My friends, this is the sixth time I have had the honor to write you as secretary and, sadly for me, the last. We have been on this journey for many years now and without reservation, serving your Army has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life. It has also served to reinforce and increase my great respect and admiration for our soldiers, their families and the civilians who support them.Our nation—indeed, the world—owes so much to these selfless patriots who chose to serve in the defense of freedom during one of the most dangerous and unpredictable periods in our history. I cannot adequately express my gratitude, my praise or my love for these true heroes.As secretary, I have been granted a clear understanding of the current condition of our force, the challenges we face today, and the unforeseeable nature of things yet to come. As you all know, we are confronted with a geopolitical landscape that is changing at an astonishing pace. From renewed and determined aggression by Russia and increased threats from North Korea to radical terrorists in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya, the demand for your Army to tackle emerging contingencies around the world has grown at an alarming rate.As many of us have testified to Congress, our requirements are far from being foreseeable. They have been more unexpected, our enemies more unpredictable, and our ability to handle multiple simultaneous operations more uncertain. At no other time in history has the value of America’s Army been greater, or the need for it more imperative. As I have said in the past, we are the indispensable Army of the world’s indispensable nation.As I reflect on the times we have shared and the changes we have made, I am most struck by the camaraderie and spirit of your Army—more infectious and more inspiring than any parade of equipment or display of technology. I learned long ago that paramount to this great Army are the timeless traditions of teamwork and selfless service. No one person does it alone. Any success, any accomplishment and any advancement that has been realized is a result of our collective commitment to the mission.Be it active, Guard, Reserve, civilian or family, the combined efforts of the men and women of our Army team have comprised a formidable force. Together, you have helped make a vital difference. Together, you have confronted unpredictable foes while having to rely upon unpredictable resources. Together, in the most basic terms, you have protected freedom around the world. Thankfully, no one is quite like you, or quite like your Army.It may be easy to dismiss my optimism as reflections of a departing leader. But it has been your accomplishments, your glory and your actions that provide the basis for these claims, not my words. It is clear to me that our Total Force remains strong despite significant and ongoing reductions to our available resources.Today’s ArmyToday’s Army is the most capable, most versatile and most diverse fighting force in the world for several reasons:- Our force is well-trained. It is seasoned by more than a decade of conflict, with combat veterans filling the vast majority of the ranks. It leads our joint force intellectually in understanding and employing military power in support of national objectives. Our Army Operating Concept is the very basis of how the joint force operates.- Our force is well-led. More than most organizations, the Army knows our people—our soldiers—are our strength, and we invest in them accordingly. Our world-renowned Army education system is at the forefront of teaching leadership, discipline, management, logistics and efficiency, while innovations such as Army University are designed to keep us on the cutting edge. The talents, skills and traits of Army leaders are in high demand within the private sector.- Our force is well-equipped. Our military is the most modern and highly equipped force in the world, thanks to the support and patriotism of our industrial partners. The Army is routinely challenged to confront some of the most complex problems of the day. Together, we are committed to providing soldiers with the best equipment, at the right time and at the most affordable price.Those in our force today should understand that others around the world want to know what you know and do what you do. Your Army exports military thought globally, with 146 countries—nearly three-quarters of the world—receiving some form of schooling, exercise, training or security support from your Army. Moreover, soldiers provide visible evidence of our nation’s commitment in over 140 deployed and forward locations worldwide.As a result, people across the world recognize and admire your strength. According to recent Gallup polls, the military remains the only institution—public or private—in which the American people maintain great confidence. Most citizens polled believe the U.S. military is the best in the world and that your Army is the most important service to our nation’s defense. Internationally, when a Lithuanian news magazine recognized the NATO service member as the 2014 person of the year, the editors chose a picture of an American soldier as the image to represent that great honor.However, our Army’s strength is not inevitable. It does not come from some innate American superiority in brains or brawn. It cannot be mass-produced at the time of need. Rather, our Army’s strength is the result of the patient, dedicated support