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Remarks on "Ensuring Continued Excellence in Defense at a Time of Strategic Transition" (Reagan National Defense Forum)

Thank you all, and good afternoon,.  And John, thank you – thank  you for that kind introduction.  It’s good to be back at the Reagan Forum.

And I’m pleased to join so many long-time friends of mine and the Defense Department’s among the dedicated and patriotic Americans here – including two of my predecessors, former Secretary of Defense and former Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta – as well as so many dedicated public servants, like Chairman Mac Thornberry and the Congressional delegation here today; current colleagues, including my Deputy, Bob Work, our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joe Dunford, and I believe Joe had to leave a little while ago but I know was here earlier today; and many others who contribute to our defense enterprise, such as Lockheed-Martin’s CEO Marillyn Hewson, I don’t know if Marillyn is here, and Raytheon’s CEO Tom Kennedy – all part of the team, America.

Thanks all for your continued support for our servicemembers and their families – there’s Marillyn – and for all your own contributions to our national security.  

Each of you knows well that America’s defense is so vital that we, to whom it is entrusted, must ensure its continuity and excellence across the years and across the domains of armed conflict – not just sea and air and land, but also in space, and cyberspace – from strategic era to strategic era, from presidential administration to presidential administration, across our government, and across parties.

Ensuring that continuity is important at a time of change in administration in Washington.  I’m proud of the way the men and women of DoD conducted themselves during this last presidential campaign, standing apart from politics and staying focused on our mission.  And I’m committed to overseeing the orderly transfer to the next Commander-in-Chief.  That’s something DoD takes a lot of pride in and has done for a long time, and we’re carrying out this year’s changeover with the excellence that’s expected of us.  And let me also congratulate General Jim Mattis for being chosen to take my place.  I’ve worked with Jim for many years.  He’s a friend, and I hold him in the highest regard.

Of course, the excellence that people expect of our department is due, in part, to the continuity and leadership defense secretaries of both parties have provided to the department over the last seven decades.  Each one of them has strengthened DoD to meet the challenges of their strategic eras, and the future challenges as they saw them, too – with bold actions such as unifying the armed forces at the dawn of the nuclear age; moving to an all-volunteer force after the Vietnam War; leveraging leap-ahead technologies like stealth, precision-guided munitions, and battle networks to forge an unmatched military edge against the Soviet bloc; winning the Cold War and defining U.S. leadership in the era that followed; and waging 21st century counterterrorism and counterinsurgency campaigns.

I, myself, have lived through, witnessed, and served in all but the earliest of those eras and the strategic transitions between them also:  contributing to programs involving missile defense, space, and the nuclear Triad during the Cold War; overseeing the project to prevent the vast stockpile of Soviet nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons from falling into the wrong hands after the Cold War ended; and in more recent years helping develop and rapidly field critical capabilities like Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles for the fights in Afghanistan and Iraq among other places.

In this strategic transition, that we’re in right now, we must widen the spectrum of our current and future capabilities to account for this great change – the great change economic, political, military, social, and technological under way – and the greater and the fiercer competition we face.  And I say this because today, DoD confronts no fewer than five immediate, but also distinct, and evolving challenges.

We’re countering the prospect of Russian aggression and coercion, especially in Europe – something we haven’t had to worry about for the last 25 years, but now we do.  We’re also managing historic change in the Asia-Pacific – the single most consequential region for America’s future.  We’re strengthening our deterrent and defense forces in the face of North Korea’s continued nuclear and missile provocations.  We’re checking Iranian aggression and malign influence in the Gulf, and helping defend our friends and allies in the Middle East.  We’re countering terrorism and accelerating the certain and lasting defeat of ISIL.  And, of course, we’re also preparing to contend with an uncertain future – ensuring our military is ready for challenges we may not anticipate today.

Defending our country in this strategic transition requires that our military be able to deter the most advanced adversaries while continuing to fight terrorist groups.  To be clear, the U.S. military will be ready to fight very differently than we have in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in the rest of the world’s recent memory.  We will, as we must, be prepared for a high-end enemy – what we call full-spectrum.  In our budget, our plans, our training, our capabilities, and our actions, we must demonstrate to potential foes that if they start a war, we will win it.  Because a force meant to deter conflict can only succeed in deterrence if it can show that it will dominate a conflict.  That’s the kind of force I’ve been determined to build for my successors.

