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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

DIA 50th Anniversary Ceremony
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Bolling AFB, Washington, DC, Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thank you very much for that kind introduction. Ron Burgess is a dear friend, and I really do want to thank you for your leadership of this great institution. I have had the opportunity to work with Ron in my prior capacity and now as Secretary of Defense obviously a closer relationship. He has always been somebody who has been very supportive of the mission in the intelligence arena. I have always really appreciated his good humor and his loyalty to the intelligence community. He used to attend on a regular basis the graduations that we had in the CIA for our officers and I really appreciated that as well.

We are now at a stage where obviously both military and intelligence communities really are joint in working together and it was reflected in these graduations to have Ron there and to have him pay tribute to a lot of the good officers who were making their way into the intelligence arena. And it is all a reflection of the intelligence team and the strength of that team that will forever be a very important legacy at the moment that we are at. I think history will look back on this moment and recognize how we have come together not only as an intelligence team but the military community and the intelligence community have now formed a strong partnership that is helping to protect this country in every way.

I want to thank you also Ron for the opportunity to be able to be here with many friends and some very distinguished guests as we celebrate this occasion. Many of the people here have had the opportunity to work side by side on intelligence efforts of one kind or another and I can’t tell you what a great respect I’ve developed for their capability, for their dedication and for the great work they do. As I used to say in the CIA and I will say here at the DIA, our mission is to protect the American people and to keep them safe. That is a mission that brings us together as a family in the effort to make sure that our children have that better life for the future. We are here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Defense Intelligence Agency. And many of you have been a part of that history, in particular let me acknowledge Jim Clapper, who presided over the DIA during a time of great change after the end of the Cold War. He brought great leadership to the DIA just as he now brings great leadership to the role of DNI. I have had a great relationship with Jim and continue to work with him. I think he will go down in history as one of the stellar ones when it comes to the leadership of the intelligence community.

My own connection with the DIA goes back to my early days as an Intelligence Officer. I remember in the mid-1960s, graduating from Fort Holabird, which was the old intelligence school. When I graduated my first orders that were cut were to come to DIA. But as the Army was prone to doing in those days, it didn’t take them long to change their minds and send me out to Fort Ord where I worked in the G2 shop, back in my home town, which wasn’t so bad. But since then, I’ve always had a great respect for the work of the DIA – which has become a central part of the military and intelligence community’s efforts around the world.

In commemorating this milestone, we all pay tribute to DIA’s half-century of extraordinary work defending our nation against a multitude of threats and a multitude of challenges, from the height of the Cold War to the post-9/11 conflicts. And in doing so, we recognize the tireless efforts of the men and women of today’s DIA – the quiet heroes, the silent warriors who every day collect, distill, distribute the information that directs our warriors in the battlefield and helps them defeat our enemies. A lot has changed in the last fifty years, but one thing that remains the same is that we cannot accomplish our military objectives without good intelligence. The two have to work together if we are going to achieve the ultimate victory. The vital work of DIA makes our military vastly more effective and lethal. And as a result, America is a stronger and more secure nation today.

DIA was born in a different era, when we faced down a single adversary, and the potential consequences of a conflict were so profound that we needed the most accurate and prompt information to prevent what we all knew would be global calamity. Less than a year after DIA’s creation, it faced its first great test when the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the edge of war. I vividly remember just how anxious the American people were. And at that point the sense was that we were on the brink of a world war. And I remember all of those scenes of that moment, the iconic photos of surface-to-air missiles arranged across a Cuban airfield that provided direct evidence of the threat to our homeland – those images that were shot by U-2 reconnaissance planes were done on flight paths that were determined by DIA analysis. Months after the crisis had subdued, President Kennedy called directly upon John Hughes of the DIA to deliver a nationally televised briefing reassuring the nation that the Soviet missiles had been withdrawn. It was a moment that defined the DIA as a vital vehicle for keeping America safe. And that sentiment is as true today as it was 50 years ago.

Through Vietnam, through the strategic arms reduction initiatives of the 70s and the 80s, the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union, the work of the DIA has been absolutely essential to protecting our troops and to protecting the American people. As the strategic certainties of the Cold War descended into the ambiguities of this multi-polar world, that we are now a part of, the human, signal and imagery intelligence that’s provided by the DIA remained absolutely critical to understanding the world we faced and maintaining our ability to be able to respond to that kind of world, to the threats and challenges that we confront.

Just as the attacks on September 11th were a defining moment for this nation, they were a defining moment for the DIA. That day represented a very real personal loss to the Pentagon but also to this agency – seven DIA employees were killed in the attack on the Pentagon, on 9/11. But it also represented a turning point. In the decade since, DIA has emerged stronger, better integrated and even more integral to the fight against our terrorist enemies.

Across the Department, and throughout the government, the DIA has been a driving force behind one of the most comprehensive and successful collaborative efforts between the military and intelligence community in our nation’s history. We have come together as one to defeat al-Qaeda. We have come together as one to integrate the efforts between the DIA, DOD, CIA and all the intelligence communities in the Executive Branch to become part of one great accomplishment of the post-9/11 era. The team we have put together, the collaboration, the cooperation, the teamwork is what is helping us disrupt and dismantle and ultimately I believe defeat al-Qaeda. I saw this cooperation up close during my time as CIA Director, and indeed the entire world saw the results with the operation that took down Bin Laden, it was a stunning display, a remarkable display of intelligence craft and military capability coming together to accomplish a very important mission.

Whether forward-deployed overseas to support the war-fighting operations or from desks here in the Washington area, the men and women of the DIA stand more than ever at the center of our military’s efforts worldwide. In Iraq and Afghanistan, DIA has provided the essential tools and intelligence to our troops to be able to battle insurgencies, to locate high-value targets. All the while, DIA has remained vigilant, never taking its eye off the emerging threats that we face – monitoring North Korea and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, looking at foreign military capabilities in space and cyberspace.

The new era for the DIA and our intelligence communities builds upon the very proud traditions of the last 50 years. DIA has established a strong identity as an adaptable and innovative organization, one that always rises to meet the challenges that we face. We live as all of you know, as all of America does, we live in an uncertain and dangerous world, but we know how vital intelligence efforts are and will continue to be not only to our warfighters but to our nation’s security in the future.

Following those precarious days in 1962, President Kennedy thanked the intelligence community for their vigilance during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The President said he was, “singularly impressed with the overall professional excellence, the selfless devotion to duty, the resourcefulness and initiative manifested in the work of this group, DIA."

Echoing President Kennedy nearly 50 years later, I would like to extend to the Defense Intelligence Agency my deep admiration for your achievements. A grateful nation is safer and more secure because of your tireless efforts.

On behalf of the entire Department of Defense and on behalf of the American people, thank you for your continued outstanding devotion and duty to this country. Thank you for your service, thank you for your sacrifices, thank you for all you do to protect this nation. I have often said that the test for any human being in the end is whether or not that individual made a difference. I think the same test applies to organization. And if the test of the DIA is whether or not it made a difference, then I think that history will look at the DIA and say that they did a job well done. You the DIA have made a difference and the result is that we have a safer and more secure life for our children in the future. And in the end there can be no greater legacy.

Congratulations on your 50th anniversary.


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