Dr. Michael G. Vickers career as a special operator, CIA operations officer, national
security policy maker and Intelligence Community leader spanned the last two decades of the
Cold War through a decade and a half of our war with al-Qa’ida, its allies and its offshoots –
service that saw unprecedented senior tenure across Republican and Democratic administrations.
Most recently, from 2011 to 2015, Dr. Vickers served as the Under Secretary of Defense
for Intelligence, exercising authority, direction and control over the National Security Agency,
Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National
Reconnaissance Office, Defense Security Service, and the intelligence components of the
Military Services and Combatant Commands. As the USD(I), he conceived and led a
comprehensive transformation of defense intelligence capabilities, encompassing the signals
intelligence system and overhead space architecture, penetrating and persistent remotely piloted
aircraft, the Department’s strategic human intelligence posture, its corps of all-source analysts,
and its cyber operations forces.
From 2007 to 2011, he served as the first and only Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Special Operations, Low-Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities. As the ASD
SO/LIC&IC, Dr. Vickers was the “Service” Secretary for all Special Operations Forces, and had
policy oversight of all of DoD’s operational capabilities – strategic forces (nuclear forces, missile
defense, space, cyber), conventional force transformation (air, ground and maritime), and Special
Operations Forces. He conceived and led the largest expansion of Special Operations Forces in
our nation’s history, and oversaw several other major capability investments ranging from next
generation long-range strike to undersea warfare to deter future great power war.
Throughout his nearly decade-long service as a national security policy maker and
Intelligence Community leader, Dr. Vickers was heavily involved in operations. He was a key
operational strategist for the campaign to dismantle and defeat core al-Qa’ida, and played a
major policy and planning role in the operation that killed Usama bin Ladin. He oversaw
counterterrorism operations in multiple countries and a wide range of other operations, from the
surge of forces in Afghanistan to sensitive intelligence collection operations, paramilitary
support to opposition forces battling despotic regimes, operations against rogue state nuclear
weapons and missile programs, and operations against drug cartels.
During the nearly decade and a half that spanned the operational phase of his career, he
served as a Special Forces weapons and engineer sergeant, as the commander of a classified
counterterrorism unit, and as CIA operations officer. As a Special Forces solider and officer, he
was trained to parachute behind Soviet lines with a “backpack” nuclear weapon, and led hostage
rescue operations and sensitive intelligence collection operations. As a CIA officer, he played
key roles in the invasion of Grenada, the US government’s operational response to the Beirut
bombings, and the covert effort to drive the Red Army out of Afghanistan.
As the principal strategist for the multi-billion dollar Afghanistan covert action program –
the largest and most successful covert action program in CIA’s history – Dr. Vickers developed
the winning strategy when very few thought it was possible to win. His contributions to the first
war the Red Army had ever lost and US victory in the Cold War were chronicled in the film and
New York Times best seller, Charlie Wilson’s War.
Dr. Vickers has received the nation’s highest awards in the fields of intelligence and
defense, including the Presidential National Security Medal and the OSS Society’s William J.
Donovan Award. He holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins, an MBA from the Wharton School, and
a B.A. from the University of Alabama. He is working on a memoir of his career, to be published
by Knopf in late 2019 or early 2020.