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Defense Secretary Mark Esper boards a C-17 as he departs Paris on Sept. 7, 2019. Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

Newly minted Defense Secretary Mark Esper will take questions from airmen in his first major address as secretary to members of the Air Force community Sept. 18 at AFA’s 2019 Air, Space & Cyber Conference, AFA Executive Vice President and retired USAF Maj. Gen. Douglas Raaberg said.

Esper will be the keynote speaker on the third day of the conference, which Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein has called the Air Force’s “premier professional development event.” This year’s conference will continue to delve into the issues and implications of the National Defense Strategy.

“The best speaker to have at the end of the conference is the secretary of defense, who will highlight not only that strategy but all the services’ perspectives,” Raaberg said. “So what a great way for airmen and their families to ask the secretary of defense how this service meets the needs of the National Defense Strategy."

Esper’s choice to allocate much of his stage time to candid questions and answers is in line with his focus on increasing Pentagon transparency. In an Aug. 28 on-camera press briefing—the first from a defense secretary in a year’s time—Esper said he was committed to engaging the press and informing the American public about the Defense Department’s work.

This year’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference is Sept. 16-18 in National Harbor, Md. For those unable to attend in person, the secretary’s speech will be livestreamed at https://www.af.mil/Live.aspx. The address is scheduled for Sept. 18 from 8:30 a.m.-9:15 a.m. EST.