Skip to main content
University at Buffalo

UB Today

A publication of the University at Buffalo Alumni Association

Fall 2008





Join the Alumni Association

Stop the Press!

To stop receiving the print version and to get e-mail reminders > click here

Or to download a PDF version of this issue > click here

Roger Choplin

Robert Murrett

Vice admiral looks out for 300 million fellow Americans in top intelligence post

Story by Clare O’Shea, MA ’87 & BA ’84

A hurricane wipes out large sections of New York City. Terrorists set up camp near the Khyber Pass.Troops in Iraq plot an airdrop in Kurdistan.

Those scenarios may be hypothetical, but for Vice Admiral Robert B. Murrett, they are similar to the real-life problems he might face routinely. Murrett is director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which provides images of the earth in support of national security. One of more than a dozen members of the U.S. intelligence community, the NGA is not the most familiar. But of course, says Murrett, “the fact that a lot of people don’t know about us is not necessarily a bad thing.”

Murrett close-up

UB degree BA ’75; Most influential professor Selig Adler (1904-1984) of History: “He had a way of connecting with students that was truly remarkable”; Where he met his wife in the UB dorms, where they were both RAs; “Casual” reading “history and government matters, usually on airplanes”

Part of the Department of Defense, the NGA collects and analyzes images and other information for both civilian and military leaders; some of it is classified, some not. The agency also provides images for humanitarian challenges—like the wildfires in California—along with top-secret information “based upon reconnaissance methods,” says Murrett, “on current and potential adversaries to the United States.”

Murrett’s path from Buffalo to Bethesda, MD, home of the NGA, has been long and illustrious. An American history student in the early 1970s, he remembers UB as an exciting place and the history department as “exceptionally strong. [It] did a great job of challenging students and fostering a deep understanding of the United States and its role in the world,” Murrett says. Courses in economics and history, in particular, helped lay the foundation for his career. “Certainly [with] the assignments I’ve had overseas, either afloat or ashore, having that kind of grasp of history has been very helpful,” he says, “because if you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going.”

With public service as his goal, Murrett entered the U.S. Navy after graduation. Over the next 30 years, he earned two master’s degrees (at Georgetown and the Defense Intelligence College) and held diverse positions, including afloat intelligence officer, assistant naval attaché to the U.S. embassy in Oslo, Norway, and commander of the Atlantic Intelligence Command. He was serving as director of naval intelligence when President George W. Bush nominated him to lead the NGA in 2006.

Although he has relished all of his assignments, Murrett’s latest role must be especially satisfying. His job, essentially, is to look out for 300 million Americans.

“Our mission is to do the very best we can for the nation.”

UB in the News

How to protect the Internet

Arun Vishwanath writes an op-ed for CNN about threats to the Internet posed by email breaches during the election campaign and steps that can be taken to limit these threats.

What President Obama will be remembered for

CNBC's Squawk Box interviews Jacob Neiheisel about the highlights of President Obama's legacy and what he will be remembered for.

How kitchen raids in Buffalo sent shock waves through immigrant rights community

Nicole Hallett tells NPR that one of the dangers of an enforcement action is that it makes workers very afraid to come forward and report exploitation.

More of UB in the News