At the Intelligence and National Security Alliance’s 2014 Achievement Awards on Thursday evening at the high-end Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C., national intelligence community leaders and supporting industry representatives reinforced the qualities they value in their most successful people.

Those qualities are a passion for the organization and professional development of its people, the keenest research and analytical skills, inspirational and productive efforts to promote interagency partnership and collaboration, and a love of and commitment to the team.

Receiving awards Thursday evening were the FBI’s Supervisory Special Agent Amy B. Pittman, the Joan A. Dempsey Mentorship Award; Craig J. Wiener, principal consultant at the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Sidney D. Drell Academic Award; NSA’s David Wilson, the Richard J. Kerr Government Award; Northrop Grumman’s Joshua Markow, the Edwin H. Land Industry Award; Lt. William Fox of ONI’s Nimitz Operational Intelligence Center, the William O. Studeman Military Award; and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Intelligence Specialist IS2 Tyler Sherman, the John W. Warner Homeland Security Award.

Each of the six awards are named after individuals who have previously received the coveted William Oliver Baker Award, which since 1984 has recognized national intelligence service excellence or superb contributions to science and technology that benefit national security. The awards are now in their fifth year.

Industry and Government IC players come together

Lt. Gen. Mary A. Legere, Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, gave the keynote address to a full-house audience of some 300 intelligence players.

As a lead-up to introducing each award recipient, Legere shared what she called her favorite words, those of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who described the intelligence business like this: “In the work of intelligence, heroes are undecorated and unsung, often even among their own fraternity. Their inspiration is rooted in patriotism—their reward can be little except the conviction that they are performing a unique and indispensable service for their country, and the knowledge that America needs and appreciates their efforts.”

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The government agency and contracting representatives attending the awards was a ‘Who’s Who’ of Defense and Intelligence high rollers—representatives from the House Intelligence Committee, the Department of State, the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, BAE, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and more.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, who had only recently returned from his mission to North Korea that freed American prisoners Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller, spoke.

During the course of Clappers’ brief remarks, which prefaced Lt. Gen. Legere’s address, Director Clapper said, “I’ll share with you what a tremendous feeling it was when we landed . . . and watched the reunion” between the former prisoners of North Korea and their families. Director Clapper said, “And it was gratifying. . . . No other country on the planet will go the lengths we do to take care of our people.”

Director Clapper shared with the audience that there were moments in his mission to North Korea when he believed he might not succeed.

“It was kind of a stressful thing because there was no guarantee whatsoever that we were going to get ‘em.” But then, he said, “Everything fell into place. Then we got them and booked.”

According to President Obama, Clapper’s authority did not include negotiations or any change of international policy in relation to North Korea to gain Bae’s and Miller’s freedom.

In what was the clear spirit of teamwork, collaboration, and partnership that marked the evening’s awards, Director Clapper was quick to give broad credit to the success in the North Korea mission. Clapper said that, in many ways, he was “simply a hood ornament for an effort that . . . was supported hard by a lot of people.”

Director Clapper specifically recognized Ambassador Joseph R. DeTrani, a respected and high-level veteran member of intelligence community, and old hand with the North Koreans. DeTrani is also President of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. Formerly, DeTrani served as senior advisor to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Director of the National Counter Proliferation Center (NCPC), as a Department of State special envoy to North Korea, and he has served as director of several desks at the Central Intelligence Agency.

Collaboration and Community

In thanking INSA and industry leaders for their collaboration in the intelligence community, Lt. Gen. Legere told the audience, “We have so much serious work to do” and pointed out that these partnerships give the U.S. intelligence efforts a “tangible national security advantage.”

On the current security environment, Legere attributed to Director Clapper an observation that he has “never seen such a wide range of uncertainty.” Lt. Gen. Legere added that, indeed, “these are very challenging and dangerous times.”

“We in the national security and intelligence space . . . have very important work to do. For our generation and for the generation of young men and women that we’ll honor tonight, volatility is the norm,” Legere said.

Legere spoke at a moment when a post-mid-term Obama administration is looking for direction, vision, and progress in a more and more schizophrenic security environment. Her candid remarks were well-received by an audience of government and industry.  One industry leader told another that Legere’s remarks were the best he’s heard since INSA began the evening of recognition in 2010.

Last year, in 2013, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn served as the Achievement Awards’ keynote speaker. According to reports, Lt. Gen. Legere was once well-positioned and expected to fill Flynn’s boots as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency after he retired in August.

Earlier in summer, however, Business Insider, among others, reported that “Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) sent a letter . . . to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warning against Legere’s nomination.” According to Foreign Policy Magazine, investigations into allegations of Legere’s mismanagement of program spending related to the Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCG-A). Those investigations may have caused the White House to reconsider Legere for the position.

Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn retired after his 33-year intel career, and David Shedd is currently serving as acting director while awaiting decisions on Flynn’s replacement. The Washington Post reported in early November that Marine Maj. Gen. Vincent Stewart is on the short list for Director.

Most recently, as The Post explains, the Defense Intelligence Agency was disappointed with a downsizing of plans for Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers’ yet-to-be-established Defense Clandestine Service.

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Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.