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SPEECH | April 19, 2016

New York Council, Navy League of the United States

(As prepared)

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command Commander: Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, current members and veterans of our armed forces, good evening.  It is truly a privilege to be in the company of so many esteemed professionals, at what is arguably one of the most prestigious Navy League events.  What a magnificent room, with so much naval heritage.

Ted (Mason), thank you for your leadership of the New York Navy Council, and my sincerest gratitude to the Navy League at large for all that it does -- particularly its support of the Sea Cadet Program, naval ROTC programs, and, of course, New York’s infamous Fleet Week, as well as this annual anniversary and award dinner.

What an honor to share the stage with such stellar leaders, Maurice Greenberg and Dr. London, and to be recognized with Stuart Parker.  I want to thank you for your service, your continued contributions to our military and congratulations on your awards.  Of the awardees, I am clearly the lightweight among them, so how about another round of applause for them?

I am both honored and humbled to be receiving this award, but I did not make this journey alone.  This award then, is less about me, and more about those who have supported me over the years. It’s about those who have propped me up or who have been instrumental in the organizations I was designated to lead – so I thank them.  While there are too many people to list who have helped me along the way, I would like to mention just a few, beginning with my family.

I was very fortunate growing up to have such wonderful parents.  While my parents had no college education, my mom and dad would accept no less for me and my siblings, even though we really didn’t have the financial means to afford college. 

Throughout school, both of my parents invested many hours in our learning.  To give you an example of how passionate my dad was about my education – to help me be a better reader, he used to make me read sections of the Washington Post. I couldn’t just read to him from any section, I had to read from the crime and justice section.  This not only increased my reading skills, but gave me an awareness of the real world and consequences associated with criminal behavior.

I took those lessons from the crime and justice section seriously, and this paid dividends for me.  I was fortunate to work for Naval Sea Systems Command as part of a summer work program during my last two years of high school.  I was essentially a glorified key punch operator for main frame computers.  I’m sure there are a few in the audience who have no idea what that is, given today’s digital age. 

I worked for a civilian, Mrs. White, who challenged me academically.  She urged me to learn the computing languages of the day - COBALT and FORTRAN.  She also understood I was interested in the military and put me in touch with a Navy captain.  This captain spent quality time with me, explaining the many different commissioning programs our military offers.  I think it’s obvious which path I chose, but I give a lot of credit to my parents and Mrs. White – because had it not been for their guidance, I might not be wearing this Navy uniform.

Throughout my military journey, from midshipmen to four-star admiral, I have been fortunate to know, and have been supported by, many remarkable people – both leaders and subordinates, in military and civilian uniforms. 

Cmdr. Greg Maxi, my first commanding officer, and Master Chief Hubbard, my first leading petty officer, took me under their wings when I was a junior officer on the Ballistic Missile Submarine John C. Calhoun.  Neither looked like me or had the same background.  In fact, Hubbard was from Alabama and I was from Washington D.C. – so as you might imagine, Hubbard was not a Redskins fan.  Both of these individuals were passionate about providing me training, guidance, mentorship, and some course corrections.  I’m sure if they were in the audience this evening they would say there were plenty of the latter.

This mentorship repeated itself from tour to tour.  What I found, however, is that the more senior I became, the more filtered the information was that I received.  Typically, juniors do not like to bring their leadership bad news. 

I’ve also been blessed with leaders who are not afraid to speak up and to tell you when they think you are wrong.  I wish my current senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Pat Alston, was with us this evening, because he is truly one individual who provides me that wise counsel.  By that, I mean he has a knack for telling me when I am off track.  Now, I have told him that he doesn’t need to appear to enjoy that part as much as he does, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now, I must mention one final person, because she has been my shipmate and my confidant for almost 38 years.  I am of course talking about my bride Ms. Bonny.  I can’t tell you how many hours of mentoring she has provided.  She is my rock, and she has kept me grounded throughout the course of our marriage. I can assure you she does not filter information in her mentoring sessions.

Obviously, I’ve been blessed on this journey.  I hope this short glimpse of my life story will reinforce the importance of helping and mentoring others.  Throughout my life, and especially in my military career, I have received support from those who are my seniors, my peers, and my juniors.  That is  what makes our joint military forces so effective, our investment in people. 

