Thank you Admiral Mullen. It’s a pleasure joining you, Lieutenant General Burgess, and Commodore Anson this evening.
On behalf of Secretary Gates, welcome to the Annual Attaché Reception. I saw many of you at the annual conference of the Defense Attaché Association in November. And I had the good fortune to preside over this reception last year. In fact, the food is so good, I invited myself back!
I know your home countries are grateful for what you do. Tonight, I want to say that Secretary Gates and I are too. Since his first day in office, President Obama has spoken about the importance of international partnerships to our collective security. The Administration’s National Security Strategy, released three weeks ago, elevates cooperation to a core principle. As President Obama writes in its introduction, “we will build new and deeper partnerships in every region”—partnerships based on mutual interests and mutual respects.
As defense attachés, you are an integral part of the partnerships we build. You constitute a special channel through which nations talk, and a corps of professionals who help realize shared aims. As we have seen time and time again, having strong relationships in place pays extraordinary dividends at essential moments. For instance, when the tsunami struck Southeast Asia in December 2004, more than 10 nations quickly mounted a relief effort.
Strong military relationships helped the relief effort work. Relationships of trust and cooperation built up over many years were put to immediate effect coordinating the delivery of aid. Admiral Thomas Fargo, commander of our forces in the Pacific at the time, credits the existing military-to-military partnerships for the relief effort’s effectiveness in saving countless lives.
Ultimately, the better understanding that military-to-military relationships foster will help us face far more than natural disasters. And I especially note that this understanding is achieved in great part by the community of military attachés, whose work in capital cities all over the world we are here to salute.
Relationships between nations are ultimately built on relationships between people. So I am especially pleased to welcome representatives from more than 95 countries here tonight. Let us not forget that we have a common future, and a common responsibility to safeguard it. By fostering cooperation between our militaries, we will ultimately help bring peace and prosperity to the people we defend.