In Memoriam: Kenneth Michael Absher, Fellow, Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs
Kenneth Michael Absher, a Fellow of the Bush School’s Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) and a lecturer at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service passed away on August 25, 2012. At the Bush School, Mr. Absher encouraged and advised students interested in public service, particularly in the U.S. intelligence community. In 2011, he led a group of Bush School students in a capstone research project which assessed the effectiveness of interagency coordination within the intelligence community. The results of the study were presented to the Director of National Intelligence.
Born in Wichita, Kansas and raised in San Antonio, Mr. Absher graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy and Princeton University, where he earned a B.A. in philosophy. He served in the U. S. Army, and in 1961 began what would be a 31-year career with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). When he retired in 1993, he was a member of the Senior Intelligence Service, having served over 31 years in the Directorate of Operations, now known as the National Clandestine Service. Mr. Absher was Chief of Station in two different field assignments, and chief of base in two others. He had four tours in CIA headquarters managing foreign intelligence operations.
During his long and distinguished career, Mr. Absher served in Western Europe, the Caribbean and Indochina. He provided direct intelligence support to the US handling of major Cold War events such as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis; the Vietnam War; the 1983 military and rescue operation in Grenada (Operation "URGENT FURY"); and the break-up of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Mr. Absher’s service to the nation was recognized with numerous honors, including twice being awarded the CIA’s Intelligence Medal of Merit, given for performance of especially meritorious service or for achievement conspicuously above normal duties.
After his retirement, Mr. Absher taught at the University of Texas at San Antonio and the National Defense Intelligence College in Washington D.C. and was a consultant on intelligence issues to numerous government departments, agencies, and commissions, including the Aspin/Brown Commission’s appraisal of U.S. intelligence (1996); and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence where he contributed to its staff study, “IC21: Intelligence Community in the 21st Century”. In 1999, Mr. Absher published an article in CIA's "Studies in Intelligence" on the Agency's role in Operation URGENT FURY, which won an award from CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence.
From January 2003 to February 2005, Mr. Absher served on the Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Antonio, and was appointed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to three accountability review boards to investigate terrorist attacks in Iraq which killed eleven US mission personnel. For seven weeks in the summer of 2006, Mr. Absher worked in the Office of the Director of CIA and the DNI representative at the headquarters of the US Pacific Command Assessing the North Korean Missile launches. He also served on the Board of Directors of the World Affairs Council of San Antonio; and on the board of the National Defense Intelligence College Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Absher’s study of the role of intelligence in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Mindsets and Missiles: A First Hand Account of the Cuban Missile Crisis was published in 2009. In 2012 Mr. Absher, together with co-authors Dr. Michael Desch and Ambassador Roman Popadiuk, published the first scholarly account of the history and role of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, entitled Privileged and Confidential: The Secret History of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
Bush School Acting Dean Andrew Card noted Absher’s significant contributions to the nation’s security and his patriotism. “We were honored to have Mike Absher on our faculty. Our students had access to his cogent analysis of intelligence and security issues, and also saw an outstanding example of a devoted public servant. Mike was an ardent patriot, dedicated public servant, distinguished practitioner and scholar of the role of intelligence in American statecraft, committed participant in the life of the Bush School and Scowcroft Institute, and friend and counselor to Bush School students since 2005. He will be missed by us all. We look forward to celebrating Mike’s life in the days ahead.”