Betty Sapp – D.C.'s Top 50 Women in Tech 2015

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Betty J. Sapp

National Reconnaissance Office

Betty Sapp has been at the helm of the National Reconnaissance Office – a high-tech intelligence collection agency whose very existence was at one time a national secret – since 2012. She is the 18th director of the NRO and the first woman to lead the agency.

NRO satellite systems play a critical role in providing global communications, precision navigation, early warning of missile launches and potential military aggression, signals intelligence, and near real-time imagery to U.S. military forces to support the war on terrorism. Sapp oversees an annual budget of more than $10 billion.

Sapp joined the CIA in 1997, where she was assigned to the NRO. In 2005, she was appointed the deputy director for business plans and operations for the office. As such, she was responsible for all its business functions, including financial operations, preparation of auditable financial statements, business systems development, budget planning, cost estimating, contracting, as well as all executive and legislative liaison activities.

I want my folks to never forget to be pushing the envelope in terms of what's possible.

Under Sapp's leadership, the NRO – which has historically received its employees from across the defense and intelligence communities – began building a core agency workforce to enhance stability across critical national security surveillance programs. In addition, the NRO received a clean financial audit of its business systems six years in a row under Sapp's direction.

Although NRO's existence is now publicly acknowledged and under Sapp's leadership the agency has even joined Facebook, it's still one of the most secretive agencies in the U.S. intelligence community. And Sapp is the first to admit she doesn't like talking in public.

But in one of her rare public speeches at a 2013 Intelligence and National Security Alliance Leadership Dinner, Sapp reminded the audience of the NRO's mission statement: Supra Et Ultra.

“For those of you who don't know Latin, that means 'above and beyond,'" Sapp said. “And I like that because it says not only in terms of how and where we operate in space, but it talks about the fact that I want my folks to never forget to be pushing the envelope in terms of what's possible."

– Dan Verton

Read the full story about this year's selection of D.C.'s Top 50 Women in Technology, and view the full list here.