Challenges Facing the Intelligence Community in the 21st Century
Having operated at senior levels of the intelligence community during both the Cold War and the post 9/11 era, McLaughlin has a keen appreciation of both the past, present, and future challenges facing US intelligence. He argues that America’s intelligence community has come through a dramatic period of transformation and now faces demands every bit as important and difficult as anything in its history – a point he illustrates by tracing recent events around the globe. These range from immediate needs, such as fighting global terrorism, to more strategic imperatives, such as gauging the intentions of China and other rising powers and mapping future global trends in population, energy, and technology. The question hanging over all of this, he argues is: “Will this be an American century, as the last one most assuredly was?” – a question that intelligence will have to help answer.
The Changing Face of Terror – a Post 9/11 Assessment
The intelligence leadership positions McLaughlin has held since the late 1990s have given him a unique perspective on the war against global terrorism. He charts the changes that have occurred in both the US government’s approach and in the terrorist camp. The net result, he notes, is that global terrorism is in some ways now less dangerous and in other ways more dangerous. This calls for an evolving set of policy responses on both a tactical and strategic level if we are to meet the challenges of what seems certain to be a “long war”.
Managing Change in the Midst of Crisis
Any intelligence veteran is no stranger to controversy and crisis. When they occur, they must be met and effectively managed, while also forging ahead with the mission at hand. McLaughlin has been in key management positions in the midst of everything from the wrenching downsizing of our intelligence services in the 1990s to the emergency response requirements flowing from the 9/11 attacks. The lessons he has taken from all of this have immediate application across a wide range of fields in this era of globalization, technological change and human resource challenges.
John E. McLaughlin is Distinguished Practitioner in Residence in the Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University.
Mr. McLaughlin, a 1966 graduate of SAIS, served as Acting Director of Central Intelligence from July to September of 2004 and as the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from 2000 to 2004. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Director for Intelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice Chairman for Estimates and Acting Chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
Over the course of his career, Mr. McLaughlin has worked on nearly every part of the world and supervised clandestine operations, analysis, and scientific and technical work. He has frequently briefed the President and the Congress, represented the intelligence community in meetings of the National Security Council, and traveled widely to strengthen U.S. relations with national security counterparts in numerous countries.
In early 2010, Mr. McLaughlin led, at the request of the Director of National Intelligence, a study of the failed terrorist attack on a Northwest Airlines flight at Christmas 2009 and developed a series of recommendations for improving intelligence collection and analysis on terrorist plans. He recently served on the Advisory Board that assisted Norway’s Statoil in its “lessons learned” study of the January 2013 terrorist attack on its natural gas facility in southern Algeria.
In his position at Johns Hopkins/SAIS, Mr. McLaughlin teaches a graduate level course on American Intelligence, organizes conferences and seminars, and conducts research on national security issues. He continues to testify before congressional committees and to participate in public policy debates through articles in major newspapers and journals and commentary on television and radio. .
While Deputy Director for Intelligence from 1997 to 2000, he created the Senior Analytic Service, a CIA career track that enables analysts to rise to very senior rank without branching out into management. He also founded the Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis, an institution dedicated to teaching the history, mission, and essential skills of the analytic profession to new CIA employees.
In addition to earning his master’s degree in international relations from SAIS/Johns Hopkins, he received a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University and completed graduate work in comparative politics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mr. McLaughlin is a graduate of the US Army Infantry Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning and was recently inducted in the School's Hall of Fame. He completed a US Army tour in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969.
Mr. McLaughlin is the recipient of the Distinguished Intelligence Community Service Award, the National Security Medal, and the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. IN 2016, he received the William Oliver Baker Award from the private Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA). He recently served as the Humanitas Visiting Professor for intelligence at Oxford University.
He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He also serves on the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Advisory Board. He is a Board of Trustees member at the Noblis Corporation. He writes a foreign affairs column at www.ozy.com.
Mr, McLaughlin is Chairman of the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation, which raises funds for the education of children who lose a parent in CIA service.