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Remarks Announcing the Nomination of Michael Carns To Be Director of Central Intelligence and an Exchange With Reporters

February 08, 1995

The President. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm delighted to see you all here. I thank the Members of Congress especially for being here, Senator Thurmond, Senator Specter, Senator Leahy, Congressman Dicks. Is Congressman Gilman here?

It is my pleasure and honor today to announce my intention to nominate General Michael Carns to be the next Director of Central Intelligence.

General Carns will face a challenge whose difficulty is matched only by its importance. The cold war is over, but many new dangers have taken its place: regional security threats; the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; terrorists who, as we have seen, can strike at the very heart of our own major cities; drug trafficking; and international crime. The decisive advantage United States intelligence provides this country is, therefore, as important as it has ever been.

As President, I've had the opportunity to appreciate just how important that intelligence is to our national security. Most Americans never know the victories our intelligence provides or the crises it helps us to avoid, but they do learn about its occasional setbacks. And as we prepare our intelligence community to face new challenges, we must not forget its many successes.

General Carns' broad experience and exceptional qualities make him the right leader for our intelligence community in this time of challenge and change. He's distinguished himself as a fighter pilot, a military commander, and a manager. He's a proven innovator, open to new ways of doing business and skeptical of conventional wisdom. He understands the critical importance of intelligence because he's had to rely on it when the lives of Americans and the security of our country were on the line. He's taking this critical assignment after having already dedicated a whole lifetime of outstanding service to our country. I thank him and his wife for that decision.

After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1959, he went on to fly over 200 combat missions in Vietnam, where his heroism earned him the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross. He served as director of operations for the Rapid Deployment Task Force, deputy commander-in-chief of the United States Pacific Command, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, the office he held before entering a very shortlived retirement last September. And somewhere along the line, he even found time to get an MBA from Harvard, something for which I have already forgiven him. [Laughter]

General Carns also served as director of the Joint Staff during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Both Admiral William Crowe and General Colin Powell, who relied on General Carns to get the job done when our Nation was at war, know and appreciate the full measure of this fine man.

His exceptional accomplishments are rooted in a tradition of patriotism and service instilled in him by his father, Major General Edwin Carns of the Army, and by his mother, Jan, whom I had the privilege of speaking with yesterday. Mike and his wife, Victoria, have carried on this tradition and passed it along to their own children, Michelle, a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy, and Mark, who serves in the Air Force. Let me say to their entire family, the country is proud of your service. And I am, I say again, especially grateful to you, Victoria, for supporting this move today.

General, your mission will be greatly helped by the distinguished commission, led by our former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin and former Senator Warren Rudman, that I have asked to review the missions and structure of our intelligence community. Together, and with the help of the Congress, you can build a strong consensus for reinvigorating U.S. intelligence so that it pursues clear priorities and puts its resources behind the core missions that will continue to give our Nation the most timely, relevant, and honest intelligence in the world.

As we look to the future, I also want to thank the outgoing Director of Central Intelligence, Jim Woolsey, for his service. Thank you, Jim, and we're delighted to see you here today. No one has been a more forceful advocate for the intelligence community, in my own case, beginning long before I became President. His efforts to streamline collection systems and improve the quality of analysis will pay off for our country for many years to come.

I'd also like to express my deep appreciation to our Acting Director, Bill Studeman, who has served our Nation admirably for 32 years now. Both of you have earned our Nation's gratitude.

Finally, to the men and women of our intelligence community whose work often goes unheralded, let me say on behalf of all of us and all Americans, your country owes you a debt which can never be fully repaid, but we respect it and we appreciate it. What we can do, and what General Mike Carns and I will vow to do, is to work with you, to support you, and to challenge you as we build an intelligence community for the next century.

General Carns.

[At this point, General Carns thanked the President and made brief remarks.]

The President. This is the first test of his centralized intelligence. [Laughter]

Any questions?

Central Intelligence Agency

Q. Are you going to find any spies around?

General Carns. I think I recognize that voice. [Laughter]

Q. Do you think that the CIA needs an overhaul? I mean, they've made a lot of mistakes recently, haven't they?

General Carns. I would be happy to respond to your questions as soon as I am confirmed. In the meantime, I will keep my counsel.

The President. Let me just say one thing. I think recently they deserve a lot of credit for uncovering mistakes that were made in the past. After all, the Ames problem developed before the recent history—it was uncovered in recent history. They deserve credit for solving problems. The same thing with that big building out there.

Q. It took a long time.

The President. Well, we've only been here 2 years. I'm pretty proud of what Mr. Woolsey did and what the CIA has done. I think they deserve credit for solving problems.

Baseball Strike

Q. Mr. President, on another topic, there's been a lot of talk on Capitol Hill today, and a lot of opposition from Republicans to your suggestion that Congress get involved in the baseball strike. Can you tell us about that?

The President. I'll send the legislation up there. I think that this is—they should be reluctant; I was reluctant; we're all reluctant. If we had a baseball commissioner, we wouldn't— none of us would have been in here. I respect their reluctance. What I think will happen is, I'll send the legislation up, they'll hear from the American people, and they'll make their own decision. Meanwhile, I hope that the—last night I really began to hope that they'd work it out on their own. That's still what ought to happen, that's the best thing, and I hope they'll do it.

Q. Do you have any regrets about getting involved in the first place?

The President. No, because if I hadn't named a Federal mediator, without a baseball commissioner, then I would have felt that we hadn't gone the last mile to try to help resolve it. So I'm glad I named Mr. Usery. He did the very best he could. And I still hope they'll work it out.

Thank you.

Surgeon General Nominee Foster

Q. What are you hearing from the Hill about Dr. Foster? What are you hearing about from the Hill——

The President. I don't know. I haven't heard much from them, but I had lunch with a number of House Members today who said that, based on what they knew, they were for him, and so am I. I think he's a good man. You read the editorial from his hometown newspaper, the Nashville Tennessean, that came out in the last couple of days; his colleague, the only physician in the United States Congress, the doctor from Tennessee, Republican doctor from Tennessee, who stood up here with him when we announced him. He is a good man who has delivered thousands of babies and devoted his life to trying to prevent the kind of problems that he's now being criticized for. I believe he should be confirmed, and I believe he will.

Thank you.

Q. Do you think this is just a tactic to get people to defeat him because he has favored abortion rights?

The President. I think he's a good man, and when he has his hearings the American people will think so, too.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:20 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Dr. Bill Frist, Senator from Tennessee. The Office of the Press Secretary also released a biography of the nominee.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Announcing the Nomination of Michael Carns To Be Director of Central Intelligence and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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