WASHINGTON, August 7, 2014 —
Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is one of a select group of people who can say they made a positive change across an entire discipline, the director of the National Security Agency said during Flynn’s retirement ceremony at Joint Base Bolling-Anacostia here today.
“There are very few of us who can say that we have made a difference that spans an entire organization,” Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers said. “There are even fewer who can say that we have made a difference that spans an entire profession or discipline. And for intelligence, Mike has done just that.”
The general spent his career trying to effect change, Rogers said.
“Today, as we would say in the Navy, we watch pass over the side probably the most visible intelligence professional that we have generated within this department in the last 10 or 20 years, and it's not by chance,” he said. “It's because Mike was always willing to be out in front, to take the hard jobs, to drive change and remind all of us that it’s not about us, it’s about [executing] the mission and it’s about the men and women who make that execution possible.”
Flynn served as DIA director since July 2012, and his previous positions included assistant director of national intelligence and director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Central Command and Joint Special Operations Command.
Rogers credited his own success to Flynn’s desire to help his fellow service members.
“The thing I always respected the most about Mike is he's not about what was. He is always about what will be, what should be, what must be, and he has dedicated his professional life to that idea,” Rogers said. “I've watched it firsthand in my career. I have benefited from it firsthand. … I want to very publicly thank Mike Flynn, because I wouldn't be where I am today if he hadn't pushed to help me along in my career.”
As he concluded his 33-year military career, Flynn had advice for America.
“I believe that if the American people pay attention, then we get good government and we get good leadership,” the general said. “When we get lazy -- especially as a democracy -- and begin taking shortcuts, these can result in not only bad government, but weak institutions.”
A strong national defense is essential to the nation’s constitutional principles, he said, and those who serve in national security and national defense cannot allow themselves to ever take shortcuts.
“A strong defense is what will allow our nation continue for many, many more years. Centuries, if we are very lucky,” Flynn said. “But that luck will only come through hard work and sheer determination and not through some false sense of hope.”
Countless Americans have dedicated their lives to the nation in many different ways and no one should underestimate the resilience of the nation’s citizens, he said.
“When properly led, the generation of people who serve this country, or are willing to serve our nation -- especially our youngest generation -- will surprise us every time. … Despite all the negativity you hear, young people are still lining up to serve our nation,” Flynn said.
“They are still heading into recruiting stations around the country,” he continued. “They are joining ROTC or service academy programs. They are clamoring to go through [Officer Candidate School]. And they seek to serve in other ways, such as civilian professionals in our United States intelligence community.”
While they have different backgrounds and expectations, the general said, these young people all share the same desire to serve the nation. “And all they ask for is good, decent and honest leadership,” he added.
It may have become cliche to say that the nation faces more threats than at any other time in its history, he said, but there is a new intensity to conflicts around the world that will require those who face it to have physical, mental and intellectual courage.
“We as Americans have to understand what we do, and we have to understand who we are, better today than at any other time in our nation's history. … There is change occurring in the underlying colonial, societal and political landscapes that existed last century, and there are parts of the world that are being reborn right before our eyes,” he noted.
“Boundaries, at least distinctly drawn boundaries that nation-states might recognize, are evaporating or are being redrawn,” he said. “Is world peace even thinkable in our time? You know, I don't know. I don't know. But what I do know, and what I believe, as George Washington so eloquently stated, there is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be prepared to meet an enemy.”
Some may want to believe that everyone loves the United States, Flynn said, but he but there are nation-states and non-nation state threats that view America as the enemy. “And they do not like us, nor care for our way of life,” he added. “And they will work hard to take everything that we have from us.”
Flynn offered some parting words to the audience.
“As you walk away from my retirement ceremony today, if you consider anything that I say, it is that we had better be prepared for and ready and willing to use every fiber of our being to maintain the kind of life that we enjoy in this country,” he said.
The nation may not be able to avoid every threat it faces, he added, but it must be able to adapt to the threats it can’t avoid.
“Life is like surfing a wave,” Flynn said. “You can't change the way the surf breaks, but you can certainly change the way you ride it,” he said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)