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IWP hosts Intelligence Studies Consortium Conference and Career Fair

IWP hosts Intelligence Studies Consortium Conference and Career Fair

Aaron Danis and Long Nguyen
IWP Professor Aaron Danis and IWP Trustee Dr. Long Nguyen

On March 21, 2024, The Institute of World Politics (IWP) hosted the fourth Spring Conference and Career Fair of the Intelligence Studies Consortium (ISC) at IWP’s Reston, Virginia campus at the offices of Pragmatics.

The conference, titled “The Intelligence Community: Back to the Future,” was co-sponsored by 12 schools: IWP, James Madison University, George Mason University, Catholic University, Georgetown University, Texas A&M, Johns Hopkins University, National Intelligence University, Marymount University, University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, and the University of New Hampshire.

This gathering brought together an impressive roster of subject matter experts and faculty members from various sectors of the intelligence field to discuss and moderate panels on current and future challenges in global intelligence, counterintelligence, and national security.

Thirty-two students from nine colleges and universities shared twenty-four research projects at this event, by speaking on panels and/or sharing poster presentations. Several IWP students presented posters, including:

  • “Utility of Psychology in Intelligence,” by Alexandra Krulewitch
  • “South China Sea – Military and Propaganda,” by Bernard Barillo
  • “The Denuclearization and Democratization of North Korea via the Exploitation of Juche Ideology,” by Peace Ajirotutu
  • “Future Challenges of Intelligence in the Age of Computer-Mediated Communication,” by Lamia Zia
  • “Use of ChatGPT and AI by Cyberactors,” by Clayton Hawes

IWP Professor Aaron Danis, a former terrorism and counterterrorism intelligence officer, spearheaded the organization of the conference.

Peace Ajirotutu
IWP student Peace Ajirotutu presenting her poster on “The Denuclearization and Democratization of North Korea via the Exploitation of Juche Ideology”

Welcome, Keynote, and Distinguished Speakers

Dr. Long Nguyen, IWP Trustee and Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Pragmatics, gave opening remarks and welcomed students and faculty to the conference. He highlighted the pivotal role of contractors in intelligence. “Contractors such as Pragmatics serve as critical vertebrae of the intel community.” (Video)

Dr. John Ballard, President of National Intelligence University (NIU), then emphasized the importance of mentoring future leaders of national security. He asserted, “One of you will be the future national security director, future Secretary of Homeland Security, future CIA Director, and future President.” NIU is the lead school of the ISC. (Video)

Dr. William Nolte, a Research Professor at the University of Maryland and a longtime friend of IWP, was the Symposium’s Keynote Speaker. Dr. Nolte set the stage for the day’s discussions, reflecting on the evolving challenges in intelligence since 9/11, noting a shift from a focus on terrorism to a more diverse range of global issues, including the rise of China and the impact of the pandemic. (Video)

Dr. William Nolte giving the keynote address at the ISC Conference
Dr. William Nolte giving the keynote address at the ISC Conference

Panel 1: Past Events & Future Strategy

This panel was moderated by Professor Linda Millis of Marymount University. (Video)

This discussion dove into a wide range of topics from counterterrorism to climate security, exploring the impact of technological advancements on society and intelligence transparency.

Student panelists discussed the following topics:

  • Colin Hanzlik of Marymount University highlighted, “Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, may be a crucial study in understanding contemporary terrorism.”
  • Hashim Wahdatyar of George Mason University reflected, “Peace talks with the Taliban represent a complex interplay of geopolitical strategies.”
  • Patrick Embury of the University of New Hampshire observed, “Post-Soviet intelligence dynamics are crucial in understanding current transparency issues.”
  • Alexander Temoshok of James Madison University emphasized, “The implications of climate change are a significant threat to national security.”
Patrick Embury
Patrick Embury of the University of New Hampshire discussing “Post-Soviet Intelligence and Transparency.”

Remarks by Casey Blackburn of ODNI

Casey Blackburn, Assistant Director of National Intelligence at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, gave an off-the-record talk and took questions from attendees.

Panel 2: Great Power Competition

This panel was moderated by Professor Ellen Laipson of George Mason University. (Video)

Participants addressed the question of “Who is the most dominant nation on earth?” while covering topics like the geopolitics surrounding lithium, the impact of climate change on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, strategic messaging in cognitive warfare, and China’s space ambitions.

