Executive Mosaic is pleased to announce that William Burns, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has received a 2021 Wash100 Award for driving national security strategies and defense, developing technology solutions and promoting workforce initiatives.
This marks Burns’ first Wash100 Award. In Feb. 2021, the Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved William Burns’ nomination to be the next CIA director. President Biden nominated Burns for the position in Jan. 2021.
Burns was deputy secretary at the State Department prior to his retirement in 2014 and recognized with three Presidential Distinguished Service Awards along with top civilian honors from the U.S. intelligence community and the Department of Defense, the Biden transition team said Monday.
His diplomatic career includes work as undersecretary of the State for political affairs from 2008 to 2011, U.S. ambassador to Russia and Jordan and assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
He also spent time at the U.S. embassy in Moscow as minister-counselor for political affairs as well as served as special assistant to the president and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council.
Burns, who previously helped lead nuclear negotiations with Iran and served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia, pledged that he would sharpen the CIA’s focus on China, describing “an adversarial, predatory Chinese leadership” as the country’s “biggest geopolitical test.”
“For CIA, that will mean intensified focus and urgency — continually strengthening its already impressive cadre of China specialists, expanding its language skills, aligning personnel and resource allocation for the long haul,” Burns told the Intelligence committee.
He described how the U.S. should be wary of China and its leader Xi Jinping. He said China was working to “methodically strengthen its capabilities to steal intellectual property, repress its own people, bully its neighbors, expand its global reach and build influence in American society.”
“I think the evolutions of Xi Jinping’s China over the last six or seven years has been a very sharp wake-up call,” Burns added. “The kind of aggressive, undisguised ambition and assertiveness I think has made very clear the nature of the adversary and the rival that we face today.”
Burns noted that it was critical for the U.S. to develop a long-term consensus on how to approach China. “This is not like the competition with the Soviet Union in the Cold War, which was primarily in security and ideological terms. This is an adversary that is extraordinarily ambitious in technology and capable in economic terms as well,” he said.
In regards to Russia, he highlighted ways that Russia could pose a threat to the nation, including cyberattacks such as the SolarWinds breach. “Putin’s Russia continues to demonstrate that declining powers can be just as disruptive as rising ones and can make use of asymmetrical tools, especially cybertools, to do that,” Burns said. “We can’t afford to underestimate them.”
Burns added that the CIA’s workforce would be one of his top priorities, in addition to advancing technology and partnerships with other U.S. and foreign intelligence services.
“I learned that good intelligence, delivered with honesty and integrity, is America’s first line of defense. I learned that intelligence professionals have to tell policymakers what they need to hear, even if they don’t want to hear it,” Burns said. “And I learned that politics must stop where intelligence work begins.”
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Executive Mosaic congratulates William Burns and the Central Intelligence Agency on his 2021 Wash100 Award. Burns’ efforts to safeguard the nation, advance technology solutions and drive workforce initiatives will continue to influence the federal and industry sectors moving forward.