In 2005, when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence stood up, many critics said it would never work.
The argument was that the intelligence community was too parochial, and therefore the 17 government intelligence agencies wouldn’t cooperate, much less meld.
The director of national intelligence would be yet another layer between the intelligence agencies and their users: the White House, the Defense Department, the State Department and others, critics said.
But 11 years later at the headquarters of the Office of National Intelligence here today, Defense Secretary Ash Carter presented James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, with the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the Defense Department’s highest civilian award.
Carter praised Clapper and the office he leads for their ability to integrate intelligence and share it with everyone from the grunt in a foxhole to the president of the United States. He said the nation is more secure because of the work of the office, and that he is pleased with the product and close working relationship DoD has with the office.
“This award … also reflects some enduring truths about America and the defense of America,” Carter said during the low-key ceremony. “It’s defense is so vital that we shepherd it from strategic era to strategic era, from domain to domain, from presidential administration to presidential administration and from party to party – and across government agencies. That’s our tradition, that’s our mission, that’s our commitment.”
Carter noted the threats that lurk in the world, such as those posed by Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and violent extremism.
“We’re preparing to contend with an uncertain future, recognizing that we never completely predict our strategic future and ensuring that we are ready for challenges we don’t anticipate today,” Carter said. “Jim knows this, and knows well that we are living in a world that he has called a ‘world of unpredictable instability.’ He has rightly said we’re facing the most diverse group of threats he has seen in all his years of government.”
Carter said the cooperation between DoD and DNI is as close as it has ever been. Even as the director reaches out to customers, he is working to integrate intelligence so that customers have the best possible products on which to base decisions, Carter said.
‘Tells It Like It Is’
Clapper speaks truth to power and “tells it like it is,” Carter said. “That is very much respected,” he added. “His candor can sometimes make headlines. But for us who share responsibility with him, it makes for productive deliberations, smarter decisions and trust.”
The bottom line is the director also has a deep faith in the people he leads, the secretary said.
“He has said the reason our nation and its national security enterprise keeps evolving and keeps getting better is because of our people and their instinct to serve he says,” Carter said. “No one has better demonstrated that instinct to serve better than Jim Clapper.”
From Vietnam to the White House, the secretary added, Clapper has served his country selflessly and with distinction, and he has helped DoD, the Office of National Intelligence and the intelligence community evolve and improve.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)