For Immediate Release
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Director B. Todd Jones at His Swearing-in Ceremony
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives finally has a permanent director. No more temporary, acting Directors.
It is now on me.
And it is on all of the incredibly dedicated professionals here at ATF, too. We have accomplished a lot together these past two years, but we have an even larger job ahead. Responsibilities like these do not go without recognition. And over the summer, I have certainly received my share.
Mr. Attorney General, almost exactly two years ago you accompanied me on the very day I first set foot in this building. The circumstances then were very different. This ship had run aground and was taking on water. And I thought to myself, "The Attorney General and I have known one another for a long time; I need to deliver for him, for this great Agency, and for the American public."
Thank you, sir, for your trust, and for your consistent support and help. Not just during my time as Acting Director, but during my four–year tenure as U.S. Attorney in Minnesota. You are a good friend and a source of inspiration for all of us who work for the Department of Justice.
I hope you will not mind indulging me so I may express my gratitude to a long list of people and organizations. They also made this day possible. I wish to thank President Obama for nominating me, putting his faith in me, and for understanding that the hard–working and dedicated men and women of ATF deserve a director who is accountable for ATF; a director approved by the United States Senate. I offer my thanks all to those in the United States Senate who made this Senate–confirmed Director a reality. In particular, Senator Leahy, chair of the Judiciary Committee. And my home state senators, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken. Thank you. Also I wish to welcome all of the members of the House of Representatives to ATF who are here today. Thank you all for your support of ATF.
Let me also take a moment to say thank you to all of my United States Attorney colleagues, particularly all of my friends at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Minneapolis. I loved working with all of them. Together we did a lot of great work for the citizens of Minnesota. Last week was difficult. I will miss them all very dearly. They represent the best America’s Heartland has to offer.
I offer my gratitude to the Directors of ATF who came before me. They were dedicated to fulfilling ATF’s mission and building professionalism throughout the agency. It is an honor to carry on their legacy.
Let me also thank all of the organizations, associations and stakeholders who have supported and worked with ATF during my time as acting, particularly the local and national law enforcement groups and those in the firearms and explosives industry. I believe our relationships are strong. And going forward, as we work with the industries we regulate, the law enforcement organizations we partner with, and public and private groups that support our mission, I look forward to finding solutions where we all get what we need – while always respecting and protecting our Constitutional rights.
Margaret, my wife, thank you, and thanks to our sons and daughters, for all the support and love you give me. Being away from you is tough. But I take comfort in your strength and love. We will persevere just as we did when I was stationed in Okinawa, in South Korea, in Virginia and California. Now I’m stationed in Washington DC. We will get through it.
Finally, let me thank the men and women of ATF for their trust and support during very, very difficult times these past two years. It has been a learning experience for all of us.
You have deserved a permanent Director to set the tone and temperament of this organization; to demand professionalism and accountability across the ranks; to challenge the self–absorbed and self–involved and the few independent operators who too long ignored the sound professional standards we demand here at ATF.
And I want to herald the 1000s of professionals who abide by our mission and purpose every single day; those who tend to the critical details that lead to smart investigations and successful prosecutions. I am so proud to work with all of you. Because of your dedication, and because of your commitment, we no longer are a law enforcement agency in distress. We are an agency of incredible purpose and expertise.
Look at how you served in Aurora. And Newtown. In Boston. And in East Texas. Difficult, demanding circumstances, with much at stake. Our agents and investigators filled a valuable role. Local law enforcement may have gotten the headlines. And they should, it is their jurisdiction. But we also know they valued our support and guidance and expertise, and that we act with urgency to help them make their communities safe.
What does transitioning from the Acting Director to the Director mean for our organization?
It means we stay focused on what we have been doing – but with even more purpose. Our ability to contribute to enhancing public safety in communities across the country depends on our ability to "get healthy" as an organization. We have not been there in a while. Many reasons account for this and we have learned some hard lessons over the years. But like an athlete who has been injured, we must be disciplined in our "rehab program." That means training on the fundamentals and enhancing professionalism. It means collaborating with our brother and sister agencies within the Department of Justice and with our highly valued state and local partners. It means maintaining our human capital and ensuring our "attrition bubble" does not burst without a "bucket" to capture and maintain years of knowledge and experience.
It means developing the next generation of leadership within ATF as quickly as we can. It means fully implementing our FRONTLINE business model so that we can work smarter to combat violent crime and regulate responsibly. It means that we need everyone in ATF to recommit to the mission and exercise the organizational discipline to get the job done.
In looking toward the future we must re–examine our past, both near and far. There are invaluable lessons for us to remember and inspiration to draw from.
Former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, as we all know, was assassinated in June 1968 – the victim of a violent crime. Several months earlier, in April of that year, he spoke so eloquently about the "mindless menace of violence in America" as he addressed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, who was so integral to the March on Washington that we have been celebrating this week here in DC.
The day after Dr. King was murdered, Kennedy, in speaking to a group in Cleveland, Ohio, talked about all of the victims of violence – as he stated – "black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one can be certain who next will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours."
He said that "whenever we tear at the fabric of our lives which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, whenever we do this, then the whole Nation is degraded."
This week we have recalled a great speech given 50 years ago on the Mall. It inspired many to do great things – large and small. Robert Kennedy’s words have continuously inspired me these last several years. This speech crystallizes so well why we do the work we do. It was given by a former Attorney General who was himself the victim of violence. The horrible events of 1968 lead to many changes in this country, including the passage of the Gun Control Act – which is one of the primary laws this Agency has responsibility for enforcing.
We have been back in the Department of Justice for 10 years now – a Department once led by Robert Kennedy. Now is the time for us to refocus and bring our "A" game to help carry out one of the Department’s key missions – protecting the public from the "mindless menace" of violent crime.
I am honored to be your first confirmed Director, and I am privileged to lead the men and women of the Bureau. Those of you here today, and those of our friends and colleagues that could not be with us, please know that I appreciate your support, and that I thank you for your help and support over the past two years and I look forward to tomorrow!
Thank you and God Bless America!