1997 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security

Prepared Statement of
George Tenet

06 May 1997
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Most of my professional life has been spent in some aspect of intelligence work, either in this Committee, the National Security Council, or at CIA, where I have served for two years as Deputy Director and, more recently, as Acting Director. My experience in these positions convinces me that strong, stable, and consistent leadership will be required to propel our Intelligence Community successfully into the 21st century.

-- To me, such leadership means setting a clear direction and keeping an unrelenting focus on the most important threats to our country;

-- It means demanding the highest standards of personal integrity and professional performance;

-- It means being independent and forthright;

-- It means taking risks to get the information our nation's leaders need to protect U.S. interests;

-- It means building on the real advances we have already made. Advances in operational and analytic tradecraft, advances in new collection architectures, and advances in mission-based budgeting and counterintelligence.

-- It means never allowing the cloak of secrecy to stand in the way of an open and honest dialogue with the American people or with experts outside the intelligence community who can help us interpret this complex new world. It is time for us to better distinguish that information which really ought to be kept secret from information that ought to be made available to the American public.

-- Ultimately, leadership at this moment means closing the door on the Cold War and embracing the challenges and opportunities of a new era.

If, in this new era, you confirm me as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), you are not hiring me to observe and comment; you will be hiring me to warn and protect. In that regard, what really matters to us? What are the issues on which we simply cannot afford to fail? The answer is clear. As always for American intelligence, the problems at the top of the list must be those that pose serious danger to the physical security of the United States, our armed forces, and our citizens.

We must, therefore, keep relentless watch on all aspects of nuclear weaponry, including not just those countries that have such weapons but also those that seek them. We can never know too much about hostile nations such as Iran, and Iraq, who seek not only nuclear weapons, but also deadly biological and chemical toxins that they could use on U.S. troops, introduce into our country, or export to others. Nor can we ever know too much about heavily armed and volatile countries like North Korea or about international terrorists who target American citizens and our allies and who often operate in league with or under the auspices of such countries as Iran and Iraq.

Our attention must also be riveted on other transnational actors, such as the narcotraffickers and other organized criminal groups whose revenues from the drug trade alone amount to $300,000 million and exceed the GNP (Gross National Product) of most of the world's countries. And while we focus on all of these targets, we cannot afford complacency about the unfinished transformations underway in countries like China and Russia, as long as there is any question about their future direction or even the slightest remaining doubt about the ultimate fate of the nuclear weapons they control.

-- On issues like these, we simply cannot afford to fail.

As such challenges make clear, the enduring and fundamental mission of intelligence will remain what it has always been: to be the nation's first line of defense. If I am confirmed I would have the privilege of leading people who are charged with being first:

-- The first to discern an impending threat to the security of the United States and its people, sometimes long before the signs are persuasive, or even apparent, to others;

-- The first to make these concerns known to the President, the Congress, and other senior leaders;

-- And sometimes, in ways that can never be heralded, the first to arrive on the scene of a crisis and to step into harm's way.

Stated simply, our mission is to ensure that the nation's leaders have the time and information they need to avert imminent danger, and, when it cannot be averted, the wherewithal to prevail.

To be sure, there is room to debate the specific direction and focus of the nation's intelligence effort. But with regard to fundamentals, I haven't the slightest doubt about what the American people expect of us.

-- First and foremost, they want to know that the intelligence community is working to protect the lives of our men and women in uniform and to ensure that they dominate the battlefield when they deploy to remote parts of the world;

-- that our diplomats have the critical insights and foreknowledge they need to advance American interests and avert conflicts;

-- that the United States is tracking and anticipating the major geopolitical and strategic transformations underway in the world, not just observing and reacting to them;

-- and that we are focusing not only on threats but also on opportunities -- opportunities to act before danger becomes disaster and opportunities to create circumstances favorable to U.S. interests.

To those who continue to ask whether intelligence still has a mission; I would say it is time that we move on to the more urgent question: how can we ensure that our nation's intelligence capabilities are right for the 21st century. That is the question I would tackle if confirmed as Director of Central Intelligence.

What kind of leadership would I bring to this challenge? Let me address that in two parts, the first relating to my leadership approach, the second focusing on the longer term goals I would pursue, if confirmed.

My approach to leadership is straightforward: people come first. As vital as sophisticated technology is to our work, intelligence is primarily a human endeavor.

-- The men and women of the intelligence community are unmatched in their dedication, drive, and devotion to duty. Because our work force is smaller today, however, we have to focus even more than in the past on the tools, training, and resources our people will need to meet the challenges I've described.

-- To this end, we must recruit new officers who speak the languages and have state-of-the-art technical skills needed to mount operations against the hardest targets.

-- We must also deepen our analytic expertise in all fields and insist that our people contribute to and learn from centers of excellence at universities, think tanks, and elsewhere. As Director, I would insist that we draw more frequently on the world-class expertise that resides in our country's private sector, by sponsoring more scholars-in-residence and reaching out to specialists who can help us fill critical gaps or bridge shortages where necessary.

-- By implementing these practices, we can realize one of my highest goals: to assure that our people consistently are, and are recognized as, the nation's premier experts in their fields.

