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National League of Families
Remarks by LTG Ronald L. Burgess, Jr.
Director, Defense Intelligence Agency
July 21, 2011
(as prepared for delivery)
Thank you for that introduction. It is a real honor and privilege for me to be here this afternoon representing the work of the men and women of the Defense Intelligence Agency in support of the fullest possible accounting of our missing personnel.
When I received Ann's gracious invitation to attend, I said I needed to be here for a number of reasons.
First, Ann, I want to personally thank you for your years of service, not just to the League and families, but also to the nation.
The second reason I wanted to be here is to thank the families attending today and all those who have been involved since that first meeting in Constitution Hall in 1970. We are gathered today at the League's 42nd annual meeting at a time when the nation is also observing the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
It is difficult to believe that a half century has passed since our official involvement in that war began. And over the decades, the League's search for answers and your rightful demands for a full accounting have not dimmed. You have kept faith with your loved ones sent to war.
You are to be commended for that commitment, faithfulness and dedication. It gives me great pride to lead an agency that has been honored to work alongside the League and in support of the families here today. In everything you have done for your loved ones, you have also served your nation. And as a soldier, I want you to know how valuable your service has been not just to your families, but also to those who wear this uniform in today's wars and to the nation. Thank you.
I've looked over the agenda for the meeting and am pleased not only by DIA's strong participation, but also other parts of the government involved in the accounting mission. I understand Pete Verga (CoS -USDP) spoke this morning and that General Cartwright will speak at tonight's dinner. The ranks and breadth of current and former senior officials and action officers participating speaks to the importance of the mission and the reputation of the League and the families.
I know that we're about half-way through the STONY BEACH collection and DPMO/JPAC analysis briefings. I do not want to step on their toes because they are the real experts. But what I would like to do is very briefly provide an overview of DIA's involvement and current efforts.
DIA is honored to continue its service as the lead agency for worldwide all-source intelligence collection in support of determining the fate of unaccounted for Americans from past, present and future conflicts.
Our STONY BEACH effort, of course, is aimed at resolving the status of POW-MIA cases from the Vietnam War through collection and reporting in four countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.
Supported by one program manager at headquarters in Washington [Ruben CAUDLE], we currently have seven STONY BEACH researchers/investigators. Two are located in our Defense Attaché Office in Phnom Penh. We are very fortunate that Pete Loverde and Nick Montelione are here today from Phnom Penh.
Brad Taylor, of course is one half of our STONY BEACH team in the Defense Attaché Office in Bangkok. Dustin Roses is located in our attaché office in Vientiane and Mike Najim is one of two of our employees who conduct long-term TDY's to our attaché office in Hanoi.
As many of you know, we worked closely with the Department of State to get approval for the STONY BEACH positions in Hanoi. However, we have been unable to get Vietnamese approval for their permanent assignment. So, our two professionals in Hawaii have been on a continuous TDY to Hanoi based out of our detachment at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. In the short-term, we will be relocating those two back to DIA headquarters, though they will be maintaining the same TDY schedule to Hanoi. Our friends at the Department of State continue to request their permanent assignment to Hanoi as STONY BEACH Vietnam continues to provide the majority of new leads for unresolved cases in Vietnam.
Our STONY BEACH team in Cambodia continues to have the best host-government cooperation and continues to do outstanding work. Our second civilian arrived there in January of this year.
STONY BEACH Thailand continues to gather valuable information, mostly in regards to cases in Laos.
STONY BEACH Laos is still in its infancy, but is starting to make some in-roads on collection, though the host nation has been reluctant to allow our POW-MIA specialist [Dustin Roses] to perform his mission. They do not agree that a diplomat should be conducting POW-MIA research. Working with our State Department colleagues, we continue to reengage on this issue and I can report today that the Lao government has indicated it may be willing to be more flexible. We'll have to wait and see and keep pushing here. Dustin: we will be looking for an update from you as this progresses.
Across the board, we have some very talented folks working these country accounts. We are very proud of them and the important work that they do. I know that you have just heard from some of them directly and I am sure they have -and will continue to provide -much greater detail on our progress and relationships with the host nation governments. They are the experts and I rely heavily upon their advice, expertise and judgment.
