If confirmed, Avril Haines says that one of her top priorities as the Director of National Intelligence will be "institutional" issues, like renewing public trust in the intelligence community and improving workforce morale.
Avril Haines, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), said that revitalizing the intelligence community workforce and ensuring that its work remained apolitical will be a major priority if she is confirmed.
Haines, testifying at her Jan. 19 confirmation hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said her biggest priorities at the start of her tenure will be "institutional." She pointed to workforce issues like retention and recruitment that need attention. A climate survey on the workforce might be helpful near the outset, she said.
Former Trump administration DNI Dan Coats said that Haines' "commitment to bringing non-politicized truth to power" was her most important asset. Coats' reports on issues like Russia and North Korea were reported to have angered Trump when he served as his DNI.
Haines, who would be the first woman to serve in this top intelligence position, will have oversight powers across the intelligence community if confirmed. She served in the Obama administration as principal deputy national security advisor and as CIA deputy director. Since June 2020, she's been doing transition work for the Biden-Harris administration.
In the answers to her prehearing questions submitted to the committee, Haines also addressed low morale among the intelligence workforce. She said that communicating with the workforce early would be "critical."
Workers in the intelligence community can expect her to resume town hall meetings with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence workforce and emphasize whistleblower protections.
The discussion also briefly focused on the recent SolarWinds Orion hacking breach.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said that to his knowledge, no committee members were notified or given a report from any intelligence community actors on the incident. Haines herself said that she hasn't received a full, classified briefing on the matter.
"I have a lot more to learn about what we know about this at this stage," Haines said about the hack.
Haines wrote in her answers to prehearing questions that she would work to "close the gap between where our capabilities are now and where they need to be in order to deter, detect, disrupt and respond to such intrusions far more effectively in the future."
She said that future cybersecurity threats could be deterred by making cyber breaches harder for adversaries to accomplish in the first place and highlighted the importance of working with the private sector and allies to promote an overall deterrence strategy.
Overall, Haines said that she hoped to make technology into an advantage rather than a liability during her term by "integrating new technologies to improve the capacity and superiority of our intelligence into the future."