NEW YORK —
Well good afternoon ladies and gentlemen! I have to tell that that’s the first time I’ve ever been introduced to Led Zeppelin music. [Laughter]. But I’ll make sure I tell my kids about that because they’ll think it’s pretty cool.
But it’s really great to be up here in New York with such a distinguished and diverse group focusing on the fascinating topic of collaboration and public-private partnerships.
It might surprise you to know how important collaboration with private entities is to your military, and how broad our partnerships really are.
In the 2010 National Security Strategy of the United States, the President described partnerships between the public and private sectors as being critical to United States’ security at home and abroad. In fact, I would say that we in the military are one half of the ultimate public-private partnership given our role in defending our nation’s national security interests.
We in the military encourage these partnerships because they lead to innovation and creative thinking, they pool our resources, expertise, and talent, and they allow both sides of the equation to share both risk and reward.
As you will see, the rewards our partners find can range from pure profit to the satisfaction that comes from helping others.
The rewards we in the military find range from new technologies that enhance our ability to defend our nation to better ways to help populations in need to taking better care of our own people.
Let’s face it, we live in a rapidly evolving security environment with growing challenges ranging from ambitious powers seeking to dominate their neighbors to insecure authoritarian regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction for their own protection to rapidly morphing terrorist threats that are threatening stability across an entire swath of the planet to natural disasters that involve both physical and biological disruptions.
As we confront these challenges against the canvas of such a chaotic environment, we find it important to have a constructive two-way conversation with a variety of organizations – big and small, profit and non-profit, domestic and foreign.
Public-private partnerships help both of us navigate a complex bureaucratic landscape and synchronize our efforts to effect real change.
In turn, through these partnerships, the Department of Defense has an opportunity to match the exceptional speed and agility of the private sector, while developing processes to support new security models for our national defense.
Your military is involved in literally thousands of these partnerships across the globe. I’d like to briefly touch on four areas every day.
First, maintaining a strong military capable of responding and adapting to a very fluid security environment is contingent upon a solid industrial base. This may be our most vital partnership activity.
We use some of the most sophisticated technology in the world, ranging from nuclear propulsion plants to state of the art jet fighters, and our partnership in industry has to be strong in this area.
As one example of one such partnership, in 2012, the Defense Department established the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute – better known as America Makes – in Youngstown, Ohio.
America Makes focuses on helping America’s three-dimensional printing industry become more globally competitive. And we in the military are actually now using these machines.
For example, the Navy has roughly 70 additive manufacturing projects underway at dozens of locations.
In April of this year, a 3D printer was installed aboard the amphibious assault ship, USS Essex.
The crew has printed everything from plastic syringes, to oil tank caps, to the silhouettes of planes that are used for the mock-up of the flight deck to keep the flight deck organized.
Even though the Navy believes we’re still several years away from being able to print out actual spare parts for ships and airplanes, that day will surely come.
In industry, we see General Electric producing complex jet engine valves using 3D printing while Lockheed Martin is using this technology to manufacture spare parts for the F-35 fighter.
As important as partnerships are to maintaining our technological edge, they are equally important in how we care for the extraordinary young men and women who make up our military, and that’s the second are I’d like to highlight for you.
During the past 13 years, more than 2.4 million of these young men and women have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Successfully reintegrating them back into their communities requires collaboration among federal, state, and local governments as well as community service providers, businesses, academia and philanthropic organizations.
Today, there are more than 40,000 private organizations supporting veterans and military families.
These partnerships increase our ability to both address the challenges veterans face as they transition out of uniform and to enable others like you to leverage their talents and experience by hiring them.
For example, in partnership with Direct Technology, Microsoft, and Saint Martin’s University, Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington offers a Software Engineer Academy at the installation’s education center.
This 16-week program offers employment opportunities with Direct Technology upon completion.
And this is one example of the successful integration of public and private efforts to better address transition and integration of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen when they come home.
Another area of collaboration is in supporting and caring for our wounded warriors.
The private sector has been very involved in our efforts to find new ways of treating the wounds of war, both those seen – with advanced prosthetics – and those unseen, like traumatic brain injury.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which is the master of partnering with the private sector, is collaborating with UCLA, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to accelerate the development of technology to help service members and others overcome memory loss.
The wireless, implantable “neuroprosthetics” they’re building could bridge gaps in injured brains to overcome memory deficits not only for service men and women, but for civilians who are injured as well.
But our collaboration doesn’t stop there. This very week, the Warrior Games are being held in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
This week-long military Paralympics has been hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee and sponsored by Deloitte and other generous donors for the past four years.
Many of the wounded warriors there will tell you that preparing for a competition in which they are treated as elite Olympic-style athletes has literally saved their lives.
And the Fisher House Foundation, founded by Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher right here in New York and continued by their wonderful nephew Ken Fisher, has been an extraordinary partner in taking care of our families with hospices right on the grounds of our military and veterans hospitals, where family members can stay for free to help take care of their wounded, ill, or injured loved one.
A third area that highlights the power of public-private partnerships is in the arena of humanitarian assistance.
When a disaster happens, the U.S. military has unique capabilities and a capacity and speed that we can bring to bear to help those in distress.
We’re often best postured to get to the area quickly, but other organizations often have much greater knowledge of local needs and a greater capacity to provide the necessary aid. In these situations, partnerships are absolutely vital.
From Indonesia to Haiti to Japan and now assisting with the international response to the Ebola virus in West Africa, we’re often called upon in support of diverse partners like the Red Cross and Medecins sans Frontiers and Operation Blessing International and the Registered Nurse Response Network and many others when the worst happens.
Melding their expertise with our logistics capabilities is a powerful addition to the international response to these types of disasters.
As successful as the initiatives I just mentioned have been—and they are only a few—we can always do better.
For many organizations, working with our bureaucracy can be very frustrating.
Trust me, I know. I fight it every single day, and it’s mostly attributable to the avoiding risks associated with violating the statutes under which we must operate.
It’s also important that we aren’t perceived as playing favorites, endorsing specific companies, or getting mixed up in the politics of a given situation.
For many years the Department of Defense didn’t have overarching policy or guidance supporting or providing authority for private sector collaborations.
Due to these obstacles, some self-inflicted and some legal, I teamed up with, then-Deputy Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter to direct an external review of our public-private collaboration.
The review found areas for us to address that could have a positive effect on how the military partners with non-government entities.
A few months later, Ash and I signed a memorandum encouraging the use of public-private partnerships.
Following its release, we established a joint Public-Private Partnership Working Group to create a hub of collaboration with federal agencies and the private sector.
The working group is establishing a common mechanism to streamlining, developing partnerships, including standardizing processes, designating a single point of contact at each command and service, and building a central database of partnerships for sharing best practices and lessons learned.
These efforts are important, but the most significant work of this group has been drafting comprehensive guidelines to identify the fundamental value and priorities of partnering with the public sector. And I expect this draft to be signed in the coming weeks.
This year alone, the U.S. military will host and participate in more than 20 formal public-private partnerships, bring together thousands of industry, government and non-government leaders.
But as important as it is for me to affirm your military’s commitment to deepening our partnerships with you, I would be remiss if I didn’t close by thanking you for your support for the thousands of young men and women every day who wear the cloth of our nation, many of whom are deployed around the world at this moment, many of them in harm’s way.
This nation has bent over backwards to honor them and thank them and even hire them, and you can’t begin to imagine how much we appreciate it.
I look forward to continuing the dialogue and to broadening and deepening the public-private partnerships that serve our national interests and those who serve so well.