Jul 27, 2021
Joe Biden Speech to Intelligence Community Workforce Transcript
President Joe Biden spoke to the intelligence community workforce on July 27, 2021. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
President Joe Biden: (00:01)
It’s an honor to be here. I guess you all are the ones that lost the lottery, huh? You had to be here in person. Well, I’d like to thank Director [Haines 00:00:12] and Director of National Counterterrorism Center Christine Abizaid for showing me around the watch floor. Folks, the main reason I came and I mean, it sincerely is to say, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. The American people, almost by definition are not able to know what you do, and you devote so much of your time and effort, and many of you risking your lives in the Intelligence Community to do things to make sure that your families and people back here are safe. Make a difference. And you’d be amazed as I traveled the world as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee or a member of the Intelligence Committee for all those years, or as Vice President of United States dealing with massive security issues, or as President of the United States, how many of now my foreign counterparts, thank you for what you do. I’d like to introduce you, by the way, to my National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. Jake, would you stand up?
President Joe Biden: (01:25)
And leaders of many of our Intelligence agency are here today, and I thank you for your diligence and keeping our country safe and a commitment to supporting your teams. Because if there’s anything that’s a team sport, it’s what y’all are doing, if there’s going to be anything that’s going to be accomplished. Because the people I most want to honor, and thank today, are the intelligent professionals whose names the public is never, ever going to know, never had any notion what you’ve done for us. The analysts, the linguists, linguistic collectors and field offices, scientists, support staff, so many others who are real experts, whose careers started much longer before my administration, and who’s service to our nation could extend well beyond my presidency. You know, you’re the eyes and the ears around the world and the front lines of our national defense, and in many cases for the world, through us, and you serve the American people, no matter which political party holds power in Congress or the White House. It’s so vital, so vital that you are and should be totally free of any political pressure or partisan interference.
President Joe Biden: (02:35)
It’s basic. And I want to be absolutely clear that my administration is getting us back to the basics. To the basics. I promise you, you will never see a time while I’m President of United States where my administration in any way tries to affect or alter your judgments about what you think the situation we face is. I’ll never politicized the work you do, you have my word on that. It’s too important for our country.
President Joe Biden: (03:04)
Getting back to basics is also making the IC scrupulously acts within the legal constraints and abides by a strong traditions of internal and congressional oversight, including respect for whistleblower protections. And it also means understanding that much of the work you must do is in secret, but necessary, and for the sake of safety, but we should strive to be open as possible to the American people about the nature of the threats we face and just how serious they are, and they are. Every one of you joined up because you believe in being part of something that’s bigger than yourself, especially you guys and women in uniform. Bigger than yourself. You’re patriots. It’s a word that we use lightly, but I mean it. Don’t use it lightly. I really don’t. My son who spent a year in Iraq and died was a patriot, he wasn’t just somebody else. You all are patriots. You risk your lives and your sacred honor for all that we need to have done for us. And you believe in the American idea, living up to that idea is embracing democratic values that are our greatest strengths, at the end of the day. Leading not just by the example of our power, but by the power of your example. The power of your example.
President Joe Biden: (04:24)
In addition to thanking you for your bravery integrity and your sacrifices, I want to make it clear to everyone here today and to the members of the Intelligence Community, work that around the globe that you have my full confidence. That doesn’t mean I don’t question what you sent me. I’m not a new guy on the block in terms of these issues, but one of the reasons I question is to push you to the limits to determine just how certain you are about what you’re doing. Lots of times the only honest answer, “We’re not certain, we’re not certain, but this is what our best judgment is.” I know, I really do know how hard the work you do is. I’ve been doing this for a long, long time before I became President. I know there’s no such thing as 100% certainty in the Intelligence world. Occasionally that happens. Rarely, rarely, rarely. But I also know that your work is invaluable to our ability to make informed, strategic, massive security decisions.
President Joe Biden: (05:24)
And I just had an interesting meeting, as you all know, with my very close friend, Vladimir Putin. I can tell, the one thing I’ve been dealing with world leaders a long, long time, and just like all of you women and men, you can sort of sense somebody else after a while. He knows that you’re better than his team. And it bothers the hell out of him. Not a joke. Not a joke. And he, as a consequence of you thinks we have capacities he may exaggerate. That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing.