Let me switch gears, then, and talk about these remarkable people who are continuing the legacy of the joint force, and, of course, the world’s best Navy.

I find it interesting that this year marks 114 years for the Navy League, because April is also the anniversary month for the U.S. Navy’s submarine force.  This year we celebrated 116 years of our silent service, and our U.S. Marine Corps Reserves celebrates its centennial this year - so our organizations are nearly the same age and were born during the same period of industrial and scientific growth of the nation.

Today, our joint military forces are conducting operations across the globe.  I’m sure our mistress of ceremonies, a fellow U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former F-18 pilot and Fox News correspondent, can attest to the complex security environment. 

Just a glance at media reporting provides a glimpse of the ongoing operations in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other hotspots around the globe.  The U.S. is a part of an international campaign to defeat violent extremist organizations such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and others, who are recruiting and operating across political, social and cyberspace boundaries.

We are doing this against the backdrop of four other challenges:  Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.  While I won’t go into the destabilizing actions and rhetoric of these nation states - know that our incredible joint military force, both military and civilian, is working hard to deter, defend and defeat the threats against the U.S. and our allies.

Across all my command tours, the operational focus and ops tempo has been high, and it continues to increase.

When I was the Pacific Fleet commander, I worked for U.S. Pacific Command as the Navy’s component in our efforts to rebalance both our thoughts and capabilities to the Pacific.  This continues to be important given China’s actions in the East and South China Seas, as well as the ongoing bad behavior of North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un.

Today, as the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, I have the privilege of leading a motivated team of strategic warriors focused on mission excellence.

My headquarters is located in the heartland of America, near the patriotic community of Omaha, Nebraska.  I’m often questioned about being a Sailor in Nebraska, which is about as far away from water as a Sailor can get.  Often I respond to that question by telling them this is what happens to a Sailor whose performance at sea is not so good.

While I jest, USSTRATCOM’s location is strategic.  We execute operations, of course, in strategic deterrence, in conjunction with the interagency and the other combatant commands.  We also execute operations in domains that are global and have no geographic boundaries: in space; cyberspace; global strike; joint electronic warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; combating weapons of mass destruction and analysis and targeting. 

Some may think these mission areas are distinct and disconnected, but when considered as a whole, they are complementary and synergistic.  This synergy is what allows us to address such varied and global challenges.

Deterring strategic attack on the U.S. and assuring our allies is my top priority.  As such, I can’t say enough about sustaining and modernizing our strategic deterrent capabilities.  Yes, the Ohio Replacement Program submarine is a must, but our ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable bombers also require modernization.  We must not jeopardize strategic stability by failing to sustain and modernize our forces.

Space and cyberspace can also generate strategic attack.  These domains are not only critical to my nuclear deterrent mission and other assigned missions, they are critical to our warfighters who operate across the globe – whether they are on watch, developing strategy and plans, or in some of the world’s darkest corners engaged in combat.

Let there be no doubt that we must continue to maintain a military second-to-none.  This is why Presidential Budget 2017 is so important, why we must avoid sequestration in 2018, and why the third offset strategy, requiring new innovation and technology approaches, is a must.

From strategic to tactical, we must support our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians with the right equipment, tools and training, given all they do for us in addressing issues across the spectrum of conflict. These professionals are why I come to work every day confident in our nation’s security – they are passionate, committed and courageous professionals, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

You can and should be proud of them as well.  Over the past year I’ve see them conducting operations in Montana, Washington, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, Virginia, California, Nebraska, and as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Kwajalein, and Alaska.  They are amazing.  Looking around this venue, I know our future is bright, and our nation will remain secure, especially with talent like the young cadets here this evening.

Thank you once again for this award.  I accept it on behalf of everyone who has helped me to stand here tonight.  I am truly humbled, and I will treasure this award and put it in my sea locker of memorable life events.

I salute the Navy League and all it does, not just for our Sailors and their families, but for perpetuating the understanding that the USA is a maritime nation – that needs a Navy capable of combining our joint military forces to address today’s and future challenges.  Well done!

Thanks again for coming, and may God continue to bless our Navy, our joint military force, and of course, the USA!