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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | April 17, 2016

Remarks at the University of Tennessee's Aerospace & Business Defense Institute

By ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr. U.S. Pacific Command

ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr.

Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

University of Tennessee Aerospace & Defense Business Institute

Haslam College of Business

Knoxville, Tennessee

April 14, 2016

As Prepared for Delivery

(Introduced by Dr. Andy White, Director, The Aerospace & Defense Business Institute)
Andy, thanks for that kind introduction, for your service to our nation during a stellar Air Force career, and for your service to this great university.

The University’s Aerospace & Defense Advisory Board--as well as students and faculty members from the Aerospace & Defense M.B.A. and other U-T programs--are doing important work here, and I applaud what you’re doing.

It’s noteworthy that this gathering can be tied to the legendary Jim Haslam II. An all-star football player here, Mr. Haslam served in the U.S. Army and famously started an oil and gas station corporation that grew into America’s largest truck-stop chain. His philanthropy has helped East Tennessee become a national thought leader in the aerospace and defense industry.

And now we have new leaders that continue to inspire us, like dual threat aerospace engineer and star quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who recently worked on the F-35 joint strike fighter engine during an internship with Pratt and Whitney. This young man combines a clearly brilliant mind with a truly awesome arm, and he's a terrific role model on and off the field.

I’d like to give a quick shout out to my good friend Navy Captain Tom Kollie. Tom's now with Oak Ridge National Labs, yet another example of how this region is a center of gravity for innovation and research, along with U-T's Aerospace M.B.A. program, Arnold Air Force Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma, and the "Gig City” technologies coming out of Chattanooga.

Ladies and gentlemen, and fellow Tennesseans, thanks for allowing me to – literally – drop in to address you tonight. I just testified before Congress this morning and was able to stop here for a couple of hours before flying on to Hawaii and Pacific Command – or PACOM as we call it.

I’m proud to join you here in Knoxville during Navy Week, a great chance for the American public to see your Navy in action and to meet the Sailors who serve our nation so well. As the Blue Angels wow the crowds, it’s an opportunity to remember that your Navy is deployed around the world, around the clock, ready to defend America at all times.

Many people don’t know about the remarkable Tennessee lineage in our Navy, to include David Glasgow Farragut, the Navy’s first admiral; former C.N.O. Admiral Frank Kelso; former PACOM Commander and Ambassador to Beijing Admiral Joe Prueher; Vice Admiral Nora Tyson, the first woman to lead a Carrier Strike Group and who now commands the U.S. Third Fleet, one of the most important jobs we have in the Pacific.

And one of my personal heroes, Vice Admiral William Lawrence. While he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he composed what would become our State’s poem entitled “Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee” which ends: “Beauty and hospitality are the hallmarks of Tennessee, and o’er the world as I may roam, no place exceeds my boyhood home.”

This line has special resonance for me. As most of you know, I spent much of my childhood growing up on a tiny farm in nearby Crossville... the same little town where perhaps the most famous Tennessean in a Navy uniform--former Blue Angels pilot Curt Watson--grew up playing football. He was known across the state as the "Crossville Comet" before he played for the Vols, earning All-S.E.C. honors 3 years in a row.

So the University of Tennessee holds a very special place in my heart. I am, and always will be, a Volunteer in spirit. I bleed Big Orange and Rocky Top will always be my home.

Tennessee is also home to straight talkers. So I’d like to start my formal remarks by pointing out that speeches are like the horns on a steer. There's a point here and a point there... but in between, it's mostly bull.

So my job tonight is to stay on point. In all seriousness, it’s a rare treat for me to be in a room full of academics and practitioners from the Aerospace and Defense industry. The Haslam College of Business has an amazing reputation, and I’m excited to be in your company.

I hear not too long ago the Haslam School modified the curriculum here to better serve the needs of both industry and government. I applaud you for this vision – this is exactly the type of leadership required to ensure our nation remains strong.

Our nation also needs courageous men and women to join the force of the future, so I’m pleased that we have some R.O.T.C. students here tonight. Good on you for studying at this outstanding university. To all the veterans in the audience, those currently wearing the cloth of our nation, or the young men and women who are about to join our ranks, thank you for serving our country.

