Home News Speeches The Value of Networking
  • Robert S. Mueller, III
  • Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • National Academy Associates Annual Conference
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • July 28, 2009

Good afternoon. It is always great to be in a room with National Academy graduates. I have been to a number of your conferences, and have noticed a pattern: Day One always includes a golf outing. As exercise goes, it is a far cry from all those “inch worms” we made you do across the floor of the gym.

I am happy to be able to join you again this year, and in truth, envious that I was not able to join you on the golf course. I have now attended upwards of 30 National Academy graduations, and have enjoyed hearing the stories that come out of each session.

For example, the men of the 224th are the ones whose clothes and shoes were quarantined in the men’s locker room. When they were told they would be reimbursed for their belongings, many of them also claimed to have stored 50-inch plasma TVs, golf clubs, and motorcycles in their lockers.

Then there were the four members of the 227th who apparently missed their “day jobs” so much that they made an impromptu stop by the side of a road, to help the Virginia State Police arrest a belligerent subject. The cop said he had it under control, but they just could not tear themselves away.

In the 229th, one of our international students rented a plane and decided to visit Jamestown. Unfortunately, he picked the wrong day to fly in restricted airspace. President Bush was there—with Queen Elizabeth—to celebrate Jamestown’s 400th anniversary. This student learned more that day than he ever wanted to know about the American law enforcement system.

The stories that come out of each session are unique, but each session is more similar than different.

For example, there is always the Jefferson versus Madison rivalry. For those family members who might not know, these are the Academy’s dorms, and they could not be more different. One is like the Ritz Carlton, the other is more like a Motel 6.

Every session also seems to develop an unhealthy obsession with Karaoke Night. It is especially bad when a session coincides with a season of American Idol. And I do mean bad.

And every session questions whether or not their PT instructors are really human. An officer in the 231st referred to them as “men from planet Krypton.”

A member of the 227th put it this way: “We have done things in the gym with a beach ball and a rubber band that any reasonable person would consider physically impossible.” And the spokesman for the 226th said this, and I quote: “I would like to thank the PT staff for getting me to a point that even seeing PT on my schedule would raise my heart rate and send me into a sweat.”

But what binds each session together more than anything else are the friendships that develop week by week, as 300 distinct personalities live cheek-to-jowl in the Academy’s spacious and high-end accommodations.

As the days go by, a disparate group of individuals gradually becomes one family. A network forms—one that stretches out through time and space, across the globe, and all the way back to 1935, when the National Academy was first established.

In 1935, Elvis was born, and Ma Barker was killed. Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Pacific Ocean, and Babe Ruth hit the final homerun of his career. And in July of that same year, 23 students attended what was then called the “FBI Police Training School.” Little could they know this marked a pivotal moment in law enforcement history.

The 1935 curriculum featured classes such as “Bank Robbery Investigations” and “Criminal Investigation Techniques.” This reflected the threats of the time—mainly violent gangsters and bank robbers.

Today’s curriculum reflects the reality that we are investigating everything from cyber crime to organized crime to terrorism. And we are not just operating within the United States. Threats emanate from every country, and impact citizens on every continent.

You learned how to confront these diverse dangers from top-notch instructors. But just as important is what you learned outside the classroom.

There is a joke that the Boardroom is where all the important decisions are made. And by the way, I have heard it is also the place where students have the chance to get an “amber brick.” I probably do not want too many details on what it takes to “earn” one of those.

Yet in reality, it is in the Boardroom, and dorm rooms, and common rooms that relationships are formed. And those relationships are more valuable than any particular investigative technique or technology.

Criminals and terrorists have networks that span the globe. The only way to defeat their networks is with our networks, starting with the one right here in this room.

We are doing that every day, here in Kentucky and around the world. Let me give you a few examples.

In 2007, the FBI and the Kentucky State Police collaborated to investigate three drug trafficking organizations which caused a substantial increase in violent crime in Adair County. The FBI provided financial and technical resources, and the Kentucky State Police provided on-the-ground personnel and analytical support.

