Bush urges recruitment of intelligence-community people
with foreign language skills
Feb. 20, 2007
WASHINGTON - President Bush instructed the nation's new spy chief to focus on
finding more recruits with the language skills and cultural background to
collect information on al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
During a swearing-in ceremony Tuesday at Bolling Air Force Base outside
Washington for retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell as the second director of
national intelligence, Bush said the intelligence community still needs
significant improvements more than five years after the Sept. 11, 2001,
He charged McConnell, who took his new post several days ago, with better
integrating the nation's 16 spy agencies, improving information sharing among
those agencies and with other officials throughout government, and finding
better intelligence technologies. The president - and later McConnell - also
focused on a persistent weakness in American
intelligence-gathering: a dearth of operatives who speak critical languages,
such as Arabic or Farsi. "The old policies have hampered some common-sense
reforms, such as hiring first- and second-generation Americans who possess
native language skills, cultural insights and a keen understanding of the
threats we face," McConnell said.
Speaking to 300 invited guests at the DNI's office at Bolling, Bush said:
"These are enormous challenges, and Mike McConnell has the experience and the
character and the talent to meet them."
"This is an opportunity and a privilege of a lifetime," said McConnell.
After taking the oath of office from White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten,
McConnell kissed his wife, Terry, and shook hands with a smiling Bush.
To go after the faced-paced threat of terrorism, McConnell said the government
must start acquiring new technologies and capabilities with the agility that was
seen during the Cold War.
Yet terrorists, he said, also are seizing on advances in technology. "The time
needed to develop a terrorist plot, communicate it around the globe and put it
into motion has been drastically reduced," said McConnell. "The timeline is no
longer a calendar. It is a watch."
McConnell's resume includes nearly four decades of work in the intelligence
community. He heads an office created by Congress just over two years ago to
coordinate national intelligence.
The office oversees activities spread across 16 government agencies, including
the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency. But
critics have questioned whether Congress gave the post enough power to adquately
manage the work of the highly independent - and sometimes headstrong -
McConnell, 63, was first commissioned as a Navy line officer in 1967 and served
in Vietnam. He gained renown as an intelligence briefer who could skillfully
present complex national security matters to military leaders and policymakers.
From 1990 to 1992, covering the first Gulf War, he was intelligence officer for
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, serving then Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell. From
1992 to 1996, he headed the National Security Agency, the world's largest
codebreaking and eavesdropping agency.
For the past decade he has worked for Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., a large defense
and intelligence consulting company with sales of $3.7 billion worldwide in
2005. A specialist in the subjects of cyber security and critical infrastructure
assurance, he has been earning a salary of almost $2 million a year.
The first director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, has been nominated
to become deputy secretary of the State Department.