BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C., June 20, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates praised Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden at the general’s military retirement ceremony here today as “the quintessential intelligence professional in government” who will continue making profound contributions as the Central Intelligence Agency’s civilian director.

Gates lauded Hayden’s work since May 2006 as the first CIA director in uniform since 1981. If anyone had questions at the time about whether a military person should hold the key intelligence post, Hayden quickly put their concerns to rest, Gates said.

The secretary said Hayden helped the Defense Department and other members of the intelligence community overcome past divisions and discord that had hampered their effectiveness. “We are all on one team now,” Gates said. “I would argue that there has never been a better fusion of military operations and intelligence in the history of warfare.”

Close military-CIA cooperation is particularly important during the war on terror, “a time in which our national security depends on the effective synthesis of intelligence and military operations,” Gates said.

He cited intelligence efforts that have led to the killing or capture of terrorist leaders and operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan, ultimately saving countless Iraqi, Afghan, American and coalition lives.

Gates cited Hayden’s vast intelligence experience, built during a career spanning almost 40 years. He oversaw the intelligence directorate at U.S. European Command, commanded the Air Intelligence Agency, directed the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center and the National Security Agency, and served as both principal deputy director and director of national intelligence.

“For more than 20 years, he has been both an intelligence provider and consumer,” Gates said. “He knows the entire spectrum of the business, and he knows what policymakers and military planners need to do their jobs.”

As Hayden trades his Air Force uniform for a coat and tie, Gates said, he will continue contributing his expertise in advancing the U.S. intelligence effort.

Hayden wove humor into his military farewell, thanking his wife, Jeanine, who he said has made his service “a team enterprise,” and other family members who have kept him true to his Pittsburgh roots.

Serving with many key organizations during the past four decades, Hayden said, he’s always been “an airman first.” He said he’s been proud to be a part of the Air Force as it transformed into the information age and that he’s astounded by strides that paved the way for today’s precision operations, all fueled by critical intelligence.

“Information is absolutely critical to how we operate” and “a determinant of success,” he said.

Hayden praised his staff at the CIA, where he said he found when he arrived two years ago a culture that “wasn’t quite military, but it was expeditionary and it was very can-do.” He called their behind-the-scenes work around the world, including war zones, in support of the men in women in uniform and the nation “the finest expression of patriotism.”

“These people give far more than they get. They deserve far better than they usually receive,” he said. “And when they succeed in their work, help their countrymen feel safe again, they still stay in the shadows, continue their work and discipline themselves to ignore the sometimes shrill and uninformed voices of criticism.”

Hayden said he’s honored as he hangs up his Air Force uniform to remain at the CIA as its civilian director and to continue advancing successes being made there.

As in football, decisions in intelligence would be far easier after the fact, Hayden said.

“We’d all be going to Canton and enshrined there,” he said, referring to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Ohio. “But I am honored to be on the field, playing in real time on the CIA team.”

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