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Brennan Delivers Remarks at the National Defense University Foundation American Patriot Award Ceremony

Remarks for CIA Director John O. Brennan as Prepared for Delivery at the National Defense University Foundation American Patriot Award Ceremony

November 5, 2015


Good evening everyone. Thank you all very much.

It is quite humbling for me to represent the women and men of the Central Intelligence Agency, and deeply gratifying to see them receive such heartfelt acclaim. They neither seek nor expect public praise, but I can tell you that by virtue of the courage, skill, and commitment they devote to their country each day, they have quietly and most certainly earned it. And I know that the Agency workforce is very grateful for this outstanding award and profoundly appreciative of the kind words spoken tonight.

I first want to thank Cathleen Pearl, Al Zimmerman, and everyone at the National Defense University and the NDU Foundation. We are exceedingly fortunate to have a great university here in our Nation’s capital focused entirely on issues of national security, preparing our best and brightest military and civilian leaders for the critical work that needs to be done to safeguard our country and advance our national security interests around the globe.

At its core, CIA is very much a learning organization. Our officers have both studied and taught at NDU for many years, and we have always enjoyed a close and highly productive partnership.

So beyond the gifts of knowledge and insight from which we have long benefited, tonight I thank our friends at NDU for honoring the Agency’s workforce with the American Patriot Award, and for inviting our officers into the illustrious ranks of past recipients.

I also want to thank General Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his gracious comments about the Agency. We at CIA are very proud to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners in uniform in hotspots around the globe. And it is true that the bond between CIA and America’s armed forces has never been stronger.

I also want to express my gratitude to Ambassador Peter Westmacott and, indeed, to all our British friends and colleagues who work closely with us in seeking to make this a safer, better world. Sir Peter has represented his country with tremendous skill and integrity, most recently here in Washington as well as throughout his distinguished career. And I want to reciprocate his praise for CIA with my own for the British services, which carry out their vital work with nothing but the highest standards of tradecraft and dedication.

My thanks go out as well to the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco, for her thoughtful tribute to the Agency. Lisa is one of the most knowledgeable, talented, and hard-working public servants in this city, and it is always a pleasure to support policymakers like Lisa, who are expert in their fields and who greatly value the work of intelligence officers.

I also want to thank the former Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, my good friend Mike Vickers, for speaking on behalf of the Agency where he began his remarkable career. Mike is one of the finest intelligence officers of his generation and a truly outstanding public servant, and I’m glad he could be with us tonight.

When President Obama asked me to serve as Director of the CIA, I said that it would be the greatest privilege of my professional life. And after more than two-and-a-half years in office, I can tell you that leading the Agency has been everything I expected and much more.

I truly have the best job in the world. It offers the deep satisfaction of serving our Nation and helping to protect our way of life, and it offers the opportunity to address some of the most challenging and consequential issues of our time.

But what really sets this job apart is that I get to work with the most talented, dedicated, innovative, selfless, courageous, and hard-working women and men this Nation has to offer—the men and women we honor tonight.

Because of the secrecy our work requires, CIA often comes across as a faceless entity. But tonight’s ceremony is an important reminder that our work is carried out by real people.

The women and men of CIA come from farming communities and industrial hubs, border towns and bustling cities, the Sun Belt and the Rust Belt. They are graduates of community colleges, military academies, state universities, and the Ivy League. They are writers, runners, dancers, bikers, surfers, and singers. And they are drawn together by their love of country, sense of duty, and willingness to serve.

Vice President Biden once said that it takes a special breed of patriot to do what CIA officers do. They do not come home to ticker-tape parades. There are no ceremonies in the Rose Garden. They work in secret, performing their jobs not for accolades or for personal gain, but because they know their work is essential to our national security.

In every corner of the world and in its most dangerous places, CIA officers have served wherever their country has needed them—sometimes in force, sometimes standing alone. As I speak, they are working to disrupt weapons transfers, counter cyber threats, foil terrorist plots, dismantle drug cartels, break up syndicates engaged in human trafficking, and carry out many other essential missions.

For nearly seven decades, Agency officers have gone to extraordinary lengths to safeguard our Nation, advance its interests, and protect its citizens. Along the way, they have never hesitated from taking the risks and making the sacrifices necessary to defend our freedom and security.

Since CIA’s founding, we have lost 113 of our colleagues in the line of duty. We strive every day to be worthy of their sacrifice, to repay in some small measure the debt that we owe them, and to carry on the noble cause for which they served and ultimately gave their lives. 

And on behalf of our Agency family, I want to thank all of you in attendance tonight—our brothers and sisters in the armed forces, the Intelligence Community, the Foreign Service, law enforcement, and in other agencies and departments across our government, as well as our overseas partners—for your inspiring words of support and friendship, and for the wonderful recognition you have given to some very worthy American patriots.

Thank you all very much.


Posted: Nov 06, 2015 10:52 AM
Last Updated: Nov 10, 2015 10:53 AM