By Kate Stovall
On November 3rd, 2021, the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security held an online event featuring Congresswomen Elissa Slotkin and Abigail Spanberger and featuring their personal journeys from CIA to Congress.
Representative Abigail Spanberger served as a CIA case officer before being elected to the U.S. House Representatives for Virginia’s 7th District, a seat she has held since 2018. Representative Elissa Slotkin worked at the Agency as a Middle East Analyst before becoming the assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs from 2015 to 2017. Slotkin was elected to represent Michigan’s 8th District in the House in 2018 as well.
The overall theme of the event was how these distinguished women rose through the ranks of the CIA and eventually decided to continue their careers in public service through elected office. They talked about a range of topics, such as how they decided to apply to the Agency, when and why they decided to leave, and their decisions run for political office. Beyond their own personal experience, they touched on the challenges of being women in a male dominated field, how their roles differed from their male counterparts, as well as advice for those seeking to make a career out of government work as well.
For students wishing to become intelligence analysts, a few common points of advice were to think outside of the conventional wisdom. As Representative Slotkin stated, “common wisdom does not equal good analysis.” She also noted that to be successful in the Intelligence Community you need to perfect your briefing skills. In particular, she emphasized the importance of not using filler words, knowing the content by heart, and being able to convey an analysis in a brief and concise manner by only presenting the most important information from the piece being evaluated.
The session also talked about Mrs. Spanberger and Mrs. Slotkin’s views on national security and the need to shift from America’s overreliance on China for technology and find domestic solutions due to the security risks stemming from not being able to trust China. The need for a stronger national cyber security capability was also mentioned, with the conversation focused on foreign cyber entities having exploited U.S.-based businesses.
The session ended with a quick Q&A from members of the audience. Questions were raised on topics ranging from extremism within the intelligence ommunity and how it is being combated within the ranks, policies that help support veterans with PTSD, and how to be successful as an intelligence professional.
An audience of around 230 people participated in the event on Zoom, and it was moderated by Hayden Center senior fellow David Priess. Dr. Priess has an extensive background in intelligence work with the CIA and is an estermmed author on topics such as intelligence and American political history. He is also the chief operating officer at the popular national security publication Lawfare.
Kate Stovall is a Junior Global Arts Major at George Mason University. She is involved in the Intelligence Community Network (ICN) on campus and is interested in Intelligence Analysis and Foreign Affairs.