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General Berger, thank you for those insightful remarks, and for your visionary leadership of our Marine Corps.
General [sher-OH-tee], thank you for the invitation to this great conference, one that I have enjoyed occasionally during my time in the private sector.
And to all of you at the Marine Corps Association and the Marine Corps League, thanks for looking out for our Marines and their families.
Right now there are nearly 30,000 forward deployed Marines, operating at sea and in almost 50 different nations.
They carry the proud legacy of warriors like the 6th Marines, who breached Japan’s Shuri Line on Okinawa, 77 years ago today.
But the modern day Marine faces a much different battlespace than the heroes of that last island battle of World War II just as Gen. Berger described.
And tomorrow’s combat cannot be won with the Higgins Boats and Sherman Tanks of yesterday’s Corps.
Today’s Marines confront a threat environment characterized by rapid mobility, anti-access and area denial systems, and cyberwarfare.
In this dynamic threat environment, they must be prepared to shift from deterrence, to combat, to stability operations, on a moment’s notice.
The many missions of the Modern Day Marine span the globe, demanding constant readiness, superior platforms, specialized training, and unmatched combat capability.
Every Marine is still a rifleman. But today, every Marine is also a skilled operator, an experienced technician, and also a warrior diplomat.
They are the first Americans many will ever meet, and the vanguard of our forward allied posture.
Today, the National Defense Strategy’s requires us to campaign forward to provide integrated deterrence against the pacing threat of China, and other aggressive competitors around the world.
Last month on Capitol Hill, Secretary Austin defined integrated deterrence as “Combining our strengths across all the warfighting domains to maximum effect to ward off potential conflict.”
Well, “maximum effect” is what we’ve always expected of the Marine Corps. And it’s exactly what our Joint Force needs at the very tip of the spear.
From my first day as Secretary of the Navy when I swore the oath in front of the Iwo Jima memorial, I have strongly supported the work that General Berger is doing to transform our Marine Corps through Force Design 2030.
Force Design 2030, and the CNO’s Navigation Plan, will deliver the fully integrated, all domain naval force we need to control the contested spaces, protect the sea lanes, and deter potential adversaries.
We are implementing these visions through a strategy rooted in three guiding principles:
First, maintain and strengthen our maritime dominance and expeditionary capability.
Second, empower our Marines and Sailors through a culture of warfighting excellence, founded on strong leadership, and treating each other with dignity and respect.
And third, strengthen our strategic partnerships, across the Joint Force, with industry, and especially with our international partners around the globe.
That is the strategy for the Department of the Navy.
It is concise, clear, and transparent!
Now let me provide some additional detail on those three guiding principles.
To maintain and strengthen maritime dominance, we have to be serious about fielding and maintaining the right capabilities to win wars.
Integrated deterrence demands that we are postured for sea control and rapid response in many different places at once.
That’s why President Biden’s budget invests in more of the nimble and survivable platforms that will enable our forward presence, capacity, and lethality in the most expeditionary manner.
Our distributed fleet protects the sea lanes, and long range fires hold potential adversaries accountable.
But true integrated deterrence also requires boots on the ground, warriors from the sea, and lethality in the sky.
So we’re investing in the expeditionary platforms that can provide the sealift and capability to deliver Marines to the fight, supporting a wide range of military operations ashore.
From the LPD Flight II, to the LHA, our amphibious platforms provide the expeditionary heart of the modern ARG and MEU, the 9-1-1 force for our Combatant Commanders.
The LHA also provides additional options for F-35 Bravo deployment.
This “Lightning Carrier” concept has the potential to add greater operational depth, flexibility, lethality, and survivability to the aviation fleet and expand our options to address the shifting threat environment.
We’re also continuing plans for the Light Amphibious Warship, to deliver greater shoreline lethality and maneuverability in the future fight.
The modern day Marine has to be able to move quickly and efficiently, with the equipment necessary to secure volatile situations. Even if it is from Zumwalt Destroyers launching Viper helicopters.
We saw that in Afghanistan last year, as the 24th MEU was first on the ground at the airport, keeping the lifeline open for Afghans and U.S. citizens.
So we are investing in the mobility required by Force Design 2030, including aircraft like the CH-53 Kilo.
There is no other rotary wing platform in any part of the Joint Force that can match the heavy lift capabilities of the Kilo.
The capacity and lift of this aircraft is transforming independent freedom of movement for units like the new Marine Littoral Regiment in the Indo Pacific.
More than ever, the threat environment demands a truly expeditionary Marine Corps - armed, agile, and postured – always at the ready.
The NDS calls on us to “complicate the military preparations of our competitors, and enhance our own warfighting capabilities.”
And down in North Carolina I saw Marines preparing to do exactly that.
They simulated the seizure of a contested airfield, landed a squadron of F-35s to ground refuel and rearm from a C-130J, and moved on.
All in a matter of minutes.
No need to stick around long enough to build a golf course.
That’s the idea behind Expeditionary Advanced Basing Operations, the heart of Force Design 2030.
Persistence, lethality, and unrestricted agility in the contested zone.
That’s how we will deter the pacing threat from Beijing, and it’s how we will answer agents of chaos from Moscow and beyond.
As General Berger has said, in any crisis, the first choice for the President and Secretary Defense should be “send in the Marines!”
