ADM Phil Davidson
Commander, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
INDOPACOM Change of Command Ceremony
Kilo 8 Pier, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii
30 April 2021
As Prepared for Delivery
Mr. Secretary, thank you for the inspiring words and your very kind remarks.
On behalf of all the men and women of INDOPACOM, I want to thank you for your leadership and for affirming the Indo-Pacific region as the Department of Defense’s priority theater for U.S. national security.
Today, as we meet in this beautiful and historic setting at Pearl Harbor and enjoy the wonderful Hawaiian weather here on O’ahu, I can’t help but reflect on how special this place is to me and my family.
For those tuning in virtually, behind me are the Arizona Memorial, and the USS Missouri. The Arizona Memorial is the iconic symbol marking the beginning of World War II. The USS Missouri, where the instruments of surrender were signed, marks the end.
There is no more glorious place for a change of command than right here in Pearl Harbor.
My very first assignment was here aboard USS Badger, and that first CO pinned this very Surface Warfare Officer pin on my chest just over here at the Bravo Piers.
Our son was born here and daughter recently married here – and both went to middle or high school in the Aloha State.
My first tour was here, and now my last. Much like the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri, there was a beginning, and now an end.
Ladies and gentlemen, it has been the privilege of my lifetime to serve this military and this nation.
And as one reaches the end of their time in uniform – no matter the warfare specialty – whether in the field like General Milley, in a cockpit like Admiral Aquilino, or on the bridge of a warship like me, the thing you remember the most is the people. The incredible men and women of our armed forces who serve this nation.
The classmates, shipmates, and roommates who come to work with the mission on their minds and plunge into the line as I say to defend the nation.
And whether one serves for four years or forty years, it is their service to our nation that truly makes a difference.
So, to all of our veterans here today and those watching from afar, thank you for your selfless service – we simply would not be here without you.
I need to say thank you to some others here.
Thank you to the former INDOPACOM Commanders – Admirals Macke, Prueher, Blair, Fargo, Fallon, Keating, Willard, Locklear, and Harris – who have all been in touch at one time or another with sage advice and outright help.
To Governors Ige and Ariyoshi, Mayors Blangiardi and Caldwell, Victorino, Kawakami, and Roth – and to the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council, thank you for all that you do to help advance our national defense while cultivating the strong relationship between the military and the State of Hawaii.
Thank you to the INDOPACOM Components and Mission Partners – Generals LaCamera and Wilsbach, Lieutenant Generals Rudder and Schneider, and Brigadier General Rudd; Rear Admirals Hayes and Sibley of the U.S. Coast Guard; and Senior Executive Service members Joe Martin and Pete Gumataotao – and of course General Abrams in Korea – thank you for all you do for the Joint Force.
To the headquarters staff at Camp Smith…to the Minihans, the Fentons, the Clarks, and the Vares-Lums…to the J-Dirs and their deputies, the Foreign Policy Advisors, Bridge Staff, and Kacee and Jenny, I can only offer my simple thank you for all you do day-in and day-out, and in every respects 24-7, 365.
To all the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Guardians, DOD civilians, contractors, and families of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spread out across half the globe, thank you for all that you have done for INDOPACOM and for the peace and security of the United States and the Indo-Pacific region.
And of course, to my family – Tracy, Lara, and Ben – words cannot do justice to the amount of love, admiration, and absolute appreciation I have for all of you. You have been my very keel, flex but never break.
Tracy, my Mustang Sally, side-by-side for nearly 39 years, we started with numbered letters that took weeks to arrive to my ship that was just off the Soviet coast, and ended it with instantaneous texts and some 23 houses in our wake. You made it all a joy. Thank you.
Now ladies and gentlemen, the United States of America was founded on the fundamental idea of liberty. Indeed it was the desire for liberty that spawned the American Revolution and ever since the United States has always demonstrated a willingness to stand up for, to defend, and when called upon to put our lives on the line in the name of liberty.
Liberty is more important than individual freedom, liberty is the idea that we will come together in order to defend the collection of freedoms necessary for a people, a nation, even a region to prosper and thrive.
At the heart of it, liberty is freedom from authoritarianism – from those who would restrict or eliminate our freedoms. Fundamentally, its a power of choice, and at the end of the day, our liberty is dependent upon our willingness to work together to assure those freedoms.
The converse, well, the absence of liberty is the path to tyranny.
As John Adams famously stated, “Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”
One need only look around the region to witness how our liberties would be in jeopardy without United States’ leadership and the critical support of our allies and partners in maintaining the rules-based international order.
Make no mistake, the Communist Party of China seeks to supplant the idea of a free and open international order with a new order – one with Chinese characteristics – where Chinese national power is more important than international law.
Beijing’s pernicious approach to the region includes a whole-of-party effort to coerce, corrupt, and co-opt governments, businesses, organizations, and the people of the Indo-Pacific.
The strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific is not between two nations, it is a contest between liberty – the fundamental idea behind a Free and Open Indo-Pacific – and authoritarianism, the absence of liberty.
Let me be clear, this competition does not have to put us on the road to conflict.
Our number one job is to keep the peace, and to do that we must be prepared to fight and win. It is why we speak to the importance of deterrence.
Our primary mission at INDOPACOM is to defend America, our U.S. territories, and our interests abroad, as well as our allies in the region – that is why we are here.
Three years ago, I stood on this stage and stated “our relationships matter.” Indeed, from that day on, we have spent much of our time at INDOPACOM to deter our adversaries, strengthen our alliances, and enhance our emerging partnerships across the Indo-Pacific.
To our allies in the region: Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand – you have no better ally and no better friend than the United States.
To the Freely Associated States of Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands – to whom we have direct defense obligations – rest assured, you can always count on us in times of peace and in peril.
And to our many close partners in the region – Singapore, India, New Zealand, Vietnam, Fiji, and many others – we will continue to expand on the terrific progress made in recent years.
Please know that the United States is deeply committed to advancing these vital relationships further to help promote our collective peace and prosperity while enhancing security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
We are stronger together. And the why is simple…
Our Indo-Pacific voices are stronger when we are united rather than divided – and our voices are the strongest when we speak through our shared values.
Our values are at the very heart of our vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, a vision we share with so many countries.
These values – at the heart of them, the defense of our liberty – will continue to bring peace and prosperity to globe.
I have every confidence that our commitment to liberty in the region will continue to stand the test of time and…AND our values will be victorious in upholding the rules-based international order in the decades to come.
Our founding father’s vision of liberty – like our vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific – was based on the principle that the people must not be restrained by authoritarianism and that all parties have an equal voice.
To paraphrase from Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would give up essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.”
To be clear, any Indo-Pacific nation willing to forgo their own liberty for a little bit of security in the short-term are helping to surrender the region’s collective liberty and our security in the long-term.
The United States will always stand for the idea of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific and for the preservation of liberty.
Mr. Secretary, thank you again for presiding over today’s ceremony. Thank you, Chairman Milley for your kind words, and thank you to all in attendance and those watching online.
May God bless INDOPACOM, the men and women of the Department of Defense, the Great State of Hawaii, and may God bless the United States of America.