Bel Leong-Hong among ‘50 Women of Influence & Power’
By: Jennie L. Ilustre
The Minority Enterprise Advocate Magazine has just named Belkis Leong-Hong one of the “50 Women of Influence and Power” in the U.S.
This is not really news. A mathematician and computer scientist by training, Bel, as friends call her, is the president and CEO of Knowledge Advantage, Inc. (KAI). Among her clients are government agencies and Fortune 100 companies. She once served as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence.
Bel’s’s bona fides as a leader who moves in the orbit of power and influence are well-known. She’s Chair of the Democratic Asian Pacific American Caucus. She has a track record of advancing Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) political empowerment. She’s active in community organizations that train tomorrow’s leaders.
Bel’s commitment to the community is constant and long-term. She said in an interview she looks forward this year “to working with our Asian American and Pacific Islanders community to continue to increase our visibility, increase our access to social services and economic opportunities, and continue to increase our community’s political activism.”
Top community leader Hung Nguyen said, “Nationwide, Bel is one of the most formidable forces in the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Her commitment to empowering our community, devoted mentorship of young leaders, and her savvy in working within business, advocacy and political circles makes her a powerful voice in insuring the inclusion of AAPIs on the national stage.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D, CA), a close friend and fellow AAPI champion, needed no prodding in extolling her virtues.
He remarked: “Bel’s vision, passion, and commitment to our community are unparalleled, as is her mentorship of new leaders in the pipeline. Her leadership strengthens Asian American and Pacific Islander clout throughout our country, and at the same time, makes our nation a stronger democracy. She is a dear friend and a powerful partner in the critical work of AAPI political empowerment.”
“For decades, Bel has been integral to building the infrastructure for civic and political engagement in our AAPI community,” he added. “She has led organizations like the Asian American Government Executives Network, through which high-level AAPI leaders network and strengthen the diverse tapestry that is our community.”
Congressman Honda served as one of the co-chairs in the Democratic National Committee in the 2008 campaign, and recalled: “Serving together in the leadership of the Democratic National Committee, I witnessed Bel’s fierce advocate for our community as she worked hand-in-hand with DNC Chair Tim Kaine to strengthen our party’s infrastructure and investments to engage AAPI voters.”
“Bel raises the bar for both our community to participate in the political process through the DNC and the Asian American Action Fund, as well as with our party’s system to engage voters,” he noted.
Nguyen knows Bel’s civic leadership because for decades, he himself has been involved in community advocacy and public service. Most recently, he served as Commissioner of the Virginia Governor’s Commission on National & Community Service, as well as the Fairfax County Consumer Protection Commission.
But Nguyen noted Bel is not just a top community leader–she’s also a successful business leader. “She is willing to work with the best and brightest to provide them with opportunities to succeed and to partner for success,” he said. “Bel attracts people who are action-oriented and focused on results.”
Bel is lead developer of a strategic workforce initiative, addressing the critical issue in this decade: the graying of the workforce and the loss of corporate memory. She’s an acknowledged expert on database management, data administration, knowledge management, business transformation and strategies, and software engineering. She wrote a technical reference book on Data Dictionary/Directory Systems published by John Wiley and Sons.
She co-designed the foundational course on Knowledge Management, which has been taught to over 2,000 U.S. Army personnel. She trained over 500 senior level U.S. military and civilian leaders in Europe.
In her three decades of public service, Bel has held a number of high-level positions. She served as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. She managed a multi-billion dollar portfolio in Command and Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence programs, congressional relations, information technology policies, and strategic planning.
She was Principal Deputy Director and Chief Information Officer at the Defense Security Service. She was the former Deputy Commander of the Joint Interoperability and Engineering Organization at Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), responsible for over 1,500 computer scientists and engineers. She also served as Director for Center for Information Management and Director for Information Engineering.
Her achievements include establishing and implementing the first Data Administration function for the Department of Defense. She started the Center of Software Excellence in DISA. She implemented the first Corporate Information Management initiative at DOD.
She has a B.S. degree from Hunter College and a MPA in Executive Management from American University. She has certificates from Harvard’s Kennedy’s School of Government and Syracuse University.
She sits on corporate boards, as well as several non-profit boards. She is a member of the State of Maryland’s Governor’s Workforce Investment Board; the University of Maryland Medical Systems Corporate Board; the Asian Pacific American Advisory Board to the Attorney General of Maryland; the Federal Facility Advisory Board; the Military Academy Admission Review Board; the Board of Visitors of the Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland.
She’s a founding member the AAGEN Board of Directors; the board of directors of the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA International). She served as president of the NOVA Chapter of AFCEA, the DC Chapter of OCA (OCA-DC), and Women in Technology. She’s a former member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Expanding Training Opportunities.
Among her awards are the prestigious Presidential Rank Meritorious Service Award, the DOD Distinguished Service Medal, the DOD Meritorious Service Medals, Oak Leaf clusters, and the GSA Excellence in Management and Administration. She’s the recipient of the Professional Woman of the Year Award from the National Asian Pacific American Women (NAPAW), and the Governor of Maryland’s Citation for Outstanding Service in 2000.