Alex Miller is a retired Navy cryptologic officer, who spent more than 33 years in the Navy. He retired in 2005 as a rear admiral while serving as the chief of staff at the National Security Agency. He joined Titan Corporation, which was subsequently bought by L-3 Corporation where he now serves as senior vice president and general manager of the Intelligence Systems Business Unit. Miller is responsible for business within the intelligence sector, primarily the national intelligence agencies, and for some Army and Navy classified business. “I respect tremendously the business environment, the people in it, and how hard they work to serve their customers,” he told TheNewNewInternet. “It’s most impressive.”
TheNewNewInternet: What leadership lessons did you learn in the Navy that helped you in your current role?
Alex Miller: It is very important for your people to have a clear mission and vision. With that established, they are able to understand the context of what they are being asked to do. Further, you must give clear direction and ensure that the means exist to do the job. An open and communicative work environment is the absolutely key to ensuring success. Every human being needs to be validated and needs to receive attention and feedback from their boss. Finally, employees need to know that the utmost in integrity is expected all the time–the boss needs to set the example.
TNNI: You worked as a cryptologist for more than 33 years, what are your thoughts on the researchers who claimed they were able break quantum cryptography, which is considered one of the most secure means of communication?
Miller: While my designated field was called cryptology, I was trained as a Russian linguist and was operational much of my career. I don't have much experience in the field cryptography, but I did get a little experience with the issue at NSA. I’d ask to see the evidence of anyone who says they can break quantum cryptography.
TNNI: Looking at the state of cybersecurity, what do you see as the most significant cyber threat?
Miller: I think there are many cyber threats out there: nation-state, terrorists, illegal activities, to name a few. But I’d say the greatest threat is the ignorance of the people who use computers and the Internet and their failure to realize how vulnerable they really are. Password protection and point defense systems that we use now are very vulnerable, and they [instill] a false sense of security. Securing our computers and trying to mitigate our risk while on the Internet will be a significant issue for the foreseeable future.
TNNI: You have been involved in mentoring students from your alma mater, Wabash College. What aspects of that do you see as most rewarding?
Miller: I really enjoy working with young people and trying to assist them with finding their path in life. I offer what I did; how I made my choices, successes I had and mistakes I made–if I made any. In the process, I hope I am able to impart a bit of wisdom regarding the need to set and achieve goals, and the value of the drive, passion, and persistence and their value to achieving success in life.
TNNI: What’s something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
Miller: A couple of things: Early in high school, I had the goal of being a professional bowler. I was a 225-pound tackle on a division three football team. Additionally, while in college, I toyed with the idea of being political scientist. I still love the subject very much. And I am learning to play the piano. How about that? After three and a half years, I have decided to keep my day job, having accomplished only marginal improvements. Jerry Lee Lewis does not need to feel threatened! But remember what I said about persistence.