Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell has initiated a temporary hiring freeze at the agency he was recently appointed to oversee, according to spokesperson Amanda Schoch, who emphasized that the move was “not an effort to purge” officials for political reasons.
“Since assuming his new role on Feb. 20, Acting DNI Grenell and the ODNI leadership team have embarked on a careful review of these studies completed prior to his arrival, with an eye to implementing key recommendations,” Schoch told CNN in a statement. “While the review is underway, Ambassador Grenell has asked for a temporary, short-term pause in external hiring. A similar hiring pause was implemented in 2018 as part of ODNI’s first Transformation effort.”
“Acting DNI Grenell has emphasized with ODNI leadership this review is not an effort to purge, as some have erroneously suggested. The goal is to make sure scarce Intelligence Community resources are used in the best way possible,” Schoch added, noting that further details will be provided after the specifics of the review are finalized.
Schoch also that there have been “four studies over the past 24 months that have identified opportunities to refocus or transfer activities at ODNI to eliminate duplication of work with other agencies.”
“These important findings were never fully implemented despite a thoughtful and thorough process,” she said.
The hiring freeze was first reported by the New York Times.
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a link to the Times story on Thursday evening, praising Grenell’s actions. “4 internal studies in the past 2 years have said the DNI needs to be reformed. No one has done it. @RichardGrenell is now starting to do it,” Trump said.
Grenell was unexpectedly given the role while serving as ambassador to Germany after Vice Admiral Joseph Maguire resigned last month, when it was made clear he wouldn’t be nominated to the job permanently. The week before, President Donald Trump grew infuriated with Maguire in an Oval Office meeting after learning that the office’s top election security official had given a briefing to Congress in which she said Russia was meddling in the 2020 campaign and supporting the President.
With Maguire out, Grenell quickly pushed aside his deputy, Andrew Hallman, a widely-respected career CIA officer. Kash Patel, an official from the National Security Council and former aide to California Rep. Devin Nunes who worked to discredit the Mueller probe, was then brought on as an adviser to Grenell.
The sudden moves immediately raised fears Grenell was looking to purge the upper ranks of the intelligence community and crack down on intelligence that could be interpreted as anti-Trump.
To date, that purge has not happened and Grenell has made no significant changes.
Instead, current and former senior intelligence officials previously told CNN that Grenell has spent his time in meetings getting up to speed on intelligence, including the underlying intelligence in the contentious briefing to Congress, and the organization’s leadership, which coordinates the mammoth responsibilities of 16 different intelligence agencies, including the CIA and NSA.