Good afternoon. Thanks for coming.
I know we’ve all been watching the aftermath of last night’s tragedy in Philadelphia. And I want to note how deeply saddened we all are to hear that a midshipman from the U.S. Naval Academy was among those who perished in that accident. This is a painful day for that midshipman’s family, for the entire Academy community, and for all those affected by this tragedy. And our thoughts and prayers are with them.
I’m here today to announce the nomination of General Mark Milley as the next Chief of Staff of the Army, and Admiral John Richardson as the next Chief of Naval Operations. President Obama accepted these recommendations from me, Secretary McHugh, and Secretary Mabus for the successors of our current chiefs – General Ray Odierno and Admiral Jon Greenert.
Both Ray and Jon have been tremendous leaders for their respective services over these last four years – four years that have been critical for our military, and for the country – marked by an ever-changing security environment and persistent budget turbulence, but also by magnificent performance by these two services under their leadership. We’ll have plenty of time in the months ahead for the proper tributes and farewells, but for now, let me just say that President Obama, Chairmen Dempsey, and I could not have been better served. And the same is true for the American soldiers and sailors and their families serving across the country and across the world. For that, we’re grateful.
General Mark Milley – a warrior and a statesman. He not only has plenty of operational and joint experience – in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and on the Joint Staff – but he also has the intellect and vision to lead change throughout the Army. When he was in Afghanistan as commanding general of ISAF Joint Command, I had a lot of opportunities to observe Mark on the ground – leading our coalition of allies and partners, and helping the Afghan people prepare to take responsibility for their own security. Mark and I flew to Herat the day after an attack on the U.S. Consulate there, and I saw Mark take command of the scene and stand with our people there. I was impressed by his candor and good judgement, and I knew right away that he had even more to offer to the United States Army.
Likewise, Admiral John Richardson was a clear choice. He’s a bold thinker, a tremendous leader, and the go-to officer for many of the Navy’s tough issues in recent years – from preparing for the Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarine, to handling problems of integrity and ethics. He is in high demand – I had to wrestle him away from the Secretary of Energy – but as anyone who’s worked with John will tell you, he’s worth the fight. I told Ernie Moniz that if I could clone John Richardson, I would. I know he’ll do an excellent job of helping steer the United States Navy in the years to come.
So to Mark and your wife Hollyanne, John and your wife Dana, congratulations. And thank you, and thank your families, for your willingness to concert – continue serving our great country.
And again, I want to thank General Odierno and Admiral Greenert for their service and accomplishments. Both General Milley and Admiral Richardson are well-positioned to build on that progress. And I look forward to working with both of them, and other DoD senior leaders, as we drive change, build the force of the future, and help the President with real solutions for the national security challenges we face.