Major Executive Speeches

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Photograph of Robert S. Mueller, III Robert S. Mueller, III
Federal Bureau of Investigation

FBI National Academy Associates National Training Conference
Scottsdale, Arizona

July 17, 2007

Good morning. It is an honor to be here, in spite of the heat. Planning a conference in a town where the locals use hot pads to open their car doors is somewhat questionable.

In recent years, I have talked at length about partnership. But it is a message worth repeating: We must continue to work together. Today's criminal and terrorist threats are not confined by borders or boundaries. And unlike Las Vegas, what happens overseas does not stay overseas. It affects all of us.

This morning, I want to talk about the changing dynamics of both crime and terrorism, and what we are doing-together-to confront these threats. And I want to talk about the importance of the National Academy.

Our Collective Response to Changing Dynamics

Usually I start with terrorism and move to criminal threats, but I am going to reverse that today, because the context in which we are operating has changed in recent years.

This changing dynamic reflects the increase in some areas of violent crime across the country. Today, political figures are looking at criminal threats differently than they did in the aftermath of September 11. Time has passed, and, through our collective efforts, we have so far succeeded in preventing another substantial terrorist attack at home. Consequently, terrorism is not on the front burner for many individuals.

Regardless of this changing dynamic, terrorism will continue to be our top priority. But we understand that it is not always your top priority. We recognize that while we need your eyes and ears to predict and prevent terrorist attacks, you need our help on the criminal side.

In the FBI, we have roughly a 50/50 balance between national security and criminal programs. However, our resources are limited, and we must focus on those areas where we bring something unique to the table.

In recent years, we have moved away from drug cases and smaller white collar crimes, but we have dedicated more agents and more resources to violent crime, crimes against children, and public corruption. Since 2001, for example, our violent gang caseload has more than doubled.

We consistently use more resources than we are allotted investigating crimes against children, with more than 5,000 pending investigations. In public corruption cases, we convicted nearly 1,500 federal, state, and local employees in the past two years alone.

In these complex criminal matters, partnerships are essential to getting the job done. There are roughly 180 Safe Streets task forces across the country dedicated to violent crime and gang activity. More than 250 special agents work side-by-side with their counterparts in state and local fusion centers, sharing intelligence and analyzing criminal trends.

Conferences such as this are equally important to our collaborative efforts. I remember from my days as a prosecutor sitting with FBI agents and detectives, working cases shoulder-to-shoulder, and then having a beer after work. Working together is only part of the equation; socializing together helps solidify our partnerships.

We understand that by shifting agents and resources from drug and other criminal investigations to counterterrorism, we may have impacted some of these natural relationships. My hope and expectation is that we will continue to develop these relationships through investigations into violent crime and violent gangs.

Yet we cannot become complacent on the terrorist front. We cannot dismiss the certainty that terrorists are plotting against us or the likelihood that we will face future attacks.

Just as the criminal dynamic has shifted in recent years, so has the terrorist dynamic. Al Qaeda is seeking to rebuild in Pakistan. They are creating new sanctuaries in the Horn of Africa. With that comes the threat of new and more innovative plots against us.

But we also face threats from those who are self-radicalized. Some may have trained in Pakistan or Africa; some may have orders from al Qaeda directing attacks.

The most recent bomb plots in London and Glasgow illustrate the continued threats against all of us and the continued need for vigilance. Here, too, task forces are of utmost importance. The Joint Terrorism Task Forces have been essential in breaking up terrorist plots across the country, from Portland, Lackawanna, and Torrance, to the recent Fort Dix and JFK plots.

I want to thank you for your continued dedication to these task forces. I know you face limited resources and personnel, and it is difficult to spare those officers. But it is absolutely vital to our security. We would not be where we are today without your sacrifices and those of your fellow officers.

Importance of the National Academy

I want to turn for a moment to the importance of the National Academy. This is a bit like preaching to the choir. But it is another message that bears repeating.

We in the FBI had a recent debate about how best to expand the National Academy. One suggestion—it may well have been mine—was to add additional sessions, but to shorten each session by two weeks.

I was inundated by e-mails from across the country, all of which said essentially the same thing: "You will not cut short the National Academy experience, Director." The word "Director" was used very loosely, I might add. I got the message. We decided instead to increase the number of students per session.

