Panetta Pledges ‘No Hollow Force’ on His Watch

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2011 — New Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta pledged there will be no hol­low force on his watch.
The sec­re­tary made the com­mit­ment in a mes­sage to the Defense Depart­ment released after he took the oath of office this morn­ing. DOD Gen­er­al Coun­sel Jeh John­son admin­is­tered the oath in the secretary’s office. Tak­ing the oath trans­ferred respon­si­bil­i­ty for the depart­ment from Robert M. Gates.

Panet­ta also pledged to be a tire­less advo­cate for ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies. “You and your fam­i­lies will always be fore­most on my mind and at the top of my agen­da,” he said.

The sec­re­tary will not hes­i­tate to do what needs to be done to defend Amer­i­ca. He also will fight for the needs “of the men and women who serve in harm’s way, and the fam­i­lies who sup­port them,” he said. “Even as the Unit­ed States address­es fis­cal chal­lenges at home, there will be no hol­low force on my watch. That will require us all to be dis­ci­plined in how we man­age tax­pay­er resources.”

Lat­er today, Panet­ta will meet with Deputy Defense Sec­re­tary William J. Lynn III, and par­tic­i­pate in a “tank” meet­ing with the mem­bers of the Joint Chiefs, said Doug Wil­son, assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for pub­lic affairs. Panet­ta and his wife, Sylvia, also will have lunch in his Pen­ta­gon office with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Deb­o­rah.

The sec­re­tary, who served as the direc­tor of the CIA, has been inti­mate­ly involved with oper­a­tions around the world since the begin­ning of the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. The nation is at war, he said, and must pre­vail against its ene­mies.

“We will per­sist in our efforts to dis­rupt, dis­man­tle and ulti­mate­ly defeat al-Qai­da,” he said. “The suc­cess­ful oper­a­tion that killed Osama Bin Laden — a mis­sion that show­cased Amer­i­can mil­i­tary strength and pre­ci­sion — is a major step toward that goal.”

In Afghanistan, the sec­re­tary said ser­vice mem­bers must con­tin­ue to work with Afghan secu­ri­ty forces and coali­tion part­ners to tran­si­tion secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to the Afghans by 2014. The goal must be an Afghanistan that nev­er again becomes a safe haven for ter­ror­ists, he said.

The tran­si­tion of Amer­i­can troops in Iraq is well under way with more than 100,000 U.S. ser­vice mem­bers out of the nation, and 48,000 due to leave by the end of the year.

“As we con­tin­ue our tran­si­tion out of Iraq, we must cement a strate­gic rela­tion­ship with the Iraqi gov­ern­ment, one based not sole­ly on our mil­i­tary foot­print there but on a real and last­ing part­ner­ship,” Panet­ta said. “It is in America’s inter­ests to help Iraq real­ize its poten­tial to become a sta­ble democ­ra­cy in a vital­ly impor­tant region in the world and to rein­force that respon­si­bil­i­ty, for the future secu­ri­ty of Iraq must belong to the Iraqis them­selves.”

The sec­re­tary has a long pub­lic ser­vice career that began as an Army intel­li­gence offi­cer in 1964. He also served in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Cal­i­for­nia, direc­tor of the Office of Man­age­ment and Bud­get and White House chief of staff in Pres­i­dent Clinton’s admin­is­tra­tion. Through­out his career, he said, he has focused on being dis­ci­plined with the tax­pay­ers’ mon­ey, but not short-chang­ing secu­ri­ty.

“We must pre­serve the excel­lence and supe­ri­or­i­ty of our mil­i­tary while look­ing for ways to iden­ti­fy sav­ings,” he said. “While tough bud­get choic­es will need to be made, I do not believe in the false choice between fis­cal dis­ci­pline and a strong nation­al defense. We will all work togeth­er to achieve both.”

The sec­re­tary not­ed he is tak­ing office just before Inde­pen­dence Day. He said his par­ents — who immi­grat­ed to Cal­i­for­nia from Italy — believed it was impor­tant to give some­thing back to their adopt­ed coun­try. “I will nev­er for­get my father’s words: ‘to be free, we must also be secure,’” Panet­ta said. “As Amer­i­cans come togeth­er to com­mem­o­rate what we and those before us have accom­plished, and as I take on my new role, my thoughts are with you and your fam­i­lies.

“You are mak­ing per­son­al sac­ri­fices to pre­serve our lib­er­ty, serv­ing on front lines around the world,” he con­tin­ued. “You are fight­ing to keep Amer­i­ca safe. Rest assured that I will fight with you and for you.”

Panet­ta said that in the days and weeks ahead he will meet with all lev­els of mil­i­tary per­son­nel and DOD civil­ians.

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

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