President Joe Biden: (06:02)
You know, one of the things I miss most during the four years between my time serving as Vice President and being a professor at a college, and I mean this sincerely, from the time I was 31 years old, every morning I woke up and gotten a train to come to…. I commuted every day from Delaware after my wife and daughter were killed. And I’d come every day, and one of the things I would get, I’d get a brief in the morning. I was more informed than 99% of the American people. You want to know what I miss most, for real, in those four years made it professor? The PDB. You think I’m joking, I am not. A sense of knowing where all the pieces were. We had it all down, we knew where all the pieces. We knew where the pieces. And so now I have access again, and as to the chagrin of many of you, I read it in detail.
President Joe Biden: (07:01)
And I asked questions of my briefers and follow up with my team. And I asked each of you the same thing I asked Director Haines, “Just give it to me straight. I’m not looking for pablum. I’m looking for straight from the shoulder assessments. And when you’re not sure, say you’re not sure, but give me your best judgment on what you think is… Your best judgment is better than almost anybody else’s judgment in the whole world. Even if the news is hard, even if the news is bad, I can’t make the decisions I need to make if I’m not getting the best, unvarnished, unbiased judgment, you can give me. I’m not looking to hear nice things, I’m looking to hear what you think to be the truth.”
President Joe Biden: (07:48)
I greatly appreciate just how much work goes into the analysis that the IC produces and the tactical intelligence supporting your war fighters, and the suburb effort to ensure that our IT, our human capital on the facilities are the best in the world. Because again, without knowing, without you telling me, I don’t know enough to know what to ask for from the Congress, how much money we need, what we need to focus on. It’s a massive, coordinated, global effort to pull together reliable intelligence in a timely way. And all of you, no matter which agency you work for, are part of one team with one shared mission: keeping America strong and secure in the world, or simply making sure your families are safe. It’s down to basic things, just really basic things.
President Joe Biden: (08:41)
For most of the last 20 years, much of the work has been focused on counter terrorism, making sure the United States doesn’t experience another horror like occurred on September the 11th, and that has to continue and evolve to address the changing shape of terrorism as we find it today. And it’s no great insight on my part, is going to change significantly more. It’s going to change significantly more. I always get kidded by my colleagues when I served in the Senate for 36 years for quoting Irish poets, they think I quoted Irish post because I’m Irish. That’s not the reason I quote them; they’re simply the best poets in the world. And there’s a famous poem that says, “All’s changed. Changed utterly. A terrible beauty has been born.”
President Joe Biden: (09:33)
The world is changing so rapidly technologically, and in terms of alliances and human intercourse, that more is going to change across the board the next 10 years than the last 50 years. That’s not hyperbole, that’s a fact. If I talked to you 15 years ago about hypersonic flight you’d look at me like I was crazy. So much is going to change, and that’s going to put an enormous burden on you to stay ahead of the curve. It’s really going to get tougher, but we have the best folks in the world.
President Joe Biden: (10:17)
And one of the things that I think, and I don’t want to get off too far field here, one of the things that’s really important is our greatest strength, in fact, is our diversity; bringing completely different perspectives to it. And I really mean that. That’s not hyperbole, I’m not trying to be kumbaya, everybody get along. It’s just a fact, it’s a fact. And so, threats that are more geographically dispersed than they were 20 years ago are going to continue to require vigilance. We have to continue efforts to better understand some of the hardest and most important intelligence targets we face as a nation. But we also need to make sure we’re positioning ourselves as stay ahead of the security challenges that will stretch the IC in new ways they’ve never been stretched before. We’ve seen how cyber threats, including ransomware attacks increasingly are able to cause damage and disruption in the real world.
President Joe Biden: (11:16)
I can’t guarantee this, and they’re as informed as I am, but I think it’s more likely we’re going to end up, if we end up in a war, a real shooting war with a major power, it’s going to be as a consequence of a cyber breach of great consequence. And is increasing exponentially, the capabilities. When I was with Mr. Putin, who has a real problem, he’s sitting on top of an economy that has nuclear weapons and oil wells, and nothing else. Nothing else. Their economy is, what? The eighth smallest in the world now? Largest in the world? He knows he’s in real trouble, which makes him even more dangerous, in my view. Take a look at China. I’ve spent more time with Xi Jinping as a world leader than anyone else. I spent 25 hours along with him when I was Vice President, because it was important, according to President Obama, that someone knew who the new guy coming on board was, and it couldn’t be the President. Traveled 17,000 miles with him. I’ve sat in with him, with me and just an interpreter, each of us have a simultaneous interpreter. He is deadly earnest about becoming the most powerful military force in the world, as well as the largest and most prominent economy in the world by the mid forties. 2040s. It’s real.
