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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Change of Directorship (As Delivered)

Good morning everyone. Good morning to Director Haines, Lieutenant General Berrier, Lieutenant General Kruse; many distinguished guests, members of the diplomatic community, family, and friends of DIA; and finally, to the people of the Defense Intelligence Agency: thank you all for joining us.

It's great for me to be back at DIA. As I said the last time I was here, the intelligence you collect, analyze, and disseminate is indispensable, and a vital tool that Secretary Austin and I use every day. 

The Defense Department is smarter and stronger thanks to the hard work of DIA's professionals, military and civilian, who work day and night, around the world. And please, join me in a round of applause for this workforce. (Applause.)

We rely on DIA, and the entire defense intelligence enterprise, for insights on all the challenges we face:

  • from the People's Republic of China, which is today America's most consequential strategic competitor on the global stage;
  • from Russia, which presents an acute threat to the international system, as illustrated by its ongoing cruel war of choice against Ukraine;
  • from persistent regional threats, like North Korea, Iran, and violent extremist organizations;
  • and from borderless threats, like pandemics and climate change.

Most of these are areas DIA has focused on for a long time. But over the last three-plus years, this entire agency and its leadership has made a concerted effort to better posture DIA for enduring strategic competition with the PRC. That's been a good thing, because it's what the nation and our military need. 

And I know it isn't easy to reorient an agency like DIA, with its over 16,000 personnel. There are many obstacles to overcome — operational and organizational.

For example, our competitors have increasingly shut off their own people and the world from the free flow of information, making them what you in the intel community would call denied territory. That requires shifting our approach and mindset. Even as we shouldn't forget lessons learned over the last 20-plus years, it's also true that collection and analytic techniques for understanding a closed society — like the Soviet Union was — are becoming more applicable again. 

There's also the workforce dynamic of combining "old hands" with "new blood" — the challenge of learning from longtime subject-matter experts, while benefitting from new perspectives. Bringing the two together can be transformational, but it requires active management, mutual respect, and leadership at all levels. 

In many ways, adapting to confront a decades-long strategic competition, with the PRC as our pacing challenge, requires deliberate disruption and discomfort — not unlike the pendulum swing toward counter-terrorism that the national security community experienced after 9/11. 

It requires doubling down with confidence and urgency — recognizing that we're in a persistent, generational competition for advantage, and we have no time to waste doing more of the same. 

It also requires sharing more, and partnering more — as DIA has done to great effect in recent years, operationalizing intelligence to provide crisis-support for Ukraine since Russia began its latest invasion two years ago this month. And as you know, we can't surge trust, which makes it so important to strengthen collaboration with all of our allies and partners — early and often. 

For over three years, the DIA team has done just this under the leadership of one of our most experienced military intelligence professionals: Lieutenant General Scotty Berrier. 

Before I go on, I want to share a few words about Scotty from Secretary Austin. Here's what he had to say: "Through every assignment and deployment, your analytical expertise protected American and allied warfighters and defended our national security interests. … Your vision and measured leadership under pressure provided our country's leaders with decision advantage and made America safer." 

The Secretary of Defense is speaking from the heart here, based on years of working with Scotty, going back more than two decades — from the 10th Mountain Division, to U.S. Central Command, to here at DIA — and notably as his former CO. 

Scotty's career began during our nation's last period of strategic competition — and he rose through the ranks amid the transformation and turmoil of the post-Cold War and post-9/11 eras. 

Those experiences gave him a unique perspective that shaped his leadership of DIA in this new era of strategic competition. It's a perspective we must maintain: knowing that even as we focus on the pacing challenge, there are many threats out there. We need strong I&W in every region of the world. We can and will leave no stone unturned as we defend America and her interests. 

Scotty, your time leading DIA caps off almost 40 years of outstanding service in the U.S. Army — during which you commanded intel formations from the company-size to this agency. You served as the "2" at all levels — battalion and brigade S-2; division, corps, and Army G-2; and J-2 for U.S. and allied forces in Korea, Afghanistan, and at CENTCOM.

And through it all, you've had the support of your wife, Annie: over 25-plus moves, and eight deployments, since your Army journey began together up at Alaska's Fort Richardson so many years ago. 

I'm told that Annie, a dedicated equestrienne, even joined in the soldiering at times — like at Fort Huachuca, where she rode with B Troop, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial), a ceremonial unit that keeps alive the 150-year-old heritage of the U.S. Army in the Southwest. 

Together, you've raised two sons who've continued your commitment to public service. Cole served on Capitol Hill, in the office of Senator Brian Schatz. And Connor — or, as the Defense Department calls him, Lieutenant Commander Berrier — is an active-duty naval officer.

Like all military spouses, Annie has served and sacrificed. So have Cole and Connor, and their wives Mika and Amanda. To them, to Scotty's grandkids Jack — who is really enjoying that lollipop, I have say. Excellent. (Laughter.) And Maeve, and to the whole Berrier family that's supported him throughout his career: America thanks you. 

And Scotty, we're also grateful to you — and Annie — that you delayed your well-deserved retirement until your relief could get in place. 

The fact is, last year's unnecessary hold on general and flag officer confirmations had a real impact on leaders and their families — and DoD continues to repair the damage caused by its cascading effects. 

While we hope the worst is now behind us, make no mistake: that must never happen again.

The good news is, today — even though it is Groundhog Day — Scotty's relief is here. (Laughter.) And as DIA's colors pass to Lieutenant General Jeff Kruse, we know he'll keep up the great work. 

Like Scotty, Jeff was an intelligence officer from his first assignment after commissioning out of ROTC. After his junior year in college, he stayed on campus to recruit new freshmen into ROTC. It's unclear how many he recruited, though, because that was also when Jeff met Susie, and ended up engaged. (Laughter.) "A truly great summer," he later recalled. And we're grateful for Susie's service and sacrifice ever since. 

Spanning nearly three-and-a-half decades, Jeff's career has well prepared him for this moment.

From being the INDOPACOM J2: he deeply understands what it will take to continue deterring PRC aggression — and also why we can't take our eye off regional threats, like North Korea, or Iran. Because we're a global force, with global responsibilities, we must always be ready for anything. 

From being the Pentagon's Director of Defense Intelligence for Warfighter Support, and the first yearlong embedded J2 of the counter-ISIS campaign: he knows what it means to get your clients the actionable intelligence they need to accomplish their missions. 

From his nearly-10-years-long serving in continuous joint assignments — since 2014, his entire time as a general officer; leading DIA will be his sixth joint assignment in a row: Jeff knows the value of bringing together intelligence from across the services, across domains, across the "INTS," to meet the strategic and operational needs of America's joint force.

And, as Director Haines noted, he knows from serving at ODNI why it's so vital that DoD and the IC keep working well together. 

Now, I will assess — with more than moderate confidence — that today that partnership is pretty great, thanks to the many leaders in this room.

But, if anyone thinks they can take our collaboration to even higher heights, chances are it's an Air Force general. (Laughter.) (Applause.)

In all seriousness, we welcome that. And Jeff is more than ready to continue strengthening the DoD-IC relationship. 

He'll be served well by the steady hand and the sense of humor that Director Haines mentioned. And all of DIA will be, too.

Jeff, as you and your fellow intel professionals know well — even if it's not said nearly enough — intelligence isn't just a product; it's a relationship. You've got to be proactive on behalf of your clients, trust your people, and inspire them to meet the moment. And I have high confidence that you will. 

So to Jeff, and Susie: welcome to an exciting new adventure. 

And to Scotty, and Annie: thank you for everything you've done — for DIA, for the Army, and for America. We wish you both and your family the best. 

Thank you. (Applause.)