And I know that no matter the circumstance or challenge, our people will answer the call.
Because the greatest weapon on earth is a Marine with a clear objective.
And we owe it to every one of them, and to their families, to provide the best opportunity to succeed.
That’s why my second guiding principle is empowering our people, by fostering a culture of warfighting excellence.
Together, we must continue to creatively recruit, retain, equip, and promote the best of all of America.
We need a diverse Corps today, so every child in America can see themselves wearing a marine uniform tomorrow and see themselves as a future Commandant of the Marine Corps. This is a national security imperative.
In practice that means investing in the Marine Corps Talent Management system, to match the diverse skills of individuals to the needs of the Corps.
It means we – and we means all of us here in this room - must show leadership, example, and accountability, to eliminate sexual harassment and assault.
It means taking a deliberate approach to building a leadership cadre that truly represents our nation.
It means expanding training and education opportunities for our warriors, giving them the knowledge and capability to solve the problems in front of them as the Commandant has explained.
And it means looking out for our military families as they also serve our Nation.
Last Friday was Military Spouse Appreciation Day.
And I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize those in this room who hold that honored title. Would you please rise? Thank you for your service!
As your Secretary, I am determined to ensure that our military families are safe and well cared for.
And when we fall short, we must look our problems square in the eye, and take action to fix them.
Because our people will always be our greatest strength, and must always be our highest responsibility.
And that is a responsibility I share with the many great industrial partners here in this room.
Together, we have a sacred obligation to ensure our Marines are equipped with the most effective platforms and equipment possible, so they can make mission, and return home safely to their families.
And we owe it to the American taxpayer to ensure that each dollar reaches the warfighter in the most efficient and effective way possible.
That’s why my third guiding principle is strengthening our strategic partnerships.
I spent 17 years as a business owner serving our Armed Forces from the private sector, so I understand how much we rely upon industrial partnerships to protect our nation.
I know the importance of consistent and predictable funding, so those of you in our industrial base can invest in your infrastructure, and maintain a workforce with the critical skills that you need.
At the Department of the Navy, we are committed to engaging with industry, understanding your challenges, and responding to your needs.
But we also need our partners to manage costs, help control requirements, and deliver platforms on-time and on-budget.
We need your help in expanding the industrial base, meeting small business obligations, and strengthening our force through diversity and innovation.
I am truly proud to work with you all in this mission.
The platforms and capabilities you provide are transforming our force, and bolstering our alliances in ways we couldn’t have imagined a decade ago.
When I visited Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, I saw aviators and crews working alongside their Japanese counterparts to use the F-35B to strengthen our integrated deterrence.
They can even land on a Japanese ship, the converted Destroyer IZUMO.
And last year, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 deployed aboard HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, the new flagship of the Royal Navy.
For seven months, our Marine Aviators operated ten F-35Bs alongside eight others flown by the Royal Air Force.
Together they formed the largest maritime fifth generation air wing on earth, the centerpiece of a multinational strike group that traversed the globe.
Along the way they operated alongside allies and partners including Australia, France, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and many others.
That is a level of allied unity and strength neither China nor Russia could ever hope to achieve.
Because unlike Moscow and Beijing, we don’t treat allies like client states or satellites. We respect them as partners, leaders, and friends.
We have direct conversations, and don’t always agree on everything.
But we all agree on the importance of working together to defend the rules-based international order that protects us all.
Each nation has its own capabilities and skills that can act as a force multiplier to protect our mutual interests and deter the aggression of others.
And I am determined to strengthen these ties even further, leveraging the unique capabilities and experiences of every nation.
The National Defense Strategy calls on our force to “incorporate ally and partner perspectives, competencies, and advantages at every stage of defense planning.”
And I take that mandate seriously. Our forces are learning together, training together, and operating together, from the Indo Pacific to the Arctic Circle.
I saw this firsthand in the preparations for Exercise COLD RESPONSE in Norway, which brought together 30,000 troops, 220 aircraft, and 50 vessels from 27 countries.
This exercise provided a critical opportunity for our forces to operate near the harsh Arctic environment on NATO’s northern flank.
This exercise, unfortunately, was also a solemn reminder of the dangers our service members face every day, as four United States Marines lost their lives when their Osprey crashed in extreme weather.
I know I speak for everyone here when I mourn the loss of these warriors, as well as those who died rescuing others at Abbey Gate in Kabul just three weeks after I became Secretary.
They died as they lived – serving, preparing, and operating alongside our allies in the cause of freedom.
That’s the spirit that is carried by every Marine in the field today.
It is a spirit that runs from Tun Tavern, through Belleau Wood, and the 6th Marines on Okinawa.
It’s a spirit we will remember this weekend when we commission USS FRANK PETERSON, named for the first African-American Marine Corps aviator and the first African-American Marine Corps General.
And it’s a spirit that lives on in the heart of every single Marine in this room – active duty, reserve, and retired.
The Modern Day Marine will carry different equipment, and ride different platforms to the fight. But their fighting spirit will always be the same.
And wherever the Marines land, I am confident that they will “have the situation well in hand.”
So thank you for all that you do in support of our Marines, and their families.
And to all who wear the uniform today, thank you, and your families, for your service. May God bless you all. Thank you.
Carlos Del Toro
10 May 2022
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