Event Recap: #IntelSummit20 Was One for the Books!

Event Recap: #IntelSummit20 Was One for the Books!

Event Recap: #IntelSummit20 Was One for the Books!

Held virtually from September 16-18, the 2020 Intelligence and National Security Summit, powered by AFCEA International and INSA, attracted over 2,800 registered attendees—smashing all registration records from past years! With so much going on in the world, it's no surprise that the five plenary and six breakout sessions were jam packed with lively discussions between a roster of all-star speakers, including leaders from all corners of the intelligence and national security communities. There were too many good moments to capture, but keep scrolling to find the key highlights from the three-day program!

Selected Media Coverage

Plenary 1: Key Intelligence and National Security Challenges

Stacked with four IC agency directors, the opening plenary of #IntelSummit20 addressed IC challenges over the past six months, shifting priorities, and what's next in national security. LTG Ashley, DIA, told viewers that his agency is thinking about the way risk has shifted and is beginning to focus more heavily on where great power competition is heading. VADM Sharp shared his excitement about NGA's new partnerships and network expansion, including working with Space Force and Space Command and opening a new facility in St. Louis. Dr. Scolese, NRO, emphasized the role of AI/ML in how data is being collected and used by analysts and war fighters. Gen. Nakasone, NSA, outlined how influence operations will become the next great disrupter in national security. 


  • Lieutenant General Bob Ashley, USA, Director, DIA
  • General Paul Nakasone, USA, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command; Director, NSA
  • Dr. Chris Scolese, Director, NRO
  • Vice Admiral Bob Sharp, USN, Director, NGA
  • The Hon. Sue Gordon, Senior Intelligence Advisor, INSA (moderator)

Breakout 1: Information Warfare: Politics, Pandemics, and Public Discourse

"In democracies, information rests with the people," said Laura Rosenberger of the German Marshall Fund. This breakout covered how our adversaries (namely China and Russia, among others) are using social platforms to spread disinformation and misinformation in attempt to manipulate the American public and cause chaos within the democracy. 


  • Dr. John Kelly, CEO, Graphika
  • Daniel Kimmage, Principal Deputy Coordinator, Global Engagement Center, U.S. Department of State
  • Laura Rosenberger, Senior Fellow and Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, German Marshall Fund
  • Dr. Jim Ludes, Vice President, Public Research & Initiatives, Salve Regina University (moderator)

Breakout 2: The Cleared Workforce in a Post-COVID World

In this breakout session, panelists shared insights on how their organizations have been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including how they are approaching telework opportunities, adjusting workspaces, implementing new technologies, planning for the future, and, above all, looking out for the best interests of their workforce. 


  • Christopher Bellios, Chief Operating Officer, Hexagon US Federal
  • Judi Dotson, Executive Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Dr. Mark Ginsberg, Provost and Executive Vice President, George Mason University
  • Johnny Sawyer, Chief of Staff, DIA
  • Lieutenant General Robert Noonan, USA (Ret.), Chairman, AFCEA Intelligence Committee

Plenary 2: Service Intelligence Priorities

Moderated by INSA Chairman Tish Long, all six service intelligence directors sat on the panel for Plenary 2, sharing insights on lessons learned from the pandemic, S&T intelligence, joint war fighting, landscape changes in the arctic, and diversity and inclusion efforts in their organizations. Some key highlights included: LTG Mary O'Brien, USAF, revealed that a pilot program for classified telework in the Air Force was already in the making pre-pandemic and has proven to work well over the past six months. The only challenge now is how to supply everyone. Major General Leah Lauderback admitted that while having only 15 people staffed has created some obstacles for Space Force, it's also allowed them the opportunity to be bold and begin to answer questions that have yet to be solved. Major General Kate Leahy, USA, responded to a question about joint war fighting revealing that the Army is working on developing better systems for instantaneous information sharing. 


