President Bush, speaking at the swearing-in of Robert M. Gates to be the 15th director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said Tuesday that the CIA must change “as rapidly and as profoundly as the world itself has changed.”
Bush said that the agency must evolve from its Cold War past to confront the problems of the 21st Century, including weapons proliferation, economic espionage, terrorism and drug trafficking.
In a small gesture of conciliation to agency employees after a bitter confirmation fight during which he was charged with politicizing and polarizing the agency, Gates said that “no one person has all the answers or the best ideas on the questions affecting our future. We will move forward boldly but with the interests and needs of our people as a top priority.”
Gates, 48, returned to the CIA after three years at the White House as deputy national security adviser.
Bush said that Gates, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, assumes the leadership of the agency with his “deepest trust.”
“The collapse of the Warsaw Pact and of Soviet communism allows us to make different use of some of the assets that we once needed to penetrate Soviet and East European security,” Bush said. “And, make no mistake, we will not let our guard down. We are not about to dismantle the capabilities that we have worked so hard to rebuild, but we must adapt them to new realities.”
The oath was administered by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The ceremony in the bubble-domed auditorium of CIA headquarters in suburban Langley, Va., was attended by members of the Cabinet, leaders of Congress and five former CIA directors.
Gates was deputy director of the CIA from 1986 to 1989 and deputy director for intelligence from 1982 to 1986. In 1987, he was nominated for the top post after the death of Director William J. Casey, but the nomination was withdrawn because of questions as to whether he played a role in the Iran-Contra scandal.
The last CIA director, William H. Webster, resigned in May.