He has the right experience for the job.
On top row, from left, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the ranking member, and Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, join on bottom row, from left, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, and Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, listen as former special counsel Robert Mueller testifies to the House Intelligence Committee about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, on July 24, 2019. Congressman John Ratcliffe’s experiences as a mayor, U.S. attorney and chairman of a Homeland Security subcommittee make the Heath Republican a great selection to be the next director of national intelligence.
I was an undercover officer in the CIA for nearly a decade and had to brief many members of Congress during my tenure. I was disappointed in the quality of our elected officials, and I decided to leave a job I loved and was good at in order to run for Congress. If John had been in Congress during that time and I’d had the fortune to meet him, I would have stayed in the CIA because I would have found someone whom I trusted to make our nation’s laws and support what my comrades-in-arms were doing.
Now, more than ever before, at a time when intelligence is being politicized by both sides in Washington, the brave and resilient men and women of the intelligence community need a smart leader with a steady hand. That person is my friend John Ratcliffe. I’ve known John since 2014 when we both won tough, contested primaries despite the fact the Republican establishment supported our opponents. We’ve had a strong relationship ever since. After arriving in Congress, John and I worked together closely during our first terms while serving as the chairmen of two subcommittees focused on cybersecurity. Unfortunately, prior to our arrival, both of our subcommittees had a history of failing to cooperate, regardless of which party was in control of Congress. However, John changed the culture on his subcommittee through a leadership style he honed over years of experience before his time in Congress and focused on solving problems regardless of who received the credit.
Beyond his capacity to selflessly lead, John has a rare working knowledge of technology and cybersecurity, a skill set of utmost necessity for the leader of our intelligence community in the 21st century. Advances in technology, such as biometrics, are making it increasingly difficult for our intelligence community to do what is necessary to collect intelligence that will protect our homeland from adversaries seeking to do us harm. The technology gap between us and the rest of the world is closing, increasing the competition to achieve information dominance in all domains (air, land, sea, space and cyberspace). These are just two reasons why it is essential to have someone with John’s experience as director of national intelligence. As a country, we need to ensure that we take advantage of technology before it takes advantage of us. However, our leaders must also ensure that new technologies are not used in a way that infringes upon American civil liberties. As a former U.S. attorney and someone who understand technology, John is uniquely suited for this task.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed deficiencies in the ability of the United States to respond effectively to a global crisis, a key challenge for the next director of national intelligence. Few believed that a pandemic could cripple the global economy. As we work to prevent this from happening again, it’s time that our intelligence community prepare for other high-risk, once-unthinkable threats, such as a fire sale or a three-phased cyberattack that takes down transportation infrastructure, financial networks and public utilities. If the intelligence community is unable to operate during a global crisis, our adversaries like Vladimir Putin and the Chinese Communist Party will take advantage of our weakness to advance their own aims. John has the right mix of experiences to lead the intelligence community to prevent this outcome from happening.
The attacks on 9/11 uncovered the fact that intelligence sharing across the federal government on global terrorist organizations was poor at best. This led to the creation of the director of national intelligence. Almost 20 years later, we are dealing with an increased threat — lone wolf attacks. The way we improve our response to these threats is to improve intelligence-sharing between the federal government and local law enforcement officials, who are generally the best positioned to deal with this difficult threat. Who better to deal with this intelligence-sharing challenge than someone who is both a former mayor who worked intimately with local law enforcement and a former federal prosecutor who knows how joint terrorism task forces work? John has more than 15 years of experience dealing with national security-related issues, which is expertise that will serve the intelligence community well. The resiliency of the intelligence community to inform the decisions of policymakers, regardless of current challenges, is essential to preserving America’s role as the world’s superpower. I have sat next to John in countless hearings and briefings as members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. I know from watching John’s preparation and engagement that he understands the threats to our security and way of life, and that he is the kind of detail-oriented leader who can ensure every component of the intelligence community is prepared to meet these challenges.
Will Hurd is a Republican representing San Antonio in the U.S. House. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.