Michael Leiter Profile

The former director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Michael Leiter spearheaded national security efforts against some of the highest stakes the U.S. has seen. Currently the Executive Vice President for Leidos, he is an expert on leveraging Big Data for security purposes, instilling leadership while managing a crisis, and mobilizing entire organizations to transform for the better.

Leiter is a former Navy officer. After excelling in various government positions including Deputy Chief of Staff, he was appointed by President George Bush as the Director of the newly formed NCTC in response to communication problems between intelligence gathering officials that may have helped enable the 9/11 attacks. With the administration change in 2009 he was one of the few intelligence officials asked to stay on the job by President Obama.

In this position he led the government response to several crises including the 2009 failed “Underwear Bomber” attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, the Fort Hood shooting, and the failed Times Square car bombing. He was also one of the few people to be in the Situation Room in communication with the special Navy Seals force as they carried out the capture and assassination of Osama Bin Laden.

Leiter has since served as a senior counselor for data analysis firm Palantir Technologies and was the Counterterrorism and National Security Analyst for NBC news for three years. As the executive vice president of Leidos he is in charge of overseeing the merge between Leidos and Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Solutions (IS&GS) business.

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    Dubbed “the nation’s 24-hour point person on terrorism” by National Journal while serving as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) during two administrations, Michael Leiter is well equipped to discuss leadership, our response to global terrorism and our ability to keep up in a rapidly changing world. He was one of only a few national security officials from the Bush Administration that President Obama asked to stay on when he came into office in 2009. During Leiter’s tenure, he led the U.S. Government’s efforts to respond to repeated crises and high-stakes events including al-Qaeda’s failed attempt to bring down a U.S. airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, the tragic shooting at Fort Hood and a failed car bomb attack in Times Square.

    His personal reflections on being in the Situation Room during the mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden are mesmerizing. As NCTC’s Director, Leiter led more than 1,000 personnel and managed an annual budget of more than $400 million. In addition, he advised the Office of Management and Budget on the allocation of more than $100 billion annually for government-wide counterterrorism activities. Leiter shares with audiences how principled, thoughtful, visionary and energetic leadership can carry an organization through crises and are relevant to both government entities and to the private sector. His lessons of motivating employees and working with critical partners and customers in effecting change are as timely to organizations as combating terrorism is to the national security enterprise—and his deep insights provide invaluable understanding to both.

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Michael Leiter's Speech Descriptions

Michael Leiter has been in the forefront of the U.S. government’s efforts to detect and confront evolving national security threats since 9/11. Drawing from a career where the stakes are millions of lives and the safety of nations, Leiter delivers priceless lessons on crisis management, leadership skills, and constantly transforming your organization with the aim of staying one step ahead of the dangers and threats present in the world. Humble and authentic, he offers key insights on how the challenges of big data and national security in the last 15 years can help protect critical infrastructure, health information, and financial networks.

Leading in a Crisis: Before, During, and After

For more than four years Leiter served at the heart of terrorism crisis management in the U.S. Government as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center—the post-9/11 organization created to serve as the hub of intelligence and policy planning for the U.S. counterterrorism community. Over the course of two administrations, Leiter helped lead the U.S. Government’s efforts to respond to repeated crises and high-stakes events, such as al-Qaida’s failed attempt to bring a U.S. airliner down over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, a failed car bomb attack in Times Square, the tragic shooting at Ft. Hood, and the successful mission that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. Through examples from these and other events, Leiter shows how principled, thoughtful, visionary, and energetic leadership can carry an organization through crises and—more importantly—can lead to improvements in mission effectiveness that might otherwise be impossible. Leiter’s lessons of motivating and focusing a workforce, working with critical partners and customers, and effecting change apply to a wide range of businesses and organizations well-beyond those involved in combating terrorism or involved in the national security enterprise.

Are We Keeping Up in a Rapidly Changing World?

Reflecting on more than two decades in public service and having been deeply involved in the U.S. Government’s national security and intelligence transformation of the past decade, Leiter discusses the ways in which the U.S. Government and the U.S. private sector is—and is not—keeping up with enormous global changes. In particular, Leiter talks about how the rapidly changing dynamics across the Middle East and North Africa, the increasingly dangerous aspects of cyberspace, and the worrisome availability of weapons of mass destruction are often outpacing our ability to address critical national security needs. In addition, Leiter describes how the private sector can help partner with the U.S. Government and foreign nations to address many of these challenges, as well as the ways in which many of our traditional policy, legal, and process solutions are falling short.

The Changing Face of Global Terrorism and Our Response
Having served as the nation’s chief counterterrorism analyst, strategist, and coordinator for two Presidents, Leiter describes all aspects of the terrorist threat the U.S. and global businesses face worldwide. Ranging from personal reflections on being in the Situation Room during the mission that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden to advising Presidents Obama and Bush on how to confront al-Qaida’s ideology, Leiter offers deep insight into how the global threat of terror has evolved, where it poses the greatest threats, and what strategies—both government and private sector—are best suited for reducing vulnerabilities. Leiter provides carefully tailored discussions related to terrorists’ use of attacks like those seen in Mumbai, India in 2008, the risks of terrorists’ use of weapons of mass destruction, how to combat homegrown terrorism, and cyber terror and ways to defend against it. In addition, Leiter uses his years of advising the Office of Management and Budget and the Congress on U.S. Government-wide counterterrorism programs to describe areas of opportunity for private industry to contribute to making U.S. and international counterterrorism efforts more effective.

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