Some of the Challenges That Obviously We All Face
Some of the Challenges That
Obviously We All Face
Speech As Delivered by U.S.
Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta at the Halifax International Security
Forum, Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada). Friday, November 18, 2011.
Source : U.S. Department of Defense Office of the Assistant Secretary of
Defense (Public Affairs).
Thank you very much, Peter MacKay, and thank you for the
opportunity to be able to participate in this forum.
My fellow defense ministers who are here, members of Congress,
members of the parliament, distinguished members of the military that are here,
ladies and gentlemen, it is -- it's an honor to be here. I truly appreciate this
invitation because it gives me a chance to be able to share with you some of the
challenges that obviously we all face. This Halifax International Security Forum
is indeed a preeminent forum to be able to present these remarks and to be able
to engage in the challenges that Peter outlined.
This is my first visit to Canada as Secretary of Defense, but
it is by no means the first visit to Canada for me. I've had the opportunity to
visit here in a number of past capacities, and I've always enjoyed the
opportunity to come to Canada. This is a great partner, a great neighbor, a
great friend, and it's always good to be here.
As Peter knows, and as many of you know, I'm very proud of my
Italian heritage. And as the son of immigrants, to come to a place that was the
center of immigration is indeed moving for me to be able to be here.
And what you may not realize is that John Cabot, the explorer
who some credit with being the first European after the Vikings to set foot on
the North American mainland, was also Italian. His given name was Giovanni
Caboto. And he landed somewhere around where we are today around 1497. So Peter
and the rest of…our hosts here today, I hope you won't mind if I join all of you
in welcoming you to Halifax. Or, as Giovanni Caboto would have said, "ben venuto."
I come here with a great deal of respect for the historic
relationship between our two great nations. It was a little over 50 years ago
that someone who inspired me to get into public service, John F. Kennedy,
traveled to Ottawa on his first trip outside the United States as president. And
I still remember very vividly his famous description of the bonds -- the bonds
between the United States and Canada, delivered in a speech before parliament.
He said, and I quote, "Geography has made us neighbors.
History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has
made us allies. Those who nature hath so joined together let no man put us under."
The respect I have for this relationship has only grown as
I've gotten to work with Canadian leaders throughout my time as a member of
Congress, as White House chief of staff under President Clinton, as director of
the CIA, and now in my current position as defense secretary. We are, in a very
real way, part of one family -- one family that is mutually dependent on one
another -- on this North American continent.
That mutual dependence extends to issues of security, the
subject of this conference, and also the focus of the same speech that President
Kennedy gave before the Canadian Parliament. Delivered at the height of the Cold
War tensions confronting the world, Kennedy reminded his Canadian audience that,
quote, "No free nation can stand alone. No free nation can stand alone to meet
the threat of those who make themselves our adversaries." Unquote.
Although the world has changed in so many ways, this message
resonates as strongly today as it did in 1961. So, too, does the basic framework
President Kennedy offered that day for meeting our security challenges and the
security challenges of that era, that common challenges demand common action.
Today, 50 years ago -- like 50 years ago, common action necessitates strong
leadership among all of us to forge strong alliances -- in this hemisphere,
across the Atlantic, and indeed around the globe.
With that in mind, I would like to discuss today the priority
the United States is placing on strengthening our alliances and partnerships for
the 21st century as we near a turning point after a decade of war and adapt to a
new set of challenges and priorities.
As we in the United States confront the fiscal realities of
limited resources, we believe that we have the opportunity to establish a force
for the future that, while smaller, is agile, flexible, deployable, and
technologically equipped to confront the threats of the future. It must be
complemented by the full range of America's national security capabilities --
strong intelligence, strong diplomacy, a strong economy, strong technology,
developments in cyber capabilities, using that great experience that we've
gained from 10 years of war to be innovative, to be creative about the kind of
force that we need for the future.
But it must also be complemented by strong alliances,
partnerships, regional efforts at cooperation all have to be part of the answer.
