Thank you. This is indeed an awesome operation, and I’ll only interrupt your work for about five minutes. To the men and women of SPAWAR, I wanted to take a few moments to thank you for your hard work and dedication to this important effort. MRAP is a proven lifesaver on the battlefield. You have my appreciation and my respect – but more importantly, the thanks of countless moms and dads, husbands and wives, and sons and daughters of U.S. troops deployed abroad.
As you know, IEDs are the tactic of choice for our enemies. They are cheap, and deadly, and difficult to detect on the dusty streets of Baghdad, Samarra, Mosul, and elsewhere. They have been the biggest killer of our troops in Iraq.
There is no failsafe measure that can prevent all loss of life and limb on this or any other battlefield. That is the brutal reality of war. But vehicles like MRAP, combined with the right tactics, techniques, and procedures, provide the best protection available against these attacks.
Last year, I made MRAPs the Defense Department’s top acquisition priority. By the end of 2007, the target of building, integrating, and delivering 1,500 fully capable MRAPs was met – because you worked six days a week and around the clock. I’m told that nearly a third of those who work here at SPAWAR are veterans, who know from experience how important it is to get the best equipment to the battlefield as soon as possible.
The partner manufacturers and suppliers, and you here at SPAWAR, have delivered under pressure with lives on the line. In fact, the last time American industry moved from concept to full-rate military production in less than a year was World War II.
This has been a team effort with many moving parts – in the military and industry, elsewhere in the private sector. Suppliers of steel, tires, and other materials have stepped up, as have the manufacturers – firms in the United States and in ten foreign countries. Through the efforts of Transportation Command, MRAPs are shipped or flown from here in Charleston to places halfway around the world.
I don’t think it will surprise you to hear me say you must keep pressing on. IEDs will be with us for some time to come – in Iraq, Afghanistan, the battlefields of the future. The need for these vehicles will not soon go away.
The war effort of the 1940s mobilized the entire American economy. That is not the case today, and while that may make yours seem like a lonely task, it only underscores how important that task is. Back then, President Roosevelt said: “We must raise our sights all along the production line. Let no [one] say it cannot be done.” Those in the MRAP program have shown that it can be done. So keep raising your sights. Keep these vehicles rolling off the line. Your efforts are saving lives. Of the MRAPs newly in the hands of the Army in Iraq, 12 have been attacked. Every soldier walked away.
To put it in the words of one Sergeant Major, and I quote, “MRAP is just lovely!” Actually, he didn’t say “lovely.” He was actually considerably more colorful than that in his comments. (Laughter) But I will quote the rest of his statement. He said, “Troops love them, commanders sleep better knowing the troops have them.” There can be no better description of the difference you are making here. You are saving lives.
So just as I am thanking you now, America and our men and women in uniform have great reason to thank you as well – now, and in the years to come. Thank you.