On Wednesday September 7, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper delivered an address entitled “U.S. Intelligence as a Pillar of Stability during Transition” at the INSA & AFCEA Intelligence & National Security Summit in Washington, DC. The following is an excerpt from his as-delivered remarks:
This morning, I’d [like to] talk about what seems to be on everyone’s mind, which is the forthcoming transition of our Presidential administration and IC leadership. In about two months, 62 days to be exact, we’ll know who the next President will be, hopefully. And many of the faces and names at the top of the national security structure will probably accordingly change.
Now, any Presidential transition is a very vulnerable time for the country. During President Obama’s inauguration in 2009, I had a unique opportunity to see this, experience this first-hand. Just like for the State of the Union speeches, during inaugurations when everyone who’s anyone is on the D.C. Mall, the administration picks a designated survivor, a Cabinet official or Cabinet-level official to stay in an undisclosed location away from Washington, D.C., so that in case something terrible happens, that person could assume the duties of the President.
Now, during the 2009 inauguration, that person was Bob Gates, not me. As secretary of defense, Bob was, I think, the only holdover Cabinet official from President Bush’s administration. And at the time, I was the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. So I got to be the acting SECDEF for Bob while he was playing designated survivor. So I spent the inauguration in a cave at Fort Ritchie, Maryland.
The experience definitely drove home the vulnerability that we experience during a transition, and particularly the exact moment when the baton is passed from one President to the next. This upcoming transition will happen at a particularly, I think, difficult time as we’re facing the most complex and diverse array of global threats that I’ve seen in my 53 years or so in the intelligence business.
To read DNI Clapper’s full remarks, click here.