Beyond the centrality of people, there is another point I would highlight about my approach to leadership. It is my firm belief that problems must be tackled at their roots in a systematic, comprehensive, and strategic way, rather than one piece at a time.

-- That is why I worked with the President, during my time at the White House, to develop a comprehensive system of priorities that focuses our intelligence community on the most difficult and important targets and integrates our work on them. It is also why we worked so hard after the (Aldrich) Ames case to strengthen our counterintelligence cooperation with law enforcement. And it is why we must now deepen that cooperation and extend it to other areas, because without it, neither law enforcement nor intelligence can make the progress the country expects on top priority missions, such as counterproliferation, counterterrorism, and counternarcotics.

Looking now to the future, let me share with you the broader goals, values, and commitments that would drive my leadership of the Community should I be confirmed.

-- My first and overriding goal would be to give the President and other senior leaders the information they need when they need it to protect American interests. This sounds like it should be much easier in today's more open world, but it is not. In fact, the truth can be more elusive in an age of information overload than when many more societies were closed. But this in no way lessens our obligation to know the facts and project ahead, often when the stakes are very high for the United States. Getting it right in the tough situations -- situations that demand unassailably accurate information and the soundest judgment -- will always be my highest priority.

-- Second, I would turn our gaze from the past, fix our attention on the future, and target our investments on innovation. We must learn from past successes and mistakes, but the new challenges rushing toward us make it dangerous, frankly, to keep looking over our shoulders. In recent closed testimony on our budget, I spoke concretely of future technological challenges and described for you the new, in some ways revolutionary, collection strategies we are proposing. I strongly believe that the intelligence community, which after all brought this nation the U-2 and imagery from space, has an obligation to be a national "center for excellence" in technological innovation. We must be on the cutting edge. If confirmed, my aim would be to take us there and keep us there.

-- Third, I would create an intelligence culture that challenges conventional wisdom and encourages creative, but responsible risk-taking. From its earliest days, the greatest successes of American intelligence have come at times when an intelligence officer was able to see what others could not, dare what others would not, and refuse to give up in the face of overwhelming odds. Next to objectivity, this ethic is the most important part of our professional identity; it cannot be allowed to wither. But it would be misleading if I did not also say to you, and to the American people, that this kind of risk-taking, no matter how responsible, will occasionally produce something other than total success. An intelligence community that shrinks from this, however, will never succeed on the scale required to protect American interests in the 21st century.

-- Fourth, risk-taking does not equal recklessness, and in no way diminishes my commitment to accountability -- to the President, to you and ultimately to the American people. The more than 400 formal notifications Congress has received in the last two years -- candidly covering our programs, our successes, and our problems -- is tangible evidence of this commitment. But accountability does not work unless it begins with each individual in the intelligence community. Its leader must demand the highest standards of personal integrity and professional performance from all of its members. If confirmed, that is exactly what I would do.

-- Fifth, the intelligence community of the future must be more closely knit internally. Our mission is often so dangerous and so vital that there is zero room for competition or turf battles in the intelligence community. My commitment, if confirmed, is to lead the community toward closer teamwork across the board and to streamline the process of intelligence gathering and analysis. Let me be absolutely clear: intelligence reform, in the end, must be about leadership that emphasizes improved performance. Judgments about performance would drive all of my decisions as Director, including my recommendations to you about programs in the community budget.

-- Sixth, I would insist that we achieve progress in our support of diplomacy, commensurate with the enormous strides we have made in supporting our military forces. Although our nation's diplomats are extraordinarily well-informed, they too need information tailored to the unique operational challenges they face. Getting it is essential to their success, which after all, is often crucial to avoiding resort to military force.

-- Finally, we are heading into an era when, more than ever, flexibility will be the watchword of the intelligence business. The potential for surprise will be greater, there will be fewer static targets, and we will have fewer resources. Mindful of that, we have already begun to implement programs to enhance our surge capacity in times of crisis and provide more reliable early warning. We must be able to adjust our collection posture quickly, draw more heavily on outside expertise, and ensure that we are not caught unaware in parts of the world that move quickly from backwater to front burner.

I have sought to give you a sense of what kind of world I see on the horizon, what kind of intelligence we will need in that world, and what kind of leadership you could expect from me over the next four years if I am confirmed.

At the end of the day, I would not want to look back on my tenure as DCI and say that I presided over a well-run bureaucracy. Rather, I would hope that could simply take quiet pride in our people being recognized as part of the world's best espionage organization. Implicit in this goal and in all that I have said today are four underlying commitments as we look to the future:

-- To the President and all others who rely on our nation's intelligence capabilities -- I will deliver intelligence that is clear, objective, and does not pull punches.

-- To the Congress -- you can expect forthright and candid views about our mission, programs, and priorities. I will not hold back.

-- To the men and women I hope to lead over the next four years -- we will be partners. I know that you do not bring just your expertise to work -- you bring your dedication and your deep conviction that national security is neither a nine to five job nor just a career, but a public service. I will challenge you, and I invite you to challenge me. I will listen, and I will lead.

-- To the American people -- your intelligence service is committed to protecting our country from all those who would threaten it. We will honor always the trust you -- the American people -- have placed in us, and we will serve you with fidelity, integrity and excellence.