WASHINGTON, June 8, 2017 — The graduates of the National Defense University are uniquely qualified to figure out and maintain a comprehensive military advantage in an increasingly complex world, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at today’s commencement here. In his address at the Defense Department-funded institution at Fort Lesley J. McNair, Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva underscored the importance of having a military advantage so leaders can use the options from the military tool of national power to shape the world and achieve the outcomes deemed necessary to preserve freedom and liberty.

He told the 672 graduates from NDU’s four colleges to maintain their ties and rely on each other for advice. The graduates included U.S. military officers, federal employees, private-sector employees and 103 international students from 64 countries.

“All of you form a network of critical thinkers who have learned together, who have debated together, who have grown together, and you are a network unlike any other network in the world,” he said.

Defending Freedom and Liberty

Selva recommended that the graduates “be relentless in your assessment of the world as it is, be honest in your assessment of how we can apply the tools that exist to shape that world, and be realistic in your aspirations for what you can make the world look like.”

If they can do those things in developing national policy and national strategy, the vice chairman said, the graduates will help “defend freedom and liberty around the world, nurture it and spread it.”

Selva challenged the graduates to create a work environment in which service members and civilian employees can question conventional wisdom, bring new ideas forward, and be allowed to experiment with ideas that would change the institution. Such an environment would give leaders more options in an increasingly complex world, the second highest-ranking U.S. military officer explained.

“It is my deep, abiding belief that because of the education you have received here at National Defense University, you are uniquely qualified to do this work,” he said.

He added, “My challenge to you is: ‘Giddyup, let’s get to work, because I need your help.’ We all need your help.”

Selva outlined global challenges, including Russia and China, saying those countries “studied our way of war” and they are “trying to catch up fast.” In addition, an “opaque” North Korea and “equally opaque” Iran present challenges in both the Asia Pacific and the Middle East, the general said.

Gratitude for Support, Appreciation for Troops

The general thanked the faculty and staff of NDU, expressed gratitude for the family members who supported the graduates, and honored those serving the nation.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you to remember all of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines deployed today who are standing watch, who are flying in harm’s way, who are on patrol, who are out there doing the work of our nations to protect freedom and liberty,” he said, “because they are the people we are here to serve.”