Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to troops: I’m ‘proud to be back on your team’

"My job as Secretary of Defense is to make you more effective at doing yours."

Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin wasted no time getting his message out to troops and their families after being confirmed on Friday as secretary of defense.

In a memo sent to all Department of Defense employees, Austin, 67, promised members of the largest federal agency that he would ensure they had “the tools, technology, weapons, and training” to deter and defeat America’s enemies. Austin, who made history as the first Black man to serve in the top Pentagon post, joined the civilian ranks of the department roughly four years after retiring from the Army. His last assignment was commander of U.S. Central Command.

“I am proud to be back on your team,” Austin wrote.

Austin required a waiver from Congress to serve as defense secretary since the top post requires a military officer to be retired for at least seven years. Despite some initial concerns over civil-military relations, lawmakers on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the waiver for Austin, who said he was honored to serve again.

“The way I see it, my job as Secretary of Defense is to make you more effective at doing yours,” wrote Austin, adding that he would ensure the department was properly resourced to take on national security challenges. “It means establishing sound policy and strategy and assigning you clear missions. It means putting a premium on cooperation with our allies and partners. And it means living up to our core values, the same ones our fellow citizens expect of us.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to troops: I’m ‘proud to be back on your team’

You can read Austin’s full message below:

I am honored to have this chance to serve again and to do so alongside you and your families. My wife, Charlene, and I know all too well the sacrifices you make to keep this country safe. That safety is job one, and I promise to work as hard as you do at it.

The way I see it, my job as Secretary of Defense is to make you more effective at doing yours. That means ensuring you have the tools, technology, weapons, and training to deter and defeat our enemies. It means establishing sound policy and strategy and assigning you clear missions. It means putting a premium on cooperation with our allies and partners. And it means living up to our core values, the same ones our fellow citizens expect of us.

Right now, of course, doing my job also means helping our country get control of the pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 Americans. You have already come to the aid of our Nation’s health care professionals. You can expect that mission to continue. But we must help the Federal Government move further and faster to eradicate the devastating effects of the coronavirus. To that end, we will also do everything we can to vaccinate and care for our workforce and to look for meaningful ways to alleviate the pressure this pandemic has exerted on you and your families.

None of us succeeds at this business alone. Defending the country requires teamwork and cooperation. It requires a certain humility, a willingness to learn, and absolute respect for one another. I know you share my devotion to these qualities.

I am proud to be back on your team.

Paul Szoldra

Paul Szoldrais the Editor in Chief of Task & Purpose and Marine Corps veteran. Reach out at paul@taskandpurpose.com. Contact the author here.