And that’s why, amidst this strategic transition, it has been necessary – and it will be necessary – for DoD to change, to adapt, and to innovate – not only to meet today’s challenges, but also to ensure our defense’s continued excellence well into an uncertain future.

So I want to speak today about how the changes underway to respond to all these challenges – focusing particularly on the military campaign to accelerate the lasting defeat of ISIL, our Strong and Balanced Strategy on Russia, and the rebalance to the vital and dynamic Asia-Pacific.  And I’ll also describe the actions we’re taking – and pioneering innovations underway – to ensure DoD has the technology, the operational plans, the organization, and the people to continue to defend our country and make a better world for decades to come. Let me start in the Middle East, a region of great turbulence and confusion, but where we are not confused – we’re clear about our pursuit of America’s national interests.  Among them is dealing ISIL the lasting defeat that it deserves, and that it will certainly receive.

We’ve reached a critical milestone in our counter-ISIL military campaign plan.  As we meet today in Simi Valley, American forces are engaged in an intense effort to isolate and collapse ISIL’s control over Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, bringing the great weight of our entire range of capabilities to bear in the enabling of capable and motivated local forces.  The seizure of these two cities is necessary to ensure the destruction of ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria – the primary objective of our military campaign – and put ISIL on an irreversible path to a lasting defeat. 

Reaching this milestone is the result of deliberate actions taken since last year.  First, and going back to last summer, I consolidated the war command for Iraq and Syria under a single, unified command – streamlining our command-and-control for the fight against ISIL.  Then, last October, President Obama approved the first in a series of recommendations that I and Joe Dunford made to accelerate the campaign against ISIL – introducing every single tool of our military to the fight, from air power and special operations forces, to our train, advise, assist capabilities on the ground, to our intelligence and cyber tools.  And I should tell you that since then, President Obama has approved every single recommendation that the Chairman and I have taken to him for additional forces and capabilities as we saw – as we constantly have – additional opportunities to accelerate the campaign. 

The overall Coalition Military Campaign Plan we devised last year has three objectives: 

The first is to destroy ISIL’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, because the sooner we crush both the fact and the idea of an Islamic state based on ISIL’s barbaric ideology, the safer we’ll all be.  Now, that’s necessary, but it’s not sufficient.

So the second objective is to combat ISIL’s metastases everywhere they emerge around world: in Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere.  

And the third objective is to work with our intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement partners to help protect our homelands and our people from attack – that’s ultimately our most important mission.  

The strategic approach of our campaign is to leverage all the tools at DoD’s disposal to enable capable and motivated local forces to apply simultaneous pressure to deal ISIL a lasting defeat.  We recommended this strategic approach because the only way to ensure that once defeated, ISIL stays defeated, is to enable local forces to seize and hold territory rather than to substitute for them.  We’ve been squeezing ISIL from all sides and across domains, through a series of deliberate plays to continue to build momentum.  For example, when our special operators conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders, it creates a virtuous cycle of better intelligence, which generates more targets and more raids and more air strikes and more opportunities we can seize to gain even more momentum. 

And as a result, since last year – play by play, accelerant after accelerant, town after town– the campaign has delivered significant results.  

In Iraq, we’ve been helping the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga to systematically dislodge ISIL from city after city – Ramadi, Hit, Rutbah, Fallujah, Qayyarah, Mahkmur.  And our coalition is now doing the same in Mosul – having isolated the city, the Iraqis with our help are now taking back neighborhoods in eastern Mosul and moving west.  This is a complex mission that will take time to accomplish, but I am confident that ISIL’s days in Mosul are numbered.

In Syria, we and our local partners put an end to ISIL’s expansion and then began to systematically roll it back toward Raqqa, an important objective since it is the so-called capital of the so-called caliphate, and a hub for plotters of external attacks.  After helping capable, motivated local Syrian forces defend Kobani, we and the coalition enabled them and other local forces to retake Shaddadi, then Tishrin, Manbij, Dabiq – denying ISIL not only control over those areas, but also cutting off some of their primary lines of communication into Turkey and Iraq. 

We’re now helping our local partners isolate Raqqa, from which they’re now only 15 miles away.  And as the isolation phase continues according to our coalition military campaign plan, we’re generating the additional local forces necessary to seize and hold Raqqa.

