TO: Director, NCIS
FROM: Louis Ochoa, Deputy Director NCIS
SUBJECT: Leadership Evaluation #3, Los Angeles OSP Station, Investigator Martin Deeks
Per your previous request, I’m submitting this report upon the conclusion of my temporary oversight at the Los Angeles OSP station. This report evaluates the leadership potential of the special agents currently assigned, as well as their LAPD liaison officer (currently an NCIS Investigator). To facilitate evaluation, each team member’s report is submitted separately. The formats are identical, including the opening Methodology and History sections.
METHODOLOGY: I approached this assignment using the framework articulated by LTCOL Pete Blaber, USA (Ret), a decorated veteran of a classified organization (SOFD: Delta) popularly known as Delta Force. According to Blaber, a successful leader organizes their priorities in the following order: The Mission, The Men, and Me. Other units use variations like “mission first, people always,” but I find Blaber’s framework especially sound for the purpose at hand. Using my observations and knowledge gained from reviewing past operations, I will evaluate each OSP member based on those three criteria, placing them in the order each member uses them in practice.
HISTORY: The history of this station is tied irrevocably to their Operations Manager, Henrietta Lange. Ms. Lange is UA (Unauthorized Absence), but her imprint on this station and its agents cannot be overstated. I have never seen a group as loyal to their leader as this team is to Lange. A similar situation existed, although to a lesser degree, with Assistant Director Owen Granger when he was posted to Los Angeles, and it is impossible to evaluate this team without examining those two individuals.
Henrietta Lange is a veteran intelligence officer, far more suited to covert work than traditional NCIS investigative duties. When evaluated against the Blaber criteria, her demonstrated priorities come out as Mission, Me, Men. Lange will always prioritize the mission ahead of everything else, but it bears noting that her definition of the mission is not always in line with orders or institutional goals. She can (and does) go her own way, although usually without directly (or intentionally) involving her team. A strong component of self-interest runs though many of Ms Lange’s actions, and she almost pathologically withholds information from those around her…even when that information is vital to their mission. It is, I feel, no accident that at least two of her most visible proteges (Special Agent Lauren Hunter and Executive Assistant Director Shay Mosley) had poor relationships with their subordinates and the habit of orchestrating their own missions, often supplanting NCIS directives and instructions. They also withheld information in a way similar to Lange, often with less than optimal results.
Owen Granger’s time in Los Angeles was cut short due to his death, but his impact on the team is second only to Lange’s. On the Blaber scale, Assistant Director Granger scores clearly as Mission, Men, Me. He seems to have taken a hands-on approach to OSP, to the point of accompanying them in the field functioning as a special agent on multiple occasions. He and Lange had known each other for at least three decades, and Granger was one of the few who could (and seems to have) questioned both her motives and motivations on more than a few occasions. He also took a direct interest in developing the skills of many members of the team. Assistant Director Granger was a powerful balancing force in OSP, and I feel his loss has not been truly appreciated by NCIS.
Of interest for this evaluation: Lange hand-picked each member of the OSP team, including one who began as their LAPD liaison officer. I believe this was done in part so she could be sure no one within the team would challenge her leadership. In other words, this team was designed to remain in a subordinate position to their Operations Manager. With one exception, each team member has suffered at least one significant personal loss in their formative years, leaving them psychologically open to influence by an authority figure. The final team member has a strong military background, leaving him conditioned to respond without question to an authority figure. It is possible that Lange orchestrated the departure of Operational Psychologist Nate Getz (who became a Special Agent) to clear the way for her own development of the team without an outside expert being able to observe. Note this is my personal theory; no documentary evidence exists to support it and Getz has been remarkably quiet about both his time with OSP and his transition.
OSP TEAM: The OSP members evaluated by these reports are Grisha Callen, Sam Hanna, Kensi Blye, Martin Deeks, and Nell Jones. This is due to their leadership (or presumed leadership) capabilities and potential to run OSP. Technical Operator Eric Beale and the two newcomers to OSP are not considered.
MARTIN DEEKS: Like most of Lange’s picks for OSP, Deeks has a background containing personal tragedy (he comes from a broken home and as a child was forced to shoot his own father in self-defense). Deeks is the most educated member of the team (he is a California bar-certified lawyer as well as a veteran of LAPD’s Central Division and various long-term undercover assignments). Significantly, he was added to the team by Lange personally and without the knowledge of the other team members (he first encountered Special Agent Hanna in an undercover role). Records indicate it took some years for the team to fully accept him, and even now (based on my observations) he seems somewhat apart from the rest (including, at times, his own wife – Special Agent Blye) on some occasions.
