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AFEWES 50th Anniversary Gala (Ft. Worth, TX)
As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, Ft. Worth, TX, Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ralph, many thanks for the introduction and warm comments.  It’s always special to be back home in Fort Worth.  One of the best decisions Dotty and I have made over the past 50 years was to move to Fort Worth in 1966. 

If we hadn’t moved to Fort Worth, our lives would definitely have been deprived.... 

For example, how would we know that the only thing separating the State of Oklahoma from great football is the Red River … or that West Texas passes through Fort Worth on those extraordinarily windy Texas days … and we would have missed the excitement of a KC-135 screaming over our house at 3 am whenever Carswell unexpectedly decided to have an alert.

Fort Worth has indeed been a wonderful place to live for Dotty and me and for our family, and General Dynamics/Lockheed was certainly a satisfying and challenging place to work during a very important part of my professional life.

It’s a particular pleasure and honor for me to be here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Air Force Electronic Warfare and Evaluation Simulator.  However, while this is a significant milestone, I must admit as time goes on, I’m becoming more impressed by 75th or even 100th anniversaries.

Over the past 50 years, AFEWES has played a critical role in testing and evaluating our nation’s electronic warfare systems and techniques.  It was a mainstay of our national military deterrence throughout the Cold War and invaluable in conflicts ranging from the Cuban missile crisis to Vietnam, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq … and, more recently, this facility has played a vital role in the design, testing and continued verification of performance of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. 

During the past eight years, while the warfare that our nation has been actively engaged in is not electronic warfare-intensive, AFEWES has provided confidence to our planners and pilots, especially against the threat of hand-held surface-to-air missiles. AFEWES is still vitally important to evaluate threat systems -- especially as we hedge against an always uncertain future.  

Although the future is uncertain, one thing is constant … Tomorrow morning here in Fort Worth, Texas and in Washington, DC, and in every city, town, county and state across this great nation, a profound and memorable thing will happen.  Every American will wake up free.  This freedom is not by accident, not by chance and it is not some inalienable right. 

Rather, it’s because for over 230 years brave Americans have stepped forward to protect and defend the freedoms and ideals of this great country. 

Every day as I engage with our military personnel I marvel that the people who have worn, and still wear, the uniform of our nation put their lives in jeopardy, sometimes even giving their lives for our freedom.

Whenever the nation has called, the men and women of our Armed Forces have been there to answer.  And, their stories of profound heroism are accompanied by accounts of total dedication by workers at home.

During WWII, when President Roosevelt called on the nation to mobilize to produce 50,000 airplanes a year – a figure that everyone thought to be impossible – industry and workers did just that.  In fact, by March of 1944, the U.S. was producing over 100,000 airplanes a year. 

That’s an airplane rolling off the assembly line about every five minutes, day and night, seven days a week! … And, many of those airplanes were built right here, in Fort Worth, Texas – a legacy we’re all proud of.

During my career, I’ve had the good fortune to work alongside many of the heroes of industry … and, what I’ve seen – having served on both sides of the defense-industry partnership – is a genuine, shared commitment to America’s strength and prosperity.  Whether it’s a machinist at home in the factory or a machinist’s mate at sea, both are in the business of national security.  Industry’s work is vitally important.

The cooperative AFEWES partnership that we celebrate here tonight is a wonderful example.  The F-16 and now the F-35 are also symbolic of where we are in DoD – and, that is joint. 

These programs have set the standard for close cooperation between Government, our partners in industry and international governments and their industries.   Importantly, these partnerships have strengthened interdependence with our friends and allies around the world.

And it’s also because people like you have provided the technology, the commitment and the hard work every day to keep our country free.

At his Inaugural address, President Kennedy said, “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in the hour of maximum danger.” 

Unquestionably, WWII was won by the Greatest Generation.  But history is written after events occur, and I know that future generations will look back on this time with the same awe and respect.

President Kennedy’s words ring true today for this generation of brave Americans protecting our freedom and liberty.  They, too, have recognized this responsibility, and they’ve bravely responded to the call of this generation.  Through their actions, they’ve shown that uncommon valor is today still a common virtue.
The men and women who wear the cloth of our nation rely on the products you make and test, as they fight to keep our country safe in our shared pursuit of freedom.  We owe your managers, administrators, engineers, machinists, builders, suppliers and all who contribute the thanks of a grateful nation.

President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”  It’s an obligation we all share.

I thank you, again, for the support and friendship you have shown to me and Dotty over the past eight years.  We’re looking forward to coming home.

God bless each of you and your families all those standing the watch tonight and God bless America.