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Remarks of CIA Director at SIS Promotion Ceremony

Remarks of Central Intelligence Agency Director
Gen. Michael V. Hayden, USAF

at the February 26, 2007
Senior Intelligence Service Promotion Ceremony

(as prepared for delivery)

February 26, 2007

Good morning. With all the new officers coming into our Agency, we decided it would be a wise move to promote some new executives as well. That's why it's my great pleasure to welcome 52 exceptionally capable men and women into the ranks of our Senior Intelligence Service.

I'd also like to welcome their families and friends. Thanks for coming to Headquarters, and thanks for cheering on those who mean so much to you—and so much to us, too. You can be very proud of them. It's never been easy to become an SIS officer, and the criteria are getting tougher all the time—we're paying a lot closer attention to foreign language ability, experience in other Directorates and Agencies, things like that.

So if any of our new SISers are playing down the significance of their promotion, you'll know better. Each of our inductees had to have a lot of intellectual firepower, strong expertise in his or her field, and a natural talent for leadership to make the cut. This is a very impressive group, and I'm honored to welcome them aboard.

It's worth taking a moment or two to contemplate what it means to become an SIS officer. For me, the military equivalent was achieving flag rank. I always saw it in terms of being trusted enough to have stewardship of a national treasure—whether it was a small office or an entire Agency.

When you've earned a senior Federal rank, you're struck by the degree to which the American people trust you to look after their interests. It's an enormous responsibility. It's as if you're being told, “You've proven to us that you're worthy of safeguarding part of the national patrimony—take good care of it. And make sure it's better than it was when you pass it to your successor.”

At our Agency, that whole concept of public trust, of responsibility, of stepping forward to lead, is invested with a deeper sense of virtue. You're certainly not doing it for public recognition—that just isn't in the cards. The salary is a bit higher, but you won't see the kind of bonuses executives get in private industry. You don't get a fancy title—people still call you by your first name. And, unlike the military, you don't get a star or a stripe.

When I came to NSA as Director, there had been a longstanding tradition that officers in the Senior Executive Service—it's S-E-S there, not S-I-S—had flags on their badges. Well, we decided to take the flags off.

For one thing, a badge at NSA has the same purpose as one at CIA—it's a form of ID that gets you in the door. It's not a symbol of rank. So from that standpoint, an executive's badge should be the same as that of a junior officer.

Beyond that, embellishing a badge to show seniority seemed to trivialize what it means to be a member of the Senior Executive Service. If you want to adorn your badge with a custom lanyard, that's one thing. Personally, I'd go with a black and gold Steelers one if I could. But an executive officer is best distinguished by simply being a good leader, and by faithfully serving the Republic.

As SIS officers, you embody the “One Agency, One Community” spirit behind our Strategic Intent. You might work in a particular Directorate, but you serve our Agency, and the Intelligence Community as well. You were chosen for the SIS in part because you've excelled at assignments throughout CIA, you've taken our corporate interests to heart, and we've judged that you will be both a superior leader and a careful custodian of this organization.

The tense of that last sentence is important: “you will be” all these things. An SIS officer gets chosen not as a reward for past service, but to give our Agency the benefit of your outstanding promise, whether as an executive manager or substantive expert.

Your background, your experience, your training, and your skill complement those of your colleagues and will enable CIA to deliver on our pledge—our obligation—to defend our country and protect its interests worldwide. As an SIS officer, you are prepared to serve wherever you are directed, in whatever capacity best serves our Agency and our nation.

That's our expeditionary mentality—our willingness to go wherever our mission takes us. It's something we've always had as an Agency, and it's a quality we must foster and strengthen if we're going to live up to what the American people expect of us.

Our expeditionary mentality implies agility in adapting to the needs of a given mission. We should always be ready to adjust fire as necessary. If operating from an Embassy just won't cut it, we must be able to quickly come up with a more creative and effective platform. And above all, an expeditionary mentality means taking calculated risks. Without that, an intelligence service loses its identity—and certainly its effectiveness.

That sense of creative flexibility and risk tolerance applies not only to our officers serving in the National Clandestine Service, who steal the secrets critical to our national security. It relates to the work of every Directorate.

