As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Air Force Memorial, Arlington, VA, Friday, October 17, 2008
Thank you, General Schwartz, for the introduction.
This is an occasion to welcome Mike Donley to his new post, and take stock of the achievements of the storied service that he has been entrusted to lead.
No doubt Mike assumes this duty at a challenging time – for the Air Force, for the U.S. military, and for our country. The United States Air Force enters its seventh decade in a position of unquestioned – but not necessarily eternal – air dominance.
Today’s Air Force has been deployed and in some phase of war for 18 years – since Iraq first invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990. Since September 11th, the Air Force has flown more than one million missions – ranging from lift to medevac to close air support – including tens of thousands of sorties flown over America’s skies to protect our homeland. Intra-theater air lift has taken thousands of troops and convoys off Iraq’s roads. Thousands of battlefield airmen are performing tasks such as detainee operations, explosives ordnance disposal, and convoy security in Iraq and Afghanistan. The increased air missions and capabilities employed in Iraq – manned and unmanned – have been a decisive factor in the dramatic security turnaround we’ve seen over the past 18 months.
Put simply, without the Air Force’s contributions in the skies and on the ground, America’s war effort would simply grind to a halt. Little of that is widely known or appreciated. But I can assure you that I value everything you are doing in support of the nation.
Now the Air Force is at an important pivot point – as it sees the current conflicts through to success, while preparing for challenges on and beyond the horizon, including:
- Restoring trust in the Air Force’s stewardship of the most sensitive part of our arsenal – nuclear weapons and nuclear-related materiel;
- Modernizing the aging fighter and tanker fleets;
- Protecting the global commons of the 21st century – space and cyberspace; and,
- Making the most effective use of air power in counterinsurgency operations while maintaining strategic deterrence and technological superiority as a hedge against rising powers.
Mike brings decades of experience in the military, the government, and the private sector to this post.
He is a former assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management, and was acting secretary for several months in 1993. In addition to work in the private and nonprofit sector, Mike has been on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee and on the National Security Council staff. He is a former paratrooper who served in the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps and in the Special Forces.
And, of course, Mike’s last post was as “mayor of the Pentagon” – where as director of administration and management, he oversaw DoD’s elephantine headquarters apparatus. No doubt, he has already put those bureaucratic skills to good use on behalf of the men and women of the Air Force.
This has been Mike’s second stint as acting secretary of the Air Force. So we’re glad to see him get the official imprimatur he so richly deserves from the President and the Congress. Now, he will always be Secretary Donley. That sounds just right.
U.S. Department of Defense Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)