Armed Forces Farewell to the President of the United States (Arlington, VA)

By Gates, Robert M. | U.S. Department of Defense Speeches, January 6, 2009 | Go to article overview

Armed Forces Farewell to the President of the United States (Arlington, VA)


Gates, Robert M., U.S. Department of Defense Speeches


As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Arlington, VA, Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Thank you, Admiral Mullen.

Some of you of a certain generation might remember a line from the John Wayne movie "Red River," an epic story of a thousand-mile cattle drive across Texas. At one point, one of the characters says: "There's three times in a man's life when he has the [a] right to yell at the moon: when he marries, when his children come, and when he finishes a job he had to be crazy to start." Well, before President Bush finishes this job, I'm pleased to have this chance--on behalf of the United States military--to pay tribute to our Commander in Chief and give him proper thanks.

The legacy of George W. Bush in matters of war and peace began taking form more than a year before he first took the oath of office. In the fall of 1999, then-Governor Bush gave a speech at the Citadel titled "A Period of Consequences." He observed that nearly a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. military was still organized more for Cold War threats than for the challenges of a new century--what he called "an era of car bombers and plutonium merchants and cyber terrorists and drug cartels and unbalanced dictators--all the unconventional and invisible threats of new technologies and old hatreds."

On a bright Tuesday morning in September, eight months into President Bush's first term, we learned how dangerous and unpredictable this new era could be, and saw in the starkest terms how necessary was the task of transforming the American defense establishment to meet these challenges.

It was a task inspired by the vision of President Bush, propelled by the energetic advocacy of Secretary Rumsfeld, informed by the experience of our senior military leaders, and accelerated by the urgent demands of two unconventional ground wars. The result is an American military that has become more agile, lethal, and prepared to deal with the full spectrum of 21st century conflict--and, on a personal note, a force that is dramatically more deployable and expeditionary than when I last served in government 15 years ago.

Consider just a few of the historic changes:

--The Army has undergone its most significant restructuring in more than two generations, moving from a division-based to a modular brigade-based force;

--The Navy's Fleet Response Plan has nearly doubled the number of strike carrier groups that can be surged in the first weeks of a crisis;

--America's Special Forces have seen vast increases in budget, personnel, authorities--and most importantly, in capabilities--in the campaign against terrorism worldwide;

--The number of unmanned aerial vehicles has grown some 40-fold to more than 6,000, and we have seen a genuine revolution in the military's ability to fuse intelligence and operations;

--Cold War basing arrangements in Germany, Korea, and Japan have been modernized and sized to better reflect the security requirements of this century;

--New authorities and programs enable the military to build the capacity of allies and partners in cooperation with civilian agencies and organizations;

--And much, much more. …

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