In addition to taking back territory, our campaign is yielding results in denying ISIL the finances, supplies, freedom of movement, and command and control it needs to survive.  We’ve systematically targeted ISIL-controlled oil wells, trucks for smuggling the oil, and revenue repositories.  We’ve deliberately focused on severing the territory ISIL controls in Syria from the territory it controls in Iraq.  Leaders of the terrorist group can no longer travel between Raqqa and Mosul without the risk of either being hunted down by our Expeditionary Targeting Force or struck from the air.  In fact, since we began accelerating our campaign last year, we’ve killed some of ISIL’s most senior leaders. 

While these results in Iraq and Syria are encouraging, we must stay focused on the continued execution of our plan.  The inevitable collapse of ISIL’s control over Mosul and Raqqa will certainly put ISIL on a path to a lasting defeat.  But there will still be much more to do after that to make sure that, once defeated, ISIL stays defeated. 

We’ll need to continue to counter foreign fighters trying to escape and ISIL’s attempts to relocate or reinvent itself.  To do so, not only the United States but our coalition must endure and remain militarily engaged.

In Iraq in particular, it will be necessary for the coalition to provide sustained assistance and carry on our work to train, equip, and support local police, border guards, and other forces to hold the areas cleared from ISIL. 

And beyond security, there will still be towns to rebuild, services to reestablish, and communities to restore.  Those aren’t military matters, but they’re part of how, after winning the battle, one wins the peace.  That’s why my principal concern at this juncture is that the international community’s stabilization and governance efforts will lag behind the military campaign. 

There will also need to be continued political support for an inclusive and multi-sectarian Iraq.  In a region rife with sectarianism, the threat of ISIL has brought people together, for now, against this common enemy.  That’s certainly true in Iraq – where, thanks to the unity and leadership of Prime Minister Abadi and Kurdistan Regional Government President Barzani, cooperation between the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga in the battle to retake Mosul has reached a level that would have been unthinkable a year ago.  And we’re taking steps to help promote and maintain this unity – for we know that’s the only way to keep ISIL defeated.

As I said earlier, success in Iraq and Syria is necessary, but it’s not sufficient to deal ISIL a lasting defeat.  And that’s why we’re also focused on the other two critical objectives of our campaign – combatting ISIL’s metastases around the world, and helping protect our homeland. 

When it comes to combatting the metastases, we’ve taken correspondingly strong actions in support of capable and motivated local forces in Libya and Afghanistan and elsewhere. 

In Libya, the U.S. military has provided air support to the Government of National Accord and its forces to isolate and collapse ISIL’s control over Sirte.  And as a result, ISIL is being ejected from Sirte. 

And in Afghanistan, on Chairman Dunford’s and my recommendation, the President this year gave expanded authorities to U.S. forces to proactively assist and enable our Afghan partners in operations that would have strategic effects.  We also decided to modify our plan in order to retain some 8,400 U.S. troops there into 2017, rather than 5,500 as the earlier plan had called for.  And we will continue to maintain our financial commitment to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.  These robust commitments – in authorities and forces and finances – will ensure we not only continue supporting the Afghan security forces, but also sustain our regional counterterrorism platform operated out of Afghanistan.  For example, alongside our Afghan partners, we recently conducted two large-scale operations against ISIL in Afghanistan, killing its top leader in the country and significantly degrading its capabilities there.

On our campaign’s third objective, protecting the homeland, DoD is working with our intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement partners both at home – in fact, supporting them is job number-one and priority number one for our Northern Command – but also abroad. 

There, we’re conducting operations to gather intelligence with a particular focus on destroying ISIL’s external operations cadre.  As a result, we’ve not only killed the chief of ISIL’s external operations, we’ve also taken out more than 30 of its external plotters.  We’ve gone after Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria.  We’ve worked with the FBI to systematically eliminate members of an ISIL cell outside the United States that was inspiring attacks against in our country, and including against our armed forces.  And we’ve directed our Joint Special Operations Command to make its top priority destroying ISIL’s external operations capability.

The campaign against ISIL and its results are another example of our military’s continued excellence and America’s continued leadership in the Middle East and the world.  No other nation could have brought to bear the resources we have, assembled the coalition we’ve built, and led the execution of a comprehensive campaign as the United States has done.  We did so in pursuit of our nation’s interests – which in this case are aligned with many allies and partners who are also resolved to destroy ISIL; and we did so despite major, simultaneous, and growing military commitments in Europe and Asia.  And let me now turn to them.

