Major Executive Speeches



Robert S. Mueller, III, Director, FBI
National Conference of the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Conference
Arlington, VA
September 17, 2002

Thank you, Joyce. Good morning everyone. It's great to be here. I guess you get two Directors for the price of one today. Director James, it's good to see you.

Back in June, we invited Ambassador Spearman and his staff over to my office to talk about ways that we could help each other out and build on our partnership. We discussed a number of different ideas, and one of the things the Ambassador suggested was, "Why don't come speak at our national conference?" I thought that was a great idea, and I appreciate the offer and the opportunity to talk with all of you today.

I come with good news. The FBI is hiring. I guess you could say it's a bull market for jobs in the Bureau. We're looking to fill about 1,800 jobs over the next twelve months. We'd love to be able to fill those jobs with your best and brightest. But we need your help.

Let me tell you why. First, as we all know, September 11 changed the nation's and the FBI's priorities in a profound way. To meet the challenge, we have restructured and re-engineered the Bureau from top to bottom so that we are more predictive and preventative. And now we need specific talents and expertise from outside the Bureau to strengthen our capabilities.

For example, we have a critical need for more Special Agents with strong scientific and technical backgrounds. We need engineers. We need biologists and chemists. We need computer scientists. We are also looking for individuals who are fluent in any number of languages, from Spanish to Chinese Mandarin to some of the languages common to the Middle East. And we need people with critical thinking skills, who can do the kind of in-depth research and analysis that is so important to our intelligence work today. We know these talents are out there in your universities. But we need your help in bringing our needs and opportunities to the forefront of the minds of your students and graduates.

Second, we want more diversity in the FBI. The fact is, we need it and place the highest value on it. Why? Because it is absolutely vital to getting the job done for our country. As you all know, the face of America is wonderfully multiracial and multiethnic -- our great strength as a nation -- and it is growing more so all the time. And as Yogi Berra might say, "the world has gone global." With the Internet, we are never more than a mouse click away. Most businesses now cater to an international market. Kids in Japan and Casablanca and most everywhere else wear blue jeans and go to McDonald's.

All of this has had a profound impact on the work of the FBI. We deal every day with a more diverse population and a more complex range of cultures. Hackers break into computer networks half a world away. International crime rings sow discord across borders. Terrorists spend years overseas planning their attacks, then carry them out on American soil, as we saw so tragically on September 11.

The reality is, to be effective, we have to look like America. We have to understand and reflect the communities we serve. And we must be global in our reach. We have Agents stationed in 44 cities around the world. Not just in western countries like France and Canada and England. But also in Singapore, Egypt, Pakistan, Colombia, Nigeria, and most recently, China. This means, of course, that we have to be comfortable in virtually every culture. We have to be fluent in any number of different languages. We have to be able to connect with our many international colleagues so that we can enlist their aid in tracking down fugitives and other criminals outside our borders.

Recognizing this, we have redoubled our efforts in recent years to reach your universities specifically and African Americans and minorities in general. We have sent recruiters and minority Agents and alumni to your campuses and career fairs. We have gone to conferences held by organizations like the NAACP, Blacks in Government, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. We have attended events like the Annual Black College Spring Break Career Fair and the Annual Women of Color Awards Conference. We have advertised heavily in minority newspapers and magazines, trade journals, and the like. We have asked graduates of our Citizens' Academies -- which give community leaders an inside look into the FBI -- to help us identify minority talent. Sometimes, we recruit the graduates themselves. More recently, we started a pilot project with three universities -- including Clark University in Atlanta and Morgan State University in Baltimore -- to have marketing students help develop minority recruiting plans for the FBI.

Because of these and other efforts, we have received national recognition from a number of publications as a top government agency for minorities and women to work for today. Equal Opportunity Magazine recently ranked us number one.

Despite all this, we are not getting the results we want, especially when it comes to hiring Special Agents. So that is why we very much need your help. You have access to a rich pool of talent. Your students and alumni respect you. They are looking to you for advice and counsel. And among your networks of friends and colleagues, you might know someone who is looking for a career change, who might want to put his or her talents to work serving the country. You might be that person yourself. So that is why we are asking you -- as Americans, as leaders in education and in our country -- to work with us in helping to bring new and diverse talent into the FBI.

Now, let me get specific about the kinds of opportunities we offer. We think we have some strong selling points. For starters, as I said earlier, we are hiring. No, we can't offer stock options or bonuses. But we pay our people well. Our new Agents, for example, start at close to $60,000. Within five years, they will earn upwards of $80,000 -- even more if they are promoted. And these are steady jobs. They are not going to disappear if the economy takes a turn for the worse. Plus, our employees tend to love their jobs and stay in them. The FBI magazine catalogs hundreds of 20, 25, and 30 year anniversaries every month.

