Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Inhofe, distinguished Senators, I am honored to appear before you today on this 18th day of July as the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I am also thankful. Thankful for the confidence put in me two years ago …. for the continued confidence of our Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of Defense … and for the privilege of serving with Admiral Winnefeld and our Joint Chiefs.
Of course, I am thankful for the unwavering love – and tireless service – of my wife Deanie … not to mention our three children and now seven grandchildren. Yes, that’s plus four since my confirmation, with one more on the way.
But more than anything, I am thankful for the opportunity to defend our nation along side the men and women who wear its cloth. When I witness their courage and their skill, I am reminded of an inscription on the Private Soldier Memorial, known as Old Simon, at Antietam – “Not for themselves but for their country.”
It is on their behalf and in that spirit that I am here today. My purpose is to be worthy of their service – every day and in every decision … to strengthen the relationship of trust that the American Armed Forces has with the American people … to meet our sacred obligation to keep our nation immune from coercion.
We cannot take this relationship for granted. Historic transitions are testing our ability to meet our obligations. We are in the midst of a difficult fiscal correction to restore the economic foundation of our power. We are also transitioning from war to an even more uncertain and dangerous security landscape.
So, even as dollars are in decline, risk is on the rise. If we do not manage these transitions well, our military power will become less credible. We will foreclose options and we will leave gaps in our security.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can and we must lead through these transitions. We have it within us to stay strong as a global leader and reliable ally. We can make our military more affordable without making our nation less secure. To do this, we need to get at least four things right.
First, we need to get our strategy right. This means aligning our aims with our abilities. Strategy is nothing if not about setting priorities. Even as we rebalance to the Asia Pacific region, we still have to: defend the homeland from cyber, terrorist, and missile attack … achieve our objectives in Afghanistan … deter provocation on the Korean peninsula … assure and assist Allies across the Globe … and set a more responsive posture for a “new normal” of combustible violence. As we respond to new contingencies, we must come to terms with the risks and costs to these existing obligations. We may have to do less, but we should never do it less well.
Second, we need to get our force right. This means keeping our military ready and balanced. So far, we are getting it wrong. We have already lost readiness that will take more time and cost more to restore. We are already out of balance due the magnitude and mechanism – not to mention the steep descent – of budget cuts. It’s not too late to recover. Remove the budget uncertainty. Slow down the drawdown. Help us make the seemingly intractable institutional reforms. If we do this, we can build a Joint Force to meet the nation’s needs for a price the nation is able and willing to pay.
Third, we need to get our people right. This means strengthening our profession while keeping faith with our military family. Ours is an uncommon profession. One that must value character as much as competence … that rests on a foundation of learning and leadership … that advances equal and ethical treatment for all its members … and that allows no quarter for sexual violence in all its destructive forms. We also keep faith by making sure that our sons and daughters always go to war with the best training, leadership and equipment. Get this wrong, and we’ll get nothing else right.
Finally, we need to get our relationships right. This means staying connected to our allies and most importantly, our fellow Americans. Now is the defining moment in our nation’s relationship with its 9/11 veterans. This generation is a national asset. They are ready to contribute in their communities. They need opportunity – handshakes, not handouts.
In the end, all relationships rest on trust. Two years ago, I offered this image to illustrate the vein of trust that runs from our men and women on the front lines to their families and to the American people.
Today, it is still all about trust. Reconfirmation is a reaffirmation of trust. I am humbled by the opportunity and I will continue to work every day to earn it. I know you expect it, and I know our men and women in uniform deserve it.
Thank you and I stand ready to answer your questions.