Former Vice President Cheney visits USAFA, says cadets will influence national security

Dick Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney chats with Col. Cheryl Kearney, head of the Political Science Department at the U.S. Air Force Academy (middle), and Cadet 1st Class Emily Snyder, May 3, 2018 during the Eaker Lecture in Arnold Hall. The lecture is an annual event at the Academy featuring a national security expert who speaks to cadets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Mike Slater)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Air Force Academy cadets will have opportunities to influence national security during their Air Force careers.

“We need you. Badly,” he said.

Cheney spoke to cadets and political science majors during the Eaker lecture, an annual event that features a national security expert, May 3 in Arnold Hall.

“As I engaged in government, as I spent those 50 years working on problems, I kept coming back to national security,” he said. “Everything else faded in insignificance.”

Cheney was the 46th vice president from 2001-2009. His Washington career began in 1968 and his government roles include Secretary of Defense, White House chief of staff, and U.S. Representative (Wyoming).

At the lecture, Cheney encouraged the soon-to-be-officers in the audience to look for opportunities to be involved in national security because, he said, the U.S. needs “top-flight help.”

“There will be opportunities going forward and I would urge people to look for ways to spend time on those issues,” he said. “I think the whole notion of warfare is likely to change ahead.”

Cheney talked fondly about the presidents he’s worked for, but said he holds a “special place” in his heart for former President George W. Bush.

“The first time he offered me the job of vice president I said, “No way,’ — I’ve never met a vice president that was happy,” he said laughing. “It’s a miserable job.”

In truth, Cheney said he enjoyed his stint as Bush’s vice president more than any other government position he’s had.

“It was a team and we functioned as a team,” he said.

The administrative teamwork became very important after the 9-11 attacks, Cheney said.

“Our whole agenda as an administration got changed when 9-11 occurred, and we ended up in the counter terrorism business for most of the time we were there,” he said.

Any success in the wake of the attacks was the result of “good people working the counter terrorism business,” Cheney said.

“A major decision was when we responded to 9-11 by recognizing that it was no longer possible to treat terrorism as a law enforcement problem,” he said. “An act of war that kills 3,000 of your people, takes down the world trade center, hits the pentagon, etc. — that’s not a law enforcement problem. That’s a war, and the president made that shift and I think properly so.”

During his stop at the Academy, Cheney met with cadets from Wyoming and staff at the Cadet Chapel, the Center for Character and Leadership Development and CyberWorx, the Air Force’s design and innovation center.

Looking back on his career, the former vice president said government service often ends differently than those pursuing it may originally think.

“I went to Washington 50 years ago,” he said. “I was going to stay 12 months and then teach political science.”