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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the President's nominee to be the next Director of National Intelligence, DNI--GEN James Clapper, U.S. Air Force, Lieutenant General retired.

I am pleased his confirmation will be approved by unanimous consent.

General Clapper is well qualified to be the Director of National Intelligence. He has as much experience in the intelligence profession as anyone serving in the government today.

He has held a wide range of positions that have prepared him for this position, in the U.S. military, as the head of two intelligence agencies, and in the private sector. General Clapper is currently the highest ranking intelligence official in the Department of Defense, serving as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

He has clearly expressed his views on the position of the DNI and described how he intends to carry out those views.

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported out his nomination on a rollcall vote of 15-0.

Not a single objection that was raised in the Senate following the committee's unanimous vote was related to the nominee, his background, his views, or how he intends to serve.

And now I am pleased to report that those objections have been worked out and General Clapper will be approved by unanimous consent.

Let me take a few minutes and describe the position to which General Clapper has been nominated, the Director of National Intelligence, or DNI.

The DNI position was first seriously considered by the so-called ``Joint Inquiry'' into the attacks of September 11, 2001--a joint panel of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees that studied the events leading to the attacks of 9/11 and the structural problems in the U.S. Government that led to our failure to prevent them.

The Joint Inquiry concluded that the Intelligence Community--the collection of intelligence agencies and offices across the Federal Government--could not be led by the same person who was simultaneously serving as the Director of the CIA.

This congressional panel recommended, in December 2002, that the National Security Act be amended ``to create and sufficiently staff a statutory Director of National Intelligence who shall be the President's principal advisor on intelligence and shall have the full range of management, budgetary and personnel responsibilities needed to make the entire U.S. Intelligence Community operate as a coherent whole.''

Two years later, the 9/11 Commission, led by former Governor Tom Kean and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, came to the same conclusion and recommended the creation of a National Intelligence Director to ``manage the national intelligence program and oversee the agencies that contribute to it.''

A few months later, in December 2004, the Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, IRTPA, that created the position of DNI.

By statute, the position of the Director of National Intelligence is the senior-most intelligence position in the U.S. Government. The DNI is, under the law:

The head of the 16 different offices and agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community;

The principal advisor to the President on intelligence matters; and

The official in charge of developing the intelligence budget.

Despite that expansive charge, the first 5 years with a Director of National Intelligence at the helm of the intelligence community have been unsteady times. There have been three Directors in 5 years: Ambassador John Negroponte, ADM Mike McConnell, and ADM Dennis Blair.

It is the strong hope of the Senate Intelligence Committee that General Clapper will provide some stability to the office and set it on a more stable path.

He was asked about this in the committee's confirmation hearing. Senator Whitehouse asked General Clapper if he intended to stick around. General Clapper responded ``Yes, sir, I will. I wouldn't take this on without thinking about that. And I do think my experience has been, it does take time to bring these changes about.''

And certainly changes are needed. I have discussed with General Clapper my concern that the position of DNI could be considered the job of a coordinator someone--who makes sure the 16 agencies are carrying out their roles and working harmoniously.

But that was not what the job was designed to be, and that isn't going to be sufficient to put in place the changes we need. The Director needs to set priorities, develop the budget accordingly, oversee agencies' implementation, and make changes when problems or gaps arise. These include:

Making sure the systems and personnel are in place to make sure the dots are connected before a terrorist attack;

Ensuring there is sufficient intelligence collected by human and technical means so that decisionmakers have an accurate and full set of facts before setting policies--for example, on sending troops to war;

Reviewing intelligence programs and activities to make sure they fit squarely within the Constitution and the law, and that Congress is provided with the information it requires to conduct independent oversight; and

Managing the intelligence budget to make sure it is spent without waste, abuse, or inappropriate duplication.

These are not the jobs of a coordinator; they are the jobs of a Director. General Clapper recognizes these as the obligations of the DNI.

The last thing I would like to note on the position of the DNI is its statutory authorities, and the limits placed on them.

In particular, the DNI is constrained from directing 15 of the 16 agencies and offices of the intelligence community, because they reside in various Federal departments. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, IRTPA, states that in carrying out his responsibilities, the DNI may not ``abrogate'' the statutory responsibilities of Cabinet Secretaries. This is often interpreted to prevent centralized direction.

