Trusting the IC
July 12, 2022
On Tuesday, July 12, the Intelligence and National Security Foundation (INSF) hosted “Trusting the IC,” the second webinar of the three-part, Future of the IC Workforce multimedia campaign. Underwritten by Avantus, the webinar featured Kelli Arena, Chief of Strategic Communications at NSA, Neil Wiley, a former Executive at ODNI with a 38-year-long career in the Intelligence Community, and moderator, Lindy Kyzer, Director of Content at ClearanceJobs.
Starting the conversation, Kelli Arena revealed that 64% of Americans believe the IC plays a vital role in our society. One issue that Ms. Arena pointed out was that there is a lot about the IC that the public does not know. It can be hard to break through the information silos people create for themselves, especially on social media. Mr. Wiley also noted that it is a policy decision for the IC to engage with the public and that the Community should think very carefully about when it is appropriate to have a voice in the public environment. The public has the right to know the authorities of the IC and who makes up its institutions. However, there is a difference between transparency and disclosure.
Program underwritten by Avantus
Moving on to individual government stakeholders. Both panelists agreed that, in general, the level of trust is high between the IC and policymakers. However, they admitted there is a slight ebb and flow in the level of trust at senior levels when personalities change. Ms. Arena also highlighted the importance of not being subject to the political leanings of the day. Mr. Wiley stated profoundly that members of the IC are not born with the right to be believed; they must reestablish trust every day. The same is true with our foreign partners, with whom Mr. Wiley said trust is the only coin of the realm. If there is no trust between these partners, there is no exchange.
In building trust with stakeholders, whether they be foreign partners, policymakers, or the public, Ms. Arena laid out her three pillars as “competence, humanity, and integrity.” Mr. Wiley agreed, stating that the more these stakeholders know about IC, the workforce, the ethical process, etc., the more they will trust the IC.
Kelli Arena currently serves as Chief of Strategic Communications at the National Security Agency. In this capacity, she is responsible for setting strategic vision and orchestrating a consistent message for NSA to both internal and external customers and stakeholders. This is Ms. Arena’s first position with NSA. Prior to her arrival, she was the executive director of the Global Center for Journalism and Democracy at Sam Houston State University, which trained journalists and communicators around the globe and advocated for a free press and increased transparency. She also served as the first Dan Rather Endowed Chair for Broadcast Journalism at SHSU.
Neil Wiley retired from government service in 2021 with 38 years of experience in the national security arena, both as a naval officer and as a civilian intelligence professional. He is currently a Professor of Practice at the University of Maryland Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security (ARLIS) and Managing Principal of Lyseon Consulting LLC. He most recently served in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) as Principal Executive, performing the duties and responsibilities of the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence.