Paul R. Kolbe is the Director of the Intelligence Project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Relations. The Intelligence Project at the Belfer Center — home to an elite roster of former senior intelligence officers — seeks to prepare a new generation of officers for leadership in the intelligence community, to educate current and future policymakers on the uses and limits of intelligence, and to enrich the experience of Harvard Kennedy School students and fellows. The program includes an international cadre of Recanati-Kaplan fellows and the Elbe Group, which maintain dialogue between U.S. and Russian former senior intelligence and military officers.
In his role, Kolbe focuses on preparing a new generation of intelligence leaders for the public and private sectors while advancing policy-relevant knowledge in intelligence areas. Kolbe’s role is instrumental to shaping how well intelligence agencies protect nations facing traditional threats such as terrorism, great power competition and espionage — all joined by new challenges posed by cyberattacks, large-scale disinformation, and climate change. “Intelligence is central to the critical issues our world faces today,” Kolbe says.
He encourages aspiring intelligence and security professionals to deepen their understanding of the mission, strategy and goals of the organizations they serve. He explains, “Whether working for the government or the private sector, your role is to facilitate the success of your colleagues, leadership, and clients. You can only do this if you have an intimate understanding of what the organization you serve is trying to accomplish and what obstacles stand in the way. I encourage you to develop mastery of intelligence and security tradecraft skills, but also deep substantive knowledge on how evolving technologies, geopolitics and social issues will affect your organization and how it must adapt to a rapidly changing world. Stasis is fatal.”
Prior to his role as Director of the Intelligence Project, Kolbe led British multinational gas company BP’s Group Intelligence Team, supporting threat warning, risk mitigation and crisis response. He built an enterprise-wide intelligence capability focused on geopolitical threat intelligence, strategic cyber intelligence and business intelligence for BP Leadership, security networks and global business units. His clients included C-suite leadership, global business units, security networks and legal teams.
“At BP, I was proud that we unlocked the capability of the intelligence team to serve not only traditional security requirements but to also act as a catalyst for better decision making in ambiguous environments across a wide array of corporate functions, geographic teams and complex issues,” he says. “In a world where executives are plagued with either too much or too little information, a strong intelligence team and process provides an enormous competitive advantage, reduces risk and increases decision confidence.”
He is a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Operations and former head of its Central Eurasian Division, as well as a Member of the Senior Intelligence Agency. His overseas assignments — which include operational and leadership roles in the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, Southeast Asia, Southern Africa and Central Europe — were recognized in the form of various awards, such as the Intelligence Medal of Merit and the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal.
Currently, Kolbe is a Senior Advisor to the Martin+Crumpton Group, SpyCraft Entertainment and Marlow Strategy. He is a member of the Cipher Brief network of experts and a graduate of Michigan State University’s James Madison College, where he studied international relations.
Kolbe frequently shares his knowledge and leadership expertise on how to safely navigate the complex, unstable, global security environment. He is the author of several articles, including “A CEO’s Brief Guide to Intelligence,” “With Hacking, the United States Needs to Stop Playing the Victim,” and “US Response to SolarWinds Cyber Penetrations: A Good Defense Is the Best Offense.”
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