Panetta: Under Burgess, DIA Evolved Into Global Agency
WASHINGTON, July 24, 2012 – The Defense Intelligence Agency has evolved into a global agency that operates wherever U.S. forces are engaged and at every point along the chain of command, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.
Panetta spoke here during a ceremony marking the DIA change of directorship, as Army Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., who joined DIA as director in 2009 and is retiring after 38 years of military service, relinquished the directorship to Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.
The DIA director also serves as commander of the joint functional component command for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that is part of U.S. Strategic Command, and Burgess handed over that responsibility as well.
Hundreds in the audience included top officials of the U.S. and coalition armed forces, the intelligence community and Congress, family members and guests, and the men and women of DIA.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented Burgess with one of several commendations he received today -- a certificate of appreciation from President Barack Obama.
“I extend to you my personal thanks and sincere appreciation of a grateful nation for your contribution of honorable service to our country,” the citation said in part. The president also commended Burgess for helping to maintain the nation’s security during a critical time in its history.
During the ceremony, Panetta, Dempsey, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., and many others praised Burgess and his service to the nation.
“Military intelligence is now far more integrated, far more effective and more vital than ever to our ability to defend this country, and Ron Burgess has been instrumental in that transformation,” Panetta said.
“Particularly over the last decade, Ron has helped bring about that fusion of military and intelligence capabilities that has been at the heart and soul of our intelligence effort in this country and throughout the world,” the secretary added.
Such an integration of capabilities, he added, has been a game-changer on the battlefield.
“As a former director of the CIA, I can personally attest to how important that military intelligence relationship has been,” the secretary said. “The ability of the military and intelligence communities to work together has been incredibly important to protecting this country.”
Panetta also extended his gratitude to “the dedicated men and women of the DIA, who work every day and every night, without fanfare, to keep our nation safe.”
Panetta said Flynn brings to his new position decades of experience in military intelligence and unsurpassed knowledge of the 21st-century battlefield.
“I had the opportunity to see his impressive work up close as director of the CIA, a chance to see it up close when he was in Afghanistan doing tremendous work there,” Panetta said, “and I have full confidence that he is the right man to lead the more than 16,000 dedicated professionals that are here at the DIA.”
As secretary of defense and as an American, the secretary added, “I am deeply grateful that our department has men and women of the caliber of these two who are willing to dedicate their lives to defending the values that we cherish and the freedom that we hold so dear to our heart.”
Since 2011, Flynn has served as assistant director of national intelligence for partner engagement.
“As we recognize the accomplishment of a great leader in Ron Burgess for his service to DIA and our nation over these many years,” Flynn said, “today is as much about the civilians, our military and all the families that make up this global organization currently deployed in 139 countries around the world, with over 500 serving our combat forces in Afghanistan.”
The new DIA director also praised agency teams, including the Afghanistan/Pakistan Task Force in Afghanistan directly supporting ISAF Commander Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the counterterrorist intelligence specialists supporting special operations forces globally deployed, those supporting the nation's rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific basin, and those making possible the newly established Defense Clandestine Service.
In today's uncertain environment, Flynn added, “DIA stands out as the world's premier military intelligence agency. There are simply none better.”
Clapper, who was DIA director from 1992 to 1995, told stories about Burgess’s fierce love for college football by the Tigers from his Alabama alma mater Auburn University, his career-long history of regular gym workouts, and his role in transitioning the National Defense Intelligence College into the National Intelligence University -- despite, Clapper said to laughter from Burgess and the audience, Burgess’s advice to his own children about going to college: “It’s only a lot of reading if you do it.”
Clapper told other stories as well, about the difference Burgess made at DIA.
“Yesterday, for example, we presented Ron with a special award recognizing his leadership in fostering equal opportunity and diversity, not only at DIA, but as the role model of leadership for the entire community,” Clapper said. “That is richly deserved recognition, and it is exemplary of Ron’s superb leadership.”
Afterward, Clapper presented Burgess with the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal “in recognition of extraordinary contributions from May 1974 to July 2012 … [and personal qualities that were] instrumental in transforming defense intelligence into a cooperative enterprise to better serve national policymakers, combatant commanders and warfighters.”
Burgess also received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for his 2009-2012 service as DIA director.
Taking the podium, Burgess recognized and thanked all of those who shared the stage with him, his advisory board and those in the audience, his voice breaking as he thanked his wife and children and their families for many years of love and support.
“To the men and women of DIA here and around the globe, thank you for your highly professional service to the nation,” Burgess said.
“What guides this agency and its professionals every day is the understanding that while much of what we do is secret, our work is and forever shall be a public trust,” he added, “and it’s a trust that we must earn anew every day.”