Awards, which have become successful annual events. This growing portfolio led to the addition of retired Army colonel Chuck Alsup as vice president for policy in 2011. Alsup served as associate deputy director of national intelligence for policy, plans and requirements before joining INSA.
INSA’s corporate membership diversified considerably during this period as membership offerings were broadened to attract small and mid-sized contractors, as well as academic institutions. INSA corporate membership grew by 78 percent between 2008 and 2012.
In December 2012, INSA named a new chairman, Ambassador John Negroponte, who had served as the nation’s first DNI. Shortly thereafter Ambassador Joseph DeTrani, former director of the National Counter Proliferation Center, was named president, succeeding McCarthy, who had returned to government as NGA's chief operating officer. INSA’s steady growth would continue under Ambassadors Negroponte and DeTrani.
INSA and AFCEA International, after many years running separate but similar symposia, collaborated to host the Intelligence & National Security Summit in 2014. Now held annually at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., the Summit routinely draws more than 1,500 attendees to hear from IC leadership, including the DNI, the “Big 6” intelligence agency directors, and other senior officials from Congress, the military, and industry.
In December 2015, Letitia A. Long, who as director of NGA from 2010 to 2014 became the first woman to lead a major U.S. intelligence agency, succeeded Ambassador Negroponte as chairman, with Chuck Alsup promoted to president. In May 2016, INSA named Suzanne Wilson-Heckenberg its first chief operating officer, following four years spearheading membership growth as vice president for business development. She has now served as President of INSA since December 2019.
INSA now has more than 160 corporate members and hundreds of individual members dedicated to promoting public-private collaboration as a means to strengthen the IC and meet national security objectives.