President Biden announced on Friday that he is adding CIA Director William Burns to serve as a member of his cabinet, elevating further an official he has dispatched on face-to-face missions in Russia and China to confront America’s most pressing national security issues.
It’s rare for the CIA director to be given a seat in the cabinet – an advisory body that includes the major federal agencies but can be expanded to include other senior U.S. officials that the president views as leading on key priority issues.
“Bill has always given me clear, straightforward analysis that prioritizes the safety and security of the American people, reflecting the integral role the CIA plays in our national security decision-making at this critical time,” Biden said in a statement.
“With quiet courage, deep humility, and extensive expertise, Bill has earned the respect of the brave women and men of the CIA,” he continued. “He leads with dignity and represents the very best of America, and I look forward to continuing to work with him in the years ahead.”
A White House official called Burns “one of the President’s closest advisors on many of the major national security and foreign policy issues of this administration.”
“The President’s elevation of Director Burns to the Cabinet recognizes the essential contributions to national security the Central Intelligence Agency makes every day,” the official said, noting that CIA directors were also made members of the cabinet during the Clinton administration.
Burns, a former ambassador to Russia and a veteran diplomat, was sworn in as CIA director in 2021. The president sent Burns to Moscow to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin in November 2021 to warn him off of launching an invasion into Ukraine.
He was also a key figure in the administration’s strategy to declassify intelligence related to Putin’s troop buildup and plans to launch a full-scale invasion into Ukraine, which was carried out in February 2022. The early warnings were credited with uniting Kyiv’s supporters in coordinated action against the Kremlin.
In June, Burns traveled to Beijing and met with his intelligence counterparts in an effort to lay the groundwork for more high-level contacts between the U.S. and China that had been upended over a series of crises and tensions in the relationship.
“The President’s announcement today recognizes the essential contributions to national security the Central Intelligence Agency makes every day, and reflects his confidence in our work,” Burns said in a statement.
“I am honored to serve in this role, representing the tremendous work of our intelligence officers,” he added. “It is also an honor to serve alongside our exceptional intelligence community colleagues, under the leadership of DNI Avril Haines.”
Haines, also a cabinet member, welcomed Burns’s appointment, saying it “reflects the President’s reliance and confidence in Bill for his unique insights and advice, and I cannot imagine a better colleague, friend, and leader who is more deserving of this recognition.”
Daniel Byman, senior fellow with the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said Burns’s experience as a former ambassador to Ukraine, the Middle East and other parts of the world has served as an important source of advice on Biden’s foreign policy.
He noted that the rarity of CIA directors being appointed to the cabinet “is more a testament to Burns’ incredible effectiveness rather than a broader decision about the role of the CIA in Cabinet.”
Alex Gangitano contributed to this report.
Source: The Hill