Obama offers goals, support for sailors
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - President Obama promised graduating midshipmen at the US Naval Academy yesterday that, as their commander in chief, he will only send them "into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary."
In his first address to military graduates, Obama also pledged to invest in the men and women who defend America's liberty, not just in the weapons they would take with them into battle against 21st-century threats.
"I will only send you into harm's way . . . with the strategy, the well-defined goals, the equipment, and the support that you need to get the job done," the president told more than 1,000 graduates during a sun-splashed ceremony at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Obama said he has halted reductions in the Navy, is building up the Marine Corps, and investing in the hardware - combat ships, submarines, and fighter aircraft - the graduates will need to do their jobs. He promised higher pay, enhanced child care, improved support, and other benefits.
"In short, we will maintain America's military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has ever seen," Obama said, as more than 30,000 watched from the stands.
The president also praised the role of Navy SEALS in freeing a US sea captain by killing his Somali pirate captors last month.
"The extraordinary precision and professionalism displayed that day was made possible, in no small measure, by the training, the discipline, and the leadership skills that so many of those officers learned at the United States Naval Academy," Obama said.
Among those receiving degrees was John S. McCain IV, the son of Obama's presidential rival, Senator John McCain, who watched from a front-row seat on the grassy field with his wife, Cindy, his mother, Roberta, and several of his children. Had the Arizona Republican, who also graduated from the academy, defeated Obama, McCain could have addressed the class of 2009.
"Jack" McCain, a fourth-generation academy graduate was following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
Presidents typically deliver the commencement address at one of the service academies each year. Yesterday's speech was the third graduation address by Obama in the past nine days.
Standing with leading congressional players on the South Lawn of the White House, Obama signed the weapons acquisition overhaul bill, which passed unanimously in both the House and Senate this week. The president said the bill will crack down on defense programs with huge cost overruns and increase competition for contracts.
"Every penny we waste on this effort because of no-bid contracts or cost overruns is not only an affront to American taxpayers, it's an affront to our military," Obama said.
The president said he would do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of the American people, but rejected the notion "that we need to waste billions of dollars to keep this nation secure."