11:56 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much to our great Vice President, and thank you to all of the extraordinary patriots here at the United States Department of Defense, the world’s largest building. I’ve heard for many years, the world’s largest building. And it’s under great leadership.
Your devotion, strength, and courage keep America safe, strong, and free. It’s because of you that the United States military is the most powerful fighting force on the face of the Earth.
I want to express our gratitude to the Old Guard and to all of the service members in today’s review for their extraordinary commitment to excellence and their unwavering loyalty to our nation. It is the greatest honor of my life to serve as your Commander-in-Chief.
Let me also recognize the incredible U.S. Navy Sea Chanters and the band for that beautiful rendition of our National Anthem. It was really beautiful, and thank you very much. Fantastic job. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.
We’re gathered here today to celebrate the swearing-in of America’s new Secretary of Defense, Mark T. Esper. Secretary Esper, your lifetime of noble service has prepared you for this immense responsibility. And that’s what it is: immense responsibility.
On behalf of our entire country, thank you and congratulations. Congratulations. (Applause.)
I have no doubt — I know you well — that you will thrive in the performance of your duties and make all Americans — everybody in this great country — all Americans very, very proud. They’re right now very proud, but they’re going to be even more so as time goes by. People love our country more than ever, and our country is respected again. Remember that.
I’m delighted that many members of your family could be here for this special occasion, including your wonderful wife Leah, your mother Polly, and your children Luke and Katherine. Thank you. Thank you very much. Congratulations to a great family. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Great family.
Also joining us are Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, Acting Administrator Chris Pilkerton, Director Dan Coats, representatives Kay Granger, John Rice Carter, and many members of the diplomatic corps.
With us, as well, are many distinguished military leaders: Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva. Where is Paul? Paul? Paul.
Acting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. Ryan? Hi, Ryan. Stand up, Ryan. You’re doing a great job. (Applause.) You’re filling big shoes, Ryan.
Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan. Thank you very much. Thank you, Secretary. (Applause.)
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. Thank you, Thomas. Great. (Applause.)
Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley. Mark? Thank you, Mark. (Applause.) Congratulations to Mark.
Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Karl Shultz. Thank you, Admiral. (Applause.)
Marine Corps Commandant, General David Berger. General, thank you very much. (Applause.) Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein. General, thank you very much. (Applause.)
And Chief of Naval Operations Admiral, John Richardson. Thank you all. Thank you, Admiral. (Applause.)
Over many decades, in times of war and peace, Mark Esper has answered the call of duty. He’s never failed. He hails from Uniontown, Pennsylvania — the hometown of his personal hero, the legendary former Secretary of Defense and a great one, George Marshall.
Mark attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. Graduated in 1986, receiving a commission in the infantry.
Soon, he earned his tab — Ranger Tab — and fought with the famed 101st Airborne Division in the Gulf War. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Combat Infantryman Badge for his service. Brave guy. They all told me he was a brave guy. I knew that anyway.
In total, Mark served in our nation’s military for 21 years. He completed his final active-duty assignment right here at the Pentagon on the Army staff and then returned six years later as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy.
Over his career, Mark has advanced our national security in a variety of other government and private sector roles. He has worked in both houses of Congress, advising lawmakers. I can see he had some talent because he won — was it 98 to what? No, you got 90, right? Can you believe this? I don’t believe it. I heard a “Ninety.” Ninety to eight, right? (Applause.) I don’t know. I haven’t heard that sound in a long time, Mark. (Laughter.) Now I’m worried. Ninety to eight. Wow.
He served as Vice President of Raytheon. Along the way, Mark earned a master’s degree at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a PhD at George Washington University.
In 2017, Mark was sworn in as Secretary of the United States Army, a position in which he earned universal admiration and respect. Tremendous respect.
At the Department of Defense, Secretary Esper will work with more than 2 million service members and hundreds of thousands of civilian employees all dedicated to one critical mission: the defense of the nation and of this great nation’s people.