We have made the process of applying to the Bureau easier than ever. In February, we began allowing online applications at our web site. In the past six months, we received 60,000 applications, more than in the past five years combined. Today, we have a separate dedicated web site for this purpose. It lists all of our vacancies and has a wealth of information on jobs and opportunities. The address for the site is: www.fbijobs.com.

If you go to that site, you will see that there are an abundance of opportunities in the Bureau. Many people, when they think of the FBI, picture the traditional Agent with a gun on the hip. They may remember, as I do, Efrem Zembalist Jr. They might think of Agents Mulder and Scully. But today, there is really no such thing as a typical Agent or a typical FBI employee, because the work we do and the people we employ really covers a wide spectrum.

I think most people know that the FBI tracks down some of America's most dangerous criminals -- spies, terrorists, serial killers, mobsters, and international drug lords. But they may not know this. We also protect the environment by investigating individuals and companies who pollute our air and dirty our waters. We help consumers and the economy by breaking up price fixing schemes and exposing major white collar frauds. We protect Native Americans and the lands they live on from crime and corruption. We uphold civil rights by working with state and local partners to investigate hate crimes. We also provide world-class training and forensic and high-tech services to our partners in state, local, and even international law enforcement.

It takes a world of talent to make it all work. We employ everyone from pilots to paralegals to photographers. Look at our payroll and you will find social workers, linguists, security officers, information technology professionals, fingerprint experts, even dentists.

Let me mention an FBI initiative that may be of special interest to your students. It is called the Honors Intern Program. Each year, we bring in around 50 outstanding college students from around the country to be interns at FBI Headquarters. They get top secret clearances and work in some high profile areas like counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and cyber crime. They get a rare view of the inner workings of the FBI. Yes, it is a highly competitive program. But wouldn't it be worth having one of the fifty students come from your college or university? I hope you will work with us to bring this program to their attention. It could be a great stepping stone and a fascinating experience for them.

Let me also say a few words about becoming an Agent. There is a general misconception out there that you need to be part of the legal profession or law enforcement to be a Special Agent. We do hire our fair share of lawyers and police professionals. But that is not a requirement. As I said earlier, we are looking for a range of skills today. We need computer experts who can do data mining and help us track criminals through cyber space. We need world-class scientists who can help us unravel the mysteries of complex and powerful biological agents like anthrax. In short, we are looking for twenty-first century skills, cutting edge skills, in some exciting new fields.

And please remember that we do not typically hire Agents right out of college. We want individuals who have at least three years of work experience and the judgment and maturity that come with it. What we suggest to interested candidates is that they pick a field that is most interesting to them, get their degrees and their experience, and then come to us and see what opportunities are available. In some cases, the road to the FBI is a long one. It certainly was for me. But it is worth the time and effort to be ready to assume the awesome responsibilities that come with the job.

And I can tell you that the responsibilities are awesome. We are talking about the highest level of public service -- work that is incredibly important to the security of the country and to the safety of all Americans. For that reason, there is a sense of pride and a spirit of sacrifice in the FBI that goes far beyond what you will find in most careers.

In the past year, many talented Americans have felt called to join us at this critical time in history. They include professionals with multiple degrees. Individuals who can speak four or five different languages. Executives from corporate America who are willing to take pay cuts of $30,000, $40,000, and even $50,000 to come work for the FBI.

One of the rosters of new Agents that I looked at recently included a nuclear submarine engineer, several high-ranking military officers, a school principal, and financial analysts from places like Banc America and Goldman Sachs. One individual was a certified systems engineer, a former federal agent, a merchant marine officer, and an explosives expert all rolled into one. We even had a former grand prix racer, who I guess is going to be pretty good in car chases.

They are all here because they know this is an organization worth being a part of. And we are convinced that there are many more Americans, including the students and graduates of your colleges and universities, who would want to join us if they only knew more about the FBI and the opportunities we offer.

So I ask you to help us reach out to these individuals. Talk with them about some of the opportunities I described today. Direct them to our web site. Urge them to apply for our Honors Intern Program. Contact colleagues who may want to take their lives in a different direction. Believe me, we would appreciate anything you could do. It will make a difference not just to the FBI, but to you, your institutions, and your graduates -- and most importantly, to our country.

I want to close with this thought. As we all know, there exists in America today a fair measure of cynicism towards our government. And clearly, our government is always in need of change and improvement. But I can tell you -- as anyone who works for the FBI can tell you -- that there is something very satisfying about working for a larger cause. There is something very satisfying about being able to go home at the end of the day, knowing you have served your country and helped save lives.

So what I would say to your students is this. You can make America a better place in any number of ways, but we are offering the chance to do it from the inside, from the place where critical decisions are made and the difficult work is done. If you want to help make this country safe and strong, if you want to help ensure liberty and justice for all, then join us. The FBI could use your perspectives, your talents, and your commitment. And so could America.

Thanks and God bless.