Trump, Pence Welcome Esper in Full-Honors Pentagon Ceremony

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President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence welcomed new Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper in a full-honors ceremony on the Pentagon’s parade field.

Esper was sworn into office as the 27th defense secretary at the White House the evening of July 23, following a 90-8 confirmation vote in the Senate.

The president commended the secretary on his new position at today’s Pentagon event. 

“Secretary Esper, your lifetime of noble service has prepared you for immense responsibility. … On behalf of our entire country, thank you and congratulations,” Trump said.

“I have no doubt — and I know you well — that you will thrive in the performance of your duties and make all Americans very proud,” he added.

Pence noted Esper’s 21 years of military service. “Secretary Esper, your reputation for leadership and your patriotism no doubt account for the 90 votes you received in the United States Senate, and confirms the confidence the president is placing in you today.”

Esper, who was secretary of the Army at the time, became acting defense secretary last month after then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan stepped down from consideration. 

It is an honor of a lifetime to be appointed secretary of defense and to lead the greatest military in history.”

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper

“[I] want to thank the great patriots, military and civilian alike, who come to work here and focus on one thing: supporting the more than 2 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who sacrifice and serve in defense of our great nation,” Esper said. “They all represent America’s best, and I am proud to serve with them and alongside them.”

The secretary thanked Trump for his confidence in him as defense secretary, which he called an “incredible opportunity.”

“It is an honor of a lifetime to be appointed secretary of defense and to lead the greatest military in history,” he said, “and I am especially humbled that you would be here today to celebrate this occasion.”

Esper also thanked the president for his “unwavering commitment” to the nation’s armed forces and a strong national defense. 

“Our military has made tremendous gains in recent years thanks to your leadership, and today we are ready to face any challenge anytime, anywhere as we continue to stand guard around the world,” he said.

“The global security environment has clearly become more complex,” the secretary said. “The free and open order that has preserved the peace and [sustained] prosperity for decades is under duress.”

Great power competition has reemerged, as China and Russia seek to displace the United States and shift the balance of power in their favor, Esper said. He added that Iran continues to sow discord and threaten its neighbors throughout the Middle East, and terrorist organizations such as ISIS look for new safe havens to plot against the West.

“As the Department of Defense takes on these challenges, we will continue to strengthen our military and deter conflict to preserve the peace and advance America’s interests. We will do this first by building a more lethal force, one that is increasing its readiness and modernizing for the future,” Esper said, citing the first of three lines of effort in the National Defense Strategy.

In addition, he said, the Defense Department is on the verge of a significant change in how it organizes, trains and equips its space forces.

“Mr. President, I know this is an important priority for you, and my Pentagon team is fully engaged with the armed services committees and bipartisan congressional leadership to create, for the first time in 70 years, a new branch of the armed forces: the United States Space Force,” the secretary said.

In the National Defense Strategy’s second line of effort, he said, DOD will strengthen its alliances and attract new partners — a strong network of like-minded nations that are willing and able to fight together is an advantage that our adversaries do not possess. But this means allies and partners must contribute more equitably to shared security, Esper said.

And in the third line of NDS effort, Esper said, DOD officials will reform the department to make the best use of every dollar Congress provides. “Our country has many competing demands and it is incumbent upon us to look for ways no matter how small to free up time, money and manpower to invest back into our top priorities,” he said. “We must always keep faith with the American people and be good stewards of their hard-earned tax dollars.”

The men and women of the Defense Department and their families also feature prominently in Esper’s plans as secretary. “As a personal priority of mine, we will place a particular focus on the well-being of our families,” he said. “Our military spouses and civilians and children make tremendous sacrifices for this country, and in return, I am committed to ensuring they are properly cared for.”

Esper thanked the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines “who make up the greatest fighting force known to man.” All across the world, he said, these brave Americans are standing watch to deter aggression and preserve peace. 

“They know that this administration, that this Congress and the American people have their backs, and they know that when they are deployed far away from home, their families will be taken care of,” the secretary said.

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