Nearly 1,100 midshipmen graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday, and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta hinted at the changing role for the branch during his address. Panetta told the grads to get ready for service in the Pacific as the Armed Forces shifts its global focus in the coming years, Military Times reports.

While Panetta's speech included some lighthearted portions, the most significant part discussed what role the graduates will have once they enter active duty service. He pointed out that the Navy may serve an increasingly crucial role in the coming years.

"America is a maritime nation, and we are returning to our maritime roots," he told the crowd, according to the publication. "One of the key projects that your generation will have to face is sustaining and enhancing America’s strength across the great maritime region of the Pacific."

Panetta's words echoed those of Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke at West Point's commencement ceremony over the weekend. Biden focused on the fact that the graduates are entering service when the focus is shifting from the Middle East to other areas, ABC News reports.