21st Secretary of the Army John McHugh Arrival Ceremony
Nov. 2, 2009

Good afternoon everyone, it's certainly quiet in here. [Laughter]

Nice to have you with us.

I reminded Secretary Gates the last time I came down those stairs I was on crutches ... it was kind of a touch-and-go thing as to whether I was going to make it all the way out here.

I'll begin by saying this - as a public servant at the local, state and national levels for more than 38 years, John McHugh has established a record of devoted service to the American people and to the men and women of our Armed Forces. So, John, it is my pleasure, on behalf of the Army Family, to officially welcome you as our 21st Secretary of the Army. [Applause]

Now, there's a host of folks that have come to help us celebrate this day and I'll just recognize some of them:

Secretary Gates, again, thank you for being here today and for what you do for our Soldiers and Families.

Many members and former members of Congress ... I see Senator Dan Inouye, a former Army officer and Medal of Honor winner, in addition to being the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee ... Senator - welcome. [Applause]

Sitting next to him, Ike Skelton, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee - Ike - very, very nice to have you here, thank you. [Applause]

And a number of John's colleagues from the Hill ... Steve Buyer, Ken Calvert, Tom Cole, Ann Kirkpatrick, Steve LaTourette, Todd Platts, and Michael Rogers - thank you for what you do for our Soldiers and Families. [Applause]

Your new "battle buddies" - in the Army we call them "battle buddies" - in the Air Force and Navy they call them "Wingmen, " but Air Force Secretary Mike Donley and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus - glad to have you with us today. [Applause]

Some of our former Secretaries of the Army ... Marty Hoffmann and Pete Geren - great to have you back, Pete, I can't see you but I know you're here in the audience. [Applause]

Former Chiefs ... Gordon Sullivan and Dennis Reimer ... great to have you with us. [Applause]

Under Secretaries of Defense Ash Carter and Bob Hale - thank you very much for coming. [Applause]

Our new Under Secretary, Joe Westphal - Joe, congratulations. [Applause]

And Ambassador Barclay - one of John's mentors from way back ... thank you for joining us. [Applause]

I'll also recognize my spouse, who I always forget to recognize - Sheila, nice to have you here today. [Applause]

And Sergeant Major Ken Preston, the Sergeant Major of the Army. [Applause]

Finally, John, I just want to mention your mom and your brother Pat and his Family ... I know there are others here that I'll leave for you to recognize, but Jane, Pat, and all your Family - welcome, we're glad to have you here as part of this today.

Mr. Secretary, you're joining a line of distinguished Army Secretaries ... a selfless group of Americans who-like you-have answered our Nation's call to service. You stand on the shoulders of 20 predecessors-from the first Secretary of the Army, Kenneth Royall, who served President Truman 62 years ago ... to Secretary Gordon Gray who led the de-segregation of the Army, and Secretary Robert Froehlke who led the transition of the Army to the All-Volunteer Force in the aftermath of Vietnam. And you also follow in the footsteps of the former Secretaries who are with us today-the leaders who built the Army that won the Cold War and who sustained and transformed the Army that, today, is leading this country in our war against violent extremism.

I said upfront that we wanted to welcome Secretary McHugh to the Army Family, but "welcome" may not be exactly the right word, because the Army has been a part of John his whole life.

He grew up in an Army Family. His late dad was a B-17 pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War 2. His mom, Jane, was an Army Nurse.

John was raised in Watertown, New York-which has recently become famous for the election to choose his replacement [laughter] - I mean, John, we're talking front page, above the fold, on the Sunday Washington Post-you would have killed for that type of publicity. But Watertown's long been known, in Army circles, for Fort Drum, the home of the Army's 10th Mountain Division. And John's love of and respect for the Soldiers and Families at Fort Drum really inspired a life dedicated to the service of others.

In the course of his public service, he focused on Families and championed causes to support the men and women of our Armed Forces at every level - at the local, state and national level ... from the Watertown City Manager's office, to the staff of State Senator Barclay ... and ultimately to the House of Representatives in 1992.

While in Congress, John devoted himself to supporting the men and women of the U.S. military. He served as the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee - a committee on which he served for 16 years. He was also a member and Co-Chair of the Army Caucus for 14 years, and a member of the United States Military Academy's Board of Visitors.

John had a reputation in Congress for doing his homework, asking hard questions, and working across the aisle to do the right thing for Soldiers and Families.

In an effort to better understand the conditions our Soldiers face, Secretary McHugh traveled 10 times to Iraq and 4 times to Afghanistan to see their needs first hand.

So, for nearly four decades, John McHugh has been an integral part of our Army, and now, he's going to lead it. We couldn't be in better hands.

Now, under the heading "Congress' loss is the Army's gain," I have talked to some of John's colleagues on the Hill and I know that he will be sorely missed.

Steve LaTourette missed him so much, that he moved into his parking space in the Rayburn garage the day John was sworn in. [Laughter]

Pete Sessions missed him so much, that he has already taken his starting left field position and his number on the Republican baseball team. [Laughter]

But the real competition is going to come when The Hill newspaper looks to replace John as one of their "50 Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill." [Laughter] I think Senator Inouye and Ike Skelton could be in a tough fight for that one! [Laughter] Anyway, Mr. Secretary, you are safe here, because in the Pentagon, there is no list of the "50 most beautiful people." [Laughter]

Frankly, in all seriousness, I feel lucky to have Secretary McHugh on board because he's seen firsthand the stress and strain our Soldiers and Families are facing after eight years of war.

In his July confirmation hearing, he said that his first priority would be to engage in a constant search for better ways to provide Soldiers and their Families the support they so richly deserve - and he's already moved out to make that happen:

One of his first acts as Secretary was to announce the implementation of a $125 million Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program to build the resilience and enhance the performance of every Soldier, Family Member and Civilian in the Army. This program has put us on a path to build resiliency into our force for the long-term, and to better prepare our Soldiers for the challenges associated with repeated combat deployments.

Less than a week later, the Secretary formally re-signed the Army Family Covenant - our pledge to provide support and services to our Army Families that are commensurate with the quality of their service that they provide this country every day. Because he understands that only by continuing to honor our commitments to them will we ensure the long-term health of this All-Volunteer Force.

He has also, in these first weeks, taken on the need to reform the management processes of the Army to more effectively and efficiently organize, train and equip our forces for the tough years ahead. This is no small task for an organization of 1 million people, but one that is necessary if we are going to sustain this great Army for the long haul.

We are all proud of our Army. After eight years of war, it remains a resilient, professional, combat-seasoned force that's the best in the world at what it does.

But, we are an Army that remains out of balance with a few more tough years ahead of us. Fortunately, we have made substantial progress over the past several years with the help of our Departmental and Congressional leaders. We've expanded our force and transformed it to be more effective in the types of conflicts we are fighting today. Today the Army is 70,000 people larger than it was just 5 years ago ... 40,000 people larger than it was just 2 A,A1/2 years ago ... with 11 more combat brigades and substantially more enabling forces. We are better positioned now-than we were 2 years ago-to accept some increased demand, but we are not out of the woods yet.

We will continue to need resolute and principled leadership to lead our Army to success in this war and to sustain it and to prepare it for the decades ahead.

John McHugh is the right leader to do this. He understands that the focus has to be on supporting the Soldiers on the front lines and on improving support and services for our Army Families back home.

Mr. Secretary: I look forward to working with you as we face these challenges together and as we continue to lead-as you said at AUSA-the men and women of "the greatest force for good that the world has ever known." Welcome to the Army Family , thank you.