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Remarks at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Change of Command Ceremony

Press Operations

Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis
May 30, 2018
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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  Well thank you ladies and gentlemen for having me here today.  It's a great day in this corner of America that we always call paradise, and you can look out behind me and see why.  Admiral Harris, Admiral Davidson, allies and partners joining us from overseas, distinguished guests, so many of you I won't repeat what Admiral Harris said, but it's an honor to have all of you here with the members of the Pacific Command team.

I think you can tell a lot about a person by the company he keeps, and it's a sign of Admiral Harris' attentive leadership, as well as Pacific Command's relevance that so many nations have traveled so far to send representatives to join us.

Today we honor Admiral Harris' tenure as the Commander and welcome Admiral Davidson to his new role as the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and I want to add my words of thanks to the wives who are here today.

Bruni, thank you so much for being the steady anchor that you have been for over four decades of service to the U.S. Navy and our nation, and that success is truly a testament to Harry's character, but also your family's character and through good times and bad. We are deeply appreciative.  

Tracy Davidson, welcome to you, the burden once more shifts to your family at a time you might've had other designs in mind.  But we are grateful, I think you will find why it really is paradise, despite the occasional volcano that the beloved Tutu Pele may bring to the islands.

For U.S. Pacific Command, it is our primary combatant command, it's standing watch and intimately engaged with over half of the earth's surface and its diverse populations, from Hollywood to Bollywood, from polar bears to penguins as Admiral Harris puts it.

Having grown up in Washington state, one of five American states with Pacific Ocean coastlines and looking out the plane's window yesterday coming across that vast expanse of ocean, in my flight here I was reminded that the United States is today and has been for two centuries a Pacific nation.

America's National Defense Strategy is a roadmap for the American military and it acknowledges this reality, taking a clear-eyed look at the world as it is, not how we would wish it to be.  Our 2018 National Defense Strategy is the first of its kind in a decade, and it acknowledges the Pacific challenges and signals America's resolve and lasting commitment to the Indo-Pacific.

America’s vision is shared by most nations in the region.  For every state, sovereignty is respected, no matter its size and it's a region open to investment and free, fair and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation's predatory economics or threat of coercion, for the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads.  

America continues to invest vigorously in Indo-Pacific stability, bolstering the free and open rules-based international order that has enabled this region to grow and to thrive for over 70 years.  While we are prepared to face any who would seek to challenge America's resolve, our National Defense Strategy is not a strategy of confrontation.  

Rather, it is a balance of idealism, pragmatism and cooperation.  We will continue to seek out opportunities for cooperation and open dialogue with our competitors when it aligns with our international interests and the interest of allies, partners and stability.

And we will always be seeking peace from a position of strength.  We will also continue further strengthening existing alliances and fostering new partnerships in the region, for these form a fundamental cornerstone of our strategic vision, a shared vision respectful of all nations sovereignty, and allowing us to reinforce a resilient security architecture capable of confronting shared threats, be they terrorism or an inhibition of free trade or humanitarian disasters that can befall any nation.

Relationships with our Pacific and Indian Ocean allies and partners have proven critical to maintaining regional stability.  We stand by our partners and support their sovereign decisions, because all nations large and small are essential to the region if we're to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace.

Further, in recognition of the increasing connectivity, the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we rename the U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.  Over many decades, this command has repeatedly adapted to changing circumstance, and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.

Admiral Harris, since you took the helm here in 2015, you have steered a steady ship amid often shifting ocean currents.  You anticipated our nation's need with remarkable foresight while making common cause of all nations that live by international law those sharing a spirit of collaboration with each other.

Admiral, you ensured our joint forces were ready, capable and lethal while supporting diplomats as our lead element for developing trust among nations.  Your vigorous effort to pursue partnerships with a purpose as you so aptly put it, has ensured our continued credibility and capability in this critical region.

You demonstrated that the United States takes no relationship for granted, and having worked tirelessly to improve our multilateral relationships, you coordinated urgent counter-terrorism efforts with regional partners, confronting the threat violent extremism poses to us all.

At the same time, you implemented combined patrols for maintaining the United Nations Security Council's sanctions on North Korea, and concurrently you directed freedom of navigation patrols, making clear that international waters remain open to all nations.

Admiral Harris, the success of these significant activities are due to your recognition of the role of international law and your strategic vision.  Looking back over your devoted service to our nation from your first assignment to patrol Squadron 44 to today, the Navy does not take lightly the loss of its Grey Owl and old goat, as the Chief of Naval Operations commented.

Only in the Naval service could such terms be terms of endearment.  So on behalf of the department, you depart our ranks with our full confidence, having demonstrated your respect for allies.  But you're going to need to buy him some new suits Bruni if the Senate votes to confirm, because you're going off on another tour yet again together.

She's already picked out the stores. (Laughter.)

You see readiness for the fleet in action. (Laughter.)

But Admiral Harris, you leave the team in good hands with Admiral Davidson and thank you for a job well done.  Admiral Davidson for you, having served around the world over your 36 years in uniform, you bring a wealth of operational and strategic experience to your new role as our primary guardian of U.S. and allied interests in the Indo-Pacific theater.

As you take the helm, I am confident you will embrace the three lines of effort of our National Defense Strategy, increasing Indo-Pacific Command's lethality, building on Admiral Harris' progress with our allies and partners, further tightening the bonds of trust that will enhance stability and respect for international law and doing this while reforming any command practices that detract from performance and lethality.

During your confirmation hearing, you expressed your commitment to devote the whole of your energy to ensuring this command is the most lethal and combat ready force in our history.  Today, America and countries across the broad Indo-Pacific region are counting on you to do just that.

I have every confidence in your ability to carry out your duties with the grit, the wisdom and skill you have shown throughout your career.  Thank you and I'll see you in Singapore.

(APPLAUSE)

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