President Biden invited CIA Director William Burns to join his cabinet on Friday, citing Burns’ expertise and leadership in confronting a range of national security challenges, includingof Ukraine and the ongoing with China.
“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. “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.”
Burns will join Avril Haines, director of national intelligence, who has been a cabinet member since the start of the Biden administration.
Both have been leading voices in the administration’s decision to widely share and occasionally declassify U.S. intelligence in the run-up to the war in Ukraine, which officials have said shored up Western alliances, a move which caught Russian President Vladimir Putin off guard.
In a statement Friday, Haines said Burns’ nomination reflected the president’s “reliance and confidence in Bill for his unique insights and advice.”
Burns’ addition to the cabinet is largely symbolic and not without precedent. His predecessor, Gina Haspel, was part of former President Donald Trump’s cabinet, though in previous years only the national intelligence director was included.
A veteran diplomat who previously served as ambassador to Russia and Jordan, Burns has often been tasked by the president with managing delicate situations overseas. He was dispatched to Moscow in November 2021 to warn Putin against invading Ukraine. Before that, he met with Taliban leaders just before the fall of Kabul in August of 2021.
He has traveled frequently to Kyiv since the war erupted, and in May became the senior-most U.S. officialafter a protracted freeze in relations. He has since suggested that communicating through discreet intelligence channels with China could help prevent “unnecessary misunderstandings and inadvertent collisions.”
Burns has spoken of the need to steer the agency clear of politics and leave his former role in policy-making behind.
“They’re two very distinct professions, and I’m very well aware of that,” he said in public remarks in April. “My job now is to support policymakers, it’s not to become a policymaker as well.”
In a statement on Friday, he praised the CIA’s workforce.
“The president’s announcement today recognizes the essential contribution to national security the Central Intelligence Agency makes every day, and reflects his confidence in our work,” Burns said. “I am honored to serve in this role, representing the tremendous work of our intelligence officers.”