My name is Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania; I am a former 3-star Vice Admiral who spent 31 years serving my country in our Navy - they were the proudest years of my life. Today, I'd like to talk to you about a topic that's too important for partisan politics: a new direction for America's security.
Last week, the Chairman of the 9/11 Commission made a startling comment. He said he didn't believe that security was a priority for the White House.
After recently retiring from the Navy, I returned to my home in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, to run for Congress. I was concerned that our national security was at risk. In the place I had learned leadership, hope and the meaning of American ideals, I found my fellow citizens were uneasy: our country was bogged down in Iraq, security elsewhere in the world was breaking down, safety at home was uncertain. Our leaders weren't leading.
Everyday, we hear more discouraging news about the dangers we face around the world. It starts with Iraq. But the Bush administration then failed to deal early with Iran as it developed a nuclear capability. It ignored North Korea, now launching missiles. And after 6 years of not paying attention, the Middle East erupted again.
I was on the ground in Afghanistan, saw what needed to be done, and returned in command of an aircraft carrier battle group with men and women dedicated to getting the job done. When I returned to Afghanistan eighteen months later, I saw what hadn't been done. Our attention and resources had been shifted to Iraq. Now, Afghanistan is in danger of once again falling prey to terrorists.
It's time for new leadership, a leadership that remembers that while we are respected for the power of our military and the power of our economy, we are admired for the power of our ideals.
It is time for a new direction. It starts by speaking honestly with America about the true costs of Iraq, including to our security. There is no better military than ours: our men and women are a national treasure who have performed brilliantly-they always do. Now it's time for their mission to change. We must begin a phased redeployment of our forces so that we are prepared to face the security challenges we have worldwide.
The fact is, we are fostering a culture of dependence in Iraq. Iraqi leaders must be responsible for their own country. They must make the difficult political compromises that will stop the civil war and bring about stability. We cannot do this work for them.
Completing our mission in Iraq will also make America safer everywhere. It allows us to focus on security threats like North Korea and Iran. It gives us the flexibility to revitalize and transform our military. It keeps America's eye on the target: terrorism.
The recent airline plot in Great Britain reminds us of the value of allies in any conflict; but it also forces us to ask: "are we doing everything possible to make America safe?"
For the cost of two days in Iraq we could screen 100% of all air cargo on passenger planes.
Incredibly, ten years after Al Qaeda plotted to bring liquid explosives onto planes, our airports are still not equipped to detect them.
With what we spend in 5 days in Iraq, we could ensure that all of the cargo entering our ports is screened for dangerous radioactive weapons.
The status quo is unacceptable. We must do better.
This Congress has failed to provide the leadership for America to do this. It is time for a new leadership that believes in a change for a safer and more secure America. It's time for a new direction, for an America that believes in a safer and more secure world.
That is why I am running on a belief formed from 31 years in the service of our country: That whenever America has looked itself in the national mirror at a time of great challenge, it has said "we are better than this."
It is in these moments that America has achieved its greatest accomplishments.
I am former Vice-Admiral Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district. Thank you very much for listening.