Panetta Honors Cartwright During Farewell Tribute

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2011 — Call­ing him “one of the military’s most orig­i­nal thinkers,” Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta today paid trib­ute to Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright in a farewell trib­ute at the Marine Bar­racks here.

Cartwright, vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will retire in the com­ing weeks.

Panet­ta said Cartwright became known for push­ing the bound­aries of tech­nol­o­gy in the mil­i­tary.

“He pos­sess­es a unique blend of tech­ni­cal and strate­gic bril­liance that has been the hall­mark of his career,” Panet­ta said. “It’s a per­spec­tive he devel­oped and honed as an avi­a­tor with a seri­ous intel­lect and with impres­sive aca­d­e­m­ic cre­den­tials.”

The sec­re­tary said that in his pre­vi­ous posi­tion as CIA direc­tor, he’d worked close­ly with Cartwright to strength­en the ties between the defense and intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ties. Cartwright’s efforts and insights led to “extra­or­di­nary progress” in the two orga­ni­za­tions’ com­bined effort against al-Qai­da, he said.

“It had a real impact on the bat­tle­field,” the sec­re­tary added.

Panet­ta said Cartwright was the first per­son he turned to for guid­ance when intel­li­gence devel­oped on Osama bin Laden.

“He was instru­men­tal in the plan­ning and exe­cu­tion of the oper­a­tion that took bin Laden down,” the sec­re­tary said. “It is an achieve­ment that all of us are very proud of, par­tic­u­lar­ly because it is an exam­ple of the kind of team­work, courage and unique skills that make the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca one of the strongest coun­tries in the world.”

Cartwright’s oth­er sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to defense capa­bil­i­ty includ­ed push­ing the Defense Depart­ment to cur­tail unnec­es­sary acqui­si­tion pro­grams in favor of real-world sys­tems, Panet­ta said.

“He was the per­fect offi­cer to dri­ve these pro­gram deci­sions,” the sec­re­tary said. “As an avi­a­tor and as an all-pur­pose gear­head, he knew tech­nol­o­gy, he knew the plat­forms, and his rig­or­ous ana­lyt­i­cal work con­vinced skep­tics in the ser­vices, con­vinced skep­tics in the Con­gress, and con­vinced indi­vid­u­als in the White House that he was the man to turn to.”

Cartwright entered the mil­i­tary in Novem­ber 1971, and he leaves it a bet­ter insti­tu­tion for his pres­ence over the last four decades, the sec­re­tary said.

“Your ded­i­ca­tion, your keen mind, your strate­gic vision have left the Unit­ed States armed forces a more capa­ble and a more lethal force,” Panet­ta said.

Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III also spoke dur­ing the farewell trib­ute, and echoed the sec­re­tary in stress­ing Cartwright’s role as a “change agent” for defense.

“His sig­na­ture trait is to see around cor­ners,” Lynn said. “He can spot trends [and] think a decade ahead bet­ter than just about any­one else.”

If there is a defense pol­i­cy or strat­e­gy issued in the past four years that embod­ies new think­ing, Lynn said, “Hoss’s fin­ger­prints are all over it.”

Cartwright was a key archi­tect of DOD’s recent­ly issued cyber strat­e­gy, Lynn said.

“He intu­itive­ly grasped the need to con­ceive of cyber as an oper­a­tional domain, and to restruc­ture our forces to oper­ate with­in cyber­space,” Lynn said.

Cartwright, along with for­mer Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, saved ser­vice mem­bers’ lives by over­rid­ing a cum­ber­some acqui­si­tion sys­tem to speed record num­bers of mine-pro­tect­ed vehi­cles to troops in com­bat, Lynn said.

“His fond­ness for big thoughts … and the will­ing­ness to fight to make peo­ple con­sid­er them, is the high­est form of devo­tion to those on the front lines,” Lynn said.

Lynn, on Panetta’s behalf, pre­sent­ed Cartwright with the Defense Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Medal. Cartwright also will receive the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard dis­tin­guished ser­vice medals.

Cartwright thanked the sec­re­tary for his remarks and said one of the first times he worked with Panet­ta was dur­ing tragedy. The two went to Dover Air Force Base, Del., for the return of sev­en intel­li­gence agents killed in Afghanistan, Cartwright said.

“It was a tragedy,” he said. “I will nev­er for­get the grace that you showed the fam­i­lies.”

Fam­i­lies go to Dover hop­ing that some­how there has been a mis­take, Cartwright said. “Con­fronting that takes a spe­cial kind of char­ac­ter, and to go up and par­tic­i­pate in that takes a spe­cial kind of char­ac­ter,” he added. “I, and all who have fall­en, and all who hon­or those that have fall­en, thank you for that.”

Cartwright told Lynn, “It’s been a good run.” As fel­low deputies, he said, the two made a dif­fer­ence for the nation’s warfight­ers.

Cartwright’s respon­si­bil­i­ties as vice chair­man have includ­ed chair­ing the Joint Require­ments Over­sight Coun­cil and co-chair­ing the Defense Acqui­si­tion Board. He has served as a mem­ber of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Deputies Com­mit­tee, the Nuclear Weapons Coun­cil and the Mis­sile Defense Exec­u­tive Board. He also co-chairs the Deputies Advi­so­ry Work­ing Group, which pro­vides advice to the deputy sec­re­tary of defense on resourc­ing and oth­er high-lev­el depart­men­tal busi­ness issues.

Cartwright was com­mis­sioned a sec­ond lieu­tenant in the Marine Corps in Novem­ber 1971. He com­plet­ed naval flight offi­cer train­ing in April 1973 and grad­u­at­ed from naval avi­a­tor train­ing in Jan­u­ary 1977. He has pilot­ed the F-4, OA-4 and F/A-18. He is a dis­tin­guished grad­u­ate of the Air Com­mand and Staff Col­lege at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and holds a master’s degree in nation­al secu­ri­ty and strate­gic stud­ies from the Naval War Col­lege, New­port, R.I. The gen­er­al com­plet­ed a fel­low­ship with Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy.

Cartwright’s com­mand posi­tions include 1st Marine Air­craft Wing and U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand. He also has served on the Joint Staff as deputy direc­tor for force struc­ture and require­ments, and as direc­tor for force struc­ture, resources and assess­ment.

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