Retirement Ceremony for General Michael Hayden (Washington, D.C)
As Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., Friday, June 20, 2008
Members of the Hayden family, friends, distinguished guests – thank you all for being here. As I look out and see all the senior officials and VIPs here this morning I am reminded of my commissioning ceremony as a second lieutenant at Lackland Air Force Base in 1967. Before the ceremony we were all asked if we would have any guests attending in the rank of colonel or GS-15 or above who would warrant VIP treatment. I suspect Mike Hayden might have had a similar experience. None of us in those days had friends in high – or even low – places.
We’re here to honor General Hayden as he takes off the uniform of the military he has served for nearly four decades. But unlike most retirement ceremonies I attend, this one does not mark the end of a career. Quite the contrary. Mike will wake up Monday, put on a business suit, and continue working in one of the most critical positions in our government today – director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Let me tell you from experience, it is not a job for the faint of heart. As General Hayden himself has noted, in the intelligence business, when you smell the flowers, you look around for the coffin. You also have to be on the lookout for some of the hare-brained ideas that get tossed around. At one point during my tenure as deputy DCI, I was briefed on a plan to launch balloons into Libya dropping leaflets telling the people to overthrow the government. I told them to make sure the leaflets specifically said that it was Qaddafi who should be overthrown. I could see strong westerly winds carrying balloons with a generic “overthrow your government” right across Libya and into Egypt. And I imagine President Mubarak would have been none too pleased.
I have known General Hayden for many years. When the White House asked me to consider taking the newly-created position of director of national intelligence in January 2005, one of my first requests was that Mike be my deputy – because I knew I would need at my side a man of extraordinary experience, independence, and integrity. Though I did not end up in that position, I was very pleased that Mike was made deputy anyway. I felt the same way when he was nominated to be director of CIA.
Then, as now, I considered him the quintessential intelligence professional in government – a man whose career makes him uniquely qualified at this moment in history – a time in which our national security depends on the effective synthesis of intelligence and military operations.
On this, General Hayden is the true expert. He was director of the intelligence directorate at U.S. European Command; commander of the Air Intelligence Agency; director of the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center; director of the National Security Agency; and, as I said, principal deputy director of National Intelligence. For more than 20 years, he has been both an intelligence provider and consumer. He knows the entire spectrum of the business, and he knows what policymakers and military planners need to do their jobs.
Wherever General Hayden has been in government, we have seen within his orbit a shift away from the inefficiencies and turf wars that too often plague government intelligence efforts. It is no secret that I opposed the creation of the current DNI intelligence apparatus. But Mike has proven that even a flawed bureaucratic structure can be made to work if we have the right leaders and right relationships in place.
When Mike was first nominated to be director of CIA, there were some questions about whether that position should be held by a man in uniform. Ironically, when I was DCI, we were trying to get the military more involved in CIA. I worked with Colin Powell to appoint a senior military officer as the third-ranking officer in CIA’s clandestine service, and my successors appointed military officers to even more senior positions. It is clear now that whatever questions were raised about the role of military professionals at CIA have been largely settled. We’ve overcome many of the past divisions and discord that existed between the Department of Defense and other parts of the intelligence community. We are all on one team these days – and Mike has played a key role in this effort.
In a world where the principal threats are terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, close cooperation between the military and CIA in clandestine and covert operations and intelligence collection is essential. In Iraq and Afghanistan, countless lives – Iraqi, Afghan, American, and Coalition – have been saved through intelligence efforts that have led to the killing or capture of terrorist leaders and facilitators. I would argue that there has never been a better fusion of military operations and intelligence in the history of warfare. This is of great importance in the broader War on Terror – a war whose outcome, as Mike has noted, will depend in large measure on American intelligence capabilities.
Mike understands the threats we face – threats he has likened to a “swarm of bees”: diffuse, numerous, seemingly random but with underlying purpose, and extremely dangerous. And he knows what we must do to confront them. One key task is to train a new generation of career intelligence experts to make up the loss of the 1990s. Mike has to manage an incredibly complex and secretive organization that spans the globe.
It is representative of his character as a leader that he often makes time to go to the cafeteria for lunch to meet with staff. He looks for an empty seat, not an empty table. He once sat down at what turned out to be a baby shower. He offered a few potential names before he took his leave.
I might also note that Mike has held a few jobs in his life that have to be firsts for CIA directors: Pittsburgh Steelers ball boy; bellhop; cabbie; and, my personal favorite, door-to-door hairbrush and comb salesman. That irony is not lost on any of us.
General Hayden would be the first to admit that he owes good measure of his success to his family. I would note his father Harry Hayden Junior, is with us today, and of course Mike’s wife, Jeanine. Jeanine, your support of Mike and your own service to our country is deeply appreciated.
In a speech earlier this year, General Hayden quoted former CIA director Richard Helms, when said 40 years ago that “the nation to a degree must take it on faith that we [at CIA] are honorable men devoted to her service.” There is no doubt that General Hayden is an honorable man devoted to the service of his country. Though he exchanges his uniform for a suit today, he will continue serving an organization built upon the pillars he upheld throughout his military career: duty, honor, patriotism, and service.
Mr. Director, General, thank you for your ongoing service. I wish you and your family all the best.