Anatomy of a Decision

Decisions in the Situation Room

Michael Vickers

Former U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers discusses his role in the 2011 raid in which Osama Bin Laden was killed, evaluating risk and strategic certainty, and how to create paths to success in the decision-making process.

Interviewed by Eric Jaffe, GLG’s Head of Research for NAFS


“Unless you had definitive intelligence after, you might have uncertainty, and you would suffer the foreign policy consequences of why did you do this strike on this area, and did you get him, and could you prove it.”

“You examine all options…you have to just work it through every step of the way to see that you have a good chance of succeeding and then work out the problems, so your confidence builds as you refine an option—but it’s never one hundred percent.”


About Michael Vickers

Michael Vickers was the key operational strategist for the operation in the 1980s to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, for the ongoing war with al-Qaeda and played a major policy and planning role in the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. From 2011 to 2015, Vickers served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and the Chief Executive Officer of the Defense Intelligence Enterprise, an $80 billion, 180,000-person, global operation that includes the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, Defense Security Service, and the intelligence components of the Military Services and Combatant Commands. Vickers is currently a senior advisor to a major private investment firm and to In-Q-Tel, the Intelligence Community's strategic commercial investment arm. Vickers is also a voluntary member of the Senior Advisory Group to the Director of National Intelligence and serves on several corporate, government, and foundation boards. He holds a B.A. in international relations from the University of Alabama, an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. in International Relations and Strategic Studies from the Johns Hopkins University and was the recipient of the Presidential National Security Medal.


Read more:

A Secret Warrior Leaves the Pentagon as Quietly as He Entered, The New York Times
Getting Bin Laden, The New Yorker
Breaking down the Situation Room, The Washington Post