I realize I’m the only thing standing between you and a party, so I’ll keep my remarks brief. Today, we’re gathered to mark the 77th anniversary of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) for a simple reason: to pay tribute to the extraordinary contributions INR has made over seven decades to advance American interests and safeguard national security. I’ll leave you with three messages.
First, INR’s success is due to generations of analysts, technicians, intelligence officers, support personnel, and leaders who have continued to evolve the organization to meet new threats and challenges. While the technology we use, the assessments we produce, and the type of policy support we provide are dramatically different today than at INR’s inception in 1945, one thing remains true: the people in INR have made all the difference.
The fact is that we are a people-centered organization. Nothing gets accomplished in INR without the dedication, hard work, and contributions of its workforce.
Without the people in INR, the Secretary of State wouldn’t receive a daily intelligence brief; policymakers throughout the Department wouldn’t benefit from INR’s unique insights and perspectives; American diplomats overseas wouldn’t have access to INR’s products and services, and the Department would be unable to ensure that sensitive intelligence activities overseas are consistent with US foreign policy.
On days like today, I’m also reminded that we stand on the shoulders of giants. So, on behalf of the current INR workforce, I want to thank our former INR leaders who have joined us this afternoon – Tom Fingar, Jim Steinberg, and Ellen McCarthy – for your leadership and vision in strengthening INR’s analysis, enhancing support to policymakers, and – in Ellen’s case – laying the foundation for the modernization journey we are on today. Thank you.
The second point I’ll make is that what has defined INR over the years is its deep expertise, independence, and willingness to always speak truth to power, even when that truth has been uncomfortable for policymakers. In INR, we embrace these core qualities because it’s part of our DNA – it’s who we are, it’s part of our culture. These characteristics are precisely why countless Secretaries of State and other leaders – in and outside of the Department – have relied on INR to educate them on the most pressing foreign policy issues to help inform their decisions. We honor INR’s legacy by living its core values every day – lending our deep expertise, maintaining our independence, and speaking the truth.
The final message I’ll leave you with is this: thank you. To past and present INR employees, detailees, and contractors, the work you do is vitally important to advancing US interests and strengthening our security. Much of your work remains secret, unknown to the public. But make no mistake: your work matters and has impact. We see this in the feedback from multiple Secretaries of State, presidents, and diplomats around the globe. In that connection, I want to read a letter from our 71st Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, honoring INR’s 77th anniversary:
Dear INR Employees:
On the occasion of the 77th anniversary of INR, I extend my deepest appreciation and gratitude to the entire team for your professionalism, support to US foreign policy, and decades of service to the Department and the Nation.
As America’s oldest civilian intelligence component, INR has provided strategic insights and intelligence support to policy at seminal moments in our Nation’s history. From warning of the weaknesses of the South Vietnamese government during the Vietnam War and dissenting on the 2002 Iraq WMD National Intelligence Estimate, to accurately forecasting Ukrainian will to fight against Russia earlier this year, INR has never wavered from speaking truth to power. But INR’s contributions extend beyond excellent analysis. Overseas, U.S. Missions rely on INR every day to serve as the focal point between the Department of State and the Intelligence Community (IC) to coordinate on sensitive intelligence operations and downgrade intelligence in support of diplomatic engagements.
As Secretary, I have come to rely on INR’s deep expertise, policy support, and straightforward analysis to inform some of the most consequential foreign policy issues facing the United States. I am particularly grateful for the new Secretary’s Intelligence Brief, which I read every morning! INR holds a special place in the IC and in the Department.
On behalf of a grateful Department and Nation, I commend INR on 77 years of service. Thank you for your many contributions. Keep up the great work!
Antony J. Blinken
As we reflect on INR’s past, we also look ahead to the future, and the role that INR will play in shaping America’s role in the world. Today, the world is at another inflection point. And once again, America is leading the contest for the future of our world. From the People’s Republic of China to Russia, autocrats are seeking to undermine democracy and upend the rules-based international order. But as President Biden reminds us, “These competitors mistakenly believe democracy is weaker than autocracy because they fail to understand that a nation’s power springs from its people.”
In INR, we’re on a mission to use intelligence to empower diplomacy and provide our policymakers with diplomatic decision advantage. We’re elevating the role of strategic intelligence and redefining intelligence support to policy. We’re undertaking a digital transformation and strengthening cybersecurity. We’re investing in a diverse, talented workforce that reflects the country we serve and is prepared to tackle new challenges and embrace opportunities. And finally, we’re building a resilient, well-managed enterprise that positions INR for long-term growth and success.
In preparing for today’s event, I came across a State Department magazine article from 1997 on the occasion of INR’s 50th anniversary. One line stood out to me. The article noted that, “The only certainty for INR is that its contributions will continue to evolve, and that it will remain a fascinating and rewarding place to work.” That statement is accurate today, and I’m confident these words will remain true moving forward.
I’m honored to lead INR, and I’m profoundly grateful for the opportunity to be part of this historic institution. Please join me in a round of applause to celebrate INR’s 77th anniversary!