  • It applies to our analysts, who must not only comprehend the world as it is, but make those leaps of insight needed to anticipate the opportunities and dangers that lie ahead for our policymakers.
  • It applies to our support officers, who lay the foundation for every success, and are adept at giving us a foothold anywhere in the world on short notice.
  • And it applies to our science and technology officers, whose genius for doing what our enemies thought impossible is legendary.

Your individual assignments will carry their own particular challenges, but there are some broad tests of leadership that we'll all share during this critical chapter in the life of our Agency. Now I know every Director probably says that sort of thing at these ceremonies—that this is a pivotal time for CIA—but in this case, it's acutely true.

We're fortunate that our challenges are those of a healthy, thriving Agency. You've heard the figures. We had more than 130,000 applications last year. And we're growing at a tremendous rate—about one seventh of this Agency was hired in the past 12 months. Forty percent of our entire workforce has started here since 11 September 2001. That is truly amazing growth, unprecedented in CIA's history.

We're bringing the right kind of people on board, too. It's a diverse group with talents, languages, and experiences we can immediately apply to the big challenges we face, like the war on terrorism.

But it also creates intense torque and stress. One seventh of our Agency with no more than a year's experience requires an awful lot of coaching and mentoring. And you've seen all that media hype about how young adults today like to job hop? It's not happening, at least at CIA.

Our attrition rate in Fiscal Year '05 for officers who had been with the Agency for five years or less was about six percent. In FY '07, we're on track for a rate of less than three percent. More of our junior officers are deciding to stay, and our Agency is becoming even larger than anticipated.

Bottom line: we need to bring people along more quickly than ever before in terms of training, developing expertise, building a strong sense of Agency identity, all those things. We're attacking that problem in several different ways, and at every career stage.

You've heard me talk about these initiatives: the single onboarding process, programs like Analyst Forward and slots for full-time academic leave, our Leadership Development Initiative, and a relentless emphasis—especially for our first- and second-line managers—on teaching and mentoring. That's on top of our excellent and very rigorous occupational training programs. And there will be more to come.

We simply have to get this right, or the leadership five, 10, or 15 years from now will have to clean up after us. If we succeed in giving our junior officers a solid grounding while tending to all the other imperatives—internal and external integration, strengthening core competencies, improving IT and infrastructure, and all the other elements of our Strategic Intent—we will have set a healthy course for CIA for at least a decade.

So, as I said back in early January, we've got the trajectory—what we need now is velocity. You'll help generate it through your skill and hard work. And I anticipate that a lot of it will come from the sheer energy we get from having a lot of new people coming into workforce, many of them quite young.

This influx poses a challenge, as I've said, but it also opens up tremendous possibilities for our Agency. It makes it a lot easier for us to forge ahead in terms of transformational initiatives, because people who are new to any organization are naturally a lot more receptive to change.

And for the men and women of this Agency, there's a lot of blue sky. Our relatively youthful workforce, the preeminence of intelligence in dealing with the threats our nation faces, and our corporate policies that reward outstanding performance—like ending time-in-grade—give our people a great prospect for advancement, and for making a real difference. The level of opportunity at our Agency is as good as it's ever been, if not better.

The fact is, we're finally getting around to meeting the demands of the future—things like infrastructure, leadership development, succession planning, and all the other necessities for keeping our Agency competent, collaborative, and central. And while those issues might appear to be several ridgelines down the battlefield, we've got to address them now. And we are. When the Action Plan for our Strategic Intent comes out at the end of next month, that's when the heavy lifting will really begin.

Of course, we're at war, too. That's the defining fact of life for CIA. We're not going to get a break on the nonstop operational tempo, so it's going to get even busier around here as we get into the thick of implementing our Strategic Intent.

But that's what we must do if we're going to pass this Agency along to our successors as the national treasure it's always been.

As William Donovan once said of the nucleus of talent that would become our forerunner organization, the OSS , “This is no place for a guy bound by the law of averages.”

Given the exceptional men and women we're honoring today, neither is CIA.

So to each of our new SIS officers: thank you. Thanks for stepping forward to help lead this great Agency, and thanks for contributing your formidable strengths to defending our nation. Well done, all of you.

Historical Document
Posted: Apr 03, 2007 09:02 PM
Last Updated: Jun 20, 2008 08:50 AM