PITTSBURG — Dr. David Oakley, a national security professional and scholar, returned Tuesday to his alma mater — Pittsburg State University — to sign copies of his new book Subordinating Intelligence: The DoD/CIA Post-Cold War Relationship.
“I’ve had some really good conversations, some very supportive people,” Oakley said Tuesday in an interview towards the end of his book signing at the PSU Bookstore. “It’s been a nice homecoming.”
A U.S. Army FA59 (Strategist), Oakley has served in various positions in the national security field. He has been a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Staff Operations Officer and a contractor within the National Counterterrorism Center’s Directorate of Strategic Operational Planning, according to his website.
“I can’t hold a job,” Oakley said, jokingly.
From 1999 to 2005 he served as a field artillery officer in South Korea and at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After a brief hiatus he returned to active military duty in 2007 with assignments including at Fort Riley, Kansas and in Iraq.
Oakley has also continued pursuing further goals in higher education since earning his bachelor’s degree in political science from PSU in 1998. He has earned three master’s degrees, in fact, as well as a Ph.D. in security studies from Kansas State University, according to his website. He is currently working as an assistant professor at National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
Oakley’s time at PSU “was foundational” he said.
“I often say that I was not much of a student when I showed up at Pitt State, but Pitt State gave me the passion for learning,” Oakley said. “And it was this community that was so supportive that allowed me to thrive as an undergraduate that sent me on the path to where I would eventually get my Ph.D.”
Oakley said he talked to one student Tuesday “that was very nice and very knowledgeable and talked to me about pursuing an intelligence career,” and that PSU students interested in a national security career should know that the national security profession is also interested in them.
“I remember back when I was going through an interview process at one time, you know, they were really interested and curious about where I went to undergrad at,” Oakley said, “and so what that tells me is they’re looking for, you know, students who come from a place like Pitt State because they really value the foundation that they receive at small universities like this.”
Oakley’s book Subordinating Intelligence, released in February, covers the history of the relationship between the CIA and Defense Department going back to the early 1980s.
“Part of my argument is that there’s been a quasi-subordination of national intelligence capabilities to supporting the warfighter,” Oakley said. “The CIA was built as an independent intelligence organization to inform policy makers. It was established by the 1947 National Security Act, and so its purpose was an understanding of policy so you can make policy decisions. But I argue in the book, in more recent times, it has been burdened to a degree with the requirements to support the warfighter, which isn’t really the policy makers’ strategic decision making, it’s to enable action of the warfighter.”
Oakley discussed a distinction he makes between “intelligence for understanding” and “intelligence for action,” in terms of supporting military action.
“Both are very important, but they’re distinct, and sometimes we lose sight — at the cost of the broader intelligence for understanding, we focus a lot on the intelligence to enable action,” Oakley said.
He said he identified the push towards a focus on the latter as beginning in the 1980s, accelerating in the 1990s, and becoming even more identifiable after the September 11, 2001 attacks and the start of the Global War on Terrorism.
Oakley said he doesn’t make major recommendations for policy changes in his book. “I think my only recommendation I would make is to appreciate the differences in why organizations were established,” he said.
He added that within the US intelligence community, while there is perhaps a fairly clear consensus on the definition of intelligence, different elements or agencies view the purpose of intelligence slightly differently.
Subordinating Intelligence, Oakley said, “touches on some contemporary issues, but it’s really a historical piece that tells the story” of the CIA and Defense Department’s relationship. “How it evolved and why it evolved.”
Oakley was in Pittsburg as part of a book tour of sorts, having already made stops in the Kansas City area and with another event planned for Thursday at the University of Kansas, before returning to the Washington, D.C area. Subordinating Intelligence is available for purchase at the PSU Bookstore. Call 620-235-4875 for more information.