I have absolute confidence that Mark will ensure that our incredible military is fully prepared to deter conflict and to defeat any foe. No enemy can match the awesome might of the American Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the United States Marines.
We had a budget approved when I first came in. Billions and billions of dollars more than it was previously, in the previous administration: $700 billion. Then I went to $716 billion. And I won’t even tell you what this one is. I can only tell you it’s even more. Because we have rebuilt things that nobody ever even thought of rebuilding. We’ve added the greatest planes in the world, the greatest missiles in the world. We’ve upgraded our nuclear very, very powerfully, including new. We never want to have to use it. Pray to God that we never have to use it. But we have the best in the world in every aspect of military.
The sight of American warriors brings solace into the hearts of our friends and strikes fear into the hearts of our enemies. Our military today is more powerful, by far, than ever before. And three years ago, we could not have said that, could we, Mark?
We’re giving our warfighters the tools they need to fight and win with overwhelming force. After years and years of budget cuts and all of the things that they’ve been doing to set us back with our military, we have more than made up for all of it.
We’re building new tanks and ships and submarines and planes and missile systems to ensure that our warriors operate with unrivaled capability in conflict. Any battlefield will be a battlefield on which we win.
We have given our service members their largest pay raise in nearly a decade. And under this administration, we have faced the challenge of our time with clear eyes, fresh thinking, and bold determination.
Our first priority is always the safety and sovereignty of our nation and our citizens. Here at home, we have deployed military forces to confront the grave national security crisis on our southern border. And I want to thank all of the great military leaders for the help you’ve given us on our southern border.
And, as you know, Mexico has now deployed 21,000 troops, which is something they’ve never done before. And they’ve been a tremendous help. Tremendous difference in the numbers — very rapidly. And we want to thank the country of Mexico and the President.
No nation can be safe or secure that fails to control its borders. In Syria and Iraq, thanks to the bravery of our warriors and their allies, the ISIS territorial caliphate has been 100 percent and just absolutely destroyed. And we did it in a very quick moment of time. As soon as I said, “I want to do it and I want to do it fast,” our military kicked in and it happened very, very quickly.
Today, we stand not far from where terrorists attacked the Pentagon on 9/11, claiming 184 precious lives. We will never forget the immortal sacrifice of those American patriots. We vow to do whatever it takes to protect our homeland, to safeguard our people from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and to preserve American freedom.
Around the world, America faces new threats and strategic rivals, it seems like all the time. We have met this competition with unmatched confidence, purpose, and resolve. We talk to all of them and they talk to us with great, great respect. They respect our country so much more than they have for many, many decades. Right now, they respect us more than they have in many, many years. And it’s only going to get more so.
We are ensuring American dominance across every warfighting domain — land, air, sea, cyber, and now space. That is why, under Secretary Esper’s leadership, we will — as Mike and Mark have already said, but it’s so exciting to say. And whenever I make a speech, people start going wild. They stand up and they clap, and I can’t sit them down. And I have to wait because I say, “We’re launching the United States Space Force.” They go absolutely wild. They understand that’s where it’s going to be at. And we’re going to be there, and we’re going to be there in every way that you can.
As we aim ever higher, I know the men and women of this department will never let up and never rest easy. Together, we will fulfill our sacred mission to protect the greatest nation in the history of the world: the United States of America. With unyielding strength, we will defend our country, we will defend our people, and we will proudly defend our great American flag.
Secretary Esper, congratulations again to you and your family. This is an incredible day in the life and fabled history of the United States.
Secretary of Defense, do you ever see that, looking into — do you ever see that one? As I watch all of these great men and women — you’re going to do a great job, I have no doubt. Absolutely no doubt. (Applause.) No doubt.
We cannot wait to see all that you will achieve for our nation as the new Secretary of Defense. I want to thank everybody for being here. Very special people. God bless you. God bless our military. And God bless America.
Thank you very much everybody. (Applause.) Thank you.
12:10 P.M. EDT