July 2017

Doolittle Dinner

​Betty Sapp was appointed the 18th Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (DNRO) on July 6, 2012. She is a former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Portfolio, Programs and Resources), Office of the United Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and began her government career as a United States Air Force officer.

National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Director Betty J. Sapp was awarded the General James Doolittle Award at a dinner on April 27, 2017. Her address on the history and role of the NRO was followed by an insightful question and answer session with the SSP community. She began by noting the role of Jimmy Doolittle's support for the establishment of one of the National Reconnaissance Office's earliest and most important programs, the Corona photo reconnaissance satellite program. The Corona program provided the United States with critical information about Soviet strategic nuclear capabilities at a crucial period of the Cold War. Space-based surveillance offered a way to keep U.S. pilots out of harm's way, an advantage highlighted when Gary Powers was shot down flying a U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union in 1960. Many attempts to launch the satellite failed before the first "Keyhole" photo reconnaissance satellite entered orbit in August 1960.

Director Sapp then offered a snapshop of the small, elite organization at NRO, which focused heavitly on innovation to continue to provide "eyes and ears" to the United States from space. The NRO's targets had gone from being big, noisy and fixed to small, quiet and mobile, making the organization's task all the more challenging. Despite the sobering nature of the threats the NRO helps the United States to counter, Director Sapp's remarks also conveyed the inspiring quality of spaceflight, and the scientific and technological innovations at the core of the NRO's mission. Taking questions from the SSP community, Director Sapp discussed some of the major challenges that adversaries posed to the United States in and out of space. She also offered insights into the recruitment, organizational practices, inter-agency coordination, and supplier and allied relationships that allow NRO to fulfil its day-to-day missions and long term objectives.


19th MIT Senior Congressional and Executive Branch Staff Seminar

SSP hosted its third Seminar for Senior Congressional and Executive Branch Staff titled “Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century: Dangers, Strategies and Policymaking.” April 19-21, 2017.  MIT faculty and top outside experts focused on nuclear strategies, budgeting and the U.S. weapons arsenal, and the future of nuclear power and its implications for proliferation.

Rebecca Hersman, Director of the Project on Nuclear Issues, and Senior Adviser, International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies was the Luncheon keynote speaker. Siegfried Hecker, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and Research Professor of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University was the keynote speaker at the dinner.

This year, 25 staffers from Congress and the Senate, as well as the State Department, Department of Defense, and other Executive Branches, travelled to MIT to participate in the three-day Seminar.

The seminar was a project of the Frankel (MIT) Global Policy Program Fund.

*A more detailed report will be featured in the upcoming SSP annual report (2016-17)