  • Brigadier General Melvin Carter, USMC, Director of Intelligence, Headquarters Marine Corps
  • Major General Leah Lauderback, USSF, Director of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, United States Space Force
  • Major General Kate Leahy, USA, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, G2
  • Lieutenant General Mary O'Brien, USAF, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber Effects Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force/A2
  • RDML Andrew Sugimoto, USCG, Assistant Commandant for Intelligence (CG-2), U.S. Coast Guard
  • Vice Admiral Jeffrey Trussler, USN, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, Director of Naval Intelligence
  • Letitia Long, Chairman, INSA (moderator)

Breakout 3: U.S.-China Relations After the Pandemic

This session focused on the importance of understanding China and it's interests, including its strategies for business and growth, communist ideals, and commitment to being a leader in the information age. Jeremie Waterman, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that the U.S. cannot ignore China when it comes to trade, but it also must be wary of the challenges and risks, especially concerning digital trade, cyber, and social credit systems. Panelists also discussed the need for the U.S. to take a stronger stance against human rights violations in China. 


  • Jay Bratt, Chief, CI and Export Control Section, Department of Justice
  • Dean Cheng, Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, Heritage Foundation
  • Daniel Silverberg, National Security Advisor to the House Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Jeremie Waterman, Vice President of Greater China, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Yun Sun, Director, China Program, Stimson Center (moderator)

Breakout 4: CIO Perspectives

With the outbreak of COVID-19, organizations had to rethink the architecture of their networks at an incredible pace. This posed several challenges, but it also created new opportunities. Breakout 4 panelists shared positive outcomes (modernizing unclassified capabilities, taking advantage of low-side cloud environment, providing the proper equipment for telework) and lessons learned (e.g., device management and authorization for different types of devices and access levels is more difficult to manage with a remote workforce). 


  • Doug Cossa, Deputy Chief Information Officer, Defense Intelligence Agency
  • Sue Dorr, Chief Information Officer, ODNI
  • Brigadier General Jeth Rey, USA, Director, Command and Control, Communications and Computer Systems (J6), U.S. Central Command
  • Greg Smithberger, Director, Capabilities Directorate, and CIO, NSA
  • Lewis Shepherd, Senior Director, VMware (moderator)

Plenary 3: Technology and National Security Ignite Rounds

Short presentations given in TED-style, attendees heard from four technology innovators from the IC's S&T sector. First, Dawn Meyerriecks took the stage to discuss how CIA is obtaining patents for the agency's inventors and encouraging diversity in STEM, both in the interest of greater economic security for the S&T workforce. Next, Maxar's CEO, Dan Jablonsky, spoke to his organization's dedicated contributions to mission success and revealed some of his company's plans for new innovations that will increase national security and intelligence collection capabilities. His presentation was followed by one from Robert Shelton of Microsoft Federal who described a "marketplace scenario" that would allow developers to build components based off of their expertise that would then become available to public sector partners as investment opportunities. To finish off the hour, Dr. Catherine Marsh, spoke to the power of partnership and revealed three new programs on the horizon at IARPA.


  • Dan Jablonsky, CEO, Maxar
  • Dr. Catherine Marsh, Director, IARPA
  • Dawn Meyerriecks, Deputy Director, S&T, CIA
  • Robert Shelton, CTO, National Security Group, Microsoft Federal

The Virtual Platform Didn't Stop #IntelSummit20 Attendees from Connecting with Colleagues 

INSA's Intelligence Champions Council (ICC) and AFCEA's Emerging Professionals in Intelligence Committee (EPIC) hosted a virtual happy hour after Day 2 that brought together attendees over a spy-themed trivia challenge. The friendly competition created a space that gave participants the opportunity to break off into smaller groups, test their knowledge, and expand their network. 

The attendee engagement in this activity and throughout the three-day Summit was inspiring!

