Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DR. MARK T. ESPER: Well, good morning, everyone.
And to the troops on the field, you look fantastic.
President Trump, Vice President Pence, members of Congress and distinguished guests, thank you for joining us here today. On behalf of the Department of Defense, welcome to the Pentagon.
This historic building is not only the headquarters of our armed forces, it is a prominent symbol of America’s military power, and of our willingness to defend our people and our interests around the world. To generations of Americans, this place, this building, embodies our national security.
However, a building is nothing without the people within it, and the spirit and dedication they bring to it, each and every day. As such, I want to thank the great patriots, military and civilian alike, who come to work here and focus on one thing: supporting the more than 2 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who sacrifice and serve in defense of our great nation. They all represent America’s best, and I am proud to serve with them and alongside them.
Mr. President, thank you, sir, for your confidence in me and for this incredible opportunity. It is an honor of a lifetime to be appointed secretary of defense, and to lead the greatest military in history. And I am especially humbled that you would be here today to celebrate this occasion.
I also want to thank you, Mr. President, for your unwavering commitment to our armed forces and to a strong national defense. Our military has made tremendous gains in recent years thanks to your leadership. And today, we are ready to face any challenge, anytime, anywhere as we continue to stand guard around the world.
Finally, I would like to thank the Armed Services Committee for its swift action on my nomination, and for the strong bipartisan support that I received from the entire United States Senate.
The global security environment has clearly become more complex. The free and open order that has preserved the peace and sustained our prosperity for decades is under duress.
Great power competition has re-emerged as China and Russia seek to displace the United States and shift the balance of power in their favor. Iran continues to sow discord and threaten its neighbors throughout the Middle East. And terrorist organizations like ISIS look for new safe havens to plot against the West.
As the Department of Defense takes on these challenges, we will continue to strengthen our military and deter conflict in order to preserve the peace and advance America’s interests.
We will do this, first, by building a more lethal force, one that is increasing its readiness and modernizing for the future. Thanks to the president’s leadership and the support of Congress, the last two budgets have allowed us to make significant investments towards these ends, and the next couple promise to do the same as well.
In addition, the department is on the verge of a significant change in how we organize, train and equip our space forces.
Mr. President, I know this is an important priority for you, and my Pentagon team is fully engaged with the Armed Services Committees and bipartisan congressional leadership to create, for the first time in 70 years, a new branch of the armed forces, the United States Space Force.
Second, we will strengthen our alliances and attract new partners. A strong network of like-minded nations that are willing and able to fight together is an advantage that our adversaries do not possess.
But this means our allies and partners must contribute more equitably to our shared security. President Trump has called on other nations to do more, and they have responded.
By the end of 2020, our NATO allies will spend an additional $100 billion on defense, an unprecedented increase that will make the alliance stronger.
Third, we will reform the department to make the best use of every single dollar Congress gives us. Our country has many competing demands, and it is incumbent upon us to look for ways, no matter how small, to free up time, money and manpower to invest back into our top priorities. We must always keep faith with the American people, and be good stewards of their hard-earned tax dollars.
Lastly, as a personal priority of mine, we will place a particular focus on the well-being of our families. Our military spouses and civilians and children make tremendous sacrifices for this country. And in return, I am committed to ensuring they are properly cared for.
I want to thank Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Pence for the personal attention they have devoted to our military families, and for their efforts to improve the quality of life for our spouses and children throughout the armed forces.
In closing, I want to thank all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who make up the greatest fighting force known to man. All across the world, these brave Americans are standing watch to deter aggression and preserve peace. On land, in the seas, throughout the skies, and in both space and cyberspace, service members from across the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines solemnly and confidently carry out their duties.
Assured by the leadership of the commander in chief, the men and women of our military know that we will never send them into a fight without the training, the equipment and the leadership they need to prevail. They know that this administration, that this Congress and the American people have their back. And they know that when they are deployed far away from home, their families will be taken care of.
Thank you, again, Mr. President, for your support to our military and for allowing me the privilege to serve our great country once again as secretary of defense.
As I take on this great responsibility, I will carry out my duties with the same energy and commitment to duty and honor and country that I have for nearly four decades, since my days at West Point. In doing so, I assure you that this department will not let our great nation down.
Thank you, sir.