[Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General Myers has thoroughly and commendably recognized the many distinguished guests who join us today. Let me add my personal greetings to Senator Allard and [Commander of Northern Command] General Eberhart, to our special guests from Canada, to our honored veterans, and, especially, to the men and women who serve us so faithfully and so well.
Not long ago, I was in a briefing with General Tommy Franks, the commander of our operations in Afghanistan, who said he always looks forward to leaving Florida to travel to Washington, D.C. I suppose the big tell-tale grin on his face gave him away. But, I’ll tell you straight out that I always look forward to leaving Washington to go … just about anywhere.
And Colorado Springs? It would be stating the obvious to tell you that I’m happy to be here. But, let me say it just the same. In fact, I’m thrilled to be here.
Not long ago, General Myers and I both traveled to Hawaii to speak at the Pacific Command change of command. The Chairman pointed out that being in charge of PACOM had to be one of the best jobs around for a couple reasons: first, the place is so beautiful and, second—and most importantly, I suspect—the boss is far, far, away.
General Eberhart, we might very well say the same thing about your assignment here—even though you’re not quite as far from Washington.
One of the best parts of my job is that I get to take part in history-making endeavors. And today is historic. Throughout America’s history, we have been fortunate that great leaders and committed citizens have shouldered momentous responsibilities and have led us forward through turbulent times toward a stronger, safer and more secure future. Today, we mark such an occasion.
Although September 11th has taken its place alongside December 7th as a date that will live in infamy, the larger lesson we may draw from these attacks, remains unchanged and clear: we must be prepared for surprise—from wherever it may appear and however it may threaten.
We must be prepared for attacks on our territory and our people, whether from organized armed forces or networks of global terrorists. A fundamental way in which we’ll remain prepared for uncertainty is through the commitment of the men and women of Northern Command, who, today, shoulder a great responsibility on behalf of our nation.
As General Myers has described so well, as part of a fundamental and sweeping change, we charge you today with the momentous responsibility to help deter and defend against attacks on America’s home soil.
One thing he didn’t mention is that the plan we execute is a result of great effort by General Myers and his staff. Thank you, General, and all the dedicated men and women who have worked so hard on this effort.
Fifty years ago, when we said, "home front," we were referring to citizens back home doing their part to support the war front. Since last September, however, the home front has become a battlefront every bit as real as any we’ve known before. When terrorists attacked, they brought home to us in the most literal sense that our people and our country still remain vulnerable to attack.
The brave men and women who fight for us today in Afghanistan and serve in other places around the globe are one of our first lines of defense against homeland attack—they are going directly to the source, and rooting out terrorists where they live. As they defend us, they are also helping prevent terrorist attacks before they happen.
What we do here today is another very important step in accomplishing that mission. Northern Command will provide a necessary focus for our aerospace, land and sea defenses, and critical support for our nation’s civil authorities in times of national need. In establishing this capability, as Secretary Rumsfeld would put it, we are leaning forward, not back.
In standing up Northern Command, we are effecting a real transformation—a transformation that will leave us better organized, better trained, and better prepared to meet the security environment that will define the 21st Century.
Much has changed since last September. But one thing that did not change was the American character.
As General Myers mentioned, throughout our history, from Valley Forge to Vicksburg … from Normandy to Anaconda, Americans have not only endured hardship, but have triumphed over it. In each of our conflicts, we’ve seen the sort of resolution and ingenuity that’s led citizens and soldiers to devise means to face an adversary more effectively—to bring peace more quickly.
That’s what we celebrate here today. American resilience, endurance and resolve—the qualities that led to this transformation in how we do business … a new command structure and the men and women who will give it life. It’s a declaration of our faith in our nation’s future, our shared commitment to a future that is peaceful and secure.
President Bush has told us that this war against terrorism will be a long, hard fight. But, the men and women of Northern Command are ready, willing and able to carry on this fight.
Whenever I’m lucky enough to leave Washington to visit our men and women where they serve, I’m struck without fail by their proficiency, their professionalism, and above all, their well-earned pride.
It’s no less true here today—in the men and women who take US Space Command to its new home at Offutt and the men and women of Northern Command and NORAD—all of you I see here today. General Eberhart, these are America’s people, and they are also your people. Under your steady and wise leadership, I know they will continue to serve all of us well.
There is no question that each one of you here will help shape America’s future. Each one of you here will help America and her allies win this war. And let there be no doubt—we will win this war.
Let me go back in time, and recall the reaction of England’s prime minister following news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Winston Churchill reacted not with sorrow, but with great relief and even joy. As he wrote in his diary on December 8, 1941: "I knew the United States was in the war now up to the neck, so we have won after all."
He went on to write about "silly people," some in England and others obviously in Germany who had "discounted the force of the United States. Some said they were soft, others that the Americans would never be united, they would fool around at a distance, they would never come to grips, they couldn't stand the bloodletting.
"Their democracy and their system of recurrent elections," these people were saying, "would paralyze the war effort. The Americans would be just a vague blur on the horizon to friend or foe. Now we would see" these people said, "the weakness of this numerous but remote, wealthy and talkative people." We haven’t changed much, have we?
But Churchill said, "I had studied the American Civil War fought out to the last desperate inch. American blood flowed in my veins. I thought of a remark, which Edward Grey [the British Foreign Minister] had made to me more than 30 years before [as the United States entered World War I]." Grey had said that the United States was like "’a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.’"
Well, the fire is lit.
Thanks to General Eberhart and the men and women of Northern Command, and your comrades throughout our armed forces, we’ll be generating some awesome power.
As I stand here I see the very best of America, men and women whose service and sacrifice proclaim that America is a land where dreams are large, where hearts hunger to build a better world, where ordinary people achieve extraordinary things … The words that I spoke to our Pentagon builders a few weeks ago apply also to you here today.
They are the words of the prophet Isaiah, who spoke, saying: "See upon the palms of my hands, I have written your name. Your walls are ever before me. Your builders outstrip your destroyers."
For helping us build a better defense for our nation, I thank each one of you. God bless you, God bless those who serve our nation and our Canadian ally. And God bless the beautiful land we are so fortunate to call home.