American Secretary of Defense James Mattis spoke before the U.S. Army Exposition on Building Readiness in Washington, D.C. on Monday, taking the opportunity to address a number of concerns faced by America’s soldier and civilian populations alike.

The storied former Marine general turned Defense Secretary began by emphasizing something that has been a common trend throughout his tenure at the head of the Pentagon, his unwillingness to see himself or other senior leaders as a more important part of the nation’s overall defense apparatus.

I would just tell you that I recognize that whatever ranks we wear today, or we once wore, in this room, we are all coequal in our devotion to this wonderful, magical experiment that we call America, and to protecting our people and our Constitution.” Mattis said. “And we are coequal.  That is one thing that American forces have always had in their ranks:  a sense of coequal devotion.  So I’m honored to be here with you today, you, who hold the line in this world.”

Mattis went on to identify the three regions of the globe that remain America’s priority, either in terms of ongoing conflict or the potential for conflict to develop, identifying terrorism in the Middle East, Russian aggression in Europe, and North Korea in the Pacific.  China was notably absent from his brief rundown.  Those threats, according to the Secretary, dictate a three-pronged effort to adapt to the modern buffet of challenges faced by America and its allies, emphasizing the need for a reliable nuclear deterrent, a powerful conventional military force, and the ability to conduct irregular warfare operations.