Call it bad luck that President Barack Obama’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, Jr. appeared in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday for his confirmation hearing the same week The Washington Post raised a host of questions about the Intelligence Community’s competency with their “Top Secret America” series.
Clapper didn’t back down from the heat, firmly stating his faith in the IC and his personal refusal to serve as the clearly defined leader of America’s intelligence enterprise, not, as he put it, as a “hood ornament.”
During the three-hour hearing, Clapper faced questions on his plans for handling the nation's Intelligence Community. The Washington Post investigative report claimed that U.S. intelligence services are too inefficient and ungainly to manage, drawing national attention to the Community.
Clapper responded by affirming his belief that the size of the IC is “under control,“ and that the U.S. has “the largest, most capable intelligence enterprise on the planet.“
Despite categorizing the series as “sensationalism,” Clapper noted the IC has room for improvement.
During the hearing, Clapper vowed that he is the right leader to implement those changes within the nation's intelligence efforts. “I would not agree to take this position on if I were going to be a titular figurehead,“ he said. “There needs to be a clear, defined, identifiable leader of the intelligence community.“
“If confirmed, I pledge not only to follow the law, but to go a step further and endeavor, as best as I am able, to build upon and increase the trust between Congress and DNI,“ Clapper testified. “Our objective ought to be the same: to give the Intelligence Community all that it needs to succeed, consistent with our laws and values. If confirmed, I believe I can do that. I have had very positive discussions with CIA, FBI, and other leaders across the Intelligence Community, and I am quite encouraged by their commitment to making this team work should I be confirmed.“
Clapper would become the fourth director since the position was established 2005 and succeed former director Dennis C. Blair, who resigned in May.
The position is defined by the oversight 16 intelligence agencies with a budget of $75 billion and advising the President, the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council on intelligence issues.