First, I want to discuss Europe, where the Transatlantic Community is standing up to Russia’s provocations and aggression. 

That’s a big change for many of us who worked productively with Russia in the post-Cold War era.  I know I did so in the 1990s when our two nations were working with sometimes, common, rather than cross, purposes.  At the time, American and Russian militaries collaborated to arrest the spread of loose nuclear weapons as part of the Nunn-Lugar program, and when Russia agreed to join the NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo – I remember both.

Today, unfortunately, Russia’s aggression and provocation appear to be driven by misguided ambitions and misplaced resentment.  Russia wants to be considered, understandably so, as the important power it is.  And indeed, its history is rich – one of which its people can and should be proud.  But in recent years, some in the Kremlin have reinterpreted that history to fuel grandiose visions and provocative, destabilizing actions abroad.  

We see that in Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and Georgia, its counter-productive role in the ongoing tragedy in Syria, its attacks in cyberspace, its violation of arms-control treaties and other international agreements, and, perhaps above all, its nuclear saber-rattling.  These actions are not what the world expects of a responsible state in the twenty-first century; rather, each threatens to undermine global security and erode the principled international order that has been so good not only to the United States, but also to Russia and the world.

Let me be clear, the United States does not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia.  We don’t seek an enemy in Russia.  But make no mistake – we will defend our allies, the principled international order, and the positive future it affords all of us.  And we will counter attempts to undermine our collective security. 

To do so, the United States is following a Strong and Balanced Strategy.  In it, we’re addressing Russia’s actions and deterring its aggression while pursuing and preserving bilateral cooperation where U.S. and Russian objectives can be aligned.  This strategy for deterrence does not simply recycle the twentieth-century playbook used to deter Soviet aggression during the Cold War, because that playbook would not match the Russian challenge of today.

We haven’t had to prioritize deterrence on the Transatlantic Community’s eastern flank for over 20 years.  And unfortunately, now we do.  That’s why the United States is strengthening our deterrence posture in Europe, to adjust our military posture and presence in Europe to be more agile and quicker in responding to the threats that Russia might pose.  Our latest defense budget request includes significantly more funding for our European Reassurance Initiative – more than quadruple what we allocated the year before.  That’s intended to allow us to – in addition to the two brigades we already have stationed in Europe – rotate an Armored Brigade Combat Team into Europe on a persistent basis, and to pre-position a brigade-worth of equipment and warfighting gear to be used by American forces flown into Europe among other steps.

We’re also increasing military exercises with allies and partners to demonstrate resolve and build their resilience, while enhancing inter-operability.  We’re updating and refining our contingency and operational plans, including ways to overcome emerging threats such as hybrid warfare and anti-access, area-denial systems.  We’re investing in the technologies most relevant to countering Russia – more on these shortly.  And we’re also recapitalizing our nuclear deterrent, because nuclear deterrence is not only the bedrock of our security, but also critical to sustain in light of Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling.

The United States is not alone in any of this, of course.  For more than 67 years, NATO has been the quintessential example of nations coming together to respond to collective security challenges.  And as it did during the Cold War, NATO will be critical to preserving collective defense in the face of new and renewed threats.  To ensure it does so, we’re working with our allies to adapt this storied alliance to confront the new challenges NATO faces, like Russia.

NATO, too, has a new playbook – one that prepares to counter cyber threats and hybrid warfare, to better integrate our conventional and nuclear deterrence, and much, much more.  That’s why NATO created a Very-High-Readiness Joint Task Force that can deploy allied forces on 48 hours’ notice to any crisis on allied territory.  It’s why NATO is also deploying four battalions to its eastern flank – one each in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland – the latter is where the United States will lead a battalion starting next year.  And it’s why NATO is providing support to partner countries like Ukraine and Georgia to help strengthen and reform their national defense institutions and improve their ability to work with NATO.  

Everything the United States is doing, both on its own and with NATO, will ensure that we continue to stand up to Russian aggression, and that we’re ready for longer-term competition. 

But it’s also necessary to keep the door open to working with Russia, where and when our interests align.  And as I said, there was a time, in the years after the Cold War, when Russia cooperated with the United States and other nations, contributing to the principled international order rather than undermining it.  I remember that personally – and so do many of you.  And perhaps someday, we’ll see that spirit rekindled.

