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NEW @ THE ACADEMY

Meet Our Fellows: Belkis Leong-Hong (‘15)

Ms. Belkis Leong-Hong is the Founder, President, and CEO of Knowledge Advantage Inc., a woman-owned, SDB-certified company specializing in delivery of a wide array of services on Information Technology and Knowledge Management Solutions, Program Management And Analysis, Strategic Planning, Leadership Development, Training, Human Capital, and Workforce Initiatives. Her clients include Government agencies, Fortune-100 companies, systems integrators, product companies, and small IT services companies.

As a former General/Flag-equivalent senior executive in DOD, with 30 years of public service, Ms. Leong-Hong has held a number of high-level positions that include serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, where she managed a multi- billion dollar portfolio in Command and Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence (C4I) programs, congressional relations, information technology policies, and strategic planning; Principal Director and CIO at the Defense Security Service (DSS); Deputy Commander of the Joint Interoperability and Engineering Organization (JIEO) at Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) responsible for over 1500 computer scientists and engineers, and where she also served as Director for Center for Information Management, and Director for Information Engineering. Her achievements include establishing and implementing the first DOD-wide Data Administration function for the Department of Defense; creating the first Center of Software Excellence in DISA; implementing the first DOD-wide Corporate Information Management initiative; establishing and managing several DOD-wide BPR efforts, to include civilian personnel, medical logistics, and finance; actively participated as a group lead in the consolidation of IT capabilities and resources under the new DISA banner; and actively contributor to the first C4ISR enterprise architecture and standards development.

Here is a recent interview with Bel:

  1. What do you enjoy most about the work you do?

I enjoy creating solutions—from conceptualization to implementation.  Today, I do that in multiple fronts.  

  1. How did you get involved in public service and what motivates you to continue your work?

I went into public service   right out of college, and went to work at the then-National Bureau of Standards as a GS-7 Mathematician!    At that stage in my life, it was an exciting job.  As a young Mathematician, I was given latitude to do research on my own, and to contribute something to the nascent field of computer science at the time.. I had the chance to specialize in data science, and was asked to write (and publish)  a book about my research, a couple of years after I started to work at NBS (now NIST)… such heady acknowledgement spurred me on to excel.  I had opportunities to move to the private sector to make a lot more money, but I did not.   I knew I was contributing to the public good doing what I was doing, and I stayed… it was many years later, when I was attending the Key Executive program at AU, that one of my professors, the late Charlie Levine, gave voice to what I knew in my guts:  that   I was embarked in   a life long journey in public service.   And indeed, it was Charlie that put into words what I felt in my heart:  the pride of being a Public Servant. 

  1.  What advice would you give someone entering the Public Administration field?

When you go into public administration, remember that you are going into a world of service, that the end product is not profit, but contribute to the public good.  Every career path you can take in the corporate world, you can also take in the public side—only,  the motives and the ethos are  different—not better and not worse, just different:  In the Public Sector, your efforts will ultimately have a greater impact in our country, in our society, and even our environment.   Be prepared to make a difference!

  1. Looking at the present and into the future, what do you think a public administration “Grand Challenge” is or might be?

In the present and in the future, our “Grand Challenge” is strategic messaging and communication about the importance of the role of public administration, and public service in our society.  Most recently, there has been such negative publicity about those in public service that not only are we undervalued, in some cases we are spoken of with scorn.  We must change that perception.

  1. Reflecting on your career thus far, is there a highlight, a greatest accomplishment or a funny story you’d like to share?

Greatest accomplishment was when I was asked to lead  the “Corporate Information Management “ or CIM Initiative at the DOD—and created the foundation for a DOD  wide Business Process Reengineering  effort  that  brought   functional efficiencies, and eliminated unnecessary redundancies.  Most important take away from that effort was learning about and getting to know some of the    truly outstanding talents we have in the Department of Defense at all levels of the echelons.  It made me immensely proud to be one of the family!!

  1. If you could make a soundtrack to your life what is one song that would need to be on your playlist?

“To Dream the Impossible Dream… to fight the impossible fight” from Don Quijote de la Mancha

  1. What was your first job?

My very first job was a keypunch operator for the University of New York Medical Center.

  1.  What is your favorite time of the year and why? 

Spring… because I see the new tree buds, the pretty flowers…I see renewal…  and because it is new  life, after  a dreary cold, barren winter.

  1. What is the best part about where you live?

It is quiet, and yet easily accessible to civilization.  Far enough from the city that I have to make an effort to go into the city.

  1. What is your pizza order?

Extra cheese, green pepper, mushroom and some sausage.

  1. If you could have a dinner party with anyone in history, who would you have dinner with and why?

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  She lived in a critical time in our history, a time of great patriotism, a time of massive change.   I would love to meet her, and talk to her about her time, her challenges, and her triumphs.

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