President Joe Biden: (12:53)
I don’t know, we probably have some people are totally cleared, I don’t know. But you saw just when we found out about hypersonic. Anyway, is as I say, in Southern [inaudible 00:13:03], “This boy’s got a plan.” And we better figure out how we’re going to keep pace, without exacerbating and moving us in a position where we increased the hostilities unnecessarily. I think we also need to take on the rapid disinformation is making it harder and harder for people to assess the facts, be able to make decisions. In today’s PDB you all prepared for me, look what Russia is doing already about the 2022 elections, and misinformation. It’s a pure violation of our sovereignty. Now you see what’s happening. More people get their information from the internet than they do from any other outlet. What’s all the disinformation that’s having real consequences in terms of people’s access?
President Joe Biden: (13:56)
And so, there’s so much that you all, particularly those of you who are new and coming along, are going to have to keep up with and ahead of in ways that not even happening now. As good as everything is, as we compete for the future of the 21st century, with China and other nations, we have to stay on top of the cutting edge developments of science and technology. If you’d hold for a second here, I want to point out something. We used to be when I first got here as a us Senator, actually three and a half decades ago, we invested more money in R&D as a percent of our GDP than any nation in the world. We’re now number eight. China was number nine, they’re not number two. It matters. It matters.
President Joe Biden: (14:56)
Look where we are and things that intelligence communities and others don’t even think very often about, about how educated the public is. We’re coming around right now. This doesn’t relate to Intelligence Community, per se, but it does. Think about it; if we were having a debate that was taking place in the United States in the late 1890s and early 1900s about public education, do you think any of us would say 12 years of free public education was enough to compete in the 21st century? Not a joke, think about it. What do you think? I don’t think there’s a shot if we were doing that today. So the fact we have the best educated public in the world, and that’s our objective will matter a great deal. Matter a great deal. It is as much a part of national defense in my view is anything else is.
President Joe Biden: (15:55)
So I think we have to think differently. I don’t expect you to agree with me, I expect you to at least understand where I’m coming from because the world is changing so significantly. And it’s especially important to work closely with our partners and allies to maintain our technological edge, shore up supply chains, ensured that the rules that govern technology support democracies, not autocracies. At the same time, we have to work in cooperation with nations like China and Russia that are competitive and possibly mortal competitors down the road, in the context of, to meet the existential threats, for example, climate change. There’s certain things that are our mutual interest. We can’t be lulled into thinking that that’s enough, and that we don’t have to really keep a watchful eye on what the ultimate objective of the other team is. But there are things where we should be cooperating.
President Joe Biden: (17:02)
This shared danger impacts all nations; climate challenge is already accelerating instability in our own country and around the world. Extreme weather events that are more common and more deadly. Food and water insecurity, sea levels rising, resulting in changing climate, and driving greater migration, and posing fundamental risks to most vulnerable communities.
President Joe Biden: (17:27)
You would hold for just a second again. We’re in a situation where, think about this, think about this, I’ll never forget the first time went down to the tank as Vice President, after he got elected. Defense Department said, “What’s the greatest threat facing America? Climate change.” If in fact the sea level rises another two and a half feet, you’re going to have millions of people migrating, fighting over arable land. You saw what happened in North Africa. What makes us think this doesn’t matter? It’s not your responsibility, but it’s something you’re watching because you know what’s going to happen. People who are Muslim, and the only difference was Black and/or Arab, killing each other by the thousands for a piece of arable land in North central Africa.
President Joe Biden: (18:26)
What happens? What happens in Indonesia if the projections are correct, and the next 10 years, they may have to move their capital because they’ll be out of water? It matters. It’s a strategic question. As well as a environmental question. So a dramatically warming Arctic is opening up competition for resources that once were hard to access. I had, as they say in Southern [inaudible 00:18:56], they talk at you like this, you know what I mean? I had to come to Jesus meeting, and alter call with Mr. Putin about what he thinks is what Russia’s property is in the Arctic. China looking very closely at that as well, where they are. That’s what I mean about the world changing. What is that going to do to our strategic doctrine the next 2, 5, 10, 12 years? When you can circumvent the Arctic without icebreakers.
