The annual OSS Society William J. Donovan Award Dinner that took place at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Oct. 26, attracted a who’s who of the U.S. intelligence and military establishment. Among those in attendance were CIA Director John Brennan, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, and Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Lt. Gen. Raymond Palumbo. The highlight of the night was the presentation of the Donovan Award by retired Maj. Gen. John Singlaub to U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) commander Adm. William McRaven.
Other highlights included video messages from former CIA Director and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and President Barack Obama. Obama had high praise for McRaven. “Few Americans will ever see what you do, but every American is safer because of your service,” said Obama. The keynote address by Brennan included some reminiscing of the U.S. Navy SEAL mission to get Osama Bin Laden, which was overseen by McRaven. Brennan, who held the title of Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the time of the Bin Laden raid, discussed a decisive moment in the planning when Obama moved closer to a final decision. “It was when Adm. McRaven looked at the president and said, ‘Sir, we can get this job done,’” said Brennan. That well-founded confidence in the capabilities of the SEALs seemed to ensure that the mission was a go. “You could hear a pin drop. It was at that time that everyone in that room knew the decision was made and we were going forward,” added Brennan.
“Adm. McRaven looked at the president and said, ‘Sir, we can get this job done.'”
When it came time for McRaven to speak he praised the legacy left behind by the OSS and carried on by today’s special operators. “I often hear disillusioned officers and noncommissioned officers ask, ‘Why aren’t we more like the OSS?’ Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am here tonight to tell you that the OSS is back,” said McRaven. Even though the technology has evolved considerably since the days of World War II, what makes a successful intelligence officer or special operator has not. “Not since World War II has there been such a lethal combination of intelligence officers and special operations warriors. Not since the fight against Hitler have we had such a talented group of government civilians, intellectuals, businessmen, writers, philosophers, engineers, tinkers, tailors, soldiers, and spies,” said McRaven.
“Not since the fight against Hitler have we had such a talented group of government civilians, intellectuals, businessmen, writers, philosophers, engineers, tinkers, tailors, soldiers, and spies.”
The nonprofit OSS Society keeps alive the memory of the historic accomplishments of the OSS during World War II and serves to educate the public about the invaluable role strategic intelligence and special operations play in the preservation of freedom in the U.S. and around the world.