Director's Remarks at the SIS Promotion Ceremony
Remarks of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency,
General Mike Hayden
at the Senior Intelligence Service Promotion Ceremony
(as prepared for delivery)
Yesterday at Georgetown University, we paid tribute to one of CIA’s most remarkable directors. In partnership with the university, we hosted an event on the life and service of Richard Helms and put into the public domain a rich collection of information about him—both his personal papers and declassified official records.
The event brought together many who knew and worked with Director Helms. It was an inspiring reminder of what it means to be an intelligence professional faithfully serving our Republic.
I can think of no more appropriate follow-up than the special occasion that brings us here today. It is my pleasure this morning to welcome 75 exceptional intelligence professionals to our executive ranks. The Senior Intelligence Service is an honor reserved for our most talented officers—a reward for their outstanding work in the past, but, more importantly, recognition of their great potential.
I want to give a special welcome to the family members and friends who have joined us. The sacrifices made by those closest to our officers are not well-known outside our fence line, but we never take them for granted inside. In very real ways, you have contributed to CIA’s success and helped make this day possible. Thanks for supporting our officers and cheering them on—not just today, but every day.
As I reflected over the weekend on the life of Richard Helms, I was struck by the degree to which his approach to leading CIA still applies today. He was the first director to speak publicly—and he did so more than once—about the role of a secret organization in an open society. He guided CIA through some turbulent times, and understood the importance of public support for our work. He felt that the American people should be confident that CIA, while working in the shadows, does so in keeping with their values and expectations. This is our social contract, although he did not use those two words.
Let me quote from a speech he gave some 40 years ago at the Council on Foreign Relations. I suspect many of you are familiar with the first sentence, but what follows is equally important: “The nation must to a degree take it on faith that we too are honorable men devoted to her service,” he said. “We are alleged to be out of control and irresponsible in action. We are neither. For intelligence is the servant of the US government, not its master. We will undertake to do what the authorities ask us to do, no more and we hope no less.”
CIA’s sole purpose—its enduring mission—is to protect the American people. As intelligence officers, we have pledged to do everything in our power to keep our nation safe. That purpose brought each of you here and has driven you to achievement ever since. Still, as you enter the senior ranks, our vital mission takes on new meaning and carries new obligations—something worth remembering in the months and years ahead as you go about your essential work.
More than ever before, you will be relied on to think and act both tactically and strategically. The times demand it. The fierce operational tempo that has defined our Agency since September 11, 2001 is not likely to let up anytime soon. It’s just the nature of intelligence today—our work is central to the toughest security challenges facing our nation. We must continue to provide the very best in operations, analysis, technical know-how, and support, while at the same time doing everything possible to strengthen our capabilities and combine them seamlessly with the rest of the Intelligence Community.
Your skills and years of experience will help CIA do all those things simultaneously—but it won’t be easy, especially because we remain a nation at war. Success will require as much focus on the long term as on the short term, and that takes both foresight and discipline.
Secondly, as SIS officers, you will be looked to, more than ever, as leaders and examples. In our business, most learning is by doing. And in doing it, our newest officers—or those undertaking new tasks or tackling tough new issues—follow the example and advice of those who have been there before. Your job is not only to guide them well, but to treat them well. Teach them our tradecraft, of course. But also give them your time. Answer their questions. Hear their ideas. Convey a sense of energy and enthusiasm about the work. In short, be an officer worth emulating—acting at all times with the highest integrity and respect for your colleagues.
Advancing diversity is an important part of this. We talk about diversity as a mission imperative. But it has to be more than words. We must show that we’re serious about it by ensuring that every officer is developed to his or her full potential and that our work benefits from the rich diversity of talent, experience, and perspective found in the men and women of CIA. As senior officers, you can help us make better progress.
When it comes to the people you lead, the key word is “unleash.” Enabling others to do their job is the heart of effective leadership. It’s removing obstacles and ensuring everyone has the tools, guidance, and support they need to accomplish their mission. When our officers have what they need, when we give them authority to make decisions and instill in them a sense of initiative and daring, they perform exceptionally well. I’ve seen it time and again. So make sure those you manage, lead, and mentor appreciate the degree of confidence and trust you have in them, as I have in each of you.
At the same time, take ownership of the toughest issues and decisions. As Director, I focus on the things that only I can do. As managers and experts in your fields, you should do the same, no matter where you serve.
What all these things add up to is good stewardship. We have been entrusted with this unique and essential national asset for only a short time, and we must strive to leave it better and stronger than we found it. That’s the fundamental motivation behind all that we’re doing to improve our effectiveness: We’re taking creative approaches to hard targets, accelerating the learning of our new analysts, integrating human intelligence operations as never before, reinvesting in basic research, rebuilding our IT infrastructure, and so much more.
I suspect all of you are involved in some way in our top-priority initiatives. If not, come see me after we’re done here. The truth is, we need all the talent, energy, and intellect represented in this room focused on our toughest challenges and most-pressing needs.
After nearly two years at CIA, it is clearer to me than ever that this Agency occupies a unique place in our national security architecture. At a time when integration of capabilities has proven to be one of the most important precursors to success, CIA is the organization best equipped to ensure that integration happens. Here, too, as senior officers, you will play critical roles, both inside CIA and beyond.
This Agency has connections to the rest of the Community that no one else has, both by history and by law. But it’s people who get things done. So I would ask you to keep this goal of greater cohesion front and center. Always strive for better communication and closer collaboration with partners, wherever they may be found. I have no doubt you can do that, because a majority of you have served in the field, outside your home directorate, or elsewhere in the IC—some have done all three. Those broadening experiences will serve you very well as we work toward a more synchronized Community, even as we retain our distinct identity at the center of foreign intelligence.
Tomorrow, I head to Kansas State University to give the Landon Lecture. I’ll talk about our global responsibilities and our essential role in defending the Republic. Representing the exceptional work of this Agency to the people we serve is one of my greatest pleasures as your director. Without fail, I find deep wells of support for our mission and our people when I travel around the country.
Thank you for all the hard work that has brought you here, and for accepting the responsibility of stewardship—for stepping forward to help lead our Agency and take it to even greater success in the future. Your jobs will carry heavy demands, but I am confident you will feel a great sense of honor and satisfaction as well. Congratulations on reaching the Senior Intelligence Service!