FSI names intelligence expert Amy Zegart CISAC co-director

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Amy Zegart Hoover Institution

Amy Zegart, one of the nation’s leading experts on national security, intelligence and foreign policy, has been appointed the next co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation.

Zegart, a CISAC faculty member and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, will take up her new role July 1. She succeeds Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who was named director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, CISAC’s parent organization.

“Amy Zegart is an award-winning scholar, an accomplished professional with public and private sector experience, and a trusted voice on national security and foreign policy,” said Cuéllar. “Her multi-disciplinary scholarship, diverse experiences, and commitment to getting it right will complement the Freeman Spogli Institute's growing focus on governance problems, and will make her a dynamic leader for CISAC as the center continues its vital work on international cooperation and security.”

Zegart, once named one of the 10 most influential experts in intelligence reform by the National Journal, said she intends to continue expanding the center’s focus on emerging security issues, such as cybersecurity, drones and challenges to governance while building on CISAC’s distinguished reputation in nuclear security.

“The international threat environment is changing faster and in more profound ways than anyone could have imagined 10 or 20 years ago,” said Zegart, who is also a professor of political economy (by courtesy) at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she co-teaches a course on managing political risk with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“CISAC will continue to be at the forefront of addressing these new challenges with the same secret sauce it’s had since its founding in 1983: world class talent; a commitment to teaching the next generation; and a deep belief that bridging the natural and social sciences is vital to solving the world’s most dangerous problems,” she said.

 CISAC, more than any other institution, provided a scholarly environment that was intellectually challenging and personally supportive at the same time. That’s quite a rare cultural combination."

Zegart’s research examines the organization of American national security agencies and their effectiveness. She served on the Clinton administration's National Security Council staff and as a foreign policy adviser to the 2000 presidential campaign of George W. Bush. She has testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, provided training to the Marine Corps, and advised officials on intelligence and homeland security matters. From 2009 to 2011 she served on the National Academies of Science Panel to Improve Intelligence Analysis. Her commentary has been featured on national television and radio shows and in The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times.

Zegart writes  regular commentary for Foreign Policy about national security issues. In this excerpt from one of those posts about the privatization of American intelligence and the growing businesses of political risk management, her approach accentuates her ability to bring complex issues to a general audience:

In the old days, the ‘free world’ and ‘Soviet bloc’ were two different universes. Not anymore. Now everything is connected. Sweden’s Ikea has stores in Russia. My CIA alarm clock was made in China. Unrest in Cairo can cause legging shortages in California. And communications happen everywhere. Wifi can be found in Bedouin tents, on the top of Mount Everest, and on buses in rural Rwanda. Kenyan fisherman may lack electricity, but they can check weather conditions and fish market prices on their cell phones. All of this connectedness means that political risks – civil strife, instability, insurgency, coups, weak legal standards, corruption – have more spillover effects. What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.

Zegart recalls being fascinated with politics since she was a kid. She spent her childhood tracking election night tallies and writing her congressman. When she was 13, she followed on TV the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s historic visit to the United States in 1979 and was thrilled when he donned a cowboy hat at a Texas rodeo.

“I was enthralled,” Zegart said. “My mother, an antique dealer who can find anyone and anything, tracked down a local Taiwanese graduate student and convinced her to teach me Mandarin after school.”

She would continue studying Chinese at Andover, majored in East Asian Studies at Harvard, and would win a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to China and study the 1989 Chinese democracy movement and Tiananmen Square tragedy. Zegart then earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Stanford and became a full professor of public policy at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs as well as a fellow at the Burkle Center for International Relations.

Zegart notes she’s been connected to CISAC for more than two decades. She first showed up at the center’s former Galvez House headquarters during her first quarter as a Stanford graduate student. She kept coming back even after she got her Ph.D.; both of her award-winning books were germinated in presentations she gave to CISAC seminars.

“CISAC, more than any other institution, provided a scholarly environment that was intellectually challenging and personally supportive at the same time,” Zegart said. “That’s quite a rare cultural combination.”

This academic year, she co-taught with Martha Crenshaw the popular CISAC-sponsored class International Security in a Changing World, which culminates in a U.N. Security Council simulation in which students debate a pressing global issue.

CISAC has a tradition of appointing co-directors – one from the social sciences and the other from the natural sciences – to advance the center’s interdisciplinary mission to conduct and promote cutting-edge research to make the world a safer place.

“Amy brings to CISAC a wealth of expertise in international security issues, a deep commitment to scholarship and a sincere desire to strengthen and expand the center’s activities and impact,” said David Relman, CISAC’s other co-director, a Stanford microbiologist and professor of infectious diseases, as well as expert on emerging biological threats. “We share an interest in emerging technologies and the effective international mechanisms that address 21st century challenges and threats.”

Zegart is the author of two award-winning books. Flawed by Design, which chronicles the development of the Central Intelligence Agency, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and National Security Council, won the highest national dissertation award in political science. Spying Blind, which examines why American intelligence agencies failed to adapt to the terrorist threat before 9/11, won the National Academy of Public Administration’s Brownlow Book Award. She has also published in International Security, Political Science Quarterly, and other leading academic journals. She serves on the editorial boards of Terrorism and Political Violence and Intelligence and National Security. Her most recent book is Eyes on Spies: Congress and the United States Intelligence Community.

Before her academic career, Zegart spent three years at McKinsey & Company advising Fortune 100 companies about strategy and organizational effectiveness.

She serves on the FBI Intelligence Analysts Association National Advisory Board and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Counter-terrorism and Community Police Advisory Board and is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.