The role of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is in the news this week with the announcement that current DNI Dan Coats will be stepping down. Coats has served in the role since March of 2017. Some are suggesting Coats move is in response to political disagreements with the White House. Coats’ term in office is actually the second longest, following retired Lt. Gen. James Clapper’s six years in the role.

The White House has already announced its next pick for DNI – Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX). Ratcliffe is an attorney who has served in congress since 2015, but he’ll face a difficult Senate confirmation on his way to the intelligence community’s cabinet-level role.

What’s the Role of the DNI?

The DNI is a relatively new role, and was creating in the IC’s realignment following September 11. The role was first recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report. The role was codified in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which was signed into law in 2004. Prior to the creation of the DNI, the Director of the CIA served as a head of the IC. The DNI is intended to lead and manage the IC. Its functions include:

  • Integration Management Council
  • National Intelligence Council
  • Mission Integration Division
  • National Counterterrorism Center
  • National Counterproliferation Center
  • Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive

The DNI provides the President’s Daily Brief. The role of the DNI is primarily to advise the president of the workings of the IC. In the security clearance process, the DNI serves the role of Security Executive Agent. The SecEA is responsible for developing and implementing procedures for security clearance investigations and adjudications across all agencies of the government. Within the DNI, the National Counterterrorism Center Special Security Directorate has oversight of SecEA functions on behalf of the DNI. The Suitability and Security Clearance Performance Accountability Council helps the president accomplish objectives around security clearance reform efforts. They are currently providing progress updates on reform efforts including the transfer of the background investigations mission to the Department of Defense, improvements in security clearance technology, and continuous evaluation.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.