Vaughn Bishop never imagined that one day he would be asked to serve as Deputy Director of CIA. “Then again,” says Bishop, “at no point in my career did I ever cease to be amazed at the opportunities offered at CIA.”
Bishop is also thrilled to work alongside his colleague and friend, Director Haspel, once more.
Years ago, when Director Haspel was a senior operations officer, and Deputy Director Bishop was a senior analyst, they found themselves working together on difficult missions from opposite sides of the Agency directorate structure.
“We made a point of stressing at every opportunity that one of our strengths comes from marshaling the diverse skills and expertise found in all our Directorates,” recalls Bishop.
Both Director Haspel and Deputy Director Bishop believe that this kind of close collaboration and communication across directorates is critical to fulfilling the Agency’s mission. As Bishop likes to say: managing between the white spaces on the organization chart, the spaces between the Directorates, is a powerful force multiplier.
As part of Director Haspel’s new leadership team, Vaughn Bishop is a force multiplier in his own right, bringing decades of experience, wisdom, and enthusiasm to the Agency. “I’ve always believed that CIA is a unique and special place,” says Bishop, “and I consider it the privilege of a lifetime to serve as a steward of this great institution.”
A Lifelong Teacher
Born in Indiana to parents who had grown up on farms in the rural Midwest, Bishop attended Northwestern University where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science and a PhD in political science and African studies, doing his dissertation field research in Kano, Nigeria. He was looking forward to spending his life in academia, and as such, he began his teaching career at Emory University in Atlanta.
It was an advertisement by the CIA, however, that changed his fate. The Agency was seeking individuals who combined knowledge of social science methodology and a regional expertise. Bishop was a perfect fit. The draw of getting to do work he loved while serving his country excited him, so he applied.
Bishop began his distinguished 30+ year career at the Agency in 1981.
A Social Scientist at CIA
His first assignment was with a small unit in what was called the Office of Political Analysis. His job was to preach the need for and value of social science methodologies in the art of analysis. “This was a much harder sell in 1981 than it is today,” says Bishop.
A major Agency reorganization in the early 1980s required Bishop to choose a distinct career path: social science methodology or a regional expertise. He chose Africa. However, his passion for analytic methods, teaching, and exploring new tools of scientific inquiry in analysis has stayed with him throughout his career.
“If you ask people who I have worked with about me, “ says Bishop, “I think most will say that I am both open and approachable, and that I have always tried to create an environment where others have the opportunity and resources needed to succeed.” His leadership philosophy is encompassed by a simple saying: stop, look, listen, learn. It’s how he approaches every new assignment. Bishop believes that the importance of listening cannot be overstated: it is a valuable leadership trait and one that is too often underused.
A Tower of Strength and Stability
Throughout his career, Bishop held a number of expert-level analyst and senior management positions across a diverse range of regional and functional mission areas. He also led his share of crisis response teams.
“Working a crisis,” explains Bishop, “has a tremendous power to focus you on the needs of the customer or the people that you serve. It gives you very good insight into the people charged with making policy and decisions and the stresses they face. Crises also teach you the importance of being proactive, not reactive. The worst time to start planning for a crisis is the day after the crisis starts.”
In the early 1990s, Bishop led the Somalia Task Force. From 1996 to 1999, he served as Chief of Station, managing a critical relationship with a key partner focused on counterterrorism operations. During these difficult periods, Bishop became known throughout the Agency a “tower of strength and stability.”
Bishop then went on to serve as the DCIA Representative to PACOM from 1999 to 2001. He later led CIA’s analytic efforts on Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Africa. From 2006 to 2009, he oversaw a critical analytic partnership with a major foreign ally, and after returning from that post, Bishop was asked to serve as the National Intelligence Officer for Africa and ultimately rose to become the Vice-Chair of the National Intelligence Council in 2010.
Retiring from the CIA in 2011, Bishop returned for four years to serve as the CIA Ombudsman for Analytic Objectivity during the Agency’s modernization effort. Those experiences – coupled with the knowledge gained by working his way up through the Agency into senior positions – have given him a unique and highly applicable perspective to serving as Deputy Director.
Wearing a Tie Once More
Vaughn Bishop is thrilled to be back at CIA. “This place is a very hard place for people to leave,” says Bishop. “The opportunity to return is both humbling and exciting. CIA has no equal and I’m looking forward to the chance to come back, reconnect, and give back to the organization.”
As CIA’s new Deputy Director, Vaughn Bishop will bring with him a contagious enthusiasm and love for the work; an uncanny ability to inspire those around him; a 35-cent framed picture of FDR; a photo of golfing with friends in Scotland; countless pictures of his grandson; and a tie.
“When I retired in 2011, I promised to never wear a tie again,” jokes Bishop, “so I guess I have failed on that score.”