Remarks as prepared for delivery by
The Honorable Dan Coats
Director of National Intelligence
7th Annual Department of Justice Veterans Appreciation Ceremony
Thursday, November 2, 2017, 1:00 PM
RFK Main Justice Building
Thank you, Attorney General Sessions for your kind introduction. It is an honor to join you today and to be a part of this veteran’s appreciation ceremony.
Our top-notch intelligence collection tells me this is the 7th year running that you have held this event at the Department of Justice – which I think is a wonderful way to honor the more than 28,000 veterans (25% of DOJ workforce) that work across the DOJ.
As the head of the Intelligence Community, I can attest that we absolutely could not do our work without the veterans who contribute to our mission.
In fact, a significant percentage of the IC’s workforce are current or former service members. And our Defense Intelligence Agency not only has a workforce composed of well over 50% active military members and veterans, but they specifically tailor intel products to the warfighters needs.
All that is to say just how essential veterans are – not only for my organization, and the broader IC, but for the federal government as a whole. Veterans help us ensure we are getting the right information to the people who need it most.
So let me begin today by saying thank you.
What I have learned in my short 8 month tenure as DNI is that:
One: The people who protect and defend Americans – whether that is the IC, law enforcement, or our military – are exceptional.
Two: Each and every one of you in the room today could be doing easier work, for more money. And yet, here you are.
I spent a good deal of my time – early on when I became DNI – asking young intelligence officers why they chose this extremely challenging line of work and why they have chosen to stay in it after learning first-hand how hard it can be.
Overwhelmingly the answer was: sense of purpose. The word “mission” is leveraged in almost every response. Despite the long hours, the lack of public recognition, and the less-than competitive wages, every person I talked to spoke of the mission.
The third thing I have learned is how our mission is changing. We are facing the most diverse and complex array of threats I have ever seen. While in the House, the Senate, and as Ambassador to Germany in the wake of 9/11 – I can personally attest to the transformation I have seen take place.
From terrorist threats abroad, and here at home, which we tragically have been reminded of this week…and the growing cyber threat – one of my greatest concerns…to weapons proliferators, drug traffickers, and transnational crime. All of these threats we must address together – as a law enforcement and an intelligence community.
What veterans uniquely offer – beyond their immense brain power – is insight from experience. They know better than most what it means to be on the receiving end of our collective intelligence and insight. They know what information our warfighters need to help stop these threats before they come to our shores.
So I am here to express my appreciation for all the veterans who serve among us. One of whom came to my attention as I was preparing for today’s event – an analyst in the ODNI’s National Counterterrorism Center.
He served for over a decade in the Army – two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. On that tour in Afghanistan, his vehicle hit an IED. He broke his back, his jaw, and ten ribs. And suffered a collapsed lung.
He spent 18 months recovering at Walter Reed. During that time, he pursued an internship at NCTC through our wounded warriors program. He eventually medically retired from the military and became a full-time civilian analyst at NCTC.
Despite his injuries, he loved serving in Army. He explains that even though he can no longer serve in the military, he finds contentment in coming into work every day at NCTC knowing that he is still serving.
His story is as humbling as it is inspiring. We are fortunate to have officers like this across the IC, and within DOJ. He is here today, and I would like to have him stand and have you recognize his contributions.
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