In Memoriam: Michael S. Swetnam, Founder, CEO, and Chairman of the Board, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
It is with extreme sadness that we share the passing of our leader, colleague, and friend Michael S. Swetnam. He was the Founder, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Words cannot express the sorrow upon losing someone so important to the PIPS family.
Mr. Swetnam dedicated his life to the service of our country, spending nearly a quarter century in the U.S. Navy, both as an active and reserve officer. He then worked for the Director of Central Intelligence as a Program Monitor on the Intelligence Committee Staff. He developed and presented the National Security Agency Budget to Congress. He also helped develop, monitor, and present the DOE Intelligence Budget to Congress. From 1990-1992, Mr. Swetnam served as a Special Consultant to President George H. W. Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. There, he provided expert advice on Intelligence Community issues and assisted in authoring the Board’s assessment of Intelligence Community support to Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Before founding the Potomac Institute, Mr. Swetnam worked in the private sector as a Vice President of Engineering at the Pacific-Sierra Research Corporation, Director of Information Processing Systems at GTE, and Manager of Strategic Planning for GTE Government Systems.
Mr. Swetnam was passionate about national security. He authored and co-authored several books and edited many articles on the subject, including: Al-Qa’ida: Ten Years After 9/11 and Beyond, Cyber Terrorism and Information Warfare, and Usama bin Laden’s al-Qaida: Profile of a Terrorist Network. “There have always been small groups and individuals who have threatened societies and nations around the world. The difference today is that advanced technologies, particularly the spread of advanced technologies of mass destruction are enabling these groups to threaten us in a way that, in the past, was reserved only to nation states,” Swetnam once told the Nuclear Threat Initiative Project.
Mr. Swetnam also served on several boards and committees. He’d been a member of the Technical Advisory Group to the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence where he provided expert advice to the U.S. Senate on the research and development investment strategy of the Intelligence Community. He was also Chairman of the Term Limits Referendum Committee (1992-93); President (1993) of the Montgomery County Corporate Volunteer Council, Montgomery County Corporate Partnership for Managerial Excellence (1993); and the Maryland Business Roundtable (1993). He was on the Board of Directors of Space and Defense Systems Inc., Dragon Hawk Entertainment Inc., and the Governing Board of the Potomac Institute of New Zealand.
“Mike’s influence spanned decades, both in and out of government. His many contributions to our national security were, at times, concrete and, at times, intangible, but equally significant. He addressed so many issues that his full influence can never be fully measured but is certainly consequential. The Potomac Institute will shine as a lasting symbol and enduring influence. It is his true legacy.”
- Gary L. Sojka, Secretary/Treasurer and Member of the PIPS Board of Directors
One could say the creation of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies was one of Mr. Swetnam’s “Bold Ideas.” He recognized the importance of Science and Technology and the crucial role they play in our nation’s security. “We are advocating Science and Technology as a part of the full solution that includes economic and social values and indicators because they really do go together,” Swetnam once said. His philosophy for PIPS was to always maintain objectivity and credibility, remaining independent of any federal or state agency, political party, or private concern. He said PIPS is proud to call itself “fiercely objective” by divorcing political issues from policy challenges. He believed the challenge at PIPS is to anticipate the problems our society will face in the future and work toward establishing meaningful policy options for addressing these problems before they come to fruition. He expected a lot from the PIPS team, set a very high bar, but also knew the value of surrounding himself with smart, driven people who he knew would only make the work better.
“Mike always pushed us to do our best. He was very proud of our work in the S&T field, and was happy to stay behind the scenes, while providing invaluable support and advice to the many sectors of government. He always wanted to go the extra mile for our staff."
- Gail Clifford, Potomac Institute VP for Financial Management and CFO
“Mike made sure we had the tools needed to do our jobs and take care of our families at the same time. He was my mentor and friend. He influenced all those he came into contact with, looking to always change things for the better. I can speak for all of us at PIPS when I say Mike was family. He will be truly missed."
- Dr. Jennifer Buss, Potomac Institute President
"Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences are with all of Mike’s family and loved ones as well as his multitude of friends. As we cope with the tragic loss of our beloved leader, and colleague Mike, we at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies must continue to go forward as Mike would expect us to do. Let's all stick together and make that happen as a lasting tribute to a great American Patriot."
- General Al Gray, USMC (Ret.), Senior Fellow; Chairman, Board of Regents; and Member, Board of Directors
Mr. Swetnam is survived by his son Alex, his daughter Kelly, and his grandchildren, Tommy, Alex, Josh and Bella, and a great-granddaughter, Zoey. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to his family.