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Immediate Release

Readout of Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen H. Hicks' Engagement at the U.S. Fleet Forces Command Commanders' Conference

Pentagon Spokesman Eric Pahon provided the following readout:

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks spoke with senior U.S. Navy military and civilian leaders via video-teleconference today during the U.S. Fleet Forces Command Commanders’ Conference, a two-day event hosted by USFFC Commander Adm. Daryl Caudle.

During opening comments, Deputy Secretary Hicks addressed strategic competition with the Peoples Republic of China, aligning Department resources with the National Defense Strategy, the Navy’s role in modernizing strategic deterrence, and Secretary Austin’s focus on continued progress toward Taking Care of People initiatives.

“Taking care of our people ties directly to readiness,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Hicks said. “What it means to be ready, and what it takes to lead in this era of competition, will depend on the might of our greatest advantage- by far and without question- our people.” 

She discussed the Department’s creation of a “Prevention Workforce,” a new and dedicated workforce that will integrate prevention activities at the installation-level and ensure the Department is building the healthy climates necessary to address and prevent a range of problematic and harmful behaviors, to include suicide. 

The scale and scope of the prevention workforce – over 2,000 personnel across installations around the world - is unprecedented, and reflects the Department’s commitment to making lasting, substantial change to how we address risk factors and increase resilience.

She also discussed leaders’ responsibilities to prevent and report sexual harassment and sexual assault, the importance of the Brandon Act, destigmatizing mental health care, removing barriers for service members to get the help and care they need and addressing living conditions which can negatively affect mental health.

Deputy Secretary Hicks encouraged the Navy leaders to ensure they are engaged with their service members so they can detect issues early and provide a critical link to identifying policy solutions.   

She finished the meeting with a question and answer session on a variety of topics, primarily centered on quality of life and force generation issues, and thanked the Fleet Forces Command attendees for their continued leadership and service.

*Note: The Department of Defense is hiring for Prevention Workforce positions right now.  Ideal candidates will have a public health or social science background. Visit for more information.