Gates ends historic term as defense secretary, thanks two presidents

| July 7, 2011 | 0 Comments
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (center) reviews troops at the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute at the Pentagon, June 30. (Mass Communication Spc. 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley | U.S. Navy)

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (center) reviews troops at the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute at the Pentagon, June 30. (Mass Communication Spc. 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley | U.S. Navy)

Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — Robert 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, June 30, Gates thanked President George W. Bush for nominating him for the job in 2006, and then thanked President Barack Obama for retaining him in the position in 2009.

At farewell tribute, Obama praised Gates’ bipartisanship and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a president can offer to a civilian.

Gates used the occasion to address those who would have the U.S. withdraw from world affairs and retreat to isolationism. He quoted Gen. George Marshall, defense secretary and Army chief of staff during World War II. He used Marshall’s “musts” for a generation, which included the development of a sense of responsibility for world order and security, and the development of a sense of importance for America’s actions 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 (that) I have every confidence you will all continue to fulfill.”

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 such change that happened during a war, in nearly 40 years, Gates said, and it showed how 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.

Gates said he benefited from the great team in the department when he arrived in 2006, and the great team that came in under the Obama administration. He thanked the political appointees of both parties and the career civil servants in the Pentagon for their efforts to provide for those serving on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gates has spent much of the last few months visiting with American service members around the world. “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 — until the end of my days.”

Gates praised his successor, Leon Panetta, who was sworn in as the 23rd defense secretary, Friday.

“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.”

 

Tags: ,

Category: Army News Service, News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *