People, Teamwork Are Priorities for New Defense Chief

People, Teamwork Are Priorities for New Defense Chief

Lloyd Austin
Photo by: DoD/EJ Hersom

DoD is committed to developing the right people, priorities and purpose of mission as it continues to defend the United States, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says in a March 4 message to the force.

In the three-page memo, Austin outlines his top priorities: defending the nation, taking care of people, and succeeding through teamwork. Accomplishing these goals will require “aligning our priorities and capabilities to a changing and dynamic threat landscape,” he writes.

When it comes to defending the nation, DoD is focused on defeating COVID-19, which Austin describes as “the greatest proximate challenge to our Nation’s security.” The Pentagon will continue to support the federal government’s efforts to defeat the disease, defend the force against it and work with domestic and international partners to protect against future viruses, he says.

The Pentagon also is prioritizing China as the “pacing challenge” so it can develop the right operational concepts, capabilities and plans to “bolster deterrence and maintain our competitive advantage,” Austin says.

At the same time, DoD is ready to respond to other advanced and persistent threats, including from Russia, Iran and North Korea; committed to innovating and modernizing the force; and focused on tackling the climate crisis, Austin says.

Taking care of people includes growing talent across the force, building resilience and readiness, and ensuring accountable leadership. 

“Our most critical asset as a Department is our people,” Austin writes. “We remain the preeminent fighting force in the world because of our personnel in and out of uniform, and I have never had more confidence in our ability to meet the security challenges of today and tomorrow.”

The Pentagon will continue to build opportunities for growth and development, invest in training and education and create new opportunities for advancement, Austin pledges. Leaders also will “lead with our values, building diversity, equity, and inclusion into all aspects of our work and in everything we do,” Austin says. This also means ensuring swift and clear accountability to anyone who does not act within the highest standards of the department, he says.

In building success through teamwork, DoD is focused on working more closely with allies and partners and other government agencies and building unity across the services and within its own ranks, Austin writes.

“As we face complex challenges that span across borders, our success will depend on how closely we work with our friends around the world to secure our common interests and promote our shared values,” the memo says. “We cannot meet our responsibilities alone, nor should we try.”

As DoD focuses on these priorities, “we need resources matched to strategy, strategy matched to policy, and policy matched to the will of the American people,” Austin says, as he thanks DoD personnel for their service and commitment.

Read the full memo here.