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MC-12 Factory Visit

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Greenville, TX, Monday, August 31, 2009
     Thank y’all very much and thank you for coming this morning. I must say I celebrated a sort of, an anniversary yesterday. It was 43 years ago yesterday that I entered CIA.
I want to thank you all for coming this morning and I don’t want to interrupt your work for very long, but I did want to take a few minutes to express my appreciation for what you’re doing here with this Liberty Project.
     I just had a chance to look at four of the MC-12s here on the floor. It is an impressive operation, to say the least – with tens of thousands of parts incorporated onto a commercial aircraft in only a few months. Each of these planes represents critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities badly needed in the field by our troops and their partners. The nature of the fight places an incredibly high demand on ISR. Our enemies often hide among the population and use tactics like IEDs to avoid a direct fight, offsetting our traditional advantages as they try to exploit our vulnerabilities. Platforms like the MC-12, though, give America a distinct counter to their efforts – an unmatched advantage. They give our troops an eye in the sky. They often help us disrupt and hunt down our enemies often before they strike – saving the lives of Americans troops while sparing innocent civilians.
     Your work already has had an impact in Iraq: There have been more than 250 combat missions since the first MC-12 was deployed to theater in June. And within the next few months, I hope that the plane sitting right here – the first second-generation MC-12 scheduled for deployment – will be flying combat missions in Afghanistan, giving our troops a crucial asset as they engage a committed and deadly enemy in a new phase of that war.
I spent most of my career in the intelligence business, and I can safely say there has been an unprecedented fusion of intelligence and operations on the ground in recent years. It is a fusion driven by technological advances and the creativity and flexibility, not just of our men and women in uniform, but of industrial partners like all of you. Increasing and institutionalizing ISR capabilities for today’s war fighter has been one of my top priorities as Secretary of Defense. Your work proves what industry and the military can accomplish together. And it reminds us that new platforms can be developed, built, and deployed in a short period of time – and the best solution isn’t always the fanciest or the most expensive.
     A final thought. In the 1940s, the war effort mobilized the entire American economy. That is not the case today for most of our industry, defense included. But you all have the opportunity to work on one of the few projects where your efforts have a direct and immediate impact on men and women fighting on the front lines. With every plane that you complete, you are saving American lives and giving our troops the tools they need to accomplish their mission and come home safely.
     During World War II, President Roosevelt said of the industrial effort: “We must raise our sights all along the production line. Let no [one] say it cannot be done.” So I ask you to keep raising your sights; you are getting it done. I know it means long hours and missed vacations. But each day earlier one of these planes arrives downrange may well be the day that a soldier’s life is saved. So I ask you to sustain your effort and keep pursuing ways to improve this program. Your job is critical. We are counting on you. Most importantly, the troops who are putting their lives on the line also are counting on you.
     Again, thank you for everything you have done and everything you are doing.

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