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Ask Molly: Naming CIA Headquarters

April 26, 2021

Dear Molly,

Why is CIA Headquarters named after President George H.W. Bush?

~ A Rose by Any Other Name

Dear A Rose By Any Other Name,

President George H.W. Bush holds a very special distinction in CIA’s history – he is the only person to serve as both director of the CIA and president of the United States. Bush believed strongly in our mission and in our officers, and saw the integrity of CIA at a time when many in the public and even the government could not. Bush led CIA for only a year, but he became, and remains, one of the most beloved directors in our Agency’s history.

That’s why we named CIA Headquarters after him.

A little history: Bush, the fourth Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) in less than three years, took the helm of CIA in 1976 following congressional investigations into CIA activities. Working closely with President Ford, Bush implemented reforms and safeguards to strengthen the nation’s intelligence capabilities. He improved support to the President, boosted morale within the Agency, and increased transparency with Congress and the American public.

Although his tenure was short, it was impactful.

Thirteen years later, in 1989, Bush became the 41st President of the United States, the only U.S. president to have the unique perspective on both providing and receiving intelligence.

In 1999, by the order of Congress, we renamed the CIA Headquarters compound in Langley, Virginia, the George Bush Center for Intelligence.

We held a naming ceremony on April 26, 1999, acknowledging Bush for his life’s work as a public servant and for providing a restored sense of morale at the Agency.

“All I can say,” Bush remarked during the dedication ceremony, “is that the gratitude in my heart literally knows no bounds. I left here some 22 years ago, after a limited tenure, but my stay here had a major impact on me. CIA became part of my heartbeat back then, and it’s never gone away.”

We feel the same way!

If you’d like to learn more about Bush’s tenure as director and his legacy at CIA, check out some of our stories below.

~ Molly

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