McCone was the sixth Director of Central Intelligence, serving from 1961 to
1965 during some of the most tumultuous events in American history. The United
States narrowly averted nuclear war with the Soviet Union when the Soviets
tried to put offensive ballistic missiles into Cuba. An incumbent president
fell to an assassin’s bullet. The United States committed itself to defending
the Republic of Vietnam against communist aggression and escalated its military
support to that beleaguered country.
Intelligence Community, of which McCone was titular head, saw some of its
bitterest bureaucratic battles over control of the National Reconnaissance
Office. Within CIA, he faced strong resistance to bureaucratic changes. Those
included imposing greater accountability over covert actions, refocusing on
analysis, and—perhaps his most far-reaching and enduring achievement—creating
an independent directorate responsible for science and technology, which he
thought were underutilized as intelligence sources and tools.
superficial level McCone was an unlikely DCI. He had built his career in the
private sector and had limited experience with intelligence. He was a
conservative Republican in a liberal Democratic administration. He appreciated
and promoted science and technology in an intelligence organization dominated
by the culture of clandestine operations.
this unlikely DCI was one of the best leaders and managers CIA—and the
Intelligence Community—ever had. One can make a persuasive argument that he was
the best. The problems with which he dealt as DCI often appeared insoluble, but
he was an extraordinarily successful engineer and businessman with a reputation
as a no-nonsense executive unafraid to make tough decisions, and his list of
accomplishments as DCI is long.
of McCone is a major contribution to the historiography of US intelligence.
Originally published by the Center for the Study in Intelligence in 2005, the
work established the criteria for scholarship on future work on such key
figures in CIA and the Intelligence Community. At the least it will be the
standard work on the sixth director of central intelligence for many years to
McCone as Director of Central Intelligence, 1961-1965 Part 1 of 2 [251
McCone as Director of Central Intelligence, 1961-1965 Part 2 of 2 [256