Is America Ready For A Spymistress?

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TIME’s Bobby Ghosh files this report:

For only the second time in the CIA’s history, a woman has risen to the No. 3 position. Director Leon Panetta today announced that Stephanie O’Sullivan is the new Associate Deputy Director, replacing Scott White, a 39-year veteran who is retiring.

O’Sullivan is among a tiny number of women who have come close to the summit at the leading U.S. intelligence organizations. Unlike Britain, where the MI5 was led by Stella Rimington from 1992-96, and by Eliza Manningham-Buller from 2002-07 (and in fiction, Judi Dench has been James Bond’s boss ‘M’ since 1995’s GoldenEye), neither the CIA nor the FBI has ever been headed by a woman.

The No. 3 position at the Agency was previously designated Executive Director, and only one woman had held that post: Nora Slatkin, in the mid-1990s. Joan Dempsey was the CIA’s Deputy Director of Community Management from 1998-2003, but her job was somewhat narrowly defined as the Agency’s liaison with the rest of the intelligence community. O’Sullivan, on the other hand, will be the equivalent of a Chief Operations Officer in the private sector, working directly under Panetta’s deputy, Steve Kappes.

At the FBI, cryptologist Maureen Baginsky headed the directorate of domestic intelligence during the Bush administration.

“It’s pretty remarkable that we’ve had three women Secretaries of State, but no woman at the head of FBI or CIA,” says Amy Zegart, a national-security expert at UCLA.

O’Sullivan previously led the CIA’s directorate of science and technology. “She is a great steward of resources and goes the extra mile to develop our people, giving officers at all levels opportunities to learn and grow,” Panetta said in a statement.  A civil engineer by training, O’Sullivan started her intel career in the Office of Naval Intelligence, and joined the CIA in 1995.

O’Sullivan’s old job at the CIA’s directorate of science and technology now goes to Glenn Gaffney, who returns to the Agency from secondment to the Directorate of National Intelligence.

In case you were wondering, women make up 45% of the CIA’s workforce.