The 16th agency, the CIA, is not housed within a department, but it, too, has demonstrated its ability to thwart the DNI's directives it dislikes by importuning the White House.

We understand from former officials in the DNI's office that both problems have greatly frustrated past DNIs' ability to lead.

General Clapper has served on the DNI's executive committee under Directors McConnell and Blair. He has seen firsthand how this tension between the DNI's direction and the views of a Cabinet Secretary has played out.

Indeed, General Clapper has been very forthright that as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence since 2007, part of his responsibility has been to uphold and support the interests of the Secretary of Defense.

But he has also assured the Intelligence Committee that, if confirmed, this would change. During his confirmation hearing, General Clapper said, ``I have been, for the last three years, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. And I considered it my responsibility and my obligation to defend and protect the secretary's authorities and prerogatives to the maximum extent I could. If I were confirmed as the DNI, I will be equally assiduous in ensuring that the DNI's prerogatives and authorities are protected and advanced.''

Even so, General Clapper has a track record of taking concrete steps to ensure that the interests of the Department of Defense and the intelligence community are synchronized, and both are enhanced to improve our national security.

What is more, General Clapper is perhaps unique in that he has strong relationships with the President and the national security team at the White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the CIA Director--the three most important relationships for a DNI to be successful.

So in short, I believe that General Clapper will bring to the position of the DNI the right approach, skills, and gravitas to make this work.

I will continue to work with him, like the committee has worked with past Directors, to make changes in the law to give him the authorities and flexibility that he needs.

The Senate has just passed unanimously a revised version of the fiscal year 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act. That bill includes 10 provisions to strengthen the DNI's ability to run his office and direct the intelligence community. Eight of those ten provisions were requested by this administration or the last one, and I will continue to push to get this important bill signed into law soon.

Let me say a few words now about General Clapper himself.

General Clapper has served in the intelligence field for 46 years, almost all of which was in military and government service.

His 32 years of military service in the U.S. Air Force included wartime operations, flying 72 combat support missions over Laos and Cambodia and being a wing commander.

He has served as the Director of Intelligence, the J-2, for three warfighting commands--at U.S. Forces Korea, the Pacific Command, and the Strategic Air Command.

In the 1990s, Lieutenant General Clapper led the Defense Intelligence Agency, DIA, one of the biggest and most complex of the agencies in the intelligence community.

He retired from active duty in 1995 after this position and worked in the private sector until he was asked to return to government service and lead the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, NIMA--since renamed the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, NGA. He led NGA for 5 years--an unusually long tenure heading an intelligence agency--until a difference of opinion with Secretary Rumsfeld cost him his job in 2006--and provided a notable example of General Clapper's willingness to ``speak truth to power.''

In 2007, General Clapper once again put aside the benefits of a private life and agreed to serve under Secretary Gates as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

As he said in his confirmation hearing, the nomination to be DNI ``was an unexpected turn of events. I'm in my third tour back in the government, and my plan was to walk out of the Pentagon about a millisecond after Secretary Gates. I had no plan or inkling to take on another position.''

Nonetheless, he has agreed to take on this challenging and somewhat thankless position.

General Clapper was nominated by the President on June 7, 2010. He answered more than 150 tailored pre-hearing questions in addition to our standard questionnaire and appeared before a lengthy confirmation hearing on July 20.

After the hearing, he answered another 79 questions for the record and appeared in a subsequent closed session meeting with four members of the committee who had additional questions.

If there were questions or doubts about his nomination, they have been answered. In fact, when General Clapper was nominated, I had my doubts about having another person in this position with a military background and whether he viewed the position of DNI as a coordinator or a director.

My concerns have been allayed. I am confident that he will be mindful of the important intelligence needs of the military and the Department of Defense, but he will be independent of Pentagon interests. He understands that the responsibility of the DNI is to provide strategic intelligence to policymakers and that the job requires more than simple coordination.

On July 29, the Intelligence Committee voted out General Clapper's nomination on a roll call vote of 15 to 0.

The committee has expressed its full support of General Clapper. He has excellent credentials, support from the White House and other key intelligence officials, and will be a strong Director of the Intelligence Community.

I congratulate General Clapper on his confirmation.


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