Serving our country is also something the aerospace and defense industries can also be proud of. So tonight, I’d like to briefly discuss the synergy between the defense industry and our government and how it affects our national security. And I’ll try to illustrate how you are tied into this. Before I get to all of that, allow me to provide some context by highlighting a few things about PACOM and America’s ongoing whole-of-government Rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

PACOM is the oldest and largest of America’s geographic Combatant Commands. We’re made up of nearly 400,000 military and civilian personnel – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and DoD civilians – who stand the watch over half the Earth. From Hollywood to Bollywood and penguins to polar bears.

Now, my relatives and friends here in Tennessee always ask me why they should care about this area of the world. And I always respond that the Indo-Asia-Pacific matters to the global economy and American prosperity. In the South China Sea alone, approximately $5.3 trillion in annual global trade relies on unimpeded sea lanes--$1.2 trillion of this sea-based trade is destined to the United States. Need I remind this audience that Tennessee’s state motto is Agriculture and Commerce. Trade matters.

So important is the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter recently called this region a political and economic center of gravity for the United States. This is a big reason why President Obama initiated America's strategic Rebalance to this region just a few years ago. In addition to enhancing our ability to defend our own homeland, the Rebalance has strengthened our alliances and helped us build new partnerships militarily, diplomatically and economically.

That’s why it’s critical that access to the region’s international waters and skies remains open to all. That’s why we have Navy ships like the aircraft carrier John. C. Stennis patrolling the Western Pacific as we speak. And that's why Secretary Carter is currently visiting the region. When SECDEF visits the 5,000 Sailors standing watch on the Stennis, it will be a powerful reminder that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.

Our Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen are defending American interests every day in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. And thanks to the Rebalance, we’re giving them our newest and most capable platforms and systems.

Everything that is new and cool that the United States is developing for the military is coming first to PACOM. Many in this room have played a role in these new platforms: more advanced aircraft like the Joint Strike Fighter and P-8 Poseidon, more U.A.V.s, more helicopters, more air interdiction capabilities, more you name it.

So to all industry leaders and scholars who make this happen, I’d like to say thank you. And I’d like to point out the tremendous opportunity for those thinking about going into the aerospace and defense fields, because in order to keep the Indo-Asia-Pacific region stable and peaceful, and to keep America secure and prosperous, we’re going to need your brainpower. We’ll need all the help we can get because there is much potential for bad actors who would seek to overturn 70 years of prosperity and stability in the region.

Our problem set is complicated. When I get up in the morning, I see unresolved historical tensions, terrorism, natural disasters, militarization of the Arctic and South China Sea, space and cyber threats, accelerating rates of change, to name a few of the challenges in the PACOM area of responsibility. North Korea presents a volatile and dangerous near-term threat to the region and to the American homeland. Then you have the terrorist organization ISIL, which is becoming more prevalent in Southeast Asia. This is serious stuff. It's not for the faint of heart.

Now the good news is, because of the Haslam College of Business, the University of Tennessee, and other like-minded places where smart people are nurtured, I have no doubt that American industry will continue to lead from the front and address these issues with ingenuity and creativity.

Thanks in large part to leaders just like you, America's military is getting even better. Into this cauldron of ideas, the Secretary has embarked on a bold initiative he calls the “third offset strategy." The premise of an "offset" is to create a decisive operational advantage by combining technological, operational, and organizational constructs in an economical way to strengthen conventional deterrence. The first two offsets reflected our efforts to deal with the Soviet Union--one in the 50’s with nuclear weapons and one in 70’s with guided munitions.

Secretary Carter, Deputy Secretary Bob Work and other decision makers in Washington are focused on maintaining our military superiority. But they realize that our competitors are catching up, eroding the margin of technological dominance we've enjoyed since the end of the Cold War.

In the PACOM region, Russia, China and North Korea are pursuing advanced weapon systems and challenging our operational advantage at a time when the U.S. military is dealing with constrained budgets. So we're approaching this problem without trying to match our competitors airplane-for-airplane, missile-for-missile, or person-for-person. Instead, we're trying to offset their strengths in a way that gives us an advantage – hence, and I'll take a drum roll – the third offset.

This offset is much more challenging. Unlike previous offsets, the U.S. doesn’t have one single opponent in the Soviet Union. Instead we have 5 strategic challenges--Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and the global fight against ISIL. We also have some complex military-relevant technologies coming through the commercial sector like artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, and biotechnology.

