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Remarks at JIEDDO Change of Directorship Ceremony

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn, III, Pentagon Auditorium, Friday, March 04, 2011

Thanks.  It is great to see such a good turnout for this important occasion.  

It is my privilege to be here today to honor one exceptional military leader, and to welcome another to his post. And most importantly recognize the organization that binds them together.

There are few entities with a more important mission than The Joint IED Defeat Organization.  There are also few organizations with such a long acronym.  Now it is a good rule of thumb in Washington the longer acronym, the tougher the mission.   This certainly applies in the case of JIEDDO.

A little over a year ago, when Lt. Gen. Michael Oates assumed directorship, I was on hand in this same room at that ceremony.  I discussed then how he faced a particularly complicated assignment.  His charge was to further institutionalize JIEDDO’s many successes, and to do so while our campaign Afghanistan expanded significantly.

An influx of tens of thousands of additional troops in 2010 meant more men and women would encounter the very threat he was tasked with defeating.  The movement of coalition forces into new, dangerous terrain would give the enemy more opportunities to attack.  And indeed, IEDs have remained the most lethal threat we face in Afghanistan.

Under Gen. Oates’s leadership, JIEDDO has worked hard to confront that challenge.  Extraordinary resources—both fiscal and human—have been committed to address the dangers improvised explosives pose to our troops—especially our investment in counter-IED enablers and enhanced surveillance capabilities. 

Ash Carter is travelling and he was unable to be here today, but he wanted me to recognize Mike and he said: “Mike Oates above all brings skill, determination, and heart to the fight.  He unquestionably can be credited with saving lives.” 

That is the legacy Gen. Oates leaves behind.  It is a capstone to a career that spans over 30 years–a career that in many ways began at birth.  He is the son of two army parents.  His mother’s first job in Washington was as the driver for the legendary Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense George Marshall.  I am also told that she inspired Gen. Oates to apply to and attend West Point.

As Commanding General, Multi-National Division - South in Iraq, Gen. Oates saw firsthand the devastating effects of IEDs. He brought that searing experience and expertise he gained with him to JIEDDO.  By creating the first official blog of a division commander deployed in a combat zone, Gen. Oates also pioneered using the internet as a way to connect with soldiers and their families.  

Now he returns full time to his own family: his wife Barbara, and his three daughters Katherine, Elizabeth and Margaret.  As he and Barbara move back home to San Antonio, we want to recognize Gen. Oates for his three decades of service and express our gratitude to his family for their enduring support.  Congratulations,  Mike.

Today we also welcome Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero as he takes the reins of JIEDDO.  Gen. Barbero’s service and experience in the infantry makes him an ideal leader for the organization.  This former commander of Fort Benning served three tours in Iraq. 

And for the past 18 months, he was the Deputy Commander in charge of advising and training Iraqi troops.  As we know, the training mission is no easy task.  It demands patience.  It involves marshalling an American institution to help make an Iraqi institution better.  And the mission is directly tied to the safety of troops and security of a nation.

At JIEDDO, Gen Barbero will need to utilize those same skills that made him successful in Iraq.  Patience with a complicated problem.  Navigating the resources of a complex bureaucracy.  And staying agile in order to keep our troops safe.

The asymmetric character of IEDs means this threat continually evolves.  It is one that differs greatly from what we have encountered on past battlefields.  What worked in combat only months ago may no longer be viable.  Because of this, our military needs to continually innovate and improve our strategies. Organizations like the one Gen. Barbero is assuming command of are doing just that.  That is why his mission is so vital.

JIEDDO is part of our effort to meet the changing nature of war head on.  And that is why strong leaders like Gen Oates and Gen. Barbero are essential to have at its helm.

Gen. Barbero, I wish you the best in your new assignment.

Gen. Oates, congratulations.  The floor is yours.

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