On the Blaber scale, Deeks comes down firmly as Men, Mission, Me. His loyalty to the team (Men) is beyond question, even in the early days when they did not accept him or appreciate his abilities. He accompanied them into Mexico as part of Mosley’s rogue operation out of loyalty to the team (Mosley had already removed him from the team when he rightly questioned both her conduct and her motives). During Operation Center Stage he endured torture at the hands of a Russian arms dealer without revealing the identity of a CIA case officer (also Special Agent Hanna’s wife) even after (as I learned during my own investigation) Special Agent Hanna questioned his character. His Men loyalty extends beyond the OSP team, as his interactions with Gurkha Jebediah Thapa (see file T45A) demonstrate. His ability to establish rapport with outsiders is of considerable value, although this is one area that seems to have regressed slightly as his connection with the core OSP team became stronger. He has routinely pushed himself beyond normal endurance when a member of his team is in danger (I noted at least two instances when Investigator Deeks left a hospital bed and provided crucial assistance to a teammate…one of these occurred after the torture he endured in Center Stage). But even with this team loyalty, he has shown the ability to ask difficult questions of himself and other team members about their conduct. This is most notable during the Mexico incident, but has occurred on earlier operations as well. Deeks is loyal, but it’s not blind loyalty.
Although the Mission ranks second in Investigator Deeks’ priorities, he has shown a remarkable flexibility when it comes to achieving mission goals while still remaining true to his guiding point (The Men). During the Center Stage incident, he remained in cover (improvising a story about being from another LAPD division) and then volunteered (according to the report filed by AD Granger) to remain in place without medical attention to continue the mission. His focus on the Men above the Mission does lead him to occasional outbursts and hasty action if one of his team is in danger, but in my opinion he’s learned to control his emotions and evolved into a more mature agent. He will still trigger, but in my observation this applies to all members of OSP (and may be a trait Lange desired and sought out during her selection of personnel). Deeks is different in that his triggers are typically threats to the team or someone close to the team. I do not believe he would risk another team member to accomplish a mission, but I do feel he would risk (and has risked) himself. Of note, Deeks will place the Mission first in certain circumstances (such as Mexico), but only IF the entire team has already done so. His actions during the White Ghost incident (as reported by AD Granger) support this as well. This capability has evolved over time, and seems to correlate to his increased understanding of the team’s strengths and weaknesses. In this context it should be remembered that Granger selected Deeks personally for at least one unsupported undercover assignment, indicating he trusted Deeks’ ability to prioritize the Mission when required.
Deeks is perhaps the only member of OSP who places Me last in the leadership scale. This means he will rarely place his own agenda above that of the team. Other members of OSP have shown themselves (to various degrees) to be vulnerable to external triggers (Callen and his past, Hanna and individuals he has interacted with in some long-term way, to give two examples), causing them to put their own motives above Mission or Men. While Deeks has similar triggers, he is able to limit their impact on the team (Men) during an active operation (Mission). He is also the only member of OSP who has not gone off on his own in pursuit of one of those triggers. It occurs to me Lange may have added him to the team for precisely this reason.
EVALUATION: Investigator Deeks has strong leadership characteristics, and is the only current member of OSP who does not have Me either first or second in the scale evaluation. It should be stressed that every member of this team has exceeded conduct boundaries at one time or another during their careers (including before they joined NCIS) for varying reasons. This includes Deeks. However, Deeks has only done so in instances when he believed a life was in imminent danger (typically someone else’s).
Deeks’ leadership potential has evolved over time. As he gained confidence in the NCIS arena, his skills became more and more apparent. Always a skilled interrogator, he also has the ability to work well with other agencies (unless they disrespect or endanger his team) and form bonds with people others in the team may not be able to approach. His undercover expertise is second to none in OSP. From the beginning he has viewed lack of success or mission accomplishment as a personal failure, but over time he’s learned to modify (or at least suppress) this response. Once he views someone as part of the team (the Men), he begins to feel a personal responsibility for them, which will hinder his ability to approach the Mission objectively. He also has very good instincts about people (likely developed during his childhood and enhanced by his time as a public defender and LAPD officer), giving him an edge in many operations. This, again, may have been one of the reasons he was recruited for OSP.
Deeks’ marriage to Special Agent Blye has been a source of concern in some quarters, but in my evaluation its impact on his leadership potential is limited (more than one might expect). Deeks always put the Men first, and his wife is still part of that category. He may question the need for her to take excessive risks, but in my observation this behavior is common for him when it comes to any team member. In stressful situations he may attempt to aid her first, but this is no different than Special Agent Hanna’s (for example) reaction if a family member (or friend) is threatened. Of note, Hanna does not seem to respond in the same way if some team members are threatened, while Deeks responds equally no matter who is involved.
If you want an Operations Manager who will accept any mission no matter the cost and without question, Deeks is not the person you want in charge. He will always weigh the team’s interests against those of the mission, along with repercussions to the team if a mission goes wrong. He is also not afraid to question the ethics or legality of a mission or action. Deeks would, however, function well if paired with another leader who scaled out as Mission, Men, Me…so long as he trusted their judgment when it came to the Mission (essentially recreating the Lange-Granger dynamic). His elevated concern for SA Blye would be offset to a great degree by a Mission, Men, Me co-leader.
I do feel, however, that Investigator Deeks is especially suited for the other role we discussed…more so than any other member of OSP.
Blye: Mission, Me, Men
Callen: Me, Mission, Men
Deeks: Men, Mission, Me
Hanna: Me (with a strong SEAL affinity that overrides his NCIS affiliations), Mission, Men
Jones: Men/Mission (almost dead even), Me