Plenary 4: State of the Community: Perspectives from Women

The fourth plenary session brought together female leaders from both the public and private sectors to discuss how their organizations are reacting to COVID-19, the value of STEM learning at an early age, and how they expect this year's election will impact their day-to-day mission. The panelists shared some of the best practices they've implemented since the outbreak of the pandemic, including increasing internal communication; maintaining a sense of culture through virtual happy hours, lunches, and other activities; and prioritizing employee care to ensure they are still in the best shape to deliver value to customers. The leaders emphasized the need for more diversity in STEM fields, which means getting women and minorities involved at a young age and investing in scholarships and mentorship programs. All panelists seemed confident that the outcome of the 2020 election will not have a major impact on national security as it is a bipartisan issue and should remain a top priority no matter what. 


  • Tiffanny Gates, President and CEO, Novetta
  • Amy Gilliland, President, GDIT
  • DeEtte Gray, President, Business and Information Technology Solutions, CACI
  • Nazzic Keene, CEO, SAIC
  • Toni Townes-Whitley, President, U.S. Regulated Industries, Microsoft
  • David Ignatius, Columnist, Washington Post (moderator)

Breakout 5: Use of Artificial Intelligence by the U.S. and Its Adversaries

This panel of experts evaluated the ways in which China and Russia are using AI to improve their influence operations, carry out cyber attacks, and enhance battlefield capabilities. The discussion also brought to light the ethical aspects of conflict and how U.S. adversaries don't play by the same rules, which is a concern given the ways in which AI can be used to cause harm. Going forward, the panelists warned against premature deployment of technologies, called for increased education for an AI workforce, and encouraged the community to use AI with caution. 


  • Brian Drake, Director of AI and ML, DIA Future Capabilities and Innovation Office
  • Elsa Kania, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Technology and National Security Program, CNAS
  • Dr. Margarita Konaev, Research Fellow, CSET
  • Colonel P.J. Maykish, USAF, Director of Analysis, National Security Commission on AI
  • Charles Clancy, Chief Futurist and Senior Vice President/General Manager, MITRE

Breakout 6: National Security and Climate Change: Managing the Risk

"We worry about cyber attacks, and we should. But Mother Nature has caused more damage to U.S. military bases in the last year than cyber attacks have," said the Hon. John Conger, The Center for Climate and Security. During this breakout session, panelists broke down the ways in which climate change serves as a threat to national security. Some examples included: human migration, water and food scarcity, and damage to resources, even in the most developed of countries. For these reasons, the panelists urged, climate change must be a top national security priority. 


  • The Honorable John Conger, Director, The Center for Climate and Security
  • The Honorable Sherri Goodman, Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security)
  • Erin Sikorsky, Deputy Director of the Strategic Futures Group, National Intelligence Council
  • Dr. David Titley, Director, Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, Penn State University 
  • Dr. Greg Treverton, Professor of the Practice of International Relations and Spatial Sciences, University of Southern California (moderator)

Plenary 5: Diversity in the IC: Does Reality Match Aspiration? 

To start, moderator LTG Vince Stewart, USMC (Ret.), recognized that there has been an increase in conversations about racial discrimination and racially charged violence in our Nation since the death of George Floyd. The panelists shared his disgust of the video and sadness in response to Floyd's death, which propelled their discussion into a constructive talk about how racial relations and inclusion efforts can be improved within the IC. Panelists emphasized that the responsibility lies within all of us to engage in productive conversations with colleagues, embrace diversity tensions among team members as a way to spark innovation, and be mindful of what we say and how we act. Diversity is a national security imperative because talent is the IC's advantage and it needs a diverse workforce to achieve mission success. 


  • Dr. Stacey Dixon, Deputy Director, NGA
  • Maisha Glover, Senior Client Advisor, McKinsey & Company
  • Carmen Medina, Former Deputy Director of Intelligence, CIA
  • Brigadier General Frank Taylor, USAF (Ret.), Former Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, Department of Homeland Security 
  • Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, USMC (Ret.), Chief, Innovation and Business Intelligence, Ankura Consulting 

Thank you to all those who helped make #IntelSummit20 possible!

Caroline Henry


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