President Biden has invited CIA Director William Burns to join his cabinet, acknowledging Burns’ exceptional expertise and leadership in dealing with various national security challenges, including the tense situations with Russia and China. The decision was announced on Friday and underscores the critical role played by the CIA in shaping the nation’s security decisions during these testing times.
President Biden praised Burns for consistently providing clear and direct analysis that prioritizes the safety and well-being of the American people. He commended Burns’ dignified leadership and regarded him as a true representative of the finest qualities of America. President Biden expressed his enthusiasm for continuing to work with Burns in the coming years.
Burns will be joining Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence, who has been a member of the cabinet since the beginning of the Biden administration. Both Burns and Haines have been instrumental in the administration’s efforts to widely share and occasionally declassify U.S. intelligence leading up to the conflict in Ukraine. This move has solidified Western alliances and caught Russian President Vladimir Putin off guard.
Avril Haines, in a statement, acknowledged the president’s confidence in Burns and highlighted his unique insights and advice that have contributed significantly to shaping the administration’s policies.
It’s worth noting that Burns’ inclusion in the cabinet is largely symbolic, but not unprecedented. His predecessor, Gina Haspel, was also part of former President Donald Trump’s cabinet, though historically, only the National Intelligence Director had been included.
With a background as a veteran diplomat, serving as an ambassador to Russia and Jordan, Burns has been entrusted by the president with managing delicate situations overseas. He played a crucial role in issuing a warning to Putin against invading Ukraine in November 2021 and engaged in discussions with Taliban leaders before the fall of Kabul in August 2021. Since the eruption of the war, he has made frequent visits to Kyiv and notably became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Beijing after a prolonged freeze in relations. Burns has been an advocate of using discreet intelligence channels to communicate with China, aiming to prevent misunderstandings and accidental confrontations.
In his public remarks in April, Burns emphasized the importance of keeping the CIA free from political influence and distancing himself from his previous role in policy-making. He reaffirmed that his current role is solely to support policymakers, not to become one himself.
Responding to his appointment to the cabinet, Burns expressed gratitude for the dedication of the CIA’s workforce and their contribution to national security. He sees the president’s decision as an acknowledgment of the agency’s indispensable work and expressed his honor in serving in this role and representing the exceptional efforts of the intelligence officers.