President Praises Gates, Nominates New Security Team

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2011 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma today thanked Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates for his ser­vice as he offi­cial­ly announced his inten­tion to nom­i­nate CIA Direc­tor Leon E. Panet­ta to lead the Pen­ta­gon after Gates retires June 30.
Oba­ma said Gates will go down in his­to­ry as one of the finest defense sec­re­taries in U.S. his­to­ry.

The pres­i­dent also nom­i­nat­ed Army Gen. David H. Petraeus to suc­ceed Panet­ta at the CIA and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John R. Allen to suc­ceed Petraeus as com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force in Afghanistan. Oba­ma also is nom­i­nat­ing Ryan C. Crock­er to return from retire­ment and serve as U.S. ambas­sador to Afghanistan. The nom­i­na­tions are sub­ject to Sen­ate confirmation. 

“Giv­en the piv­otal peri­od that we’re enter­ing, I felt that it was absolute­ly crit­i­cal that we had this team in place so that we can stay focused on our mis­sions, main­tain our momen­tum and keep our nation secure,” Oba­ma said in the White House East Room. 

Gates will step down after serv­ing more than four and a half years in office. Pres­i­dent George W. Bush nom­i­nat­ed Gates for the job at a time when prospects in Iraq looked bleak. The surge of U.S. forces into Iraq was hit­ting its stride, and hun­dreds of attacks occurred each day on coali­tion forces in the country. 

“Today, every Amer­i­can must know that because he helped to respon­si­bly wind down the war in Iraq, we’re in a bet­ter posi­tion to sup­port our troops and man­age the tran­si­tion in Afghanistan,” Oba­ma said. “Because he chal­lenged con­ven­tion­al think­ing, our troops have the life­sav­ing equip­ment they need, and our mil­i­tary is bet­ter pre­pared for today’s wars. “And because he coura­geous­ly cut unnec­es­sary spend­ing,” the pres­i­dent con­tin­ued, “we’ll save hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars that can be invest­ed in the 21st-cen­tu­ry mil­i­tary that our troops deserve.” 

The Unit­ed States mil­i­tary has fought in two wars every day of Gates’ tenure. Ser­vice mem­bers have also stood watch else­where around the globe. “It has been the great­est hon­or of my life to serve and to lead our men and women in uni­form and our defense civil­ians,” he said. “They are the best Amer­i­ca has to offer. 

“My high­est pri­or­i­ty from my first day in office,” he added, “has been to do every­thing I could for our uni­formed men and women in harm’s way to help them accom­plish their mis­sion, to come home safe­ly, and if wound­ed, to get them the best pos­si­ble care from bat­tle­field to home­front. I’ve done my best to care for them as though they were my own sons and daugh­ters, and I will miss them deeply.” 

The pres­i­dent said Panet­ta has the right skills to trake over for Gates. “The patri­o­tism and extra­or­di­nary man­age­ment skills that have defined Leon’s four decades of ser­vice is exact­ly what we need in our next sec­re­tary of defense,” Oba­ma said. “As a for­mer con­gress­man and White House chief of staff, Leon knows how to lead, which is why he is held in such high esteem not only in this city, but around the world.” 

Panet­ta has served as CIA direc­tor for more than two years. The pres­i­dent said he has played a deci­sive role in the fight against vio­lent extremism. 

“He under­stands that even as we begin the tran­si­tion in Afghanistan, we must remain unwa­ver­ing in our fight against al-Qai­da,” Oba­ma said. “And as a for­mer [Office of Man­age­ment and Bud­get] direc­tor, he will ensure that even as we make tough bud­get deci­sions, we will main­tain our mil­i­tary supe­ri­or­i­ty and keep our mil­i­tary the very best in the world.” Panet­ta thanked the men and women of the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency for their superb, but unher­ald­ed work. 

“I spent 40 years in pub­lic ser­vice, and it began when I served in the Army as an intel­li­gence offi­cer in the 1960s,” he said. “I was proud to wear the uni­form of our coun­try, and my respect and admi­ra­tion for our nation’s armed forces has only grown in the decades since.” 

Oba­ma stressed con­ti­nu­ity, not­ing that Petraeus will car­ry on Panetta’s work at the CIA. After 35 years in uni­form, the gen­er­al will retire from the Army to become the next CIA direc­tor, effec­tive ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, pend­ing Sen­ate confirmation. 

“As a life­long con­sumer of intel­li­gence, he knows that intel­li­gence must be time­ly, accu­rate and act­ed upon quick­ly,” Oba­ma said. “He under­stands that stay­ing a step ahead of nim­ble adver­saries requires shar­ing and coor­di­nat­ing infor­ma­tion, includ­ing with my direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence, Jim Clapper.” 

Oba­ma said he val­ues Petraeus’ flex­i­bil­i­ty and adapt­abil­i­ty. “Just as Gen­er­al Petraeus changed the way that our mil­i­tary fights and wins wars in the 21st cen­tu­ry, I have no doubt that Direc­tor Petraeus will guide our intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­als as they con­tin­ue to adapt and inno­vate in an ever-chang­ing world,” the pres­i­dent said. 

And Allen is the right man for the job in Afghanistan, the pres­i­dent said. 

“As a bat­tle-test­ed com­bat leader, in Iraq he helped turn the tide in Anbar province,” he said. “As deputy com­man­der of Cen­tral Com­mand, he’s respect­ed in the region and has been deeply involved in plan­ning and exe­cut­ing our strat­e­gy in Afghanistan.” 

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

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Team GlobDef

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