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September 13, 2007

GSPIA hosts CIA officer-in-residence

Veteran CIA officer Frank Hofmann has traveled the globe during his 28-year intelligence career with assignments in East Asia, Latin America, Europe and the United States. Following his latest stints in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he has found himself in perhaps a less likely place: Pittsburgh.

Hofmann will spend the next two years as a visiting professor in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs as part of the CIA’s officer-in-residence program.

The program aims to further the study of intelligence by placing in university classrooms active-duty intelligence officers who are qualified to teach and share their firsthand experience with students.

The agents remain on the CIA payroll during their time in the program.

According to the CIA, more than 100 officers have been hosted at some 50 institutions since the program began in 1986. Hofmann’s arrival on the GSPIA faculty this fall marks the first time Pitt has participated in the OIR program, said Martin Staniland who, as GSPIA’s division director for international affairs, was instrumental in facilitating Hofmann’s arrival.

Staniland said there has been a substantial increase since 9-11 in the numbers of students interested in GSPIA’s master’s program in security and intelligence studies.

Staniland noted that the program once was weighted heavily toward Cold War issues and nuclear weapons. “It’s shifted, as you would expect, toward intelligence and terrorism,” he said.

Of the 154 students registered in GSPIA’s international affairs master’s programs, 95 are in security and intelligence studies, said GSPIA career services director Betty Berkely. “That’s 62 percent interested in doing some kind of work in intelligence.”

The school’s participation in the OIR program will help its ongoing efforts to increase the amount and the quality of teaching in the area of intelligence. Staniland said, “With Frank coming, we think we’re in very good shape to provide both analytic and professional field experience in that.”

Many students in the master’s program are interested in careers with the CIA, FBI or Defense Intelligence Agency. But, Staniland said, it’s sometimes hard to track where some GSPIA grads go — those who are recruited by intelligence agencies can’t state it outright.

Staniland said he knows it’s likely to be the CIA, FBI or DIA when newly recruited, obviously excited students can tell him they’ve got a job, but can’t say what or where it is.

Hofmann noted that when he told colleagues where he’d been assigned, “Pitt graduates came out of the woodwork” — a number of them GSPIA graduates.

This term, Hofmann is teaching 17 students in his “History of U.S. Intelligence” course. He plans to teach “Issues in American Intelligence” during the spring term.

He said most of the students in his class are considering careers in an intelligence-related field and thus have been engaged and interested. Already there have been lively debates on the ethics and morality of what the CIA does and on whether the intelligence community is able to protect the nation from another 9-11, he said.

He is limited to a degree in what he is able to discuss. Hofmann said he has an ethical and legal obligation to protect intelligence sources and methods, so he can’t name names or discuss secure or sensitive methods used to collect intelligence. But beyond that, it’s up to him to use his best judgment in describing his experiences in the intelligence field, he said.

Although the OIR agreement expressly prohibits him from actively recruiting students or others, he is able to share firsthand what it’s like to be a CIA officer. “They want to hear about it to help them make career choices,” he said.

Berkely said the CIA is among the many federal agencies that participate in the annual federal career day GSPIA co-sponsors each November with Carnegie-Mellon and Duquesne universities. The event is open to all schools as well as the general public. Last year’s drew 1,000 job seekers and more than 60 federal agencies. The CIA presentations typically are standing room only, she said.

Staniland said, “Certainly a lot of students sign up for that. This is a career, like a business career or a law career which our students are interested in pursuing.” He added that it’s important to bring into the school teachers with relevant practice. “This is another public service career.”

Hofmann said most OIR participants come from the CIA’s analytical side, the Directorate of Intelligence. “It’s closer to what classical academia does,” Hofmann said. “It’s a natural match.” He, on the other hand, comes from the CIA’s operational side, the National Clandestine Service.

Educated as an economist, Hofmann said he’s never worked as one. He worked for several years in the Department of State before joining the CIA. As for his work in clandestine operations, he offers a politely vague description: collecting intelligence for the analytical community and for policymaking decisions.

Much of the appeal of a career in intelligence, he said, is the feeling of being part of something larger than one’s self. “It’s common for most public service careers and especially the intelligence community,” he said. “Most of us feel we are participating in history. We may not be making it, but we’re participating in it.”

Prior to starting their assignments, OIR participants attend a week-long seminar in which veterans of the program advise them on a range of topics, including what campus life is like today. “Most of us have not been in university life for decades,” he pointed out.

Hofmann said they are warned that they might meet with hostile reactions or the cold shoulder from faculty members, but said he’s not experienced that at Pitt. “It hasn’t been an issue,” he said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 40 Issue 2

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