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Marcel Lettre

Former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence


Marcel Lettre was nominated by President Obama as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI) and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate as the fourth Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence in December 2015.

As the USDI, Secretary Lettre is the principal intelligence advisor to the Secretary of Defense. He exercises authority, direction, and control on behalf of the Secretary of Defense over all intelligence and security organizations within the Department of Defense, including the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Defense Security Service and the intelligence components of the combatant commands and military services. Across the Defense Intelligence components, Secretary Lettre oversees the $17B Military Intelligence Program, the Defense portion of the $54B National Intelligence Program, the intelligence interests within the Battlespace Awareness portfolio, and over 110,000 personnel. He is also dual-hatted as the Director of Defense Intelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and reports to the DNI in this capacity. He is the Department’s principal interface with the Central Intelligence Agency and other elements of the Intelligence Community, and represents the Department on intelligence and sensitive operations at the National Security Council.

Mr. Lettre was the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence from May to December 2015. He had previously been confirmed by the Senate and held the position of Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (PDUSDI) from October 2013 to May 2015. From 2011-2013, Secretary Lettre served as a Special Assistant to Secretaries of Defense Chuck Hagel, Leon Panetta, and Bob Gates, serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary Panetta. He also led both the Gates-Panetta and Panetta-Hagel transition teams. From 2009-2011, he served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs. In these roles, he supported the Secretary of Defense on defense strategy and budget development, crisis management, cyber initiatives, sensitive intelligence and counterterrorism operational decisions, significant acquisition and R&D investments, and strategic nuclear and arms control matters.

From 2005-2009, Mr. Lettre served as Senior Defense and Intelligence Advisor and then as Senior National Security Advisor to the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, handling all “Gang of Eight” intelligence matters for the Leader. In this role he shaped national security legislation and intelligence policy initiatives, and supported securing passage of the annual defense and intelligence authorization bills, appropriations bills, and war supplementals; and handled Senate confirmation of senior defense and intelligence officials.

From 2002-2005, Mr. Lettre served as a Professional Staff Member on the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He supported the intelligence after-action reviews on the 9/11 terrorist attacks and on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and advised on the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act which created the Director of National Intelligence.

Previously, Mr. Lettre served as an analyst for a global management consulting firm and in research roles including for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Nuclear Nonproliferation Project, the Harvard-Stanford Preventive Defense Project chaired by William J. Perry and Ashton B. Carter, and a Congressional commission examining the organization and efficacy of the U.S. government regarding intelligence and programs to counter WMD.

Mr. Lettre is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has a master’s degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s from the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. Mr. Lettre grew up in an Army family and is an outdoorsman and hiker, having once backpacked the full 2,100-mile length of the Appalachian Trail. Mr. Lettre is married with two daughters.