CHDS Alum Ramsey Rides Rapid Rise to Top of CBP Administration

Rising from a newly minted government employee to the top administrator at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s National Border Security Intelligence Watch in fewer than a dozen years has been a surprise for Center for Homeland Defense and Security Master’s Program alum Kimberly Ramsey. 

Ramsey is appointed acting Executive Director of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol National Border Security Intelligence Watch

And she’s crediting CHDS with helping her prepare for taking a leadership role so soon. 

Ramsey, who started at USCBP as a contractor in 2008 before transitioning to a federal government employee in 2010, is currently serving a 240-day assignment as the Acting Executive Director of the National Border Security Intelligence Watch Directorate after being appointed as a Deputy Executive Director for the agency in June last year. 

“I always knew I wanted to be in leadership, but never envisioned myself being where I am this early in my career,” Ramsey said. “I’d credit my success to preparation. I tell people all the time that success is found at the intersection of preparation and opportunity. (CHDS) gave me the tools to prepare for future leadership opportunities.” 

As Acting Executive Director, Ramsey provides executive leadership with around-the-clock threat monitoring and situational awareness of all USCBP operations. She oversees two divisions, including the Indications and Warnings Division and the Joint PED Operations (JPOC) Division, and six branches. She is described as an “award-winning, innovative leader with diverse senior-level experience” at USCBP.  

Kimberly Ramsey poses with the CHDS Master’s cohort 1506/1507 at graduation

Ramsey earned her CHDS Master’s degree in 2017 as part of Master’s cohort 1505/1506, and calls it a “life-changing” experience. She said she didn’t know what to expect when she joined the CHDS Master’s program while serving as the JPOC branch chief, but when she looked to her “formal and informal mentors, CHDS was always the common denominator.” 

“Little did I know how impactful and life-changing CHDS would be,” she said. “CHDS provided me with the ability to implement strategy and policy at scale, execute a whole-of-government response to crises, and the expanded network needed to do so.” 

According to Ramsey, she was able to implement the lessons learned at CHDS quickly when responding to a number of challenges at her agency including the 2018 Migrant Crisis, 2019 Hurricane Dorian, and the 2020-21 COVID-19 Pandemic Response. 

Ramsey and staff with COVID-19 U.S. Customs and Border Patrol employee safety kits in 2020

In addition, she said findings from her CHDS Master’s thesis entitled, “Policy Challenges and Considerations: Developing a U.S. Customs and Border Protection ISR Strategy to Promote Integration, Innovation, and Agility,” have since been used to promote the CBP’s Intelligence Enterprise Collection Management Tool, integration of the Intelligence Community Research and Development sensors, and the leveraging of start-up companies to promote agility in the acquisitions process. 

Ironically, Ramsey said she was ready to quit during the first CHDS Master’s in-residence session, walking out of class after longtime Master’s faculty member Chris Bellavita “challenged me in ways that I had never been.” 

“What I didn’t realize at the time was that (Bellavita) was just forcing me out of my comfort zone so that I could grow,” she said. “Being an intelligence analyst and an executive briefer, I wasn’t used to that. Today, I welcome folks to challenge me in the same way.” 

While Ramsey described the CHDS instructor cadre as “phenomenal,” she said Bellavita stood out.  

Ramsey receives a 2017 Unity of Effort Award during the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Award Ceremony

Ramsey said her message to fellow CHDS alumni is “thank you for all you do. No matter the time of day, you always answer my calls. The friendships we’ve built are irreplaceable.” 

And to those homeland security professionals who are thinking about applying, she advised them to “trust the process. Push out all doubt and embrace each experience with an open mind.” 

During her tenure with USCBP, Ramsey has served as Director of the Current and Emerging Threats Division; Branch Chief of the JPOC; Full Motion Video Analyst at the Air and Marines Operations Center; Targeting Intelligence Analyst for the National Security Threat Analysis Branch; and, Senior Watch Officer for the Commissioner’s Situation Room and Intelligence Watch.

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment | hissvora@nps.edu, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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