From an early age, Deborah Frincke has been a keen observer. Her own backyard, teeming with life, was endlessly fascinating and fragile, sparking a desire to learn how the world works, and later, how to protect it.
As an avid reader, her fondness for J.R.R. Tolkien, adventure stories about King Arthur and Robin Hood and books from the Smithsonian – all of which focus on guarding communities – had cultivated a recurring theme that has appeared regularly throughout her career.
“I was reading books that balanced how the world works with what needs to be done to make the world a better and safer place,” Frincke said. “That tended to be what those stories were about.”
Frincke joined Oak Ridge National Laboratory as associate laboratory director for the National Security Science Directorate, or NSSD, in 2020, tasked with leading multiple research and development endeavors to guide science-based solutions to complex threats that put public safety, national defense, energy infrastructure and the economy at risk.
“I believe that making the world a safer, more secure place is rooted in the underpinnings of science,” she said. “A better understanding of the digital world and, more broadly, how national security is related to technology will help us inform and arm decision makers with the best defenses against threats across national and global systems.”
“Given Deb’s exemplary work and reputation, we’re pleased to have her expertise and leadership at the helm of ORNL’s missions in national security science,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “Her commitment is invaluable as she guides cross-disciplinary teams in developing science-based solutions toward a safer, more secure world.”
Prior to ORNL, Frincke served in a variety of roles at the National Security Agency between 2011 and 2020, most recently as the agency’s Director of Research. While at the NSA, she led what is perhaps the largest in-house research organization in the U.S. Intelligence Community. She also was a founding member of the NSA Board of Directors, served as the agency’s Science Advisor and was the first NSA Innovation Champion.
Frincke has become one of the nation’s preeminent…