Retired Army General Keith Alexander congratulates NIU Class of 2014

General Alexander addressing NIU grads
General Alexander
addressing NIU grads

“We need you,” said retired Army Gen. Keith Alexander in his address to the National Intelligence University Class of 2014 on July 25, as he listed U.S. national security challenges ranging from the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq to unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine.

Citing terrorism as their biggest challenge, Alexander charged the students to protect the country, according to an article posted on the DIA’s own Web site.

“This is a dangerous time for the nation,” said Alexander. “You will be leading the intelligence community in providing the information policymakers will need to make good decisions for our nation.”

The retired general stressed the importance of education, noting that as advances in technology double every two years, students were being educated today for jobs that do not yet even exist. As future leaders, he urged them “to stand up for their people” and to have the “vision to change and make the IC better.”

He called for their perseverance, to never back down and never stop protecting and defending the nation. He ended confidently, declaring that “the nation is in good hands” with the future leaders graduating from NIU.

Alexander retired in March 2014 after a 30-year military career, which included service as director of the National Security Agency from 2005-2014 and as the first commander of U.S. Cyber Command. Noting that two of his predecessors as director of NSA were NIU alumni, as are several of the current senior leaders of that agency, he was quite familiar with the caliber of NIU’s graduates and paid special tribute to the faculty for the rigor of their instruction.

Alexander was among several IC notables who spoke at the ceremony marking the culmination of NIU’s 52nd year. NIU President Dr. David Ellison congratulated approximately 220 students from around the intelligence and national security communities, as they received one of the university’s three degrees: Master of Science of Strategic Intelligence, Master of Science and Technology Intelligence, or Bachelor of Science in Intelligence.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper attended the graduation to demonstrate his deep support for the university as the “center of academic life for the U.S. intelligence community” and honor the graduates in the next stage of their careers.

NIU Provost Susan Studds awarded Alexander an honorary doctorate of strategic intelligence in recognition of his professional and academic accomplishments. NIU also awarded former DIA director retired Army Lt. Gen. Samuel Wilson an honorary doctor of strategic intelligence which Ellison presented to his son, Lt. Col. Sam Wilson, in recognition of his father’s lifetime of professional and academic accomplishments.

Throughout the ceremony, IC principals emphasized the importance of this year’s graduates leading in a complex, unstable and uncertain security environment. Protecting and defending the national security interests of the U.S. requires intelligence professionals who are adaptive, agile and forward thinking, able to anticipate the future rather than react to the past.

Then Deputy Director of the DIA, David Shedd, who is currently acting DIA director, stressed to the graduates that “life-long learning is a common value of the most successful leaders” and urged them to carry with them to future assignments the culture of integration they had forged at NIU. He called those bonds crucial to the success of integrating intelligence across the intelligence community to avoid strategic surprise and provide decision advantage to national leaders.

“NIU is strong and vibrant as its reputation grows beyond the Beltway and the IC,” said Shedd, as he congratulated the first graduates of the university’s new Southern Academic Center in Tampa, FL, and those who had studied at the European Academic Center in Molesworth, U.K.

This is an exciting time for NIU as it prepares to open its fifth regional academic center in Quantico, VA, in partnership with the FBI and Marine Corps, this fall. In fiscal year 2016, NIU will relocate to the Intelligence Community Campus-Bethesda.

The National Intelligence University is the IC’s sole accredited, federal degree-granting institution. Its main campus is located in Washington, DC. NIU’s graduates include many prominent intelligence and national security leaders, including a former director of national intelligence, and former directors of DIA, CIA, NSA, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and other intelligence community organizations. Its faculty consists of subject matter experts from around the intelligence community who bring a wealth of knowledge and practical experience, as well as academic qualifications, to the classroom.