The U.S. alliance system remains the bedrock of our approach to security across
the globe, and an enduring strategic advantage and force multiplier that no
The reality is that the United States military alone cannot
be all things to all nations. We will maintain our excellence. We will maintain
our excellence. We will maintain our leadership. But in the effort to maintain
our excellence and our leadership, we also have to meet our security commitments
around the world. And in doing that, we must, and we will, sharpen the
application of our resources, better -- better deploy our forces in the world,
and share our burdens more and more effectively with our partners. And frankly,
all of our allies need to do the same.
It will be even more essential, as we confront new and more
complex security challenges in the years ahead, to be able to build strong
alliances and strong partnerships, from terrorism to nuclear proliferation, from
cyber attacks to the threats we face often. All of these challenges do not
recognize national boundaries and can't be addressed effectively by any one
Such transnational threats demand a shared response. That's
why I've made it a priority to build and maintain partnerships across the globe.
It's a theme I reiterated extensively during the international travel that I
made last month in Europe, in Asia and in the Middle East.
It has thus loomed large in our strategic review of the
Department of Defense. This review is an effort not only to grapple with new
budgetary realities, but also to adapt the force to better confront current and
future security challenges.
As we look at our global alliances, certainly none has been
more successful than NATO, which I consider a real tribute to the decades of
investment in capabilities and joint training and the determination of leaders
from the trans-Atlantic community, many of whom I'm glad are here today.
Revitalizing NATO has been a centerpiece of the Obama administration's efforts
to build stronger alliances and stronger partnerships.
As this alliance has expanded from a foundational focus on
collective territorial defense to include expeditionary out-of-area operations,
we have seen the payoff. We've seen the payoff in Afghanistan, where 49
countries -- 49 countries -- have come together, largely under a NATO umbrella,
expending both blood and treasure to prevent al-Qaida from ever again being able
to use Afghanistan as a safe haven. To all our ISAF partners, we are profoundly
grateful for your sacrifice and for your steadfast partnership.
Here in Halifax, I want to pay particular tribute to Canada's
decade-long effort in Afghanistan, where your distinguished military has
performed in one of the most dangerous parts of the country -- performed in an
outstanding manner -- the Taliban heartland of Kandahar. We all owe a deep debt
of gratitude to the more than 150 fallen Canadian heroes from the Afghanistan
campaign, brave men and women who have paid the ultimate price and whose names
are etched on black granite at Kandahar Airfield.
Alongside the United States, Canada's contribution to NATO's
Libya operations also proved critical to our success. During my visit to Europe
last month, I had the opportunity to visit Allied Joint Forces Command
Headquarters in Naples where I received a thorough briefing on the operation
from Canadian Air Force General Charlie Bouchard who very ably orchestrated
NATO's daily efforts. He was tough; he was able; he took no prisoners. It's not
too strong to say that his leadership -- steady and sure -- proved vital to our
eventual success in that mission. And I want to thank him personally and here
publicly for his courage and for his stewardship.
As we look to forge a stronger NATO that draws on our
experiences in Afghanistan and Libya, the United States will continue to play a
decisive role in safeguarding the shared interests of our NATO partners. Part of
doing so is enabling allies and partners to contribute their share to the common
defense. To do that, however, the alliance needs to develop new capabilities to
keep pace with emerging threats even in an era of fiscal austerity. As I said in
Brussels last month, these challenging economic times cannot be an excuse for
walking away from our security responsibilities. I refuse to believe that we
have to choose between fiscal responsibility and national security.
Instead, we must commit to ensuring that NATO addresses key
shortfalls in areas such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance,
precision strike munitions and aerial refueling and lift capabilities. To fill
these gaps, allied nations will need to pool their declining defense dollars
more efficiently and effectively, as [Secretary] General Rasmussen has outlined
in his Smart Defense initiative. We are looking to make more progress on this
front when our leaders gather next year in Chicago.
Modernizing NATO also means ensuring that investments are
focused on the most likely future threats, in particular the challenge posed by
countries like Iran who are developing intermediate-range missiles capable of
targeting Europe. The United States has been leading the way on NATO's efforts
to establish missile defense, most recently when we announced that the United
States would deploy AEGIS ships to the Mediterranean. We are also hoping that
missile defense will provide NATO and Russia an avenue for its most meaningful
cooperation yet, presenting an opportunity for former adversaries to firmly turn
a page on the past and deal meaningfully and effectively with the real threats
that emanate out of the Middle East.
