Thank you, Jim [Cole] – and thank you all for being here today. It’s a privilege to join this distinguished group for this year’s National Security Division awards ceremony. And it’s a pleasure to welcome so many good friends and indispensable colleagues to the Great Hall for today’s celebration – as we recognize the contributions, and highlight the achievements, that these extraordinary public servants have made possible over the last year.
I’d particularly like to thank Acting Assistant Attorney General [John] Carlin for his leadership of NSD – and for including me, once again, in this important annual ceremony. I’d also like to recognize all of the proud family members, friends, and invited guests who have taken the time to be with us today. Thank you for making this event so special – and for your support, and many sacrifices, in helping your loved ones fulfill the Justice Department’s top priority: protecting the American people. Let me be clear: every one of you shares in the prestigious awards we are about to bestow.
As you know better than anyone, 2013 was a year of great challenge for the National Security Division. But thanks to the hard work of dedicated men and women at every level of NSD, you have confronted significant adversity with grit – and determination. From responding to the tragic Boston Marathon bombing – to combating ongoing threats and managing sensitive programs and joint ventures with our counterparts across the Intelligence Community – you have discharged your considerable duties with talent, skill, grace, and courage. And you’ve extended this Division’s tremendous record of success in defending the homeland and protecting our citizens from complex and constantly-evolving threats – both at home and abroad.
Each and every day, the award recipients before me – and their colleagues throughout the Division – have helped to advance this Department’s efforts to ensure justice; to promote public safety; to empower victims; to strengthen international alliances; and to uphold the rule of law. You’ve worked closely with foreign allies, as well as state and local law enforcement partners, to identify and investigate emerging national security challenges that know no geographic boundaries – and implicate American interests within the United States and across the globe.
You have helped to create – and to revise – important procedures that have improved the government’s handling of national security oversight matters. You’ve strengthened our ability to address threats to the homeland. You’ve developed and launched a new website to provide the public – and those affected by terrorist attacks – with information about the Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism. And you’ve done it all in a time of extremely limited resources, unprecedented budgetary constraints – and heightened public scrutiny.
Some of your efforts have captured international headlines. Other significant contributions remain highly classified. But all of your work is vital. All of it is in keeping with the finest traditions of public service that have guided this institution since its founding, and this Division since its creation in 2006. And although NSD rarely receives the public acclaim that it deserves, among those charged with safeguarding our nation and its people, none of your work goes unnoticed.
From investigating and bringing charges against those engaged in terrorism-related activities, to holding sanctions violators accountable; from helping to obtain and analyze crucial foreign intelligence, to combating international money laundering – all while upholding civil liberties and advancing the rule of law – over the past year, your work has made our country safer, stronger, and more just. And your daily efforts have inspired your colleagues and counterparts throughout this Department and across our government – including me.
Of course, I recognize that the achievements we celebrate today did not come easily. I know you’ve been called upon, on many occasions, to spend long hours in the office – sacrificing time with family and friends in order to advance the critical work with which the American people have entrusted us. So I want you to know how much President Obama and I value your extraordinary dedication, your surpassing commitment to the mission we share, and your fidelity to the ideals that have always defined the Department of Justice. I consider it an honor to count each of you as colleagues – and to serve alongside you as we strive, in every case and circumstance, to fight for the interests of the United States; to protect the American people; and to see that justice is done.
Your recent successes have come at a time when sequestration, gridlock, and government shutdown have imposed inexcusable hardships on your families – and made your jobs, in many respects, more challenging than ever before. Fortunately, as a result of the bipartisan budget agreement that President Obama recently signed into law, we’ve finally been able to lift the hiring freeze that’s been in place since 2011. And we will soon begin to hire additional federal agents, prosecutors, analysts, and other staff. These added resources will increase support for the investigations and activities you carry out every day. But we will continue to rely upon our NSD award recipients to serve as leaders, and as role models, as we seek to build upon the successes of the past year – and drive the Division’s work into the future.
I want to thank each of our awardees, once again, for going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure America’s national security in a time of great challenge and consequence. I am grateful for your leadership, your partnership, and your many sacrifices – today and every day. I look forward to all that we must – and surely will – accomplish together in the days ahead. And I congratulate you, once again, on the well-deserved recognitions you’re about to receive.
Thank you for all that you do – and please keep up the great work.