  • Anthony Amos of George Mason University discussed in detail how “Lithium’s geopolitical significance is a game-changer in the current era.”
  • Amanda Verdun of the National Intelligence University pointed out, “Climate change poses a significant risk to the Belt and Road Initiative.”
  • Johnny Davis of National Intelligence University argued that “Cognitive strategies in messaging are vital in modern warfare.”
  • Carlos Alatorre of The Institute of World Politics described how “China’s space ambitions are a testimony to their growing global influence.”

As was made abundantly clear by the speakers, the question is not as clear cut as we Americans would probably like it to be.

Participants in the Great Power Competition panel with moderator Prof. Ellen Laipson of George Mason University
Participants in the Great Power Competition panel with moderator Prof. Ellen Laipson of George Mason University

Panel 3: Emerging Technology

This panel was organized by Dr. Andrew MacPherson of the University of New Hampshire and Dr. Phil Baxter of James Madison University and moderated by Dr. MacPherson. (Video)

This discussion focused on technological advancement in biodefense, AI, psychology, and unmanned surface vehicles in intelligence.

  • Sydney Effer of James Madison University discussed how “Biodefense technologies are advancing at a rapid pace.”
  • Jahnavi Muthalay and Lindsay Toothaker of James Madison University warned, “CRISPR technology in China’s arsenal could alter future warfare.”
  • Gaston Elongha of Marymount University cautioned, “AI-embedded autonomous vehicles pose new challenges to national security.”
  • Alexandra Krulewitch of The Institute of World Politics advised, “Integrating psychology into intelligence work can significantly enhance outcomes.”
  • Samuel Rooker of James Madison University noted, “Ukraine’s use of unmanned surface vehicles represents a shift in modern combat strategies.”

These speakers elaborated on the complexities of the arsenals of our enemies and provided a catalog of possible solutions for the U.S. defense sector.

Alexandra Krulewitch of IWP discussing the “Utility of Psychology in Intelligence”
Alexandra Krulewitch of IWP discussing the “Utility of Psychology in Intelligence”

Panel 4: Future Intelligence Challenges

This panel was moderated by Dr. Chris Bailey of National Intelligence University. (Video)

This discussion addressed complex systems theory and agility in the Intelligence Community, as well as Russian disinformation and the use of AI and ChatGPT in cyber operations.

  • Ryan Burgess of Johns Hopkins University explained, “Complex systems theory is increasingly relevant in intelligence analysis.”
  • Tyler Fleming of George Mason University stressed, “Agility is key to the future effectiveness of the intelligence community.”
  • Jacob Brann of James Madison University pointed out, “The war on drugs requires a reevaluation of current strategies.”
  • Clayton Hayes of IWP described how “The use of ChatGPT and AI by cyber actors is revolutionizing cyber warfare.”
  • Ludmila Taran of Johns Hopkins University argued, “Combating Russian propaganda requires innovative strategies.” As Russia’s unjust campaign against its neighbor continues into its almost third year, disinformation has advanced with it. The scope of our adversaries’ psychological and information warfare operations is daunting, but it is not impregnable.
Clayton Hawes of IWP discussing the “Use of ChatGPT and AI by Cyberactors”
Clayton Hawes of IWP discussing the “Use of ChatGPT and AI by Cyberactors”

Closing Remarks

Manolis Priniotakis of National Intelligence University closed the day-long symposium with his insights on the evolving intelligence landscape and the implications for the future of intelligence and security. He noted, “The future of intelligence and security lies in adapting to rapid technological advancements and geopolitical shifts.” (Video)

The ISC Symposium offered a panoramic view of the current and future challenges in global security and intelligence. It not only showcased the research of serious students of intelligence but also provided a platform for the exchange of ideas and strategies to address current and future challenges in the field. The feeling of inspiration in the air was palpable as the future leaders of the Intelligence Community connected and learned from experts and each other.

The event is a testament to the ongoing commitment of IWP and fellow schools to fostering critical dialogues and contributing to the advancement of understanding in these vital areas.

Closing remarks by Manolis Priniotakis of National Intelligence University
Closing remarks by Manolis Priniotakis of National Intelligence University

Career Fair

The ISC Conference was followed by a career fair where students could speak with prospective employers from various agencies.

Participants included the Department of the Army Criminal Investigative Division (CID), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Crisis24, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (IALEIA), IWP, the National Intelligence University, the National Security Agency (NSA), Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the U.S. Secret Service, and the Diplomatic Security Service of the U.S. State Department.

The CIA table at the career fair
The CIA table at the career fair
Participants in the career fair
Participants in the career fair