What James Clapper’s Confirmation Means to Government Contracting

James Clapper

Last week, we reported that retired Air Force Lieutenant General James Clapper was unanimously confirmed by the Senate as America’s new Director of National Intelligence.  The question is: what does his confirmation mean to the government contracting community?

First of all, Clapper has close ties to the government contracting community.  Like former DNI Mike McConnell,  Clapper is a former Booz Allen Hamilton employee and also worked at SRA International after he first left public service in 1995.  Then, after a five-year stint as head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, he joined the boards of 3001, now a satellite mapping subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, GeoEye, and served as COO of Detica DFI, a business and technology consulting firm, before its acquisition by BAE Systems.

Since he’s a member of the government contracting community, it’s a safe bet that he won’t be difficult to work with as DNI.  At his confirmation hearing, he testified that government contractors’ growing presence in the intelligence community is “in some ways a testimony to the ingenuity, innovation and capability of our contractor base.”

He also defended the intelligence community against the Washington Post’s investigative reporting at his confirmation, stories which he called “sensationalism,” and said he is well qualified to review the role of contractors within the intelligence community. “I worked as a contractor for six years myself, so I think I have a good understanding of the contribution that they have made and will continue to make,” he said. “I think the issue is, what’s the magnitude? And most importantly … how do we ensure that we’re getting our money’s worth?”

Clapper is also quick to defend redundancies pointed out by the Washington Post series on the intelligence community, observing that “One man’s duplication is another man’s competitive analysis.”  Also, as head of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, he oversaw the outsourcing of the agency’s IT contracts to NJVC, so clearly he understands the advantages of working with the private sector.

During his confirmation hearing, Clapper insisted that he wouldn’t have accepted his nomination if it meant being marginalized as a “titular figurehead or a hood ornament,” emphasizing his desire to assert the authority of his position.  This is good for the contracting community, as it means there will be a single authority driving technological and policy development, as opposed to the sixteen agency heads Clapper will oversee each speaking for their own agencies.  A strong DNI means clear direction, and clear direction means better communication with contractors and better services for the intelligence community.

All in all, Clapper is a great choice from the government contracting community’s point of view and an extremely qualified and capable leader for the Intelligence Community in uncertain times.

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