President Joe Biden: (19:31)
So look, we need your insight. We need your expertise on all these issues. One thing you all have in common is you all have high IQs. You’re all smart, have significant intelligence quotas, and you’re putting it to use to help elected leaders in this country decide what the best route to go is. So just as you always been essential, as we’ve sought to counter traditional threats, the Intelligence Community is going to be critical to America’s strengths as we take on these new challenges and hyper threats.
President Joe Biden: (20:13)
Finally, I’ve laid out a broad agenda, that’s just a fraction of it. But we can’t do any of this without taking care of our best, the most important asset; the American people. I know the Intelligence Community is already on the best places to work in the federal government. I asked my staff, and I found out you came in second just after NASA. I said, “Don’t tell me what the White House is ranked. It will hurt my feelings.” And they assured, “No, you didn’t rank them.” That was a good thing; we don’t rank the Oval Office. But all kidding aside, it’s about the comradery you have, and most of all, it’s about being able to trust one another. To trust one another.
President Joe Biden: (21:04)
My highest priority as President is the safety and security of all Americans, and that includes those who serve in our Intelligence Community. You take on unique risks in these jobs, and we’re taking the cases of anomalous health incidences that are affecting intelligence officers, government officials, and their families very serious, for example. My administration has coordinated a government wide effort to respond to these incidents because this challenge demands that departments and agencies, including the entire Intelligence Community work together with urgency.
President Joe Biden: (21:44)
Talked about changes. What’s going to happen as we move on, and we’re able to develop around the world pathogens that can be transmitted to societies and communities? May not be a nuclear weapon, it may not be a hypersonic missile. It may not be any of the things we think of. But think about it. Just think about what’s happened with one. I’m not suggesting it was intended. A lot more we need to know, but think what’s happened. More people than killed in the United States of America because of COVID than in every single major war we fought. Combined. Every single one. What’s next? What is intended? There’s a lot of research going on. You’re going to find you’re going to have to increase your ranks with people with significant scientific capacity relative to pathogens.
President Joe Biden: (23:08)
So my point is your value is going to increase, and increase, and increase, and increase in terms of security. From the CIA to all the agencies, there’s a lot that’s going to happen. And to all of you been affected, we recognize how important is it to make sure that they have the best possible care in their time of need, figuring out how to deal with what’s happening to not only some of those have been stationed abroad, but their families. Look, this is a priority for our entire leadership team, so let me just close by saying how much I value the work you do. That’s why I wanted to come here today. So much of the work you do is in secret, that means many, many times you don’t get credit. The credit you deserve, and the things you prevent it from happening. The catastrophes you enabled us to avoid. The judgments you’ve provided us to make our people safer. And America’s probably never going to learn about the lives you’ve saved, or the disasters that never come to pass because of you’re intelligent, professional intelligence. But I want you to know, I know. For the time being, at least as long as I’m around, I know. And on behalf of the American people, thank you all for what you do every single day. We’re grateful. We’re grateful that you’re there for us.
President Joe Biden: (24:52)
We’re safer because of your dedication, your honesty, your integrity, and your significant intellectual capacity to act in our interests. We’re stronger because of your insight. We’re a more noble nation because of your insight. And American lives have been saved repeatedly because of your insight. I know it may sound like hyperbole or from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. I thank you for all you do and continue to do. And may God bless you all, and may God protect our troops and all those Patriots serving in harm’s way, because a lot still there. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
President Joe Biden: (25:50)
I have to seek permission to leave, I have to check, you notice. Thank you again.
Speaker 2: (25:55)
President Biden, will you require all federal employees to get vaccinated?
President Joe Biden: (25:55)
Beg your pardon?
Speaker 2: (25:55)
Will you require all federal employees to get vaccinated?
President Joe Biden: (26:08)
That’s under consideration right now, but if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.
Speaker 2: (26:09)
Are you concerned that the new CDC’s new mask guidance could sew confusion?
President Joe Biden: (26:17)
We have a pandemic because the unvaccinated, and they’re sewing enormous confusion. And the more we learn, the more we learn about this virus and the Delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned. And then only one thing we know for sure: if those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world. So get-