• The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is adding new office director positions and hiring new program managers as well. The office directors will help recruit program managers, develop and guide research programs, and enhance relationships with key personnel within the intelligence community to help ensure technology transfers to the agencies. Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock
     The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is adding new office director positions and hiring new program managers as well. The office directors will help recruit program managers, develop and guide research programs, and enhance relationships with key personnel within the intelligence community to help ensure technology transfers to the agencies. Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

IARPA Leader Creating Office Director Positions

July 6, 2020
By George I. Seffers
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New directors help transition tech to intel agencies.


Catherine Marsh, director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, is hiring personnel to fill several new office director positions. The new personnel will help recruit program managers, develop and guide programs, and strengthen relationships with the intelligence community, enhancing the transition of technologies from researchers to users.

Marsh, who took over leadership late last year of the research organization known as IARPA, tells SIGNAL Magazine her top priority is “continuing to focus on our core value proposition, investing in the high-risk, high-payoff research and development to deliver overwhelming intelligence advantage to the nation.” But to do that, she is making some changes, such as bringing back the positions of office directors, which IARPA eliminated several years ago.

“We are reinstituting the role of office directors at IARPA. We posted vacancy notices, and we got lots of applicants—I mean lots of applicants,” she says. “We interviewed only the most qualified … and we have selected the candidates that we want to hire, and that’s now with human resources for processing.”

The office directors will actively recruit the next generation of IARPA program managers, act as first line supervisors and help develop and guide research programs. They also will act as a bridge between program managers and the intelligence agencies.

“If I’m hiring someone in off the street, as I often am with a program manager, the office director has to help make the connections between our programs and our partners in the intelligence community, and they leverage that experience to ensure that our programs are ambitious, that they’ve got rigorous metrics and that they’re structured for success, but that they’re also going to transition [to users.] That’s a critical role for our future,” Marsh declares.

It is important to fill those office director positions because IARPA also is hiring a handful of new program managers. Experience within the intelligence community is not required. “Rarely do we bring someone from within the intelligence community to IARPA. We look for experts to challenge the status quo and to help shape and structure new programs with metrics and milestones and rigorous testing and evaluation to demonstrate that the proposed solutions will meet intelligence community needs,” she says. 

Marsh also is trying to lower the classification level required for program managers to make the hiring process easier. “One of the initiatives we’re working on is trying to bring in—it’s not a done deal yet—program managers cleared at a lower classification level because the work lends itself to that. That will open the aperture even wider and should, hopefully, shorten the timeline for hiring,” she says.

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