Interview with 2014 INSA Achievement Award Winner Craig J. Wiener, Sidney D. Drell Academic Award

Craig Wiener, National Nuclear Security Administration

Craig Wiener, National Nuclear Security Administration

The Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) will hold its 5th Annual Achievement Awards ceremony Thursday, Nov. 13, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. The ceremony will honor six professionals in the intelligence and national security sectors for their professional contributions to the community.

Lt. Gen. Mary Legere, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence in the U.S. Army, will deliver the keynote address.

WashingtonExec spoke with award recipients about their nominations, what it means to them, their mission and more.

Today’s featured interview is with Craig J. Wiener Principal Consultant for Strategic Planning and Analysis at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). He is the recipient of the Sidney D. Drell Academic Award.

WashingtonExec: Did you know you were nominated for the award, or was it a surprise?

Craig Wiener: I was aware that I was being nominated by one of my mentors from George Mason University… I was extremely flattered; however, after reviewing the qualifications of previous winners in the category, I did not consider myself a serious contender for this award…I was shocked…

WashingtonExec: Have you prepared a speech, or do you plan on saying the first thing that comes to mind?

Craig Wiener: I will be preparing a short speech.

WashingtonExec: How would you describe your mission?

Craig Wiener: I am extremely fortunate to have a broad-based portfolio of cross cutting responsibilities at NNSA focused on delivering a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent for our country.

WashingtonExec: Finish the sentence: The best part of about my job is…

Craig Wiener: The truly brilliant people I get to learn from each and every day. It is a great place to be of service.

WashingtonExec: Could you name an aspect of your job that you did not expect when you were first brought on?

Craig Wiener: Although the professionalism and dedication to nuclear security in all its forms was expected when I on-boarded, the level of sophistication both at headquarters and in the field was eye opening. I am constantly amazed by the world-class expertise and dedicated personnel working at NNSA- yet they are down to earth. I work side by side with brilliant scientists, engineers and analysts -the vast majority of who are PhD’s or holders of other advanced degrees- yet everyone is on a first name basis. The thing I would like the public to know is that the stewards of our national security programs at NNSA are kind, thoughtful and reasonable.

WashingtonExec: Who is someone you admire or who has been a mentor to you throughout your career?

Craig Wiener: I have been extremely fortunate and blessed – at every step of my education and career I have benefited from mentors who have taken an expressed interest in me. I want to expressly thank Linda Millis, General Michael Hayden and George Duchak. I also want to deeply thank my friends and mentors at DOE/NNSA, the highly accomplished members of my dissertation committee and the senior advisors at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Suffice it to say they are amazing – I am grateful beyond words to each of them for their belief in me. I am truly the luckiest person I know.

WashingtonExec: What is something you are most proud of, personally?

Craig Wiener: I am most proud of my amazing wife Rachel.

WashingtonExec: What organizations are you involved with outside of work?

Craig Wiener: Outside of my professional role, I am involved with the graduate students at George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government and International Affairs. My role as a teaching assistant and lecturer for security and intelligence matters has provided me a great deal of personal satisfaction and a wonderful learning opportunity. I am also a member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Project on Nuclear Issues, which provides an important function for our national security efforts.

WashingtonExec: What more do you think organizations in the intelligence community should be doing to engage the millennial workforce?

Craig Wiener: This is an important question – I am going to speak about this from my perspective as a TA over the last three years in the most sought after national security courses at GMU SPGIA. I have worked closely with approximately 150 masters and PhD students, many of whom are younger than I am, and many of whom you could describe as “millennials.”  They have specifically enrolled in the courses because of their desire to enter the intelligence community. These students are clearly talented, ambitious and are ready, willing, and able to work in areas of national security and intelligence activities, although for many, there are structural hiring impediments. Many of the students routinely discuss the difficulty of entering direct government service and ask for advice. The predominant issues I run across when speaking with them fall into basic two categories- the lack of an existing security clearance or lack of military service- both impediments are predominantly present in younger students, many of whom went from high school to college to graduate school.

I believe it is absolutely essential to provide an enhanced, simplified hiring authority to bring these types of students, and quite honestly their talent, energy and perspective into the government directly from graduate school. It is my understanding that some previously available pathways were discontinued due to legal challenges to previous parent programs. Therefore, I would specifically recommend a legally sound, phased direct hire process that is merit based regardless of prior military experience for graduate students with national security applicable academic training. This pathway would include the authority for universities who support the government in national security research to sponsor qualifying students for security clearances while they are still in school. I believe this future state program should include accommodations for qualified, actively cleared contract support staff who are concurrently in graduate school at the masters, JD or PhD levels, many of whom also cannot overcome the currently well-intentioned yet predominant hiring authorities. Members of this hybrid hiring track should have their prior work experience taken into account for appropriate grade in service appointments.

WashingtonExec: What is your favorite intelligence movie or book?

Craig Wiener: I do not have a lot of time to read fiction these days; however in the past I have enjoyed a variety of Fredrick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy novels.

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