U.S. spy satellite agency to get female director

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Betty J. Sapp will be the new chief of the U.S. spy satellite agency, the third woman appointed by the Obama administration to head one of the nation’s top intelligence outfits.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday tapped Ms. Sapp to be director of the National Reconnaissance Office, which builds, launches and flies the nation’s spy satellites.

The National Reconnaissance Office is one of the five big intelligence agencies in the Defense Department.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, who also signed off on the appointment, described Ms. Sapp as “a smart, exceedingly professional and unflappable leader whose commitment … sets her apart.”

A former Air Force officer, Ms. Sapp currently is the principal deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office, and has worked at the agency since 1997. She has served in senior management there and elsewhere in the Defense Department since 2005.

She takes over from the current director, retired Air Force Gen. Bruce Carlson, in July, becoming one of three women to head one of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies.

In August 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates named Letitia A. Long to head the National Geospatial-intelligence Agency, which catalogues, interprets and analyzes photographs taken by spy satellites.

In December 2010, the Senate confirmed Michele M. Leonhart as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is considered one of the 17 intelligence agencies.

The National Reconnaissance Office director, like other directors of Defense Department intelligence agencies, does not require Senate confirmation.

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