The third offset in its simplest form is about making our warfighters better by partnering them with machines and computers. And to underscore its prominence, the defense budget will invest more than $18 billion over the next 5 years to research and develop some really cool stuff: like Autonomous Learning Systems, Human-Machine Collaboration, Assisted Human Operations, Manned-Unmanned Combat Teaming, and Cyber and Electronic Warfare Autonomous Weapons. That’s pretty heady stuff for a boy from Crossville, which is why I’m glad we have people like y'all on our side.

Our leaders in Washington, especially those in Congress from both sides of the aisle, are adamant about ensuring our military stays the world’s finest fighting force. So much so, that we’ll spend more than $70 billion on research and development next year alone.

For a little context, that’s more than double what Intel, Google, and Apple, spent on R&D last year combined.

...Take that, SIRI. And it’s not about throwing a whole bunch of money at something. It’s about using our budgets in a smarter way to invest in building and rebuilding bridges with America’s defense and business communities. In case you're wondering, that’s you.

Secretary Carter and Deputy Secretary Work are taking steps to eliminate the Pentagon bureaucratic red tape that often interferes with defense contracts and progress. And the vision they’ve projected prioritizes a spending plan aimed at dominating the cyber landscape, advancing our commanding lead in undersea capabilities, and developing new missiles that fly faster and punch harder.

Their plan also involves advancing intelligence, aerospace, and robotics, so that no matter what our adversaries throw at us, they'll fail. The plan calls for investments in new strategic approaches to preventing and winning conflicts against 21st century threats – many of those lurking in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Our Rebalance strategy also involves forging stronger bonds between the nations of our critical region, including the bonds between our respective defense industries.

Let’s take India for example, which I’ve made a priority line of effort at PACOM. President Obama and India’s Prime Minister Modi have created what is called the U.S.-India Joint Strategic Vision. A bi-product of this happens to be the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, or D.T.T.I. as it’s commonly referred. The D.T.T.I. has created opportunities for the co-development and co-production of defense systems.

For example, U.S. defense contractor AeroVironment – cool name, by the way – is working with India-based Dynamatic Technologies, to build an advanced version of the Raven U.A.V. Our government has also updated its policy on gas-turbine engine technology transfer to India to expand cooperation of production and design of sensitive jet components. And just three months ago, the joint Aircraft Carrier Technology Working Group met in India--an important subset of D.T.T.I.--to lay the ground work to bring state-of-the-art technology to India’s indigenous carrier.

This includes advanced launch and recovery equipment that will enable India to operate heavier planes from its carriers, and ultimately, increase its capacity to safeguard the maritime domain. Along with defense contractors, the D.T.T.I. will require subject matter experts and increased opportunities for joint training.

It will also require the experts in this room to apply their keen understanding of the defense industry to business solutions. But it’s not just India we are building capacity with. Australia, Japan, and South Korea – three of America's five bilateral security alliances in the Indo-Asia-Pacific--will make the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter a member of their fleets. And now Malaysia wants in on the action.

While this presents tremendous opportunities for all of you, what it means for me as a Combatant Commander is that I’ll be able to meet my top two priorities: to better defend the American homeland and to have our forces ready to fight tonight.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve spent too much time away from East Tennessee and lost my good sense of knowing when I’ve spoken too long. It reminds me of a story I once heard in Crossville when I was a boy. A story of a U-T grad who shot a long-winded speaker. Afterwards, he went to the sheriff's office and confessed, "I just killed me a keynote speaker.” The sheriff replied, "Son, you're in the wrong place. You pick up the reward money next door." So for everyone thinking about collecting some bounty, I’ll conclude my remarks by saying that it’s been my pleasure speaking with you tonight.

I hope I’ve given you some insight in to what we’re doing at PACOM and about the critical relationship between government, industry, and academia – a relationship much valued by everyone in your Joint Armed Forces.

As government, industry and academia move forward together to help the warfighter, each must operate from the same Heads-Up-Display – so again, I want to thank you for the synergistic effort to defend America’s interests across the globe.

"Big Orange, Big Ideas" is more than a slogan – here, it's a way of life that has significant impact on our national security. So on behalf of our Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen, thank you for helping us to ensure that America remains that land of the free and the home of the brave.

Go Vols!

Thank you and God bless.

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