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Heather McMahon, ARLIS deputy executive director, was recognized in a Pentagon ceremony by Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Hon. Ronald Moultrie with a Presidential Rank Order Award for her distinguished contributions as a defense intelligence senior-level executive.

The Presidential Rank Awards program recognizes and celebrates outstanding senior career employees for their long-term exceptional achievements. Very few employees receive the award: Fewer than 1 percent across the government are recognized. Nominees are selected by the president of the United States.

Deputy Executive Director, Heather McMahon

 Awardees are considered exemplary leaders, experts, or scientists who consistently deliver impressive results and exhibit qualities such as integrity, dedication, hard work, and an unwavering commitment to excellence in public service.

McMahon is a leading expert in counterintelligence, cybersecurity, supply chain risk management, and critical technology protection for defense and intelligence sectors. At ARLIS, she helps spearhead research that integrates social and behavioral sciences, computing, and artificial intelligence to advance critical capabilities for the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.  She also led the development, coordination and publication of the first-ever ARLIS five-year strategy.

Deputy Executive Director, Heather McMahon


Prior to her current role, McMahon served as the senior director to the President's Intelligence Advisory Board in the White House, providing expert advice on national security, counterintelligence, risk management, industrial security, and insider threats.

In 2017, she served as the director for counterintelligence operations in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, leading a comprehensive study on how to improve the effectiveness of counterintelligence programs receiving the approval of the Secretary of Defense. Her efforts secured the approval of five key recommendations, including increased resources for credibility assessment, a vital counterintelligence screening tool. She developed and led programs to safeguard DoD technology, information, personnel, facilities, and critical infrastructure from internal and external threats. Previously, she directed US Army counterintelligence programs and worked as a business development executive in a cybersecurity company.

McMahon is also a highly experienced U.S. Army combat veteran and expert in human intelligence and counterintelligence, with extensive global operational experience, including deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Europe, and Asia. She has received several prestigious awards for her service, including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (3), DoD Counterintelligence Award for Best Counterintelligence Operations Team (2006; Iraq), and Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service (2021).

Deputy Executive Director, Heather McMahon