Instability Has Become a Hallmark of Our Time
Instability Has Become a
Hallmark of Our Time
Remarks for CIA Director John O. Brennan as
Prepared for Delivery at the Navy SEAL Foundation 8th New York City Benefit
Dinner. New York, March 3, 2016.
Source : CIA.
It is a tremendous privilege for me to speak at such a special event that
recognizes and celebrates the dedication, commitment, and sacrifice of those we
honor tonight—the members of the U.S. Navy SEALs, the Naval Special Warfare
Community, and their families and loved ones.
When I received the invitation to participate in this event from my colleague
and friend Admiral Bert Calland, a former Deputy Director of CIA and U.S Navy
SEAL, I immediately accepted, as I have long been an ardent admirer of this very
special brand of patriots.
During my career, I have been most fortunate to have worked closely with some
outstanding Americans who prided themselves on their membership within the SEAL
community, not only Bert, but also men such as Eric Olsen, Bill McRaven, Bob
Harward, Brian Losey, Colin Kilrain, and Alex Krongard.
Each one possessed such tremendous professionalism, integrity, character,
courage, and patriotism that I have always associated the U.S. Navy SEALs and
the Naval Special Warfare Community as epitomizing what it takes and what it
means to wear the uniform of the U.S. military.
At a time when the eyes of the world are on the current and potential
political leaders of our country, I dare say that more politicians should have
had the opportunity to experience BUDs (Basic Underwater Demolition) training at
Coronado Island and the leadership lessons learned throughout a SEAL career.
But it is not just my association with Admirals who happened to be U.S. Navy
SEALS that makes me such an advocate and supporter of who you are, and what you
I have had the great fortune to have many SEALs join the ranks of the CIA so
that they could continue serving the country they so love. And they serve at CIA
with great honor, distinction, and bravery.
In the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, we have our Memorial
Wall that has emblazoned on it 113 stars, each star representing a CIA officer
who paid the last full measure of devotion to our great Nation.
Seventy-three of those heroes had previous military service. And five of the
stars that have been chiseled on that wall since 9/11 memorialize the service
and the sacrifice of former SEALs who gave their lives for their country and for
their fellow Americans while serving at CIA.
Last October, in one of the far off corners of Afghanistan, another CIA
officer who had been a Navy SEAL was on patrol with his U.S. special operations
partners. As he walked over the rocky terrain, he stepped on an IED, throwing
him high into the air and ripping away both of his strong legs at the knees.
When I visited him at Walter Reed Hospital a couple of weeks later, his
beautiful wife and daughter were by his side, as they had been throughout his
Navy SEAL days, giving him the support, confidence, and love that helped get him
through the pain, both physical and emotional.
And also in the room were the same U.S. Special Operations soldiers who were
with him on that fateful day and, despite their own injuries, carried him
tattered and bleeding from the battlefield, saving his life and bringing him
back to the loving arms of his family. He is now learning to walk on his new
prosthetic legs and vows to be running by the one year anniversary of his injury
To you, the members and families of the Naval Special Warfare community—SEALs,
Special Warfare Combatant–Craft Crewmen, and Naval Special Warfare Support
personnel—you are, indeed, a very rare and special breed with whom we at CIA are
exceptionally proud and honored to serve.
You define what it means to serve our Nation selflessly.
To serve secretly.
To serve ably and nobly, no matter the odds, no matter the risks, no matter the
Which is why I wish I could tell all of you here this evening that the
instability, violence, terrorism, and wars that have wracked so many regions of
the world are in decline.
I wish I could tell you that there are now fewer national security challenges
on the world stage demanding your talents, your guile, and your courage.
And I sincerely wish that I could tell your spouses, sons, daughters,
parents, siblings, and close friends that the deployments of their beloved SEALs
will be shorter, that their operations will be less risky, and that the toll
taken on the force will be less painful in the years ahead.
But world developments and our Nation’s global responsibilities do not allow
me to say such things…..at least not yet.
As I tell each new class of CIA officers who raise their right hands and take
their solemn oath of allegiance to support and defend the Constitution of the
United States, our great Nation faces an unprecedented and diverse array of
complex and consequential threats to our national security.
Instability has become a hallmark of our time.
From North Africa, to the Middle East, to South Asia, governments are struggling
to govern their own territory and to meet the basic needs of their people. The
lack of central authority, weak political institutions, and endemic corruption
are fueling sectarian tensions, humanitarian disasters, and violent clashes over
land, resources, religion, and political power.
Among the many features of this volatile new world is the rise of terrorist
organizations, whose deadly reach extends far beyond their native lands. As we
witnessed last November, members of the so-called Islamic Caliphate were able to
carry out devastating attacks on the streets and in the concert halls of Paris,
leaving scores dead and injured.
The wanton and horrific acts of violence perpetrated by ISIL in Syria and
Iraq and its ominous, budding presence in many other countries around the globe
underscore not only the depravity of their cause but also the urgency and
importance of our mission to thwart their evil designs and to destroy them.
And we need to do so wherever they hide, plot, and scheme, and we need to act
before they are able to carry out their murderous acts in our homeland.
Which is why Navy SEALs and their Naval Special Warfare teammates will remain
at the pointy end of the spear for many years to come. When crises arise, your
widely acknowledged prowess will lead many to call upon you to undertake
dangerous missions in far off lands…rescuing hostages, disrupting pirates,
taking down terrorists, or other activities that are simply too secret and too
sensitive to mention here tonight.
And I know that during the many long days and weeks and months that you may
be on such important and secret missions, it will be the thoughts, images, and
love of your families that will carry you through the toughest of times. You
will derive great strength, fortitude, and determination from the simple fact
that that you are protecting your families, your neighbors, your fellow citizens….our
way of life.
And what will give you most comfort is knowing that the generosity of your
fellow Americans, represented so well here this evening, will help take care of
the needs of your families should something happen to you while you are helping
protect the rest of us.
The Foundation’s work is testament to how much your fellow Americans
recognize, appreciate, and admire what you do for all of us.
I was born and raised many years ago right across the river in Hudson County,
New Jersey. I commuted to Fordham University in the Bronx, experiencing the
vibrancy, energy, and freedom of this wonderful city.
At the time, I never dreamed when I was young that I would ever be the
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I never dreamed that I would have
the opportunity to be part of a national security community that is so capable
and so determined to do everything it can to keep this great country safe from
It has been an honor to be in your company this evening. May this Nation
continue to shower its many blessings on you and your families.
Related Topic :
Challenges of Ungoverned Spaces" by John O. Brennan (13-07-2016).
Overarching Challenge of Instability" by John O. Brennan (29-06-2016).
IS a Formidable, Resilient, and Largely Cohesive Enemy" by John O. Brennan
Between Transparency and Secrecy" " by David S. Cohen (21-04-2016).
Has Become a Hallmark of Our Time" by John O. Brennan (03-03-2016).
Intelligence Is the Cornerstone of National Security Policy" by John O.
The OSS Legacy" by John O. Brennan (07-11-2015).
Challenging and Consequential Issues of Our Time" by John O. Brennan
: Between Policy Success and Intelligence Failure" by John O. Brennan
CIA of the Future" by David S. Cohen (15-09-2015).
Does Not Keep Secrets Merely for Secrecy’s Sake" by John O. Brennan
Intelligence in a Transforming World"
by John O. Brennan (13-03-2015).