By Secretary GerenJune 19, 2007
They are great kids - three wonderful daughters. They are Texans - thru and thru - and so is their Mother and they miss home. I want to thank them for hanging in here with me over these years.
My family and I came to Washington planning a three year hitch - and 6 years later we are still here.
I joined the DOD in August 2001, expecting a peace-time assignment in business transformation. Then came September 11 and the war. There is a sense of mission working among our Military in time of war that is hard to walk away from.
For the past 6 years, I have watched Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines go off to war.
And I have watched their Families stand steadfast and unwavering in their support of their departed loved ones, and live with the uncertainty of whether he or she would return home.
And live with the certainty that there would be birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, graduations, and the ups and downs of every day life that their loved one would miss - for 12 months, and now 15.
And too often watch those Families live with the loss when he or she did not return.
I have been inspired by the selfless service of our Soldiers. And humbled by the sacrifice of their Families.
I have held staff and leadership jobs in the Pentagon over these 6 years - and consider it the privilege of a lifetime to have the opportunity to work on behalf of our men and women in our Nation's military and their Families - in time of war. Our grateful nation cannot do enough - and I am honored to play a part - a supporting role.
When I came before you seeking confirmation as USA, I told you my top priority would be taking care of Soldiers and their Families. I reaffirm that commitment today with a greater understanding of that responsibility. My year as Under Secretary of the Army taught me much - my four months as Acting Secretary of the Army have taught me much more.
We have over 140,000 Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can never take our eye off that ball. They are counting on their Army, Big Army, to continue to provide them the training, equipment and leadership to take the fight to the enemy and defend themselves.
They count on their Army leadership back home to move the bureaucracy on the home front, they count on their Secretary and their Chief to stand up for them, get them what they need, when they need it. We must act with urgency - every day - to meet their needs. Today the issue is MRAP - the enemy adapts so must we.
As an Army, we pledge never to leave a fallen comrade. That is not an abstraction - that means on the battlefield, in the hospital, in the outpatient clinic, or over a life of dependency if that is what is required.
I have witnessed the cost in human terms and to the institution of the Army when we break faith with that sacred pledge, as a handful did at WRAMC - a few let down the many, and broke the bond of trust.
And I have seen Soldiers - enlisted, NCOs, and officers respond when they learn someone has let a Soldier down. They step up and they make it right - they make it better - and they do not rest until they get it done. They demand and expect accountability.
And I have seen the strain of multiple deployments on Soldiers' Families - a wife and mother said recently - "I can hold the family together for one deployment, two is harder and three is harder still".
Over half of our Soldiers are married, with Families and over 700,000 children - the health of the All Volunteer Force depends on the health of those Families.
We must expect that our future offers an era of persistent conflict - we will continue to ask much of the Army Family - we must meet the needs of our Families - provide them quality of life equal to the quality of their service - It is the right thing to do and the future of our All Volunteer Force depends on it.
And, as President Lincoln pledged us as a nation, our duty does not stop when a Soldier or our Nation leaves the field of battle. We must care for those who have borne the battle, his widow and orphan.
That commitment extends over the horizon. And we have learned we have much to do to fulfill that commitment - lately we have come face to face with some of our shortcomings - a complex disability system that can frustrate and fail to meet the needs of Soldiers - a system that fails to acknowledge, understand, and treat some of the most debilitating yet invisible wounds of war - leaving Soldiers to return from war and battle bureaucracy at home. And leaving Families at a loss on how to cope.
The Department of Defense, working with the Congress and the VA have an opportunity that does not come along often, to move our Nation a quantum leap forward in fulfillment of that commitment - we cannot squander this opportunity.
Mr Chairman, members of the committee - thank you for all you do for our Soldiers and their Families, for our Army. The Army has no greater friend than this Committee.
Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution makes the Army and Congress full partners in the defense of our nation and in the service of our Soldiers and their Families.
If confirmed, I look forward to our continuing to work with you in fulfillment of that responsibility.
I am glad to take your questions...