A record 300 students graduated this June from the 229th session. This is the first significant increase in more than 30 years. Hotel Quantico was already stretched to its limits, so adding 50 additional National Academy students was asking for trouble.

But somehow, they managed, in spite of the overbooked dormitories and the ongoing renovations. Some would say these obstacles only added to the experience.

You can be assured that, even with this increase in students, we are just as committed to selecting top-quality candidates—the best of the best.

In the years to come, we will continue to improve the program and to develop coursework that addresses the most current threats. Indeed, there is even some talk about buying new furniture for the dorm rooms and replacing the mattresses, but I cannot imagine any of you had any complaints about the luxurious accommodations.

We will also continue to include our international partners to reflect our global roles. This, of course, has the added benefit of making International Night that much more dangerous to your overall health and Karaoke Night that much more entertaining. This program is such a gem that we want to expand it to whatever extent we can.

I want to talk for a moment about your responsibilities as National Academy graduates. Your work does not end when you receive your diploma. In truth, the real work is just beginning.

Each National Academy session is a microcosm of law enforcement—officers from across the country and around the world, from all walks of life. When you come to Quantico, you put your rank aside. You all share the same training and networking opportunities. You all suffer through the same PT, the same close quarters, and the same world-class cuisine.

You may have your own inside jokes and your own memories, but you are all National Academy graduates. Each of you earned a yellow brick and with that comes a certain commitment.

This conference, the connections you are making, is your way of re-paying your department for time away from your communities and your caseloads. The payback is to stay committed, to continue to build bridges between your colleagues, and to stay in touch, so that when the next crisis comes, we stand ready to respond together.

The National Academy represents partnership in action. In January of this year, a 13-year-old boy from Missouri disappeared. State and local officials traced a white pickup truck to the suspect's residence in Kirkwood, Missouri.

Diane Scanga, a graduate of the 154th session, was working with the Kirkwood Police Department to secure the suspect's apartment and surrounding parking lot. When FBI agents and evidence recovery experts showed up on site, Diane already knew the key players. She did not have to waste time on "procedural nonsense," as she called it. No egos, no turf battles, no bureaucratic red tape. Just instant credibility and immediate action.

Together, they recovered the abducted teenager and, to their great surprise, another boy who had been missing for more than four years. There can be no greater justification for our continued collaboration than that.


As this case illustrates, the National Academy proves that together, we are smarter and stronger than we are standing alone.

Some of you may have read the book "The Wisdom of Crowds," by James Surowiecki. Surowiecki tells the story of a lost submarine to illustrate the power of collective wisdom.

In 1968, the U.S. submarine Scorpion disappeared on its way home from the North Atlantic. The search area was more than 20 miles wide and thousands of feet deep.

Naval officer John Craven put together a team of mathematicians, submarine specialists, and salvage men. He crafted several theories on why the submarine sank and where. He then asked each of the men to wager on the likelihood of each theory, with bottles of Chivas Regal as prizes.

Craven combined each individual's best guess to pinpoint the sub's location. It was not a spot any one individual had picked—it was a composite of the group's judgment.

Five months after the Scorpion disappeared, the Navy found it—just 220 yards from where Craven's team had said it would be. Even though no one had any hard and fast evidence about why the submarine sank or where, collectively, they had the answer.

The same is true for all of us. None of us has all the answers. We do not always know where, when, or how criminals and terrorists will strike, but we do know they will continue to try. We must combine our intelligence, our technology, and our resources to stop them. We must put our collective wisdom to work.

Since 1935, more than 40,000 students have graduated from the National Academy. That amounts to a line of yellow bricks more than six miles long—the same length as the Yellow Brick Road itself.

But what it really amounts to is a network that reaches far and wide. A network of trust and teamwork. A network that represents the best of law enforcement.

I know your jobs are not easy and that being a part of that network sometimes comes at great cost. I am always reminded of this when I attend the Candlelight Vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial during Police Week.

Your jobs become more difficult every year, as the threats we face become more diverse and more dangerous. It takes courage to patrol the streets each day, to investigate crime and terrorism, to take down drug dealers, gang members, and violent criminals. It takes tremendous sacrifice. It takes dedication.

You show that courage, that willingness to sacrifice, and that dedication every day. Each one of you represents the best of your departments and agencies. We could not ask for better friends, colleagues, or partners.

I look forward to continuing the legacy we have built together. My thanks for all that you do. God bless.

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