Good morning. As President of Texas A&M University, I used to begin all of my speeches by saying “howdy.” It is a pleasure to be here this morning, and to be able to say “aloha.”
I want to first thank the men and women of U.S. Pacific Command. I know that Admiral Keating would agree that much of what has been accomplished in this region is due to your dedication and professionalism. You and your families have our appreciation and thanks for everything you do for our nation.
After spending last night and this morning around this area, it is easy see why many of you chose to come here. Not only are you surrounded by such natural beauty, but you also get to be five time zones away from Washington, D.C.
I hope that Governor Lingle and General Pace will vouch for me if I take a little extra time returning to Washington.
Welcome General Chilton. And welcome to three former leaders of Pacific Command: Admiral Hayes, Admiral Fargo, and Admiral Macke. Thank you all for being here.
I appreciate the representation today from countries throughout the Pacific Command region – a testament to the partnerships that have been fostered under Admiral Fallon. Welcome, and thank you for being here. I suspect that Admiral Keating may be visiting many of your countries in the coming months.
Wandalee, it is good to see you again. Three days ago, I had the opportunity to honor Admiral Tim Keating and Wandalee as they left U.S. Northern Command. I am pleased to have that opportunity again today. You two will be sure to stop me if you have heard all this before.
As I noted when recommending Admiral Keating for this post, he has established a record of accomplishment in a variety of complex and challenging assignments. He commanded a carrier group based in Japan, and later the Navy's Fifth Fleet during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In his most recent post as the head of Northern Command and NORAD, he was responsible for guarding our homeland against a range of threats and means of attack from weapons of all kinds – some so small that they could even fit inside a thimble. His area of responsibility ranged from our nation’s cities and coastlines to outer space and everything in between. These responsibilities entailed working with local, state, and federal officials and politicians including 50 governors and adjutants general.
So perhaps – just perhaps – Admiral Keating is one of only a few who would find taking on Pacific Command’s region – encompassing more than 50 percent of the earth’s surface and 43 countries – slightly less daunting.
He may also find it less daunting because he served here before as a Flag Lieutenant to the head of Pacific Command. He may be one of only a few such aides to ever assume the post he once served.
Admiral Keating’s career has also been groundbreaking in that this will be his sixth joint tour. Though I understand that during the week before the Army-Navy football game – or as Tim would probably call it, the Navy-Army game – he is anything but joint. He wears a ball cap proudly displaying “Beat Army.” Last year, some unknown individual wrote “Go Army, Beat Navy!” on a mirror near his office.
Tim, I will be keeping a close eye on movements of the Navy’s Seventh Fleet in case there are any similar incidents this year.
That one week a year aside, Admiral Keating has proven himself to have the right mix of military, intellectual – and yes – diplomatic skills to excel at this vital post.
Pacific Command’s sheer size demands any country’s attention. But more than that, the scope of relationships and challenges encompassed in this area of responsibility are key to the security and continued welfare of the United States. It is home to some of America’s oldest and strongest allies – and to some relatively new relationships as well. A great many partnerships across this Command – old and new – have grown considerably stronger in recent years. The restoration of military relations with Indonesia comes to mind, as does the strengthening of our long-standing ties with Japan and Australia.
Part of this is due to Admiral Fox Fallon’s legacy. He built a level of trust and cooperation among nations that I am confident Admiral Keating will continue to foster. But it is also due to a growing realization that we share common challenges.
Together, nations across the region face the newest of threats in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology. We face the oldest of threats from piracy combined with dangerous new technologies and materials in the Straits of Malacca and elsewhere. Countries with limited transparency are taking actions that seem contrary to international stability – causing other countries to question their intentions. And violent jihadists are trying to undermine the foundations of free society that have allowed many countries in this region to prosper.
Admiral Keating fully understands the challenges of today. During numerous tours and deployments across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, he has developed a keen appreciation for what he calls “the vibrancy and complexity of this vast region.”
He is fully committed to defeating the enemies who threaten our security and stability, because he has seen first-hand the consequences of failure. He was in the Pentagon when it was struck by extremists on September 11th. Some of those who died that morning worked for him.
And he is fully prepared to continue the record of accomplishments that the countries of this region have built together. In nearly two and a half years at Northern Command, he worked tirelessly to create many new relationships after the formation of Northcom, and he strengthened existing partnerships to increase our nation’s security.
Tim, congratulations on this assignment. We wish you and Wandalee all the best.