Remarks by Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet at the
Security Affairs Support Association's William Oliver Baker Award Dinner
(as prepared for delivery)
May 22, 2003
I want to thank you for presenting me with this award—it is truly an honor to join such an accomplished group of recipients. I can be in no better company than men and women like Bob Herman, Bob Inman, John McMahon, Bill Webster, Lew Allen and Ann Caracristi.
In honoring me tonight, you honor the thousands of men and women of American intelligence who serve our country with courage and conviction. They get up each day with one thought—how to protect Americans and their families. The greatest joy I have as Director is to serve with them—to travel as I did earlier this week to Basrah, Baghad, and Riyadh—and to see the courage, skill, and passion of all of our officers. The future is bright for our community because of them.
It is a special privilege to be introduced by Brent Scowcroft. He is a caring, dedicated, and modest public servant—he understands our business and its importance to the President better than anyone. His career—much like the careers of so many of you—is based on the simple core values of honesty, integrity, and leading by example.
It is also fitting that I should receive the Baker award the year after Charlie Allen. There have been 18 Directors of Central Intelligence and 14 of us have worked for Charlie. And, as one who has been in his employ for almost 6 years now—I can say—and we all know—what a national treasure this great man has been to our intelligence community for more than 40 years.
Being the DCI is the best job anyone can ever hope to have—there is no better job in government. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by friends and colleagues who have been great leaders of our community—Mike McConnell, Ken Minihan, and Mike Hayden—Pat Hughes, Tom Wilson, Glenn Shaffer, and Jake Jacoby—Jeff Harris, Keith Hall and Peter Teets, Jack D'antone, Jim King and Jim Clapper—Carl Ford, Denny Blair, Rod Isler, and John Gordon, John Russack, Dave Carey and Buzzy Krongard—and Louis Freeh and Bob Mueller.
I have been blessed to have Joan Dempsey’s tireless, aggressive leadership. She has not only led us in the demand for additional dollars, she also excels at creating practical solutions to keep our agencies working closely together. She has been magnificent and persistent in her efforts to build what we call ourselves and what I believe we are—Community.
I have also been blessed to have, by my side, the best deputy, colleague, and friend a DCI could ever have—John McLaughlin. This thoughtful, brilliant man leads using his exceptional wisdom, his keen analytic mind, and his fundamental decency. You could have no one better at your side.
The other great blessing for all 18 DCI's has been American industry. Our private sector has stepped forward for over half a century to offer the best technology and expertise. They are part of our intelligence family because they share our same passion for our mission—to safeguard the freedoms that make America great. Throughout our history, American industry has given every DCI the tools needed to solve our greatest challenges—and we need them now more than ever.
Since September 11th, scores of CEOs have come to see me to say—“We are all Americans—what can we do to help?” It is this kind of patriotism that will ensure our success in the future—and on behalf of our Intelligence Community I think we owe American industry a warm round of applause for what they have done to protect America.
The DCI is no more or less than the sum of these parts. He must create a vision—drive a program—but he must rely heavily on the superb people I have just mentioned to execute our day-to-day responsibilities. And, most importantly, he must lead the men and women who work vigorously for us day and night. Set the highest standards—don't settle for anything but the best.
When I reflect back over the past decade, I often laugh about the fact that pundits, experts, members of Congress and pretty much everybody on the planet have spent so little time looking at the important transformation of our Intelligence Community.
If you look at the evolution of intelligence support to the warfighters from the first gulf war - through the Balkans, Afghanistan and the most recent conflict in Iraq—it is hard not to be impressed by the seamlessness, fusion, speed and quality of what is being provided on the battlefield.
This is because our people care about getting it right—about constantly analyzing how we can do better, about being honest about our mistakes and correcting them. They constantly challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones—they dare to take risks—and they are undaunted by the obstacles they face.
And we must be even better—by channeling the same sense of urgency of community that we bring to Iraq or the war on terrorism to all our disciplines, each and every day.
There is no single point of success in our business. To be sure, there are spectacular successes in HUMINT, SIGINT, and imagery each day. But if you look just beneath these successes, you will find extensive collaboration across disciplines.
Whether it is an analyst providing targeting information based on a SIGINT lead to enable the recruitment of an agent—the breaking of a piece of encryption based on a bit of espionage—or finding an Iranian missile launcher with imagery because of excellent human and signals intelligence, we must push the expectations for productive teamwork ever higher.
Our job now—as leaders—is to take this transformation we have worked on and apply it not just in crisis or war—but in all aspects of our every day business—to synchronize our policies —provide the broadest possible access to our data—and teach our young officers about the word community on the first day of work and throughout their careers. They do not need to hear about it at their retirement ceremonies—because by then it is too late. And we need to pay them and promote them based, in part, on teamwork and a community approach to solving problems.
Recently, the Washington Post accused me of making commencement speeches in which I talked about values and the importance of prayer rather than high policy. Imagine that—talking to young people about values rather than what makes news in Washington.
But I genuinely believe that values will make the largest difference in the long run—especially to our younger officers. I have found that leadership is all about paying attention to people; it is not about making headlines.
We are undergoing the most dramatic demographic changes in our community's history. We will be significantly younger and less experienced very soon. How we turn the magnificent talent that is coming through our doors into seasoned professionals is the highest priority for all of us.
Leadership means communicating honestly and constantly about our history and values—telling them about success so they can learn from it. Tell them bluntly that we expect them to make mistakes at least 30% of the time—because those not willing to take risks will never be creative enough to solve the problems we face. Our business is about daring—about boldness—not safety.
It means setting the highest standards for professionalism, devoting time and resources for training and education through out careers, paying attention to our families, and building a more diverse environment based on only one principle—excellence. We must defeat cynicism —whenever it rears its ugly head—and reinforce our commitment to getting and keeping the best people—and we will if we take care of them.
And it means standing up for your men and women if you are the leader. They must know that you bear the ultimate responsibility, not the GS-13 who has struggled with fewer resources and less people for a long time.
It does not mean rationalizing our deficiencies—that is not our heritage—but it does mean that the troops must know where the buck stops. Leadership is about trust.
If we as a community pay relentless attention to our people, and listen to them and take care of them—they will trust us—more importantly they will follow us—we will absolutely flourish.
We are very fortunate to be led by a President who cares deeply about our business and recognizes the important role American intelligence will continue to play if it is cared for and nurtured.
Our challenge is to take his confidence in us and translate it into action—action that will make American intelligence the most important and powerful instrument at a President's disposal for the next fifty years—action that reinforces and stipulates that we all rise and fall together as a Community of American patriots.
Tonight, before I close, I want to thank the most important person in my life. The best decision I ever made was falling in love with Stephanie Glakas—thank God she fell in love back. In my eight years as DDCI and DCI, she has devoted herself to the men and women of our Intelligence Community and their families—through the best and worst of times. It is her faith—her strength—that has kept me moving forward.
Tomorrow we will celebrate 23 years of marriage. I just wanted to thank you, Stephanie, for making all my joy as DCI possible, and I wanted to assure you that I am not the kind of cheapskate who would make this our anniversary dinner.
In closing, you—the men and women who contribute so much to our nation’s security—are the greatest assets a DCI could ever have. You give me my energy and my sense of hope for the world every day. May God always bless you and your families.