Next, I want to discuss what we’re doing as part of President Obama’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.  It will ensure DoD continues to help provide the security necessary for that consequential region – which is home to nearly half the global population and nearly half the global economy – to remain a place where everyone can rise and prosper for decades to come.

That’s been American policy and practice since the end of World War II more than 70 years ago.  Regardless of what else was going on at home or in other parts of the world – during Democratic and Republican administrations, in times of surplus and deficit, war and peace – the United States has remained economically, politically, and militarily engaged in the Asia-Pacific.

Now, unlike elsewhere in the world, peace and stability there has never been managed by a region-wide, formal structure like NATO in Europe.  That’s made sense because of the Asia-Pacific’s unique history, geography, and politics.  Instead, the United States has long taken a principled and inclusive approach, and collaborated with a network of regional allies and partners to enable security and uphold important principles like resolving disputes peacefully; ensuring countries can make choices free from external coercion and intimidation; and preserving the freedom of overflight and navigation guaranteed by international law.

Because we did so, out of the rubble of World War II, economic miracle after miracle occurred.  Think about it – first Japan, then Taiwan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia, and now, today, China, India, and others rose and prospered.  That progress has produced incredible changes in the region:  populations are growing, education has improved, freedom and self-determination have spread, economies have grown more interconnected, and military spending and cooperation are both increasing.

Amid all this remarkable change and progress, America’s interests and objectives in the Asia-Pacific have endured: we still want peace, stability, and progress there for all, including ourselves.  But as the region has changed, our approach to how we meet those interests and uphold those enduring principles has had to change along with it. 

Today, as the Defense Department has been operationalizing one phase after another of the military part of the rebalance, we’re not only ensuring we remain the strongest military and primary provider of regional security; we’re also connecting – and further networking – our allies and partners in a burgeoning Principled and Inclusive Security Network that will allow all of us to see more, share more, and do more to maintain security in the region. 

In the rebalance’s first phase, which began five years ago, DoD sought to make our regional posture more robust – both on our own part and with allies and partners – geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable.  To do so, DoD sent tens of thousands of additional American personnel to the region, committed to homeporting 60 percent of our naval and overseas air assets in the Asia-Pacific, and began to modernize our regional posture around Guam as a strategic hub.

In the second phase, which we launched last year, we committed to sending some of our best people and our most advanced capabilities – our newest submarines, our newest aircraft, and our newest surface warfare vessels to the Asia-Pacific. 

We also developed new and innovative strategies and operational concepts, and put them to use in more complex and expansive training exercises – both on our own and with our allies and partners – none larger than this summer’s RIMPAC.

We’ve significantly strengthened our bilateral alliances and partnerships.  Nurtured over decades, tested in crisis, and built on shared interests, values, and sacrifice, we’ve now strengthened these relationships so they better reflect 21st century security needs.  There are so many examples to point to in the region – whether it’s our long-time alliances with the Republic of Korea and Australia, or our newer partnerships like those we’re growing with Singapore and Vietnam – but for time’s sake, I’ll focus on the two I’m leaving tomorrow to visit:  namely, Japan and India.

The U.S.-Japan alliance remains the cornerstone of Asia-Pacific security.  And with their new Defense Guidelines, the U.S.-Japan alliance has never been stronger, or more capable of contributing to security in the Asia-Pacific and also beyond.

Likewise, the U.S.-India defense relationship is the closest it’s ever been.  Through our strategic handshake – with America reaching west in the rebalance, and India reaching east in what Prime Minister Modi calls his Act East policy – our two nations are exercising together by air, land, and sea like never before.  And we also have a technological handshake – as the U.S.-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, or DTTI, grasps hands with Prime Minister Modi’s Make in India campaign – that’s helping our countries move towards a more diverse co-development and co-production system for developing and procuring weaponss.

Now, in the third phase of the rebalance, it will be necessary to cement the progress we’ve made in the first and second phases, and more importantly, build upon it.

The United States will continue to sharpen our military edge so we remain the most powerful military in the region, and the security partner of choice, by increasing and targeting investments in capabilities suited to the region to ensure we stay the best there.  More on that momentarily.

We’ll also continue to make “leap-ahead” technological investments – including some surprising ones – that will help keep us in the lead in the Asia-Pacific, and elsewhere.

