Dr. Vince Houghton became interested in everything espionage when he was deployed to the Balkans in the U.S. Army in the 90s, but it originally started at a very young age when he was introduced to nuclear weapons, reading books like The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhoades. He eventually combined the two, looking at intelligence from the early cold war and World War II with a focus on weapons in the IC.
“Just the idea that you have a weapon system that is the most powerful in the world but kept the peace for decades” he said. “As a ten-year-old, I didn’t understand things being contradictory with these concepts and ideas, but something just stuck.”
INTERNATIONAL SPY MUSEUM
Houghton’s love of these subjects led him to the International Spy Museum which presents the ingenuity and imagination of real-life spies with the largest collection of international espionage artifacts. Spanning the history of espionage around the globe, many of these artifacts have never seen by the public. It also happens to be the only public museum in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to undercover activities like this.
They have a collection of exhibits ranging from anything from children being able to go undercover to facing spymasters, gadget makers, scientists, and engineers from past and present. You also have a closer look at the hundreds of ingenious inventions used to steal secrets. If you like code-cracking, thinking like an analyst, or experiencing how decision-makers use intelligence, this is your playground.
Each week, Houghton releases a new episode of SpyCast featuring interviews with ex-spies, intelligence experts, and espionage scholars. He believes intelligence is foundationally the same it’s always been. The biggest change has been more so the methodologies, and how intelligence drives policy changes.
Interested in moving into an intelligence career? For anyone entry level, Houghton advises to not be afraid to say, “I don’t know”. Individuals may think this phrase is something negative, especially if you’re coming from another industry or field. By saying “I don’t know” in intelligence, you are actually identifying gaps in your collection and key components that are important pieces in this process.
“For leadership, you have to allow people to fail without destructing their careers,” Houghton notes. “Failure has led to some of these amazing success stories in intelligence community.”
If you’re looking for a kickstart into intelligence, check out some of the smaller niche intelligence shops like the Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, or civilian roles in the US Military.
Dr. Houghton is the historian and curator at the International Spy Museum. He specializes in intelligence, diplomatic, and military history, with expertise in the late-WWII and early-Cold War eras, serving as the subject matter expert for anything espionage.