Ambassador Chase Untermeyer Provides IAFIE Conference with an Insider’s View of Federal Service
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Homeland Security
The International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE) conference concluded Wednesday, May 23rd, in Charles Town, West Virginia. This year’s theme was “New Challenges and Opportunities for Enhancing Intelligence Education.”
The annual IAFIE event, which was sponsored this year by American Military University (AMU), featured speakers, panelists and observers from nine countries who are experts in law enforcement, intelligence, government, higher education and even spy craft.
They all agreed on the need for new and more up-to-date college-level courses and programs in cybersecurity and intelligence training to confront the growing challenges from international hackers and cyber-criminals.
As the leading education provider for national security and intelligence professionals, AMU is answering the need for improved intelligence skill sets by introducing two doctoral degree programs scheduled to begin in early 2018. The highly anticipated degrees are Doctor of Global Security (D.G.S) and Doctor of Strategic Intelligence (D.S.I.).
One IAFIE speaker was able to offer a first-hand look at the highest levels of government. Chase Untermeyer served as U.S. ambassador to Qatar for three years during the George W. Bush administration.
Untermeyer’s Government Service Included Positions under 3 Presidents
Untermeyer’s government career included serving as Executive Assistant to then Vice President George H.W. Bush, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs under President Ronald Reagan and Director of the Voice of America under President George H.W. Bush.
Untermeyer also served as a naval officer in the Western Pacific during the Vietnam War.
The former ambassador began his remarks by asserting that the current political climate in Washington is nothing new. “It is again fashionable to decry the bitter partisanship and wretched leadership in Washington and the decline of the United States in the world,” Untermeyer said. “I say ‘once again’ because this is one of the most common threads of American political life.”
The Harvard alumnus backed up his assertion with a literary quote: “Washington, more than any other city in the world, swarms with simpleminded exhibitions of human nature; men and women curiously out of place, whom it would be cruel to ridicule and ridiculous to weep over.”
That passage was written by Henry Adams in his novel “Democracy” published in 1880, Untermeyer said.
Untermeyer specifically addressed the students in the audience who are studying for a career in government as members of the intelligence community. “Perhaps you have friends who pity you, or, worse, wonder how you can possibly be one of ‘them.’ Yet, I hold that this is a very exciting and fulfilling time to be in public service,” he said.
Advice from George H.W. Bush
He recalled advice given to him by President George H.W. Bush from his time as CIA Director. “He once told me that if you go into a government agency believing people are incompetent and disloyal, you’ll probably find that they are. But if you start out presuming competence and loyalty, you’ll find it — and in the process — win the trust of your people.”
To combat “obstreperousness and basic foot-dragging” by government bureaucracies, Untermeyer said, “There is a simple remedy: the old-fashioned virtues of hard work, persistence, concentration and staying at the workbench.”
Untermeyer recalled an observation by Chester Bowles, who also served as a U.S. ambassador and as General Manager of the Federal Price Administrator for President Franklin Roosevelt during World War II. Bowles likened the bureaucracy’s resistance to innovation and reform to “carrying a double mattress up a very narrow and winding staircase. It is a terrible job, and you exhaust yourself when you try it. But, once you get the mattress up, it is awfully hard for anyone else to get it down.”
Political appointees can achieve lasting reforms in government even though their positions are often short-lived; Untermeyer cited the example of Joshephus Daniels, who served as President Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of the Navy for eight years and later as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
Since the founding of the U.S. Navy in 1775, enlisted men were mostly society’s rejects, Untermeyer noted. But Daniels pushed for decent living conditions and skills training for sailors. “He even decided that the more promising sailors ought to be able to enter the holiest of holies, the Naval Academy,” Untermeyer said. “The admirals fought Secretary Daniels hard, convinced that his reforms would weaken discipline and thus destroy the Navy. They tried to outwait him, but eight years proved a very long time.”
Untermeyer ended his remarks with the hope that the next generation of intelligence agents and analysts will “see the business of governing as your political-appointee boss, now and in the future, sees it and copes with it. I am confident that you will also manage to cope with it – in fact, more than cope – to succeed mightily.”