And we’ll further catalyze the Asia-Pacific’s growing Principled and Inclusive Security Network.  Although it’s not a formal alliance – as I said – like NATO, this burgeoning network is grounded in those principles I mentioned earlier.  It’s inclusive since any nation and any military – no matter its capability, budget, or experience – can contribute.  And it’s developing in several ways.

Trilateral mechanisms are bringing together trios of allies and partners that previously worked together – and the historical reasons for this are deep – only bilaterally.  For example, the blossoming U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea trilateral partnership helps us coordinate responses to North Korean nuclear and missile provocations.  Just last month, our three countries held their second-ever trilateral ballistic missile warning exercise.

Next, and beyond relationships involving the United States, many countries within the Asia-Pacific are coming together on their own by establishing bilateral and trilateral mechanisms.  For example, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines are coordinating trilateral maritime patrols to counter piracy, organized crime, and terrorist activity in Southeast Asia.  That’s a good thing on its own, but it’s also an important step for this developing network.

And even more broadly, Asia-Pacific nations are developing a networked, multilateral regional security architecture – from one end of the region to the other – as with, a central example, the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus serving as an important forum.  

That’s all to the good for the region and the United States, but it’s important to remember, the rebalance and this Asia-Pacific security network are not aimed at any particular country.  The network’s not closed and excludes no one.  Although we have disagreements with China, including over its destabilizing behavior in the South China Sea, and its behavior is in fact driving many to work more closely with us, we’re committed to working with China where possible, to introducing measures to reduce risk, and to encouraging them to avoid self-isolation.

All this is happening today.  But even as we confront today’s challenges of this strategic time of transition, it will also be necessary for DoD to lead and compete well into the future. 

Today’s is the finest fighting force the world has ever known.  There’s no other military that’s stronger, more capable, more experienced, or frankly, or more innovative.  But that’s not a birthright, and it’s not guaranteed.  We can’t take it for granted in the 21st century.  We have to earn it again and again.

To do so, we have to invest and innovate for the uncertain future we face.  And that’s why I’ve been constantly pushing the Pentagon to think outside of our five-sided-box to ensure our technology, our plans, our organization, and above all, our people – we stay the best for decades to come.

Our most recent budget proposal – which I continue to strongly urge appropriators in Congress to pass, as soon as possible – is designed to make sure DoD maintains our dominance in every domain.  We’re growing not only the number of ships in the fleet, but also their lethality – with new weapons like the dual-capable SM-6 missile – and we’re extending our commanding lead – commanding lead in undersea warfare.  We’re investing in our air superiority and global reach, including through advanced munitions and payloads of all kinds, and also innovative capabilities and new platforms – some more typical, like the F-35 Lightning joint strike fighter, the B-21 long-range strike bomber, and the KC-[4]6 tanker – and some less so, like swarming micro-drones, the arsenal plane, and others.  And those are just the things we can talk about here.  Meanwhile, we’re also prioritizing full-spectrum training and readiness for our ground forces.   As I mentioned earlier, we’re reversing decades of underinvestment in our nuclear deterrent, and recapitalizing it.  And we’re doing more in cyber, electronic warfare, and space to make sure we stay on the cutting edge.

In addition to those investments, we’re pushing the envelope with research and development to stay ahead of our competitors and at technology’s frontier, by putting nearly $72 billion dollars into R&D this next year.  To give you a little context, that’s more than double what Apple, Intel, and Google spent on R&D last year combined. 

Beyond that, we’ve been building and rebuilding bridges between the Pentagon and America’s technology community.  One way we’re doing so is through our Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, or DIUx – which I created to help connect with startups and other commercial tech firms in Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin, Texas, and everywhere in between.  And thanks to Raj Shah – and Raj, I don’t know if you’re here today.  Where are you?  There he is.  Raj Shah right there – DIUx’s managing director who’s participating in this forum, those outposts are already producing results: DIUx has interacted with companies in 31 states to help us adopt technologies more quickly that can help our warfighters accomplish their missions.  We will always need our traditional defense partners to help us build our planes, tanks, and ships, but DIUx will better connect the Pentagon to a whole new world of American innovation.  And help our own countries find new technologies and new people to bring into them.  All that’s an investment worth making.

