Veteran & Former FBI Executive, Leader for National Security Operations & International Speaker on Security Practices and Leadership Concepts & Technical Operations and Organizational Management.
Chris Piehota serves as a subject matter expert, consultant, and board member for a variety of organizations, where he delivers strategic guidance and advisory regarding national security matters, cyber operations, security practices, risk mitigation, leadership concepts, and organizational improvement approaches. Piehota offers experiential insights from his career of overseeing and conducting complex investigations, intelligence collection programs, and technical operations. Over the course of his career, Piehota served as a key leader and organizational development proponent who developed a number of impactful strategic and tactical action plans; formulated focused performance metrics; advanced leadership programs; and contributed to process improvement and change management campaigns that influenced multi-level government operations since September 11, 2001.
Prior to retiring from government service, Piehota served as the Chief Executive for FBI Science and Technology Programs where he provided strategic leadership for enterprise operational technology programs, forensic laboratory operations, and criminal justice information technology systems. Leading up to this role, Chris previously served as the Director of the United States Government’s 24-hour, global Terrorist Screening Center and, previously, as the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Buffalo, New York, Field Office. Throughout the rest of his earlier FBI career, Chris worked in program areas regarding counterterrorism counterintelligence, physical and information security, weapons of mass destruction, and intelligence collection.
Piehota is an accomplished international public speaker and has provided speeches, presentations, and commentary for audiences of all types. He has been featured in various media interviews and has provided congressional testimonies, as well as executive briefings for the National Security Council, INTERPOL, numerous diplomatic parties, private sector organizations, and FBI Academy audiences.
Before joining the FBI, Piehota worked in the NASA Space Shuttle program as a Metrologist and Laboratory Supervisor. He is a U.S. Air Force military veteran and possesses a Ph.D. in Human Performance Technology, a master’s degree in Human Resources, and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
Leadership - Organizational Operations from Line Supervisor to Executive Manage
Over the course many careers, people are called upon to fill leadership roles, whether formal or informal in nature, to assist their organizations, employers, and colleagues to accomplish missions; reach business objectives; and maintain healthy, productive workplaces. With a combined base of over 40 years of combined service with the private sector, Federal Bureau of Investigation, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force, I have had the honor of serving in various leadership capacities in a number of high-pressure missions, no-fail operations, and crisis response situations. As a FBI Special Agent, I had a front row seat to the tragedies of airline crashes TWA 800 and Egypt Air 990, as well as the attacks on September 11, 2001 and subsequently worked in high consequence national security matters on an international level for many years.
Throughout all of these leadership and operational experiences, I was fortunate to serve under valued mentors and skilled managers who helped me to develop and refine a leadership perspective that facilitated my eventual promotion to serve in one of the nine most senior FBI leaders for the entire organization. I served as a direct daily advisor to the FBI Director where I provide vulnerability-capability assessments for mission areas such as cyber operations, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, technical special operations, and major crisis management responses. I would like to offer a conversation to share ideas, anecdotal experiences, and lessons learned to build perspectives on the following macro leadership concepts.
Development of a healthy environment is primarily characterized by a consistent atmosphere of mutual support, as facilitated by a three-dimensional approach that is simple and can be applied to most any organizational structure (direct and indirect micro approaches can be specified based upon respective organizational structures, cultures, policies, and practices).
- Interpersonal (Be honest, objective, considerate)
- Organizational (Be accountability-based and results-oriented – Starting with yourself)
- Professional (Be enthusiastic, resilient, communicative, and example-setting)
Leadership is a privilege, is our most valuable resource, and should be treated as a vital resource for any organization. The open sharing of ideas can be one of the best ways to keep a positive, flexible outlook on how we can continue to enjoy ourselves while providing mentorship and development for the leaders of the future. The preceding concepts can be successfully implemented and sustained on all organizational levels.
As a former senior U.S. government official and a currently practicing subject matter expert and consultant, I have had various opportunities to speak in many public forums, as well as in private and classified forums on subjects such as national security threats, security practices, investigations and operations, technological opportunities and challenges, organizational leadership, crisis-risk management, and organizational improvement. Over the course of my career, I delivered a large number of presentations, briefings, keynote addresses, and speeches at various private and-or secure forums on topics such as current and emergent technological threats-opportunities, current and emerging societal threats, counterterrorism operations, counterintelligence concerns, and the value of government-private sector-community partnerships in countering such areas of hazard. I provided Congressional testimony, was a speaker-briefer for Senate and House of Representatives members and staff officers. and served as a regular executive participant in National Security Council briefings and meetings. I have been fortunate to have spoken with various open-source news media representatives and, also, to have been a featured guest on several nationally distributed podcasting programs.
National Security Operations and Policy Development
As a former U.S. Government executive leader in the area of national security operations (counterterrorism, counterintelligence, intelligence, and technical operations) and associated policy development, I conducted business at the national and international policy levels with regard to national security and operational technology programs. The senior government leadership roles I held focused on the development, assessment, and execution of policy and legal/regulatory frameworks across a number of programs, a sample of which is presented in summary fashion below (non-classified operations only):
Executive Assistant Director in charge of the FBI Science and Technology program who provided leadership and business management for the FBI’s investigative technology enterprise and a geographically dispersed workforce of 5,500 people. Senior executive who integrated national security assets, operational technologies, and FBI resources/authorities to identify and interdict risks/threats to the safety of global communities and institutions.
