National Ground Intelligence Center Exec. Director Retires after 50 Years of Service
Daniel Morris, Executive Director, National Ground Intelligence Center, Charlottesville, Va., retires on April 28 after nearly half a century of military and civilian service.
Press Release from the National Ground Intelligence Center:
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - Daniel (Dan) Morris, Executive Director, National Ground Intelligence Center, Charlottesville, Va., retires on April 28 after nearly half a century of military and civilian service, leaving behind personal memories and indelible impressions on others across the tactical, operational, and strategic landscape of the Army, Defense and National Intelligence communities.
“As with many people transitioning from full-time service to retirement, there’s a certain amount of nostalgia in leaving because I enjoy the work that I do and genuinely believe in the mission, and over the last 48 years my regrets are few,” Morris said. “Serving my country is an awe-inspiring, humbling experience, whether as a Soldier protecting the homeland, or a senior executive guiding the direction of an agency’s mission, and I’m truly fortunate to have been a small part of it.”
For the past 12 years at the National Ground Intelligence Center, Morris was responsible for oversight of strategic planning, programming, budget execution/performance integration, and change management. He provided operational and enterprise advice to the NGIC Commander, and oversaw all NGIC strategic planning, programming and budgeting activities. As the senior civilian in the Center, he guided performance management and professional development of the civilian workforce, including Senior Executive personnel.
Born and raised in Albemarle County as the eldest son in a family of 10 children, Dan spent most of his pre-adult life living and working on farms in the area. He graduated from Albemarle High School, Class of ’66.
“I did not realize at the time (pre-teen and teen years) what a lifelong education I was getting as we had to do so much for ourselves on the farm,” Morris said. “Hands-on auto repair, carpentry, plumbing and electrical repairs were the realities of our station in life - we learned to do the work ourselves as we could not afford to pay someone else.”
Being taught to operate a tractor at the age of nine and then being trusted to plow fields alone for hours formed Morris’ work ethic. It also taught him the value of persistence and a willingness to tackle ambiguity for which he is known for today.
“I remember learning to drive the family car, a 1947 Chevrolet, at the age of 11 out of necessity, and my father taught me how to shoot rifles and shotguns so I could help put food on the table,” Morris said. “After life on the farm, nothing seemed too hard or unachievable.”
Morris remembers homespun, sage fatherly advice ranging from, ‘if it doesn’t fit, don’t force it’, ‘go get a bigger hammer,’ and, ‘there’s not much which is manmade, that cannot be undone with just a hammer, cold chisel and hacksaw,’ he said, confirming to him that “there are many ways to overcome obstacles.”
After high school, he attended Richmond Professional Institute and Virginia Commonwealth University before becoming a teacher at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. His teaching career was short-lived as he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1970 and entered active duty as an infantryman. His initial goal was to survive, complete the two years of obligated service and then return to teaching high school, he said. In 1971, Morris attended Infantry Officer Candidate School, served as a lieutenant, and then decided in 1974 to make the Army a career.
Nearly 29 years and 15 household moves later, Morris retired from the Army. He was a colonel at the time, serving as the Senior Intelligence Officer (J2) of the U.S. Special Operations Command. After military retirement, he worked in the private sector as a Program Manager, and then President and CEO of a company in Clearwater, Fla.
Following the tragic events of Sep 11, 2001, Morris took a leave of absence from the private sector to support the intelligence surge within the Department of Defense at U.S. Central Command. During his stint at CENTCOM, he saw an opportunity to return to the intelligence profession – a comfort zone in which he had already spent more than 20 years.
“At that point, the potential for more income in the private sector was less of a motivating factor than the intelligence work supporting our forces,” Morris said. “There’s an intrinsic value to know that the work you do is helping our troops downrange, saving their lives - it’s a calling with which no amount of money can compete.”
He was competitively selected for the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service in 2002 and has been in his present position at the NGIC since 2005. From September 2002 thru September 2005, he was the Associate Director of Intelligence for CENTCOM, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. He also served as the Director of Intelligence (J2-Rear) during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and as the senior U.S. intelligence representative to the 61-Nation Global War on Terror Coalition at CENTCOM.
Supported throughout his career by family and friends, Morris credits his success to those who served on his teams and seniors who mentored him along the way. Morris is especially proud of raising his sons to be contributing members of society and building strong supporting teams throughout his military and Senior Executive Service (SES) career.
His journey took him from a rural Albemarle County student to teacher, soldier, and then officer to senior executive. Dan believes he was especially fortunate to have so many people provide encouragement, mentorship and at times the necessary hard truth. He credits Darrell Gardner, a favorite teacher, and Ben Hurt, then principal at Albemarle High School, for their encouragement, advice and assistance in getting into college.
During his military career, leaders such as Col. (Ret) Rick Allenbaugh, Lt. Gen. (Ret) Patrick Hughes, Lt. Gen. (Ret) Jeff Kimmons, Gen. (Ret) John Abizaid and Gen. (Ret) Peter Schoomaker were instrumental in serving as role models and mentors, each providing unique building blocks for his personal and professional development, he said.
Morris attributes his leadership, management and mentorship success to those with whom he’s had the opportunity to work and said that every good leader left him positive ideas that helped shape his own style. Those military leaders, as well as many peers and subordinates, exemplified qualities Morris knew he wanted to emulate, such as remaining calm amidst a crisis and to never judge a book by its cover, he said.
“I am fortunate to have come from a simple station in life to where I am today and it is because of the people with whom I served that demonstrated those positive leadership skills I was inspired to emulate,” Morris said. “They cared enough to stop and tell me when I was doing well and when I needed to do better, and they led by example – those essential qualities are what I tried to incorporate into my personal and professional life as I served as a leader, manager, mentor for others.”
Memorable moments highlight Morris’ career, including returning from combat deployments to the waiting arms of family and friends, becoming a master parachutist, commanding at the battalion and brigade levels, being selected as President and CEO of a private company, and being selected as the first Senior Executive at U.S. CENTCOM.
Inspiring others to join the SES ranks, Morris says to start planning early in one’s career, and probably no later than at the mid-management, GG-13 level.
“Seek out senior or peer positive role models and ask for their advice and mentorship along the way,” Morris said. “Do every job well, as though it was your last, and remember that one’s attitude and aptitude every day is effectively a job interview.”
Dan will be retiring in Greene County, Va., and he and his wife, Darlene, of 47 years look forward to having as much fun in the next 20 plus years ahead as they had in the last 48 years of service in the Army and Department of Defense. His initial focus will be helping family, friends, and improving his golf game.