Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence: Who Is Marcel Lettre?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Marcel Lettre

President Barack Obama on Aug. 5, 2015, nominated Marcel Lettre to be the under secretary of defense for intelligence, a job he is currently filling on an acting basis.


Lettre was born Aug. 9, 1972, in Gainesville, Ga. He’s the son of a former Army officer, also named Marcel, who was a paratrooper. Lettre attended the University of the South-Sewanee, graduating in 1994 with a B.A. in political science. He also earned a master’s degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.


Lettre’s first position after college was as a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In 1995, he was as senior staff assistant in the Office of the President of American University. Around this time, Lettre, his brother Peter and their father hiked the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, taking six months to do so.


In 1998 and 1999, Lettre worked as a senior policy analyst for the Deutch Commission to Assess the Organization of the Federal Government to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction. He took time to earn a master’s in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School in 2000. He then joined the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, leaving there in 2001.


Lettre got a job as a staff member for the House Select Intelligence Committee in 2002. He stayed there until 2005, when he joined the staff of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) as senior defense and intelligence adviser, remaining there as Reid took over as Senate Majority Leader. There he worked on intelligence and defense appropriation legislation and confirmation of defense officials.


In 2009, Lettre moved over to the executive branch as principal deputy assistant secretary for legislative affairs in the Defense Department. He moved up to be special assistant to secretaries of defense Bob Gates, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel, working as deputy chief of staff for Panetta. In 2013, Lettre was named principal deputy under secretary for intelligence and has been acting under secretary since May 2015. In this role, he reports to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.


Lettre is married; he and his wife Simmons have two daughters.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Official Biography


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