Combining our resources allowed us to target the organization’s leaders, arrest more than 22 individuals, and shut down a crime problem that threatened to overtake the region.

In New York, the work of the Joint Terrorism Task force led to last month’s indictment of four individuals who plotted to bomb a synagogue and Jewish community center in the Bronx.

And yesterday, in the Raleigh-Durham area, we arrested seven men on charges related to terrorism.

Their leader had a long association with al Qaeda, having fought for Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and trained in terrorist camps. He was allegedly training and recruiting others here to fight overseas.

It was a complex case that required following leads to Bosnia, Israel, and Jordan. We could not have done it without the work of the police from Raleigh and Durham and the North Carolina Fusion Center.

In Los Angeles, law enforcement officers have conducted nine gang takedowns in the past three months alone, with outstanding results. Over 400 gang members and associates were arrested. More than 300 were indicted on federal charges, and hundreds more were charged by the state. One of these investigations, called Operation Knock Out, was the largest-ever gang sweep. It was conducted by over 1,400 officers working as one team.

But our fight against crime and terrorism does not stop at our borders. We have worked closely with authorities from Australia, Canada, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and India, among many others, to investigate terrorist attacks.

We collaborate with police in Mexico, Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to combat violent gangs.

We have coordinated with partners from Anguilla to Zimbabwe to recover stolen art and artifacts.

And we work with partners from Bucharest to Bangkok to combat cyber crime and child pornography.

This generation of law enforcement faces challenges of which the first session of the National Academy did not dream. But that first session laid the groundwork for each of the success stories I just mentioned.

None of them would be possible without strong relationships at every level of law enforcement. And that is what the National Academy does best.

One word comes up again and again whenever National Academy graduates talk about their experience at Quantico: “network.” Whether used as a verb or noun, “network” is a powerful concept.

A graduate of the 232nd put it this way, and I quote: “The networking has been amazing. I had a discussion over breakfast about search-and-seizure issues with command officers from Ohio, New York, and Austria. I don’t know where else you can do that.”

And a graduate of the 230th said this: “More important than any classes that I could have taken was the network of professionals from all over the world. I truly believe there’s absolutely no challenge my department cannot overcome due to the resources that I now have just a phone call away.”

Each session is its own network, but it is also connected to a larger network—every agency, every state, and every country represented in the past 74 years.

That network grows stronger as a six-foot-three officer from New York shares a miniscule dorm room and an even smaller bathroom with a six-foot-four officer from the Netherlands.

It grows stronger as you survive the fiery beverages served on International Night, and the challenge run the very next morning—an unfortunate quirk of scheduling that seems to happen every session.

It grows stronger on the Yellow Brick Road, when those who are struggling to complete the course suddenly see classmates running back toward them, determined to help them reach the finish line.

Today, that network is over 42,000-strong, with members from 176 countries. Think about that: 42,000 yellow bricks sit on desks and in bookcases throughout the world.

They are not mere paperweights. They are symbols of your entire experience.

Your yellow bricks do not just represent a challenge—they are a challenge. A challenge to remain connected and committed to one another. A challenge to ensure this network grows larger and stronger once you leave the Academy.

The spokesman for the 236th said this about the Yellow Brick Road, and I quote:

“If you had asked me how I would do it, I would have said I’m going to run as fast as I can and try to finish near the top. I now know I was wrong. This Academy has taught us that if we all finish, we all win. And if one of us does not finish, we all lose.”

You all finished. You all won. You are the worldwide law enforcement network. You are everything we need to fight crime and terrorism and to protect our communities and our countries. And the friendships you formed through the National Academy means you are never working without a net.

We in the FBI are proud to be your partners. My thanks for all you do for law enforcement and for the FBI. Thanks again for having me today. I would now be happy to take a few questions.

 
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