WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told graduating midshipmen on Tuesday at the U.S. Naval Academy that as sailors and Marines, they’d be at the heart of the United States’ newly developed military strategy that defines the vast Asia-Pacific region as central to national security.
“America is a maritime nation, and we are returning to our maritime roots,” he told the nearly 1,100 graduates on Tuesday. The commissioning, which also featured remarks by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, was held on a sunny, unseasonably warm spring day in Annapolis and punctuated by a flyover of the Blue Angels squadron.
The Obama administration last October announced the nation would “pivot to the Pacific” as wars in the Middle East wind down and China continues to flex its developing military and diplomatic muscle.
“It is up to your generation to ensure that our fleet remains unrivaled by any other nation on Earth,” Panetta told the graduates. “One of the key projects that your generation will have to face is sustaining and enhancing American strength across the great maritime region of the Asia-Pacific.”