A GW alum from the ’80s is heading to Capitol Hill today to become the nation’s top spy.
The U.S. Senate will begin confirmation hearings Thursday on President George W. Bush’s nominee for the next director of national intelligence, 1986 graduate Mike McConnell.
Bush nominated McConnell, who received a master’s degree in Public Administration from GW, as the second-ever director of national intelligence in early January. The position, which Bush created in December 2005, was first held by John Negroponte, whom the president nominated for deputy secretary of state the same day.
The director of national intelligence is a Cabinet-level position that oversees the collection and analysis of intelligence information for the entire country. If approved by the Senate, McConnell will oversee 16 agencies, such as the CIA, the National Security Agency, military intelligence organizations and intelligence divisions in half a dozen cabinet departments.
Bush said the alumnus is up for the challenge of the newly added position.
“Admiral Mike McConnell has the experience, the intellect and the character to succeed in this position,” Bush said at a White House press conference in early January.
“Admiral McConnell has decades of experience, ensuring that our military forces had the intelligence they need to fight and win wars … As DNI, Mike will report directly to me, and I am confident he will give me the best information and analysis that America’s intelligence community can provide,” Bush added.
With the exception of a decade at a private consulting firm, McConnell’s entire life has been dedicated to public service. He said he is very proud of is long history of dedication to America and his happy to continue working in the government.
“I’ve served this country for 30 years and am pleased to have been nominated,” McConnell told The Hatchet Wednesday.
He said his time at GW helped him to understand important issues facing the United States today.
“I don’t regret a day of my service in the public sector,” he said “(My nomination) is a great opportunity to serve the nation, and my GW experience was instrumental.”
McConnell held many high-profile positions in the government. As a Navy vice admiral, McConnell served in Vietnam, Japan, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. In 1992 he became director of the National Security Agency – an organization that gathers foreign communications and employs mathematicians and code-crackers.
While at the NSA, McConnell worked with then-U.S. Army General Colin Powell on Operation Desert Storm, which was a war against an Iraqi invasion into Kuwait, led by former President George H.W. Bush. Powell, who became secretary of defense during the younger Bush’s first term, is also a GW alumnus. He received an MBA in 1971.
After completing his term as NSA director in 1997, McConnell began working at Booz Allen Hamilton, a global consulting firm that advises governments and businesses on strategy and information technology. McConnell was chair of an intelligence advocacy group, which served as a bridge between the private sector and the national intelligence community.
McConnell said the need to share information – a primary focus of the director of national intelligence – is paramount in this age of terrorism.
“We know that in 2001, information was available from many agencies, and had it been shared, recognized and acted upon, we might have prevented the 9/11 attacks,” McConnell said in a company news release.
Kathryn Newcomer, director of GW’s School of Public Policy and Public Administration, was one of McConnell’s teachers. She said the alumnus was a thrill to teach, and she was excited to hear the news of his nomination.
“He was brilliant in my stat class – a straight-A student,” Newcomer said. “But more than that, he is an honest, wonderful person.”
GW Media Relations Director Tracy Schario said the University is proud of McConnell and the wide array of alumni serving the country.
“Since GW’s reputation is very much involved in politics and policy, Mr. McConnell’s appointment illustrates how worthwhile that reputation is,” Schario said.
She cited many prominent GW graduates, such as 14 congressmen and senators, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who went to law school in Foggy Bottom. Other famous alumni range from Kenneth Starr, famous from his role as special counsel in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, to former Treasury Secretary John Snow.
-David Ceasar contributed to this report.