Many people experience a defining moment in time or an event that defines their commitment to service. For James Blasingame, deputy national intelligence manager (NIM) for the Western Hemisphere for homeland, that defining moment came in 1995 at time of national tragedy. Not long after he joined the FBI, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. "That was my first introduction to 'homeland' and the need to stay vigilant," said Blasingame, the luncheon keynote speaker on the second day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C.
Blasingame's position is relatively new. Prior to the creation of the position, he said, the United States essentially didn't exist on world maps showing the areas of responsibility within the Office of the Director of Intelligence (ODNI). "For many years of the ODNI's presentation of the intelligence community, the management of the community, the homeland, the United States, was literally grayed out on the map. It wasn't addressed," Blasingame reported. Thanks to the efforts of several individuals at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, about two years ago, the idea of creating the new position was introduced and was endorsed by James Clapper, director of national intelligence.
The Western Hemisphere portfolio is responsible for an area from the polar ice caps to the southern tip of South America, he said. "As you might imagine, being the deputy NIM for homeland is not an easy job. It has been a bit of a struggle but a positive thing," he said, adding, "We're not looking to reinvent the wheel or to recreate activity. The NIMs are not an extra layer, but rather they are a force multiplier. It is our role and our responsibility to deconflict, to synchronize, to align, and prioritize the intelligence community collection and to ensure the products and analysis of that are not only high standard but help advance the mission forward."