WASHINGTON---American military might must draw on new technologies and strategies in the 21st Century, but those forces will only be used in accordance with bedrock American values, said President Bush during commencement exercises at the Naval Academy May 25.
"We must build forces based upon the revolutionary advances in the technology of war that will allow us to keep the peace by redefining war on our terms," Bush said in Annapolis, Md. Bush also told the new ensigns and Marine second lieutenants that he is committed to rewarding visionary thinking.
Bush said he is committed to building a future force that is defined less by size and more by mobility and swiftness. That force will be easier to deploy and sustain and relies heavily on U.S. advantages in stealth, precision weaponry and information technologies.
He forecast that the president in 2016 may call upon Aegis destroyers to defend continents from ballistic missile attacks or modified Trident submarines carrying hundreds of next generation smart cruise missiles or agile Marine task forces ready to deploy with far greater speed, operational reach and precision.
"Building tomorrow's force will not be easy," he said. "Changing the direction of our military is like changing the direction of a mighty ship. All the more reason for research and development and all the more reason to get started right away."
But new technologies need new ideas and, more importantly, a willingness to experiment. "We cannot transform our military using old weapons and old plans," he said. "Nor can we do it with an old mindset that frustrates the creativity and entrepreneurship that a 21st Century military will need."
Bush said creativity and imaginative thinking are America's great competitive advantages. "Today, I call upon you to seize and to join this tradition of creativity and innovation," he said to the graduating midshipmen. "Our national and military leaders owe you a culture that supports innovation and a system that rewards it."
He said officers in a 21st Century U.S. military must think "big thoughts" and examine new approaches to problems. "If you pick up this mantle some of your ideas may fail, but we need to give you this freedom and we will," Bush said. "It is from your failures that we will learn and acquire the knowledge that will make successful innovation possible.
"As president I am committed to fostering a military culture where intelligent risk-taking and forward thinking are rewarded, not dreaded," he continued. "And I'm committed to ensuring that visionary leaders that take risks are recognized and promoted."
But using the military rests on American values. Bush said the academy experience has prepared these new officers to call on these values in times of crisis. "You leave here ... knowing a great truth that some in life never discover: that values are important," he said. "You understand that life cannot be lived by casual commitments and shallow creeds. You understand that no one can be neutral between right and wrong, tyranny and freedom, cynicism and honor. And you know that sometimes the greatest victories are won on the private battlefields of conscience.
"Over time your weapons and methods will change, but your values will not. And because of this you contribute, not only to the military might of our country, but to its meaning and conscience and soul."