of eight generations of soldiers—for more than 240 years—each committed to leaving our institution a little better than they found it. Throughout our history, we have built upon the diverse talents, tenacious spirit and democratic values of our ranks to develop trusted professionals who unflinchingly defend the American way of life.Today, we have been directed to once again shrink the size of our ranks as we work to close America’s longest war. While reshaping has its value, the directed rate and scope of those cuts should give pause, given the level of risk and instability we see across the globe today.Today, Congress is endeavoring to decide whether we should turn from our current challenges to better prepare for tomorrow’s potential fights. This is not an easy issue, and the Army’s voice must be heard. Ultimately, viable solutions will emerge only from realistic analysis, creative ideas and thoughtful dialogue that examine all perspectives and preferences while acknowledging the geopolitical reality we face. In short, we can’t view the world as we wish it were by simply ignoring how it truly is.Accordingly, we have argued that our Army is important because armies around the world are seen by the vast majority as absolutely essential to protect governments, citizens and national interests. We note that only capable land power provides regional and, in many cases, the necessary domestic stability for states to interact, govern and bring prosperity to their people. This central objective makes the soldier the common factor that translates into almost every nation’s security language.Protecting the HomelandWhile the Army is relied on to fight and win America’s wars abroad, it is also charged with protecting the homeland and building leaders for the nation. Beyond providing a strategic and operational depth to our defense, the National Guard and crisis-response teams form the very backbone of the integrating function for national emergency response.All of these statements are just as true today as they were in the past, and they will be true tomorrow. Although our elected leaders continue to debate the future role of the Army, we recognize that as the world and our nation evolve, so too must the institutions that protect them. Accordingly, the need for our Army must be measured not by our past accomplishments, but by our ability to respond to present threats, unpredictable contingencies and future conflicts.Today, our nation finds itself conducting largely unforeseen yet significant military operations. In many cases, organized violence has emerged within vacuums. Civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Uganda and Libya are inflicting great human suffering while impacting neighboring states as refugees flee the violence. In other instances, terror and criminal organizations exploit gaps in governance, such as in Somalia and Nigeria, threatening both internal and regional stability.These challenges have direct costs and real impact far beyond the affected states. The Institute for Economics and Peace recently noted an eight-year downward trend in global peacefulness, predominantly driven by ungoverned spaces. Annually, the resulting violence has cost the world $14.3 trillion, or 13.4 percent of total gross domestic product. The U.N. estimates that 50 million people—more than the combined populations of Texas and New York—are currently displaced from their homes as a result of these conflicts, greatly affecting global security, stability and economics.The common characteristic of each of these challenges, however, is that they are predominantly complex, “people-focused” problems. Ultimately, these issues will not be solved by gadgetry, deterministic theories or long-range munitions. Rather, more than ever, I am convinced that today’s emerging threats can best be addressed by a force of highly trained, innovative individuals operating cooperatively—and, if need be, coercively—to bring stability to affected governments and populations. In short, the solution to today’s challenges is today’s Army.This is why your Army must remain ever-vigilant. This is why soldiers will always be in demand. Challenged nations will turn to their armies for answers; those armies, in turn, will seek your help. In spite of predictions to the contrary, our nation and the world will increasingly depend upon the ingenuity, tenacity and skill of the American soldier. We must be ready.For all our wishes to the contrary, the world is still a dangerous place filled with bad actors. A strong, capable and properly sized Army is crucial to provide our nation with the capacity and capability needed to respond to every challenge whatever its nature, wherever its source.I leave my office humbled by the service and dedication of the men, women, families and civilians who serve this institution, the nation and the world. I am proud to say that just as it was 240 years ago, at the heart of it all are men and women who are committed to an uncommon life of incredible sacrifice and consequence.Despite the significant challenges we face, I remain confident in our nation’s future because I am confident in our Army. We stand as the world’s most formidable land force because of the values we defend. Through the service and sacrifice of every soldier, family member and civilian, we have become the single greatest force for good the world has ever known. God bless you, and thank you for allowing me to be part of America’s team.