Panetta Takes Formal Oath as 23rd Defense Secretary

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2011 — Leon E. Panet­ta took the oath of office as the nation’s 23rd sec­re­tary of defense in a Pen­ta­gon cer­e­mo­ny today.
Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden admin­is­tered the oath in a for­mal cer­e­mo­ny three weeks after Panet­ta offi­cial­ly took office in a pri­vate July 1 cer­e­mo­ny.
“I want to first begin by thank­ing the pres­i­dent for plac­ing his trust and his con­fi­dence in me,” Panet­ta said. “I am tru­ly hum­bled by the respon­si­bil­i­ty and the oppor­tu­ni­ty that has been giv­en to me at this great moment in time.”
Panet­ta vowed to con­tin­ue work­ing with Con­gress to strength­en the Defense Department’s mis­sion.
“I’d like to express my deep grat­i­tude to the mem­bers of Con­gress that are here today,” he said. “I pledge to all of you that I will con­tin­ue to work close­ly with mem­bers of both of those great cham­bers on [Capi­tol] Hill and that I will con­tin­ue to work with both polit­i­cal par­ties.
“I can’t do this job with­out you,” Panet­ta con­tin­ued. “It’s that sim­ple. I real­ly believe that Con­gress has to be a full part­ner in the department’s mis­sion of pro­tect­ing Amer­i­ca.”
Panet­ta thanked the military’s lead­er­ship for its sup­port, espe­cial­ly Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the ser­vices’ uni­formed and civil­ian lead­ers.
“Chair­man Mike Mullen, who has become a dear friend, I thank you for your lead­er­ship, and I thank you for your con­tin­u­ing guid­ance as I take on this chal­lenge,” Panet­ta said. “And I also want to express my deep­est thanks to the out­stand­ing ser­vice chiefs and ser­vice sec­re­taries for their guid­ance, for their coun­sel, and for their sup­port.”
In par­tic­u­lar, the sec­re­tary said, he appre­ci­ates the lead­ers’ insights into the needs of the men and women who serve on the front lines, and their fam­i­lies.
The defense sec­re­tary also expressed his grat­i­tude for his own family’s con­stant sup­port dur­ing his career.
“My fam­i­ly has been tol­er­ant beyond all mea­sure dur­ing 40 years of pub­lic ser­vice,” Panet­ta said. “And above all, I want to thank Sylvia, who is here today. My three sons [and] my six grand­chil­dren have been a great source of pride for Sylvia and me. And I am so grate­ful for their con­tin­u­ing love and sup­port.
“That’s the sto­ry of my fam­i­ly,” he added. “And the sto­ry of my fam­i­ly tells you a lot about what Amer­i­ca means to me and to all of us.”
Panet­ta expressed his con­fi­dence in the U.S. mil­i­tary.
“I believe there is no bet­ter guar­an­tor of our secu­ri­ty, and ulti­mate­ly, our free­dom, than the strength of America’s armed forces,” he said. “This is a time of his­toric chal­lenge — for this depart­ment, and for our coun­try. And change will only accel­er­ate the chal­lenges we face.”
Panet­ta spoke of the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attack on the Pen­ta­gon, which occurred just a few hun­dred yards from today’s cer­e­mo­ny.
“That day, the nation sud­den­ly under­stood that we had to con­front a new and uncer­tain peri­od of con­flict,” he said. “Unlike the Cold War, we now face a mul­ti­tude of secu­ri­ty chal­lenges [and] dan­gers that are spread across the globe.
“These threats are daunt­ing, to be sure,” he con­tin­ued. “But these past few years have also shown the world that Amer­i­ca, with our strong intel­li­gence and mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties, is up to that chal­lenge. We will not back down when our home­land is threat­ened. We will do what­ev­er it takes to defend this coun­try.”
Panet­ta saved his strongest words of resolve for ene­mies of the Unit­ed States and its inter­ests.
“No one attacks the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca and gets away with it,” he said. “We have been relent­less in the efforts to dis­rupt, dis­man­tle and defeat al-Qai­da and al-Qaida’s extrem­ist affil­i­ates. … I believe that we are with­in reach of achiev­ing a strate­gic defeat of al-Qai­da. But to do that we have to con­tin­ue to put pres­sure on them where ever they are. And if we con­tin­ue that com­mit­ment, then ulti­mate­ly, we will suc­ceed.”
Panet­ta reaf­firmed his com­mit­ment to tak­ing care of ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies, call­ing it his most impor­tant respon­si­bil­i­ty.
“Like my good friend and pre­de­ces­sor, Bob Gates, I will be a tire­less advo­cate for [ser­vice mem­bers] and their fam­i­lies,” he said. “We owe it to them to make sure that they have what they need to accom­plish their mis­sion, but to also sup­port their fam­i­lies back home.”
Mind­ful of the chal­lenges ahead, Panet­ta thanked the mil­i­tary for its ser­vice to the nation.

“Thank you for your sup­port,” he said. “May God bless the men and women who are out there serv­ing us, but most impor­tant­ly, may God bless the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca.”

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

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