Director of the U.S. Terrorist Screening Center: Senior government official who led global counterterrorism and transnational organized crime global screening for mass transit, aviation, immigration, maritime, VISA, and other sensitive interdiction operations.
Worked directly with the Presidential Civil Liberties Oversight Board to develop, implement, and sustain working policies to fulfill legal and judicial requirements to balance national security operations with the protection of public privacy.
Worked closely with the National Security Council, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security to develop and execute public redress policies for Transportation Security Administration adjudication for “No Fly” and “Selectee” protocols for aviation travel.
Direct policy negotiation on behalf of the U.S. Government with law enforcement, intelligence, and diplomatic leaders (domestic and international) for joint national security information sharing networks and collaborative threat management and interdiction practices.
National collection and administration of biometric criminal justice information – use, accessibility, and retention to ensure data confidentiality-integrity-accessibility.
National background check system for nation-wide gun purchase screening for congressional development of bills regarding 2nd amendment protections and controls.
National criminal justice data collection policies for the collection of U.S. criminal justice statistics such as law enforcement use of force and a new nation-wide platform to modernize the submission and characterization of law enforcement crime data.
Developed practices and policies for the proper handling and processing of encrypted digital devices (for intelligence and evidentiary purposes).
Worked closely with department-level officials to develop policies and practices to address the growing gaps between new technologies/technical platforms and existing legal frameworks.
Provided regular input and subject matter guidance for Congressional members and staff for operational and technical matters that supported the generation of bills, Congressional instructions, or legal analyses at the Department of Justice level.
Technological Operations - Opportunities and Threats
Led the FBI’s investigative technology enterprise as the strategic leader for a geographically dispersed workforce of 5,500 people. Employed national assets, resources, and authorities to identify and interdict risks and threats to communities and institutions through applied technologies. Oversaw the development of agency-wide emergent investigative technical platforms and systems. Drove the upgrade or replacement of aging Infotech and operational technology systems, updated practices, and modernized leadership models. Potential discussions could address technological opportunities and threats for most any type of organization - directly or indirectly.
Enterprise Operations Management: Formulated-executed an annual $1.5B budget-business plan and led blended cadres of scientists, technologists, Infotech professionals, business managers, and investigators. Oversaw program management for sensitive law enforcement technical operations, national criminal justice Infotech systems, biometrics-DNA information repositories, national gun purchase screening systems, 24-hr threat center operations, national security electronic data collection, digital encryption issues, crime scene forensics, supply chain security, insider threats, and covert national security technical operations; Consistently exceeded 99% annual budget efficiency-execution and consistently met-exceeded organizational goals and objectives through documented SES performance appraisals. Implemented a customer-centric approach and integrated branch culture characterized by partnerships, collaboration, and results. Refreshed the branch vision in line with a customer-focused business model and developed-disseminated new mission and vision statements for the branch. Tracked and promoted program results with cognizant leaders, implemented periodic performance accountability sessions, and scheduled intra-branch strategic engagement sessions. Emphasized increased leadership accountability and developed new or updated governance structures in the areas of finance, information technology, human capital management, and secure business operations. Led the development and implementation of a new, customer-oriented communications plan to promote internal and external partner engagement and improve enterprise awareness regarding technical products and services via web site content, personal meetings, program demonstrations, and real-world performance.
Subject Matter Leadership: Forged relationships with U.S. Government agencies (NSC, ODNI, DHS, TSA, CBP. CIA, NSA. NCTC, Dept. of State, DoD, USAID), state/local law enforcement, international officials, and select Fortune 500 private sector leaders to maintain strategic partnerships and sustain advantages over national security threats, criminal organizations, and global competitors. Recognized in international channels as a skilled partner-speaker for technological and investigative opportunities-risks. Delivered risk management guidance for topics such as 5G networks, IoT, data encryption, data privacy, drone operations, cyber-physical security; Conducted interagency operations and delivered presentations and briefs for the White House, Congressional leaders, national-regional law enforcement organizations, INTERPOL, national-local news media, private conferences, and operations that built partnerships, and advanced joint security initiatives. Provided improved technical support to state/local partners for complex technical intercept operations.
Results Oriented: Modernized Management Systems and Business Rules: Identified performance shortfalls in regarding the routine handling of critical criminal justice information for the U.S. National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for gun purchase checks across the country; Worked closely with staff members to upgrade legacy criminal justice data management protocols for a major FBI Infotech system and efficiently redistributed program personnel-resources to promote proper program coverage and establish more effective processes ,Result: Reduced NICS national gun purchase appeal backlogs by -23%, and concurrently reduced legal liability, mitigated litigation threats, promoted officer safety, and protected civil liberties.
Leading Change: Spearheaded Organizational Change: Identified aging legacy programmatic practices and technical infrastructures for FBI biometric facial matching approaches which resulted in lower matching accuracies than deemed acceptable by modern standards and social expectations: Result: Overcame a "status-quo" environment by gaining managerial buy-in, utilizing risk-based reviews, updating business practices, and modernizing algorithmic tools to improve enterprise facial image matching accuracy by +10% for increased national investigative effectiveness and the protection of privacy-civil liberties.
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