Small Wars Journal

Saturday Twofer With Secretary Gates

Business Executives for National Security (Full Transcript)

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, DC, Thursday, May 15, 2008.


... Tonight, I'd like to discuss three elements of that support structure that I've made my top management priorities as Secretary of Defense -- areas where I've identified shortcomings and want to see fundamental institutional change before my time in office expires. Which if you're wondering, that's about 250 days, 14 hours, and 45 minutes from now.

My priorities are focused on better supporting our troops in combat and include:

- Sending more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to Iraq and Afghanistan;

- Providing troops the best possible protection on dangerous roads in Iraq and Afghanistan; and

- Improving outpatient care and support for our wounded.

These are issues I take seriously -- and very personally.

Each goes directly to our profound, even sacred, obligation to do everything we can to support the men and women currently fighting on the front lines -- people like the four we recognized tonight - to see that they are successful on the battlefield and properly cared for at home. These needs require the Department to focus on the reality that we are in the midst of two wars and that what we can provide our soldiers and commanders three or four years hence isn't nearly as important as what we can provide them today or next month. In each case, there was some sort of leadership shortcoming:

- A lack of vision or sense of urgency;

- An unwillingness or hesitancy to upend assumptions and practices that have accumulated in a largely peacetime military establishment; and

- An assumption that the war would soon be over and therefore we shouldn't impinge on programs that produce the kinds of equipment and capabilities that probably would not be needed in today's combat.

A common mantra at Defense is that the rest of the government isn't at war. Well, a lesson I learned fairly early on was that important elements of the Defense Department weren't at war. Preoccupied with future capabilities and procurement programs, wedded to lumbering peacetime process and procedures, stuck in bureaucratic low-gear. The needs of those in combat too often were not addressed urgently or creatively...

Virginia Military Institute Commencement (Full Transcript)

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M.Gates, Lexington, VA, Friday, May 16, 2008.


... The VMI community mourns the recent loss, just last month, of Marine First Sergeant Luke Mercardante in Afghanistan. VMI alum said of this honorary "Brother Rat": "His legacy lives in his cadets and others who served with him, who are now taking the field across the globe."

In a national radio address in 1940, on the anniversary of VMI's founding, its most distinguished graduate, General George Marshall spoke of the Institute and the values it instills, he said: "Our graduates seldom amass great wealth, but just as seldom do they display weakness or indifference to their duties as citizens. They are trained to be soldiers, if there be need for soldiers . . . ; but what is far more important, they are trained to be good citizens."

Taking on the full mantle of citizenship through public service is not for the timid or the faint of heart, even without the dangers of combat or rigors of military life. In fact, public service can often seem like a burden...

If, in the 21st century, America is to continue to be a force for good in the world -- for freedom, justice, the rule of law, and the inherent value of each person; if America is to be, still, a beacon for all who are oppressed; if America is to exercise global leadership consistent with our better angels, then the most able and idealistic of today's young people must step forward and agree to serve their country with the same honor, and courage, and dignity that marked the service of the long line of patriots that came before them. Your country asks nothing more than that you live up to the values you have learned and lived in this place for these past four years. You owe yourself nothing less...