Our progress on missile defense is a tangible sign of how far
we've come in modernizing the NATO alliance. It's also a sign of our
determination to sustain a capable and effective NATO and to live up to our
collective security commitments on the continent of Europe, including our
responsibilities under Article V. But we must also constantly assess the forms
of engagement that are most appropriate in light of the capabilities of our
allies and the threats that we face. These are the discussions that we're having
at the department as part of our strategy and global posture review --
discussions that are forcing us to be very disciplined in setting priorities so
that we maintain our global leadership role while meeting our fiscal
responsibilities to the American taxpayer.
Let me be clear at the outset that the United States will
always ensure that we maintain the right mix of forces and capabilities,
including those stationed in Europe, prepared to meet the full range of security
challenges, acting in concert with our allies, including instability on its
periphery and unforeseen developments. At the same time, we must build on our
success with the transatlantic alliance and further enhance our collective
security by building enduring and capable 21st-century security architecture in
other critical regions of the globe, beginning right here in this part of the
Working with Canada, we are encouraging new partnerships in
the Pacific but also in the Western Hemisphere, recognizing that regional
challenges right here in our own hemisphere, from transnational criminal
organizations to natural disasters require stronger, regional institutions that
can deliver regional solutions. We remain committed to strong bilateral
partnerships with Canada and Mexico. And we are also working with Canada to find
more opportunities for our three countries to partner together in this
hemisphere. Another important mechanism is the Conference of Defense Ministers
of the Americas, which has turned into a valuable forum for discussion and
collaboration on key defense and security issues.
And as we look across the globe, two regions stand out as
being home to particularly vexing challenges. It is apparent to all that the
Asia-Pacific region is going to be a principal force behind world economic
growth, with lines of commerce and trade that are constantly expanding and
security challenges that are growing in complexity. In the Middle East, another
region crucial to the global economy and U.S. interests, we've seen dramatic
changes as a result of the Arab spring. We've seen continuing violence. We see
continuing extremism. We see continuing instability and the threat from Iran
continues to pose challenges.
So as the United States draws down its forces in Iraq and
begins to draw down its surge forces in Afghanistan, we also have to maintain a
strong presence in the Middle East and work closely with our allies and our
partners to bolster multilateral cooperation in countering threats emanating
from al-Qaida, from Iran and elsewhere. Given the global nature of security
challenges and the global interests that are at stake, we need to build
multi-lateral structures that will enable all of our allies and all of our
partners to better cooperate to counter common threats. That includes
encouraging Canada and our European allies to join us in meeting common
challenges -- whether it's in Asia-Pacific or in the Middle East or throughout
the Western Hemisphere -- and enabling them to do so through NATO when
As we examine our geographic priorities, it's important to
remember that we can and we will do more than one thing at a time. U.S. security
commitments are not zero-sum. And even as we enhance our presence in the
Pacific, we will not surrender our status as a global power and a global leader.
As a country with global interests and responsibilities and with a military with
unique global strength and reach, America will remain committed to global
security. In particular, we will continue to defend our shared interests in free
and open commerce, the rule of law, freedom of movement across the global
commons of air and sea and space and cyberspace, which is ultimately the bedrock
of our security and our prosperity and that of our allies.
American and Canadian leadership have built a system of
global security alliances and partnerships that have safeguarded and advanced
the cause of liberty and prosperity and security for decades. As we move forward,
as we make the tough decisions needed to ensure a better life for our children
and our grandchildren, we will not back away from these alliances and these
partnerships. Indeed, they are a key to our ability to provide that strong
defense for the future. We will strengthen them. And in so doing, we will
strengthen our two great nations so that we know even greater prosperity and
even greater security in the century that lies ahead.
In the words of John Kennedy, "no free nation can stand alone
to meet the threat of those who would make themselves our adversaries." We stand
together as friends, as neighbors, as partners, as allies. That bond is the
essential key to security in the 21st century. Thank you.