Panetta pledges support

| July 7, 2011 | 0 Comments
Leon Panetta (right) takes the oath of office as the 23rd U.S. secretary of defense, given by Jeh Johnson, general counsel, DOD, during a ceremony at the Pentagon, Friday. (Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey | U.S. Air Force Public Affairs)

Leon Panetta (right) takes the oath of office as the 23rd U.S. secretary of defense, given by Jeh Johnson, general counsel, DOD, during a ceremony at the Pentagon, Friday. (Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey | U.S. Air Force Public Affairs)

Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — New Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pledged there will be no hollow force on his watch.

He said he will be a tireless advocate for service members and their families.

The secretary made the commitment in a message to the Defense Department, after he took the oath of office, Friday. The oath transferred responsibility for the department from Robert Gates.

“You and your families will always be foremost on my mind and at the top of my agenda,” Panetta said.

He added that he will not hesitate to do what needs to be done to defend America and will fight for the needs “of the men and women who serve in harm’s way, and the families who support them.”

“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.”

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

“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, who served as the director of the CIA, has been involved with operations around the world since the beginning of the Obama administration. He has a long public service career that began as an Army intelligence officer in 1964. He also served in the House of Representatives, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and as White House chief of staff in President Bill 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.

“To be free, we must also be secure,” Panetta said. “As Americans, (we need to) come together to commemorate what we and (what) those before us have accomplished.

“And as I take on my new role, my thoughts are with you and your families,” he said. “You are making personal sacrifices to preserve our liberty, serving on front lines around the world. You are fighting to keep America safe. Rest assured that I will fight with you and for you.”

Panetta noted there’s “no higher responsibility for a secretary of defense than to protect those who are protecting America.”

 

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Category: Army News Service, News

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