Secretary of Defense Speech

Remarks at the Arrival Ceremony for Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning


Just take a moment and behold what’s in front of us here.  Look at these magnificent, proud members of our Army.  And it’s them that we’re here about today, to give them the leadership they deserve.

Secretary Fanning, it’s an honor to formally welcome you, and it’s also a pleasure to welcome Ben, your mother Kathy, your sister Erin, and your entire family.

And General Milley, Mark, I appreciate the confidence I can have in you for your dedication to our soldiers throughout the world, to the future of the Army.

To the members of the diplomatic community here today, thank you for honoring us with your presence.  

I’d also like to welcome the Senators and Members of Congress who’ve joined us, and all of the White House officials and members of our DoD family, past and present, who are here on this important day for our country and for our Army.  

It has been a privilege to work alongside Secretary Eric Fanning for many years, and watch him develop into one of our country’s most knowledgeable, dedicated, and experienced public servants.  I’ve seen firsthand why he’s one of this Administration’s most trusted and capable appointees and one of the Pentagon’s most dependable civilian leaders.

Secretary Fanning served as my chief of staff when I first became Secretary of Defense.  I looked to him to help me recruit and attract a talented and innovative team of civilian and military leaders, many of whom are with us today.  And He’s served in senior leadership roles in each of our military departments, including time as Undersecretary of the Air Force, and Acting Secretary of the Air Force, as well as Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy, and that gives him a unique perspective on the pivotal connections that bind our joint force. 

From his service in positions of responsibility on non-proliferation issues and weapons of mass destruction, to his proven leadership in resource management, Secretary Fanning understands the full spectrum of responsibilities and opportunities that we face as a 21st century military.

We have today no fewer than five major, immediate and evolving  challenges: countering the prospect of Russian aggression and coercion, especially in Europe, managing historic change in the vital Asia-Pacific region, where China is rising, which is fine, but behaving aggressively, which is not; strengthening our deterrent and defense forces in the face of North Korea’s nuclear provocations; checking Iranian aggression and malign influence in the Gulf; and confronting terrorism, including accelerating the defeat of ISIL in its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, and wherever else it metastasizes. 

And since we have a pretty good record of never successfully predicting the strategic future, we must also be flexible and agile in preparing for it -- for unknowns that we can’t anticipate today.

Secretary Fanning and General Milley understand all this, understand what must be done to ensure the readiness and strength of the Army to confront the challenges of today’s security environment. They’re working together to strengthen the Army’s unparalleled ability, forged over the last 15 years, and much longer, to carry out its core mission, which is to seize, hold, and dominate physical and human terrain.  They aren’t resting on the current excellence of our Army; they’re doubling down on it, ensuring that our ground forces are agile, unrivaled in posture, ready for full spectrum operations, and always prepared to defend America’s interests and values.  

And they’ve never forgotten that the true strength of our force is in our people. That’s why, under the leadership of Secretary Fanning and General Milley, the Army is moving forward with several key initiatives we’ve introduced across the Department to build the Force of the Future.  These include supporting greater flexibility in the officer promotion system, and improvements in our family policies to help retain soldiers serving today – such as expanded maternity and paternity leave, and extended childcare hours on base, and also greater opportunities for our soldiers to gain outside experience in the private sector.  

These and many other changes in both our uniformed and civilian policies will help to ensure that amid changes in generations, changes in technologies, and changes in labor markets, we continue to bring in, develop, and retain the best young men and women that America has to offer for our all-volunteer Army.  

That’s also why we’ve opened all combat positions to women who can meet our standards, and Secretary Fanning and General Milley are doing an excellent job ensuring the successful implementation of this change and others to come – a key capability of an institution that has shown the best of tradition and competitive adaption over 241 years.

At the Department of Defense, we are constantly looking for ways to innovate and think outside of our five sided box - innovating not only in our technology, but also in our operations, in our strategies, in how we manage our people.  Secretary Fanning and General Milley embody that spirit of innovation, and the kind of strong and steady leadership that will ensure our successors and our successor’s successors continue to inherit the finest fighting force the world has ever known. 

So it’s an honor to formally welcome Secretary Fanning as Secretary of the Army, and I want to thank him for everything he’s doing on behalf of all of the soldiers and military families who serve today, from the mountains of Afghanistan, to the plains of eastern Europe, to the Korean Peninsula, to enabling our partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria.  And as he works to protect those who protect our country, Secretary Fanning could not have a better partner than the man I am about to introduce.

Ladies and gentlemen, another leader whose nomination was easy to recommend to the President, Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley.