First woman to head major US intelligence agency

Letitia A Long takes over one of the top computer geek shops

Letitia A Long is being elevated to director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in a ceremony on the agency’s half-built, high-tech campus in Springfield, Virginia.

The “Jetsons”-style rounded wedge of buildings is rising from a vast construction site near Fort Belvoir. The NGA’s staff, now spread across the Washington metropolitan area, is slated to relocate there by fall 2011.

Long’s 32-year career has led to a series of senior management positions: deputy director of Naval Intelligence, deputy undersecretary of defence for intelligence and, most recently, second in command at the Defence Intelligence Agency.

Long represents the vanguard of women in the intelligence community.

Women represent 38 per cent of total intelligence work force, according to Wendy Morigi, spokeswoman for the Director of National Intelligence. In six most prominent agencies, 27 per cent of senior intelligence positions are held by women.

Long has taken over one of the “top computer geek shops” in the national security world. The NGA synthesises satellite imagery, using everything from the number of electric lines a city has to the density of the soil, to create three-dimensional, interactive maps of every spot on the planet. They’re used by everyone from invading troops gauging whether a country’s roads or deserts can handle tank tracks, to oil spill cleanup crews trying to decide where to deploy resources.

Long has the science-and-technology credentials to do it, with a degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech, and a masters in mechanical engineering from the Catholic University of America.

Rep Anna Eshoo, D-California, said Long’s “experience and position make her an important role model for all the women in the intelligence community.”

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