Gates Ends Historic Term as Defense Secretary

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2011 — Robert M. Gates is the only man to thank two pres­i­dents for the priv­i­lege of serv­ing as sec­re­tary of defense.
At the Armed Forces Farewell Trib­ute on the Pentagon’s parade field today, Gates thanked Pres­i­dent George W. Bush for nom­i­nat­ing him for the job in 2006, and Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma for retain­ing him in it dur­ing the change in admin­is­tra­tions in 2009.

At the cer­e­mo­ny, Oba­ma praised Gates’ bipar­ti­san­ship, and award­ed him the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom — the high­est award a pres­i­dent can con­fer to a civilian. 

Gates also spoke to those who would have the Unit­ed States with­draw from world affairs and retreat to iso­la­tion­ism. He took the thought from for­mer Defense Sec­re­tary and Army Chief of Staff dur­ing World War II Gen­er­al of the Army George C. Mar­shall. Gates said that once while address­ing uni­ver­si­ty grad­u­ates, Mar­shall extolled what he con­sid­ered the great “musts” of that generation. 

Mar­shall said the musts includ­ed the devel­op­ment of a sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty for world order and secu­ri­ty, and the devel­op­ment of a sense of the over­whelm­ing impor­tance of America’s acts and fail­ures to act. 

“Now, as when Mar­shall first uttered those words, a sense of America’s excep­tion­al glob­al respon­si­bil­i­ties and the impor­tance of what we do or do not do remain the great ‘musts’ of this dan­ger­ous new cen­tu­ry,” Gates said. “It is the sacred duty entrust­ed to all of us priv­i­leged to serve in posi­tions of lead­er­ship and respon­si­bil­i­ty; a duty we should nev­er for­get or take light­ly; a duty I have every con­fi­dence you will all con­tin­ue to ful­fill,” he added. 

Gates said his ser­vice as sec­re­tary of defense “has been the great­est hon­or and priv­i­lege of my life, and for that I will always be grateful.” 

The tran­si­tion from the Bush to the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion was the first dur­ing war in near­ly 40 years, Gates said, and it showed how seri­ous peo­ple in both par­ties came togeth­er to do good for the country. 

“The col­le­gial­i­ty, thor­ough­ness and pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the Bush-Oba­ma tran­si­tion were of great ben­e­fit to the coun­try and were a trib­ute to the char­ac­ter and judg­ment of both pres­i­dents,” he said. 

When Gates arrived in the Pen­ta­gon in Decem­ber 2006, Marine Gen. Peter Pace helped shep­herd him through the intri­ca­cies of the build­ing, and Gates thanked Pace, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, for his help. 

Gates also thanked his “bat­tle bud­dy,” the cur­rent chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen. 

“With­out Mike’s advice to me, his effec­tive lead­er­ship of the uni­formed mil­i­tary and our close part­ner­ship, the record of the last sev­er­al years would, I think, have been very dif­fer­ent,” the sec­re­tary said. “Mike was nev­er shy about dis­agree­ing with me, but unfail­ing­ly stead­fast and loy­al to me and to the pres­i­dents he served once a deci­sion was made. He is the epit­o­me of a mil­i­tary leader and offi­cer, a man of supreme integri­ty, a great part­ner and a good friend.” 

Gates said he ben­e­fit­ed from the great team in the depart­ment when he arrived, and the great team that came in under the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. He thanked the polit­i­cal appointees of both par­ties and the career civ­il ser­vants for their efforts in the Pen­ta­gon to pro­vide for those serv­ing on bat­tle­fields in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Gates also stressed the need for coop­er­a­tion among fed­er­al agen­cies. He specif­i­cal­ly point­ed out the pro­duc­tive and warm rela­tion­ship between the State Depart­ment, DOD and the intel­li­gence community. 

“The blows struck against al-Qai­da, cul­mi­nat­ing in the [Osama] bin Laden raid, exem­pli­fy the remark­able trans­for­ma­tion of how we must fuse intel­li­gence and mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in the 21st cen­tu­ry,” he said. 

Gates said his views on coop­er­a­tion with The State Depart­ment have evolved over his four decades of gov­ern­ment ser­vice. When he began his pub­lic ser­vice career in 1966, he said, the sec­re­taries of state and defense bare­ly spoke. 

“In the case of Sec­re­taries [Con­doleez­za] Rice and [Hillary Rod­ham] Clin­ton, I have not only been on speak­ing terms with these two for­mi­da­ble women, we’ve also become cher­ished col­leagues and good friends,” he said. 

Gates also tes­ti­fied before Con­gress on the need for more mon­ey for the State Depart­ment. “We should nev­er for­get that diplo­mats and devel­op­ment experts from State and [the Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment] are tak­ing risks and mak­ing sac­ri­fices in some of the planet’s least hos­pitable places,” he said. “And I speak for all our mil­i­tary in appre­ci­at­ing the con­tri­bu­tions they are mak­ing every day to the suc­cess of our mis­sions in Afghanistan, Iraq and else­where around the globe.” 

The sec­re­tary thanked his wife, Becky, for her help and sup­port. When Pres­i­dent Bush asked Gates to be the sec­re­tary, he asked his wife what she thought. 

“I was real­ly wrestling with the deci­sion and final­ly told her she could make it a lot eas­i­er if she just said she did­n’t want to go back to D.C.,” Gates said. “She thought a moment and replied, ‘We have to do what you have to do.’ That is some­thing mil­i­tary spous­es have said in one form or anoth­er a mil­lion times since 9/11 upon learn­ing that their loved one received a deploy­ment notice or is con­sid­er­ing anoth­er tour of service. 

“She made it easy for me to say yes to this job, to do what I had to do to answer the call to serve when so much was at stake for Amer­i­ca and her sons and daugh­ters in two wars,” he added. 

Gates has spent much of the last few months vis­it­ing with Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers around the world. He has put a farewell mes­sage out to the troops. 

“Though I was only able to meet a small sam­ple of those who deployed down­range, it was impor­tant to meet, to look them in the eye one last time and let them know how much I care about them and appre­ci­ate what they and their fam­i­lies do for our coun­try,” he said. “I’ll just say here that I will think of these young war­riors — the ones who fought, the ones who keep on fight­ing, the ones who nev­er made it back — till the end of my days.” 

Gates praised his suc­ces­sor as sec­re­tary, Leon E. Panet­ta, who will be sworn in as the 23rd defense sec­re­tary tomorrow. 

“This depart­ment and this coun­try are for­tu­nate that a states­man of Leon Panetta’s cal­iber and expe­ri­ence has agreed to serve once again, and at such an impor­tant time,” Gates said. “My part­ing advice for Leon is to get his office just the way he likes it — he may be here longer than he thinks.” 

The sec­re­tary will fly to his home in the state of Washington. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →