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Former National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper ’63 Named Commencement Speaker

UMD ROTC Graduate, Retired General Has Become Author, Commentator on U.S. Policy

By Maryland Today Staff

James R. Clapper '63 speaks at a podium

Photo by LBJ Library/Jay Godwin

James R. Clapper '63 speaks at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, in 2016. He will deliver the University of Maryland’s commencement address on Dec. 17 at the Xfinity Center.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper ‘63, former director of national intelligence and one of the leading military voices to raise questions about current national policies, will deliver the University of Maryland’s commencement address on Dec. 17, the university announced today. Clapper will address thousands of graduates, family and friends during the ceremony at the Xfinity Center.

“During his half century serving our nation’s security, Gen. Clapper earned a reputation for helping unify the intelligence services and speaking truth to power. He has an important message to share with our graduates and this campus,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh.

As director of national intelligence from 2010–17, Clapper led the United States intelligence community and served as the principal intelligence adviser to President Barack Obama.

He later wrote about his career in his best-selling book, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence,” published last year.

“It is a true honor to be chosen to speak at the University of Maryland’s commencement,” said Clapper. “I look forward to returning to my alma mater to address the graduating class on their momentous day.” 

Clapper’s military career began in 1961 with his enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (after which he soon transferred to UMD’s Air Force ROTC program), and culminated with his service as a lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. His intelligence-related positions over his 32 years in uniform included assistant chief of staff for intelligence at Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and director of intelligence for three combatant commands: U.S. Forces Korea, Pacific Command and Strategic Air Command. He served two combat tours in Southeast Asia, flying 73 combat support missions in EC-47s over Laos and Cambodia.

Following his 1995 retirement from the military, Clapper worked for six years as an executive in three companies, focusing on the intelligence community. He also served as a consultant and adviser to Congress and to the departments of Defense and Energy, and as a member of a variety of government panels, boards, commissions and advisory groups. He was a senior member of the Downing Assessment Task Force, which investigated the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996, and vice chairman of a commission chaired by former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia on homeland security, and he served on the National Security Agency Advisory Board.

Clapper returned to the government two days after 9/11 as the first civilian director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. He served in this capacity for almost five years, transforming it into the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, as it is called today.

Prior to becoming director of national intelligence, Clapper served in two administrations as undersecretary of defense for intelligence, where he was the principal staff assistant and adviser to the secretary and deputy secretary on intelligence, counterintelligence and security matters. He was also director of defense intelligence for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Clapper earned a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from the University of Maryland, a master’s degree in political science from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and an honorary doctorate in strategic intelligence from the then-Joint Military Intelligence College.

He has been honored with three National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medals, two Defense Distinguished Service Medals, the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Coast Guard’s Distinguished Public Service Award, three Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Awards, the presidentially conferred National Security Medal, and many other U.S. civilian and military, and foreign government awards and decorations.



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