We’re also innovating operationally.  Our core contingency plans are constantly being changed to apply innovation to our operational approaches – including ways to overcome emerging threats, such as anti-satellite weapons or hybrid warfare.  We’re also building in modularity, planning in new ways for overlapping contingencies, and injecting agility and flexibility into our war plans.

Meanwhile we’re making reforms across the DoD enterprise –streamlining our headquarters operations, lowering our health care costs, and more.  We’re also continuing to support and seek improvements in the spirit of Goldwater-Nichols to, among other changes, clarify the role and authority of the Chairman, the Joint Chiefs, and the Joint Staff, and to help our Combatant Commands be more efficient and agile and support me and the President, especially in the face of transregional and transfunctional challenges. 

We’re also building on the success of our Better Buying Power initiative, which has helped reduce the growth of contracted costs for major acquisition programs – very significant.  To improve on this progress, it will be necessary to make additional changes to defense acquisition process, like streamlining the system itself, we proposed them.   

And we’re ensuring DoD’s a place where thinking boldly and differently, which is long a strength of America, is fostered.  One way we’re doing so is with the Defense Innovation Board I established earlier this year, chaired by Google-Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt.  Its members are already making a mark.  One of their recommendations and on their recommendation, we’re creating a Chief Innovation Officer to act as a senior advisor to the Secretary of Defense and serve as a spearhead for innovation activities, such as building software platforms and human networks to enable workforce-driven innovation across DoD.

And lastly, we’re building what I call the Force of the Future – to ensure that amid generational, technological, and labor market changes, we continue to attract and retain and develop the most talented people America has to offer. 

In total, the Force of the Future initiatives span the career of a uniformed servicemember or DoD civilian – from recruiting men and women to join, to caring for, retaining, and developing them, and then to helping successfully transition those who want to move on.  And these initiatives include reinvigorating and expanding the geographic reach of our Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, which marks its 100th year this year; making common-sense improvements to military talent management and officer promotion; giving components the authority to directly hire civilians on college campuses; and recognizing survey data indicating the importance of family life to retention – after all, bear in mind that our force is largely a married force – by expanding maternity and paternity leave and extending on-base childcare hours, among other steps.

To demonstrate the logic of what we’re doing, let me tell you a bit more about one way we’re helping to build the Force of the Future.  

As some of you may know, today is the one-year anniversary of my decision to open all combat positions to women.  I made that decision so we can benefit from the talents of every American who can meet our high standards and contribute to our mission.  In the 21st century, and in an all-volunteer force, that requires us to be able to draw from the broadest possible pool of people who can meet our stringent and uncompromising standards.

That pool must include women, because they make up more than 50 percent of our population.  That’s mission critical. 

I directed that there be no quotas, and that is why the number of women in the previously-closed specialties may be modest.  But they will be the best talent for the job.  And even for women who don’t choose these specialties, the fact that they are open means any woman in uniform will be measured by her contribution to the force no matter what career field she chooses. 

In conclusion, all of the actions and decisions I’ve spelled out today were taken to do exactly what my predecessors did for me: ensure that my successor and my successors’ successors will inherit as fine a fighting force as the one I’m privileged to lead today.  Maintaining that continuity is our tradition in the Department of Defense, and one I’ve always been determined to uphold. 

As I mentioned, I depart tomorrow on a two-week trip to visit our American personnel serving in the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Europe.  My wife Stephanie and I are looking forward to thanking them and their families, and wishing them all a happy holiday season from their Commander-in-Chief, and their leadership, and their country, and I’m sure from all of you.

I’d ask all of you during this holiday season to help our fellow Americans to understand and appreciate what those troops are doing for them.  Each and every one is ensuring we continue to meet the challenges we face, defend our country, and make a better world – not just in this strategic transition, but well into the future.

And we’re able to do so – and to bring unrivaled strength to those missions – because of the work, contributions, and ideas of people, supporters, and leaders like those in this room.  We can do so because of the decisions and leadership of presidents, defense secretaries, and senators and congressmen of both parties over decades.  And most importantly, we can do so because of the service and sacrifice of our people – every soldier, sailor, airmen, and Marine – and their families. 

I know that our mission is demanding and constantly changing, but I couldn’t be prouder of them for what they do every day – and for all they’ve done for all of us.  And I’m sure all of you feel the same.

So God bless them at this holiday time, and God bless the United States of America.