Jennifer Walsmith, sector vice president and general manager of the Cyber and Intelligence Mission Solutions division within Northrop Grumman’s Mission Systems sector, has been appointed as chair of the WashingtonExec Intelligence Council for 2020-2021.
“I have always believed there is tremendous value in connecting industry executives with government officials,” Walsmith told WashingtonExec. “I am also a big fan of individuals gaining direct experience in both industry and government roles. I believe we will only build the exceptional intelligence capabilities our nation needs when we work together.”
As chair, Walsmith will focus on the role of intelligence in the changing threat landscape and the capabilities needed to respond and corresponding budgets across the Defense Department and intelligence community.
“The IC is a pathfinder in early intelligence, technology, speed and agility, innovation and diversity of workforce,” she said. “I intend to focus discussions with the council around how well the industrial base is positioned to serve our nation in these challenges – and provide a forum to discuss where and how we can improve.”
Walsmith brings to the role an extensive background and expertise in intelligence, technology and cyber from the private and public sectors. Prior to joining Northrop Grumman in 2016 as vice president of the Integrated National Systems Space ISR Systems division, she spent 30 years with the National Security Agency.
“During my career in the government, I worked in three of the big-lettered agencies,” Walsmith said. “I learned first-hand their missions, policies and cultures.”
She was NSA’s top acquisition executive and a key player in the U.S. Comprehensive National Cyber Initiative. As a senior acquisition executive, senior procurement executive and director of acquisition career management for NSA for more than 10 years, she delivered over 100 major systems, executing more than $100 billion in doing so. Walsmith was also a member of the IC Acquisition Council and the DOD Senior Integration Group, gaining broad perspectives of DOD and the IC.
“My background is in both hardware and software and as the NSA SPE I executed contracts ranging from major construction to food service,” she said.
Walsmith served two tours in industry and now, as part of her portfolio over the last four years at Northrop Grumman, has worked in both the Space and Cyber & Intel businesses, supporting all of the agencies.
Today, her portfolio is about 50% DOD cyber and intelligence, and while her forte is solutions development, she has spent considerable time learning the services business.
While Walsmith is eager to share her experiences with the council, leading the group provides her with a learning opportunity, too.
“I have the opportunity to learn from exceptional people through our board and events, building and expanding on trusted relationships that allow each of us to serve our nation and support our stakeholders,” she said.
Walsmith said she finds tremendous value in learning the drivers for each council member, whether broadly as acquisition policy is set or specifically as a response to a crisis like COVID.
“Our success is built together,” she added.
And before announcing a specific agenda for the council, Walsmith plans to learn from panel members what they think is important and build from there. She said she is excited to kick off the council’s first meeting under her leadership.
“I hope to build greater knowledge and trust within today’s landscape,” Walsmith said. “Our threats have only increased, intelligence is likely to be even more important in the next 5 years, and having a better understanding of this and sharing ideas on how we best prepare and respond is what I hope to achieve.”
Walsmith has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and was recognized with the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive and Distinguished Executive for her achievements on behalf of NSA and the intelligence community. She was also recently named one of WashingtonExec’s Top 25 Cyber Execs to Watch in 2020.
The WashingtonExec Intelligence Council includes senior vice presidents and vice presidents of strategic intelligence with at least 15 years of government or industry service in the intelligence field. The group hosts government executives from the national security and intelligence sectors. Programming includes off-the-record roundtables (currently held virtually) as well as SCIF events.