Breckenridge addresses Vienna Summit

Erin McGarrity, Staff writer

James Breckenridge, Ph.D., dean of the Tom Ridge School of Intelligence Studies and Information Science, joined world leaders and gave a keynote address at the Insider Threat Summit last week in Vienna, Austria.
This year’s Insider Threat Summit addressed the growing concern surrounding the spread of nuclear weapons. Representatives from 35 countries came together to promote the peaceful usage of nuclear technology and discuss the problem’s effects in different sectors.
The summit invited Breckenridge to give one of the conference’s few keynote speeches. He spoke about “Preparing the Next Generation Security Expert,” focusing on how the intelligence community can use their knowledge to reduce the major insider threats posed by nuclear weapons.
“Most people there knew nothing about intelligence, so I just tried to impart to them what I impart to my students – intelligence can be found in every profession and discipline. I think they found that very interesting,” Breckenridge said.
The summit also consisted of various panel discussions and workshops, each centered around a different field and its capabilities of dealing with nuclear threats. The majority of the representatives came from fields relating to nuclear engineering, nuclear physics and security of nuclear facilities.
According to Breckenridge, this collaboration with professionals from all angles of this issue proved fruitful. In fact, they noticed one distinct commonality.
“All organizations have disgruntled employees; so, depending on the degree to which you build a positive participatory culture, you can mitigate some of that. It’s all about creating a positive work environment to try to avoid incident,” Breckenridge explained.
On a global scale, Breckenridge outlined the benefits provided by this summit to professionals in all sectors.
“It allows us to think more comprehensively about threats to our infrastructure – a pretty important infrastructure, mind you,” he said.
The Mercyhurst community also benefitted from the summit. Many world leaders, who previously knew nothing about intelligence, have offered to come speak to Mercyhurst students about how to pinpoint insider threats. The experience also made the school’s brand much more well-known, according to Breckenridge.
“On a much smaller scale, we’re talking about a very influential group of people that now knows a lot about Mercyhurst. We can definitely use their expertise. The experience was very fruitful for our program, because you’re getting new perspectives and a cultural exchange. I think that’s very valuable,” Breckenridge said.
From Oct. 12-14, Breckenridge will continue influencing young intelligence professionals at James Madison University, where academic leaders have invited him to perform an external review of their school’s Intelligence and Information Science program.
Breckenridge will sit down with the executive leadership of the university and interview various faculty members and students. James Madison University has already conducted an internal review of the program, so his assessment will serve as a helpful supplement.
When asked if he has noticed any increase in the prevalence of intelligence departments in undergraduate universities, especially in light of the field’s growing importance, Breckenridge offered some insight.
“The only thing I’ve noticed is an increase in departments, like political science or government, with small Intelligence Studies aspects or concentrations built in. I still have yet to see anything that compares to Mercyhurst,” said Breckenridge.