Today, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency resigned. There are few positions in government more vital than the head of the agency with primary responsibility to provide the strategic intelligence Presidents use to inform their most pressing decisions on foreign policy and national security. Further, the agency conducts sensitive covert operations to protect U.S. interests—many of them very risky.
Picking the next director is a serious matter. Here are several challenges facing the director of the CIA:
Combating transnational terrorism. This war is far from over. There are estimated to be twice as many al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq as there were last year. The recent attack on the Benghazi consulate remind us all that America and its interests are still in the crosshairs. The Obama Administration’s strategy is over-reliant on drone strikes and covert action. What is needed is a fresh and independent perspective, and a new director could provide that.
Sizing up the hot spots. Iran’s nuclear program and the state of the Taliban threat in Afghanistan are not only high-priority intelligence issues; they top the list of the most controversial foreign policy issues. The President and the nation must have a director in whom they have confidence in to address the matter with the utmost candor and professionalism. Politics cannot color the CIA’s assessments—period.
Getting cyber serious. Cyber threats are a top challenge for every part of our government. We have to be particularly concerned about China, Russia, and Iran. We need a director that will keep cyber a top priority for the agency and recognize that the right solutions protect our safety, security, prosperity, freedoms, and free enterprise equally well.
Playing for the team. The days when national security agencies could operate as stand-alone entities are over. Information sharing, connecting the dots, and teamwork are more than just catchy words.