General Moseley, thank you for that introduction. And thank you all for joining us.
I very much appreciate Secretary Wynne’s invitation to be here today. I am honored to have a chance to say a few words about Mike as he concludes a distinguished career – a career unified by a single theme. Whether in the private or public sector, whether as an active duty officer in the Air Force or as a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, Mike’s professional life has been dedicated to ensuring that our men and women in uniform have what they need to keep our nation safe and strong.
When Mike was sworn in to this position, he held his ceremony at the Air Force Academy – a first for a secretary of the Air Force. Mike graduated from West Point but followed his brother, Patrick, into the Air Force. Shortly after Mike switched branches, Patrick was shot down over Vietnam. His remains were interred at the Academy, his alma mater.
So, Mike’s decision to be sworn in at the Academy was deeply personal. It also illustrated that the strength and health of the Air Force penetrates every fiber of Mike’s being, and it demonstrated his belief that it is the duty of the secretary of the Air Force to be a staunch advocate of the airmen and women he leads. In all of my meetings with him, in all of his advice to me, he has never swerved from that mission.
Of course, his swearing-in wasn’t his first trip to Colorado Springs. Mike served seven years as an Air Force officer and ended up teaching astronautics at the Academy. In that capacity, I’m sure he gave more than a few cadets nightmares. His specialty was “control theory” and “fire control techniques.” I have no idea what that means. But I do know that it really does take a rocket scientist to teach it. And Mike was one.
After leaving active duty, Mike applied his knowledge in the private sector, where he rose to the top ranks of General Dynamics. He helped shape two of the most successful weapons programs in the history of the military: the F-16, which has flown thousands of sorties in the War on Terror and is used by allies across the globe; and the Abrams tank, widely acknowledged as the best tank ever built.
Aside from a master’s in electrical engineering, Mike also has a master’s in business – something he put to use when he returned to government service in 2001 as the principal deputy for acquisitions, technology, and logistics. He was put in charge of acquisition reform for the whole Department of Defense. For anyone who has ever tried to get a new stapler out of the bureaucracy, imagine trying to reform a system in charge of tens of billions of dollars in annual acquisitions. And, involving procurement of things a lot more complicated and expensive than staplers.
He continued implementing successful reforms as under secretary for AT&L. He made it possible to track assets throughout the entire Department of Defense. And he was a champion of initiatives from the private sector, such as Lean Six Sigma.
Mike likes to say that you can’t claim success unless you stated the goal beforehand – otherwise, it’s just luck. And so, on his first day as secretary of the Air Force, he issued a mission statement, three priorities, and seven goals.
Mike’s accomplishments at the Air Force are too numerous to list in full, since they span everything from renewable energy to cyber security.
I would, however, like to highlight one – a change in the institutional culture that empowers airmen and women from the lowest ranks to the highest to challenge the status quo, and to take responsibility for building a stronger Air Force. Under Mike’s watch, all airmen have been encouraged to introduce new ideas and better ways of doing business. He likes to tell the story of a wing commander who came up to him and said, “Now I can’t do anything dumb because I know my airmen will tell me it’s dumb.”
I share Admiral Mullen’s admiration of Secretary Wynne for taking responsibility for systemic problems in one of the Air Force’s most sensitive missions. Mike has demonstrated a willingness, at great personal cost, to live by the same standards of accountability he has instilled in so many people over so many years.
Our being at the Air Force Memorial is most fitting. The spires of this monument represent the three core values of the Air Force – integrity first; service before self; and excellence in all. Mike, in living these values, you have set an example for the airmen and women you have led. You have upheld the tradition of honor and the legacy of valor that characterize the Air Force.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your service and I wish you and Barbara all the best.