Within the U.S. government, STONY BEACH continues to work closely with the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Library and the Life Science Equipment Laboratory.
And while DIA continues to focus on a full accounting from Vietnam, it is not the agency's only accounting mission. DIA also remains responsible for all-source intelligence analysis and collection on any U.S. national who after 1990 is captured, unaccounted for, or killed while engaged in activities on behalf of the United States.
And with a new generation of American servicemen and women, many of whom were born long after Vietnam, serving in the nation's wars since the 9/11 attacks, in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the full accounting mission remains as important as ever.
I am referring to the Intelligence Community's POW-MIA Analytic Cell. While this national-level effort really is owned by the Director of National Intelligence, DIA serves as executive agent. And it includes representatives from CIA, NSA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and it receives support from the FBI, the Army's ground intelligence center and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.
Today, this cell is supporting the U.S. Army and U.S. Central Command in assessing the fate and disposition of two captured soldiers: SSG Ahmed Tai`e (captured in Iraq in 2006) and SGT Bowe Bergdahl (captured in Afghanistan in 2009).
In addition, the cell is assessing the disposition of two contractors unaccounted for in Iraq: Mr. Timothy Bell and Mr. Adnan al-Hilawi.
And the cell also provides extensive intelligence support and analysis on 18 other missing or captured DoD civilians or U.S. nationals captured either by nation-state, terrorist or insurgent groups.
While we remain focused on a full accounting from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, we are also working on behalf of a new generation of soldiers and family members impacted by today's wars.
And it reminds us that the accounting mission that really developed out of our experience in Vietnam is not unique to that conflict. What our nation and those of us in this room learned, often the hard way, about accounting for missing colleagues and family members, we have applied to today's ongoing operations.
And in a very real way, the battles that the League and the families have fought over the last 42 years, have helped families coping with loved ones missing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
You have helped make sure that this nation keeps its promise to those serving today -and those who may yet serve tomorrow.
And that is because accounting and recovery is more than a promise to those who have fought in wars past. It is a promise and a commitment that never expires.
It is a promise that all who wear this uniform carry at all times, in peacetime and war. Whether we are called to serve in battle against other nation's armies or terrorist groups and insurgents who wear no uniform.
We often don't like to think about or dwell upon that promise and its full meaning. It is something we hope our families never, ever have to deal with.
But we know the promise is there.
We know agencies such as DIA are on watch, and have the trained professionals and capabilities to help.
It is part of the unspoken social contract: that our promise to defend the nation is mirrored by the nation's promise to keep faith with us -and our families.
And that the nation will always abide by its responsibility for recovery and a full accounting.
That knowledge sustains those wearing the uniform today.
It gives them strength to confront the difficult challenges presented by today's conflicts and adversaries by providing those who go in harm's way a small measure of comfort that our sacrifices will never be forgotten no matter how many years pass.
So, when those of you in this room fight for a full accounting from Southeast Asia, you are also fighting for our troops risking so much today in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
And you are fighting for the nation's sons and daughters who may follow them into service, on the battlefields of tomorrow.
You are fighting for their families.
Your work, your commitment and your advocacy strengthens the fabric that binds our Nation and our troops together.
Thank you for everything you have done - and for everything that you will continue to contribute...
... to the POW-MIA families,
... and to the Nation.
It is a great honor to be here today.
It is a privilege to represent the men and women of DIA who are grateful for your support. And it is my pleasure to reaffirm the importance of this mission -and the great pride we have in supporting it -at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
In all the agency's efforts over the years, we could have had no greater partner than Ann Mills-Griffiths.
Ann -I know it has not been easy, but through the years you have remained true to the mission -with service marked by a tireless commitment to those who served and did not come home and to their sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, spouses and children. Thank you for never giving up and for being such a committed advocate and partner in all our efforts.
The nation owes you a debt of gratitude and I know I speak for many in saying that we are grateful that, although you are stepping down, you will remain engaged with the League and the Department of Defense. We are proud to have been your partner in a noble effort these many years.
In recognition of all that you have done, I would like to present you with a small token of DIA's deep appreciation. Everyone please join me in a round of applause for Ann.
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This page was last updated January 25, 2013.