Pittsburg State students and community members had the opportunity to meet author, David P. Oakley, at his book signing.
The ‘Meet the Author’ presentation was from 3 to 5 p.m., April 16, in the PSU Bookstore located in the Overman Student Center. Oakley, a PSU alumnus, promoted his debut book “Subordinating Intelligence” which examines the relationship between the CIA and United States Department of Defense (DoD) post-Cold War.
“I started this research when I was in school, I went to a school in Ft. Leavenworth called the School of Advanced Military Studies in 2012 and so part of the graduation requirement for that is you have to write on an issue that’s of what’s called an operation level issue, so I decided to write on..,” Oakley said. “I was curious about the DOD/CIA relationship and started researching it then.”
Oakley worked as an officer for both the CIA and DoD and was interested in the history of the two organizations as they “come from a similar lineage”.
“But the two organizations… their culture is different and so I was curious ‘How did these organizations that have the same lineage, how are they so different?’ and so I started inquiring ‘What’s our history?’ and I kind of started looking back,” he said. “I had done history and intelligence research before as my research focus is intelligence history, and so I started back with the 1947 National Security Act and just started moving forward and really the key years of the 1980’s and 90’s that caught my attention. Particularly, the end of the 1990s because it’s always thought of as the ‘lost decade’, the United States was cutting back on defense, was cutting back on intelligence for the peace dividend. I found through my research that there were certain decisions made during that time, structural and organizational decisions, that provided a structure that was later utilized in the 2000s that improved the partnership between the two organizations. So, without that, the relationship wouldn’t have evolved like it did.”
A Wichita native, Oakley currently still serves in the military and is an assistant professor at National Defense University in Washington D.C. but spent the week in Kansas promoting his book as “kind of like a homecoming.”
“In Kansas, I’m doing here (PSU), the Command General Staff College (in Ft. Leavenworth), (and) University of Kansas,” he said.
Oakley has promoted his book and given book talks more extensively in the D.C. area and on the West Coast including talks at The North America Sighting in Intelligence History that was sponsored by Georgetown, St. John’s Hopkins, the Spy Museum, and the Army War College.
Oakley said his favorite part of book signings are the discussions he is able to have with the people that attend.
“It’s really the conversations I have with people and the discussions with people I get to meet,” he said. “The most fun, and one of my favorite parts about research, is just that intellectual discovery. And even though I’ve finished the book I’m constantly still learning on the topic. So, just having discussions with people is the part I like.”
Fawn Chesnutt, manager of the Gorilla Bookstore, said Oakley contacted the Bookstore in the Fall saying he wanted to host a “meet the author” event in the Spring.
“He really wanted to come back to Pittsburg State because he’s an alumnus of Pitt State and wanted to have a meet the author event here and we were happy to have him,” she said.
Chesnutt said the bookstore likes to “support any local authors or faculty authors, or authors that are alumni.”
“We want to do everything that we can to do to support our alumni and local authors in any way that we can so it’s a great opportunity for the bookstore and for the campus community as a whole,” she said. “So, if we’re ever contacted by someone that’s written a book and would like to host a book signing we absolutely want to support them and will host a book signing.”
Oakley has been back to PSU three times since his graduation in 1998, including a trip back to receive a 2017 Outstanding Alumni Award.
Oakley is currently working on a book proposal for a second book and says he enjoys writing as much as he enjoys research.
“To be honest, a lot of it is personal, I enjoy understanding so part of it is just going through my own intellectual process of wrestling with why something happened, how something happened and then as soon as I get that understanding, share that with others so we can have a discussion on the topic and increase our mutual understanding,” he said.
He said his hope for publishing books is to help citizens have a more informed understanding of the CIA as “at the end of the day, it’s our tax dollars that go to pay for them.”
“I hope it gets them curious about, here’s two very important parts of our national security structure, and they’ve been very busy, and you’ve had dedicated professionals who work for both of them…” he said. “… I think then that informed citizens should have an appreciation for the history, how they came about, what their mission is, what they do. Because at the end of the day, it is our department of defense it is our CIA, so just to have more of an informed understanding as a taxpayer.”