Goss, 65, moved to the CIA from Congress where he has represented southwest Florida in the House since 1989. The Senate approved his nomination on a 77-17 vote Wednesday over protests from some Democrats who said he had too many Republican ties for a job that requires independence.
A former CIA and Army intelligence officer during the 1960s, Goss is only the second congressman to lead the CIA, following former president and House member George H.W. Bush.
Accompanied by his wife, Mariel, and other family members, Goss was sworn in by White House chief of staff Andy Card as President Bush stood nearby.
In addition to serving as CIA director, Goss assumes the dual role as head of a loose confederation of 14 other agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community.
Goss succeeds George Tenet, who caught many by surprise in June when he announced he'd resign after seven years, serving two administrations.
Should Democrat John Kerry be elected president, he would be expected to pick a different CIA director. Neither Kerry nor his running mate Sen. John Edwards voted on the confirmation.
Goss will lead an intelligence community that has faced intense criticism for failures prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and for its prewar estimates on Iraq.
Yet defenders say the 15 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence network have become more focused and made changes to address international terrorism and other threats.
During the Senate debate over the nomination, West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the senior Democrat on the intelligence panel, questioned whether Goss would be politically objective and outlined a series of attacks Goss has made on the Democratic Party and Kerry.
They included what Rockefeller considered unfair accusations from Goss that Kerry led the way to "deep and devastating" intelligence budget cuts in the 1990s.
Rockefeller said the law requires the director of central intelligence to provide timely and objective intelligence, independent of political considerations.
"Not surprisingly, one thing missing from Representative Goss's records are any public statements on intelligence critical of members of his own party or the administration," Rockefeller said. While Goss has promised not to be a partisan Republican as CIA director, "I must vote on his record. I cannot vote on his promise."
Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., rejected suggestions that Goss is too political and said he would be an appropriate intelligence chief during a tumultuous time.
As Congress considers significant changes to the intelligence community's structure, Goss may be taking a job that soon won't exist, Roberts noted. Congress is considering creating a more expansive job of national intelligence director, and Goss has been named as a possibility for that post should it be created.
"Porter Goss's confirmation ... represents perhaps the most important changing of the guard for our intelligence community since 1947," when Congress created the CIA, Roberts said. "He will be the first director of central intelligence in a new, and hopefully better, intelligence community."
Several different versions of intelligence reform are circulating on Capitol Hill, each embracing to varying degrees the recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission, which called for a powerful national intelligence director.