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Remarks at the Swearing-In Ceremony for Robert Gates as Director of Central Intelligence

November 12, 1991

Thank you, Dick Kerr, not only for presenting me here today but for the job you've been doing as the Acting Director here. You've been exemplary of the finest in public service, and we're grateful to you.

It is, indeed, as I look around this room wondering who's minding the store at the White House or up on Capitol Hill or at the Pentagon, it's indeed a tribute to Bob Gates that so many of his colleagues are here to witness this event. Colleagues from inside the intelligence community and outside the intelligence community. And of course, I would single out the Vice President, members of the President's Cabinet, General Powell, General Scowcroft, and so many of us that have worked hand-in-hand with Bob over the last few years.

I see some of my predecessors here, DCI, and successors. And indeed, this is a special occasion. And to Justice O'Connor, we are very grateful to you for being here to do the honors today. And once again, I want to single out the Members of Congress that are here from the oversight committees, from the leadership, and from the other relevant committees that this fantastic agency deals with.

Every time I come out here I still have a sense of homecoming. Today I think of that January day in '76 when President Ford stood here as I took the oath of office as DCI, admittedly for a very short period of time. But I treasure having had that one year here, getting to know the people and the institution.

This was without question if not "the," certainly one of the most rewarding years of my entire long life. Let me just say to the professionals here, the CIA properly still has a mystique about it. And I still get asked, what was so special for you about your privilege of being the DCI there. I still say it's the people here, the dedicated, selfless men and women who serve their country, not seeking recognition or honors. They are true patriots. And we're grateful to each and every one of you.

Today does mark an historic transition. We express the Nation's thanks for the devoted service of former Director Bill Webster, who is with us today, and, of course, to, as I mentioned, Dick Kerr. We welcome then Bob Gates, a new Director from a new generation, a generation moving into leadership without the familiar strategic backdrop of the cold war.

He's no stranger here. He spent his entire career, a quarter of a century, as an intelligence professional. He's a keen analyst, and he's an independent thinker. He stood by my side and gave me wise counsel during the Panama crisis and Desert Storm and then the drama of August in Moscow. And he has my deepest trust.

Under your new leader, you men and women of the CIA face as challenging a mission as you've ever had. You must change the American intelligence community as rapidly and as profoundly as the world itself has changed. Up until now, a very large proportion of our intelligence resources has been devoted to monitoring the threat posed by a secretive adversary, obviously, the Soviet empire. 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.

Make no mistake: We will not let our guard down. We're not about to dismantle the capabilities that we've worked so hard to rebuild, but we must adapt them to new realities. The intelligence community's new challenge under Bob Gates's leadership is to move beyond the cold war to the complex problems of the 21st century. Our world without the cold war confrontation is a safer world, but it is no Garden of Eden. This is not the end of history. Men and nations still have their propensities for violence and for greed and for deceit. Therefore, we must work as vigilantly as possible for better world conditions and structures for peace.

We need a strong intelligence community to consolidate and extend freedom's gains against totalitarianism. We need intelligence to verify historic arms reduction accords. We need it to suppress terrorism and drug trafficking. And we must have intelligence to thwart anyone who tries to steal our technology or otherwise refuses to play by fair economic rules. We must have vigorous intelligence capabilities if we're to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And so, this is truly a life-or-death mission.

In sum, intelligence remains our basic national instrument for anticipating danger: military, political and economic. Intelligence is and always will be our first line of defense, enabling us to ward off emerging threats whenever possible before any damage is done. It can also be a means of anticipating opportunities.

As you work to transform the intelligence community to face our new era, I pledge to do all that I possibly can to keep American intelligence strong. Under Bob Gates's direction, we will dramatically expand our human intelligence collection efforts. We will give our officers and analysts the very finest in support technology. We will show no tolerance for those who leak secrets that protect our intelligence professionals' lives.

As the CIA's Deputy Director during the eighties, Bob Gates was an innovative leader who deserves much of the credit for putting strength and pride back into American intelligence. He's a man of skill. He is a man of integrity. He'll be a very strong and effective manager here. Now, I am looking to him and to each and every one of you who have given your lives to American intelligence to commit yourselves anew to the excellence that always has been the hallmark of our intelligence community.

I can certify to the American people with total confidence that we have the finest intelligence capability in the world. And we're going to strengthen it, and we're going to see that we continue to have this as the guardian of the peace.

I'm grateful to each and every one of you that serve here. Give me a chance to say thank you. And I'm especially proud to be at the side of Bob Gates as he takes the oath of office as DCI. May God bless you all, and thank you very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:11 a.m. at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, VA.

George Bush, Remarks at the Swearing-In Ceremony for Robert Gates as Director of Central Intelligence Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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