Visiting with School of Global and International Studies students Friday, Dan Coats explained why he has spent decades in the public sector: “It’s the sense of purpose,” the Director of National Intelligence told the group of Direct Admit Scholars, “the sense of contributing. That sense of engaging that makes a difference going forward in the world. Money can’t buy that.”
Touring the Bloomington campus with Indiana University President Michael McRobbie, Coats spent over an hour at SGIS sharing his perspective on national security and taking students’ questions. Coats represented Indiana in the US House of Representatives from 1981 to 1989 and in the Senate from 1989 through 1999 and 2011 through 2017, when he was appointed to his current position at the helm of the nation’s 17 government agencies dedicated to intelligence. The position was established in 2004, among the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), to centralize and coordinate the nation’s intelligence operations.
One of Coats’ key duties is to present the President with a daily intelligence briefing. It’s an intimate daily meeting in the Oval Office, but one at which “Indiana is well represented,” Coats laughed. There are only four or five of us who walk in: the National Security Advisor to the President [H.R. McMaster], myself, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Mike Pompeo, [Chief of Staff] General [John] Kelly sits in on some of those meetings, but also sitting to my left is the Vice President [Mike Pence],” explained Coats, a graduate of the IU McKinney School of Law. “So you have two Hoosiers, graduates of IU, out of the five people who are there, and that’s a pretty good percentage!”
Students asked Coats far-ranging questions, from his take on pressing security issues to career-oriented inquiries. Having visited the Cyberinfrastructure Building just moments before his talk, Coats extolled IU’s expertise in IT and cybersecurity, and encouraged students preparing for global careers to avail themselves of it. Proficiency in foreign languages is essential, Coats insisted, assuring one student who shared that he studied Mandarin, that “there will be a job for you.” Asked to name the most interesting people he’s ever interacted with, Coats quickly mentioned “our current president,” before naming the late entrepreneur Bill Cook and President McRobbie. At the conclusion of his talk, student Hope Marshall presented Coats with a gift from the school: a plaque representing the stones of the world gracing the wall of the school’s atrium. The visit was Coats’ second to SGIS; he had spoken at the inaugural America’s Role in the World conference, which will be held for a third year March 28 and 29.