The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made groundbreaking news when Director Gina Haspel appointed Elizabeth (Beth) Kimber to serve as the first woman deputy director for Operations. The Directorate of Operations (DO) is the clandestine arm of the CIA responsible for recruiting spies, stealing secrets, and conducting presidentially authorized covert action programs. The DO produces human intelligence (HUMINT), which is the foundation for the CIA’s all-source analysis.

The United States is facing a myriad of complex and significant national security threats. It will be Kimber’s responsibility to ensure that the DO produces the sensitive source reporting on hard targets like Iran, nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Russia, cyber, China and transnational terrorism, upon which our national security relies.

Clandestine officers develop proficiency in foreign languages, learn espionage tradecraft, and deploy overseas, often in harm’s way. Kimber will lead the men and women who, as Director Haspel said in her May 2018 Senate testimony, “are our country’s silent warriors. These dedicated professionals spend much of their careers in difficult, far-flung outposts of the globe, striving to make our fellow Americans more secure at home.”


Unlike almost all of her colleagues in the Directorate of Operations, Kimber is an overt CIA employee. Her well-deserved appointment, which reflects the CIA’s merit-based promotion system, is public knowledge, unlike the clandestine HUMINT collection she will oversee.

The promotion of a woman to lead the Directorate of Operations was indeed long overdue. When Kimber entered on duty at CIA over three decades ago, I’m sure she could hardly have imagined such an opportunity.

But during the 1990s, CIA leadership became more dedicated to the principles of inclusion and diversity. This is not to say such best practices were uniformly followed throughout the CIA, but there was an increasingly serious commitment to promoting officers and selecting them for senior assignments based on their performance, free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity or gender.

Kimber’s appointment as the deputy director for Operations is a clarion call to all CIA employees that they will be judged, promoted and selected for assignments based on their performance.

Key to this sea change in CIA personnel development was the recognition among CIA analysts and collectors of the importance of having a 360-degree view of the most complex challenges. The best leaders at CIA would solicit everyone’s input, and they realized that a commitment to inclusion and diversity was essential to bringing the CIA’s best assessment to the Situation Room.

It was these progressive leaders who recognized that Kimber had the interpersonal skills, leadership qualities, and acumen in the art of intelligence, to deserve promotion to the CIA’s senior clandestine service, and appointments to senior positions where she could impact the mission at the highest level.

Kimber and I often worked together during the past two decades. Even in the most tense and potentially contentious situations, she always maintained a calm demeanor. Some of her colleagues remarked that she had a knack for keeping her head when others around her were losing theirs. She was relentlessly focused on the mission rather than herself. She nurtured, mentored and gracefully managed the officers serving under her command.

I witnessed firsthand how Kimber skillfully directed Russian operations during one of the most challenging periods in CIA history, when the results of CIA clandestine collection were absolutely vital to our national security.

I also fondly remember solving some particularly challenging personnel matters with her after we both returned to CIA headquarters from overseas assignments in 2010. Together, we served on promotion boards, coordinated on overseas operations, and briefed senior CIA leadership. She was a masterful senior leader who was a role model to the rest of us.

Kimber always demonstrated the highest level of intellectual honesty and integrity. Like Director Haspel, she mastered the art of telling her subordinates and bosses what they needed to know, even if it was not always what they wanted to hear. Based on her long career, including significant time with the CIA’s leadership and a stint as acting deputy director, she has a wealth of experience handling the key intelligence challenges that our nation faces.

To be sure, there were senior female CIA Directorate of Operations officers in addition to Haspel who helped prepare the fertile ground for Kimber to become a CIA trailblazer. Mary Margaret Graham, under whose exceptional leadership I served a tour of duty, rose to become the deputy director of National Intelligence for Collection after serving as associate deputy director for Counterintelligence.

Kimber’s appointment as the deputy director for Operations is a clarion call to all CIA employees that they will be judged, promoted and selected for assignments based on their performance.

The Directorate of Operations is poised to drive on to new heights of excellence under Kimber’s stewardship. The CIA will benefit for years to come from shattering the glass ceiling and releasing the full potential of its entire cadre of talented, dedicated officers.