Thank you General, for that introduction. It’s a pleasure to be back here at West Point, although as I often say, it’s always a pleasure to be away from Washington, D.C.
One of the greatest privileges of serving as Secretary of Defense over the last 4-plus years is the opportunity to visit the service academies – to speak to and hear from the future leadership of the finest military in the world. This will be the fourth – and final – time that I address the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy as Secretary of Defense. The last time I spoke to the entire corps of cadets in 2008, it was an evening lecture on strategy and leadership that ran to nearly 50 minutes. Rumor has it that there were a few stalwart cadets still awake at the end. Knowing most of you have been up since dawn, and knowing that the Firsties get to start their 100th Day weekend celebrations when I’m done here, I’ve decided to make this presentation much shorter.
Nonetheless, I did want to take this last opportunity to share some thoughts with you, and through you to the Army as a whole, about the institution you will someday lead – the United States Army – and how it can better prepare itself, and in particular its leaders, for a complex and uncertain future. No doubt the Army’s challenges are daunting and diverse – supporting families, caring for wounded warriors, dealing with post-traumatic stress, doing right by soldiers, strengthening the NCO corps, training and equipping for the future, and finding a way to pay for it all. Today, I’d like to focus on three interrelated issues:
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