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Paul Michael Adams (’07): Senior Intelligence Leader at DHS

“As a seasoned intelligence officer with over 23 years of experience in analysis, collection, leadership, and management, my success is rooted not only in my commitment to the tradecraft, but to the foundational principles and knowledge I gained through my IWP education. IWP taught me about the values of our democratic society, the emergence of our national security framework, and the importance of unbiased tradecraft practice to support effective national leadership and to meet national intelligence requirements.”
-Paul Michael Adams (’07)

Paul Adams Bio PicturePaul Michael Adams attended IWP during the first few years of his career in law enforcement with the U.S. Secret Service, and his education has proven valuable throughout his career. He has worked in all different parts of the intelligence cycle and has enhanced analyst training, collaboration with the Intelligence Community, and collection operations within the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Today, Paul serves as the Chief of Open-Source Collection Operations for I&A.

Studying at IWP

In one of his IWP classes, Paul and his classmates were asked to role-play as the National Security Council (NSC). They were asked to prepare a briefing and present on a national security topic at a mock NSC meeting. At the time, Paul worked for the U.S. Secret Service, so he represented the Department of Homeland Security – where he works today!

At the time, he researched the Department and determined what input he would need to give the NSC from a homeland perspective. “That was a memorable experience which is now a reality because I now work for the organization that is represented in these NSC meetings,” said Paul.

This experience was indicative of what the rest of Paul’s IWP education was like: practical.

“What makes the IWP program unique and distinct is the fact that you have practitioners come and speak to the classes,” said Paul. “That really is a critical component to giving a student a true experience of the realities of the working environment. The practitioners talked about the daily routine, the environment, prepping for the President’s Daily Brief, contributing to assessments, collection, analysis… It went beyond the academic. Other programs don’t do this.”

Paul applied to IWP when he was an analyst at the U.S. Secret Service, where he wrote protective intelligence and foreign and domestic travel assessments. He began by taking just one class – Counterintelligence with Prof. Ken deGraffenreid. “The stories that he would tell… I don’t have words. He made such an impression on his students,” remembered Paul.

After taking one more class on national security policy process, Paul was inspired to apply for the M.A. program in Statecraft and National Security Affairs. He had also found that it would be possible to complete his degree almost entirely by taking night classes.

Paul continued to enjoy hearing from practitioners during his studies at IWP. “The practitioners were transparent about what the real world is like in intelligence. It is one thing to understand the textbook process, but another thing to understand the realities that go into it, like discussion and compromise,” remembered Paul.

Paul also recalls lessons at IWP about the importance of being unbiased in your assessments so that you are not influenced by current politics, as well as the importance of speaking truth to power. The curriculum increased his understanding of the national security structure, unconscious bias, and the tools to remain objective, and his understanding of each place within the structure, whether one is a producer, analyst, etc.

“Understanding the bigger picture allows an intelligence officer to be more effective because they are not operating in a vacuum,” said Paul.

“After graduating from IWP, the level of trust from my leadership grew exponentially. I led the establishment of the U.S. Secret Service open-source capability and served as the intelligence lead for multiple National Security Special Events.”

Using the IWP education at work

As he already worked at the U.S. Secret Service, Paul was able to put his education into practice almost immediately. He was at the point in his career when he would start to make life choices about what he wanted to do within his career field. “That is where the degree was very valuable,” said Paul.

When he went to promotion interviews within the U.S. Secret Service, he discussed the knowledge he had gained at IWP about the Intelligence Community. “It was a tipping point,” said Paul. In the post-9/11 environment, the U.S. Secret Service was looking for someone who could help the Service interact more effectively with the Intelligence Community. Paul represented the U.S. Secret Service on many departmental intelligence integration teams relating to analysis, joint production, training, and collection requirements. He briefed multiple senior executives on operational matters, including former Directors and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Paul established the existing U.S. Secret Service Open-Source Intelligence program, and as a result, he and his team received the DHS Chief Intelligence Officer’s Team Award.

Work at the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis

When Paul chose to go to work at the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), a member of the Intelligence Community, it was a significant change from working in law enforcement and protective intelligence to working in support of national security requirements. “I knew what I was in for because of all the training and education that I had had at IWP,” said Paul. “Thanks to IWP, I had an understanding of the national security framework, the National Security Council, the Intelligence Community, and the various roles that officers play within the intelligence cycle – collection, analysis, dissemination.”

Paul used knowledge gained at IWP in his role as a Staff Officer for the Under Secretary for Intelligence & Analysis. He said that “Specifically, my understanding of the national security structure and process was critical for success.  As a staff officer, I led many interagency exchanges supporting homeland security activities. I recollect using many of the techniques shared with us as students from the guest and instructor practitioners.” In this role, Paul was able to have a direct impact on his agency’s collaboration with the Intelligence Community.

Paul then served as Director of the DHS Intelligence Training Academy. He led the Academy during the Covid pandemic and successfully transitioned the instruction from in-person to a virtual blended model. As a result of his efforts, he and his team received the 2021 Intelligence Community Training Team Award. Paul also oversaw the Academy’s reaccreditation and led an increase in enrollment.

In his current role as Chief of I&A Open-Source Collection Operations, Paul leads a team of Supervisory Desk Officers and Collection Officers who produce serialized reporting based on departmental and national intelligence collection requirements. In May 2022, he and his team received the Secretary’s Commendation Award for dedication to the mission.

“These opportunities at I&A would not have been possible without my degree qualifications,” said Paul.

In his different leadership positions and volunteer work, Paul has emphasized the importance of diversity. In March 2022, Paul participated in an IWP alumni mentoring panel on Minorities in National Security and International Affairs.  “As a proud alumnus and minority member, I was honored to speak to current students about the value of their IWP education and the importance of diversity in all aspects of life, including national security,” said Paul.  Paul co-founded I&A’s employee association for LGBTQ+ employees and now serves as Vice President of DHS PRIDE.

To Paul, diversity doesn’t stop at race, gender, or class, but as a leader, you need “intellectual diversity” within your intelligence teams. As a leader, he ensures a thoughtful balance of operators and experts from a variety of backgrounds. “If everyone thinks the same, you risk narrow solutions. You need diverse thinking for creative solutions,” said Paul.

Reflecting on the past and looking forward

In reflecting on his career, Paul noted: “My success for the past 23 years would have not been possible without my master’s degree from IWP.  The knowledge I gained, contacts established, and techniques learned from my graduate education played a significant role in influencing my character and expression in my work.”

Having served as an analyst, a manager, and a director, Paul has experience in developing programs in diverse parts of the intelligence cycle – in law enforcement, strategic intelligence policy work, intelligence training for analysts, and collections. For Paul, the future might include managing multiple programs within the Senior Executive Service.

Whatever happens next, Paul will carry his IWP education with him: “From the time you graduate to the end of your career, you are still living that IWP experience.”

Minorities in National Security and International Affairs Panel
Paul (at left) spoke on a panel on “Minorities in National Security and International Affairs” in 2022.

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