Navy Intelligence will never stop pursuing the mission of our 9/11 dead
The men and women within the Office of Naval Intelligence workforce will have a special reverence this week as they walk through the office archway which reads: ‘I am on a grand plan and I cannot not come down.”
ONI analyst Angie Houtz scribbled this scripture (Nehemiah 6:3) on a sticky note, taped it to her mirror, and read it over daily before coming to work. The words inspired her, calmed her and reminded her of the importance of her contributions to the great mission of ONI. She looked at these words the day she lost her life on September 11, 2001.
The archway in our main passageway honors his service, along with seven other ONI shipmates killed that day. Their faces are etched in stone in our auditorium, and their sacrifice is etched forever in the culture of the nation’s oldest intelligence agency.
Like so many Americans, I will never forget where I was on 9/11. I also pledge never to forget where those eight ONI employees were on that fateful day – at the Pentagon. I will never forget because their families will never forget. They were lost when a hijacked plane struck at the heart of American military decision-making. A cross section of active and reserve duty personnel, civilians and contractors – they were some of the best our Navy and our nation had to offer. They were our pride.
We continue in ONI, even in the face of such loss, for we must never give in. On September 11, the nation lost more lives than we did in the attack on Pearl Harbor. And just like in the days following World War II, ONI has once again joined in the ruthless pursuit of our adversaries in the War on Terror. Our personnel are deployed globally and integrated across the fleet to provide timely intelligence in support of military operations around the world and help maintain a dominant naval force. The ONI has developed its expertise in the civil maritime environment, which is essential for national decision-makers confronted with transnational threats from the proliferation of maritime weapons, drug trafficking, terrorism and the application of international sanctions.
We have carefully monitored merchant ships on all seas, looking for adversaries transporting illegal weapons, illicit materials and weapons of mass destruction to rogue states or terrorist groups seeking to deploy them against us or our allies. . We remain resolute in our efforts to maintain the security of ports, both foreign and domestic, to enable open water navigation. And through our support for maritime interdiction operations, we have enabled the free and open domination of the seas by countering nefarious actors in the maritime domain. We conduct these missions while focusing on the challenges of the current geopolitical landscape and maintaining maritime decision-making advantage against our global strategic competitors.
Just recently, our armed forces and our intelligence community brought Ayman al-Zawahri to justice. Zawahri was the leader of al-Qaida and a key architect of the 9/11 attacks, the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the attack on the USS Cole. As a nation, we have sent a message to terrorists everywhere that our reach is global and our resolve unwavering.
I am immensely proud of the work done by our civilian and military personnel since we lost our shipmates. To date, we have succeeded in limiting the use of commercial vessels as vectors for terrorist attacks against the country. But we must remain vigilant. Violent extremist organizations around the world continue to be dedicated to destroying our society and our very way of life. We must remain forever focused on any dangers that may arise again, while continuing to deal with growing threats from major state powers.
ONI will never relent in its dedication to providing decision-making advantage across the entire maritime domain against any threat, regardless of source. As we pursue this great project called Naval Intelligence, we will continue to remind ourselves every day: our ship cannot sink.
Rear Adm. Mike Studeman is the commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence.
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