Well, I can’t possibly top that. (Laughter) I have no animals in the background. Mr. Vice President, Mrs. Cheney – you honor us by being with us today. Welcome to all the other distinguished guests who are here.
It is difficult, in a short amount of time, to describe all that Admiral Giambastiani has meant to those he’s worked with – or to sum up all that he has accomplished in his decades of service.
His story has been a profile in excellence – of steep challenges and enormous achievements. But his successes likely mean less to him than the successes of others. Ed’s official biography notes that he is most proud of the 19 unit awards and commendations he has been associated with because, quote, they “recognize the participation and accomplishments of the entire team.”
Ed is the type of person who makes combining distinction and humility an art form. Anyone who has sat in a meeting with Ed also knows his good humor.
Ed once joked that the two biggest lies in the Navy occur when an inspection team boards a ship saying “we’re here to help,” and when the ship’s captain answers “welcome aboard.” (Laughter) That may be true. But Ed never shied away from criticism or difficult tasks.
In fact, he took on his first challenge right here at the Naval Academy. By the time young Ed Giambastiani arrived on the Yard in 1966, more than 250,000 Americans were fighting in Vietnam. He could have chosen an easier path to earning a bachelor’s degree – and certainly an easier path after receiving a degree – but like his father before him, he volunteered to serve in the Navy.
In 1975, the shift to an all-volunteer force was just two years old. The Navy was confronted with problems of discipline, drug use, and prejudice, but Lieutenant Giambastiani took on the challenge of what he called a “transformational event” and became an enlisted program manager at the Navy’s recruiting command.
Long considered one of the service’s sharpest and most innovative minds, Ed’s first command was the Navy’s only nuclear powered deep diving research submarine. His “reward” for a successful command tour was coming to work for me at CIA.
By the time of his arrival at the Agency in 1985, the Soviets were intensifying conflicts in Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, and elsewhere, and CIA was heavily engaged in countering the threats. Ed and I were in the middle of a virtual intelligence war. It was a hectic time, to say the least. I don’t recall asking if Ed ever longed to return to the relative calm of the deep ocean.
Later, as head of Joint Forces Command, he rightly observed that too often lessons learned are catalogued but not acted upon – a critical deficiency during an asymmetric war in the information age. So Ed worked closely with General Tommy Franks and his successors at Central Command to identify and absorb those lessons with unprecedented speed. He did such a good job that he was chosen to streamline and transform the NATO alliance into a more expeditionary force as well.
Most recently, nearly four years into a global struggle against radical extremists, Ed stepped forward to help lead the fight as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Now most people have never heard of the JROC. There are likely some who wish they never had. The mission of this important panel seems simple – to “provide advice and assessment on military capability needs” – but the process is anything but benign. It requires guiding thousands of requirements, procedures, and people. That can be difficult on any day. But in the middle of two wars where assets are needed yesterday, Ed did an outstanding job of getting vital equipment to those on the frontlines quickly.
Of course, we can’t overlook the other half of the Giambastiani team. Cindy, after growing up the daughter of a career Air Force officer, and after 31 years of marriage and many moves with Ed, I suspect that you’re ready to settle down in one place for awhile. For those of you who may not know, Cindy has received many awards and honors for her public service. She is the ship’s sponsor of the USS New Mexico, and has been very active in the submarine community. She even wrote a cookbook to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the submarine force. I understand that proceeds from the sales go to a scholarship for the children of submariners. Thank you, Cindy, for a lifetime of service and support to your family and to our nation.
Ed, Cindy, thank you for always putting your country, and those around you before yourself. We have been honored to serve with you.