On October 9, 2006, North Korea set forth a series of literal and metaphorical shockwaves when it detonated a nuclear device. This nuclear test confirmed what we had long known, that there is no greater threat to our national security and, in fact, global security than the rogue regime in North Korea. The closed nature of North Korea makes intelligence collection particularly difficult and demands that the United States have some of our most intelligent, creative and dedicated people working to try to determine what North Korea’s next step might be. Twenty-eight-year-old Markus Garlauskas possesses all of those qualities in spades, and his service has been indispensible to U.S. intelligence efforts in the region.
Markus Garlauskas began on his path of service to America as a junior ROTC cadet at his high school in Euclid, OH. Years later, Garlauskas’ career in intelligence started when he was working toward his Masters degree at Georgetown. It was there that he developed a paper with ideas to fundamentally improve national-level intelligence support to overseas commands.
His work at Georgetown got him noticed by U.S. Army intelligence officials who selected him from more than 200 applicants for a new management internship program, and sent him to South Korea as an intelligence analyst. At the conclusion of his two-year internship, he was immediately offered a permanent position. The catch was that they wanted him to stay in South Korea. This could have been a difficult decision for the young family man, but, for him, it was easy. He accepted.
By the time of North Korea’s nuclear test, he had risen to become Chief of J2 Intelligence Estimates for U.S. Forces in Korea, an unprecedented achievement for someone of his age. During the time surrounding the nuclear detonation and ever since, he has led the team that has provided key insights to help South Korean and U.S. leaders prepare for North Korea’s next move.
Garlauskas and his team of South Korean and American analysts are responsible for creating the Peninsula Intelligence Estimate (PIE) from the intelligence gathered by the allied efforts of their nations. This is a 3,000-page living document in two languages and is the definitive intelligence analysis that guides military planning for both U.S. and South Korean military officials. Long before the nuclear test, Garlauskas led an effort to transform the PIE. He organized and led a fundamental expansion of the Estimate’s methodology, structure and content to address emerging threats and challenges requiring entirely new approaches.
His efforts to update and improve U.S. intelligence practices extend beyond just the PIE. Intelligence analysis designed to forecast the future, called estimative intelligence, is an art and a science that many in the intelligence community are still trying to figure out. He and his team have produced numerous articles, papers and studies that advance the cutting edge of how estimative intelligence is performed and utilized. A 2006 article he wrote for the Military Intelligence Corps Association’s journal was cited by the editor as a “must read,” and the Association has awarded him their Knowlton Award, the organization’s highest honor for outstanding military intelligence officials.
Beyond his duties as an intelligence official, in many ways, Garlauskas also serves as a diplomat. Most of his work requires that he build consensus between U.S. and South Korean officials. His ability to bridge cultural differences and earn the trust of high-ranking Korean officials has been essential to his success.
You could also add teacher to the list of appropriate job descriptions. Garlauskas’ loves his job, and he has gone out of his way to mentor younger colleagues and encourage them to build careers in military intelligence. As one of his senior colleagues said, “What makes him so invaluable is the way he goes about his weighty responsibility. A natural educator, he has an amazing ability to work issues to closure against impossible deadlines, while still taking time to coach, teach and mentor the future analysts. In 25 years of service, I have never seen anyone do this as well, and with such a positive outcome.”
U.S. workers in South Korea like to say that they are “defending freedom’s frontier.” In this key region of the world, the American people can feel better knowing that Markus Garlauskas is on the front lines.