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NGA Change of Command Ceremony

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Fort Belvoir, Va., Monday, August 09, 2010

Distinguished guests, family, friends thank you for joining us this morning to honor Vice Admiral Murrett and welcome Letitia Long to the helm of NGA.

Admiral Murrett took over the directorship of NGA in July 2006 in what he thought was a three year tour.  As I have learned the hard way, such predictions are illusory at best.  In all actuality, because Bob was so successful here, I extended him in this assignment, as director, for a fourth year. 

Bob has overseen an impressive array of achievements at NGA.  Since this is an unclassified environment, my comments will be general but the impact that this organization has on our nation and our men and women in uniform is real and profound.  Under his leadership, NGA has pushed to get more analysts and support staff into theater.  The folks who deploy from here into Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever are making a big difference in the lives of our men and women in uniform. 

Apart from a critical role in our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, in recent months NGA has also been working with other departments to provide a common operating picture in Haiti following the earthquake there, tracked the oil spill in the Gulf, and monitored the ash clouds from the volcano in Iceland just to name three.  The hard work of NGA professionals has enabled decision makers at all levels of government to make informed choices on the full array of national security challenges based on the most up to date and state of the art analysis. 

Our allies have recognized Admiral Murrett’s achievements as well.  Earlier this year, the Canadian Chief of Defense Staff, General Walt Natynczyk, awarded Admiral Murrett the Canadian Meritorious Service Medal for his “outstanding leadership and vision.”  It goes on to say Admiral Murrett was “instrumental in improving access to and the sharing of geospatial intelligence, which has had a profound impact on safety and security both in Canada and in the United States.”  Bob’s work not just with Canada but our partners and allies around the world has been a key example of integration and collaboration at its best. 

The location of this ceremony is also a lasting reminder of Admiral Murrett’s vision and impact.  And I must say, driving up here I thought its come a long way from NPIC in Southeast Washington.  Even though the move from Bethesda to Fort Belvoir as part of BRAC is not yet complete, the planning involved consolidating seven locations around the capital region and creating a worthy home for this agency.  This facility, to use the admiral’s words, will do more than anything else to bring this agency together, and will be the new home of geospatial-intelligence. 

Bob, you have done a superb job of keeping the mission going during this time of transition and I wish you all the best as you move to new opportunities to lead and serve.  To you, your family, and the entire NGA team: thank you and job well done.

As I said back in February, Tish Long is the right choice to pick up the reins to lead this dynamic and critical intelligence agency during this time of change and transition – and I might add she’ll be the first woman ever to lead a major U.S. intelligence agency.  Having recently performed great work as the Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Ms. Long takes the reins of the NGA directorship with more than 30 years of engineering and intelligence experience.  Her unique and extensive resume includes tenures as the deputy undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, deputy director of Naval Intelligence, and as a coordinator of intelligence community activities for the director of Central Intelligence.  With her experience and proven track record, I have no doubt that she will lead this organization to ever greater success in the very near term. 

In closing, as some of you older folks may know, I have a special, personal connection to the men and women of NGA.  Based on lessons learned in the first Gulf War, as DCI I wanted to create this agency in 1992.  While that leap proved too difficult to make all at once then, I made decisions that led to the creation of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency in 1996.  That organization, which later became NGA, combined imagery elements from both CIA and DOD to provide a more centralized focus on this critical intelligence discipline.  From those beginnings, this organization has grown into a critical link in America’s intelligence apparatus, and made a decisive difference to our national security and recent war effort. 

To the men and women of NGA, I am grateful for your service and what you do every day to protect our country.

Thank you.

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