Bush Says Gates Right Man to Meet Challenges, Praises Rumsfeld
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2006 President Bush called Robert M. Gates, his choice to be the next secretary of defense, the right man to meet the challenges facing the United States.
During a brief White House news conference today, the president also thanked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, telling him that America is more secure because of his service.
“America remains a nation at war,” Bush said. “We face brutal enemies that despise our freedom and want to destroy our way of life. These enemies attacked our country on Sept. 11, 2001; they fight us in Afghanistan and Iraq; and they remain determined to attack our country again.
“Against such enemies there’s only one way to protect the American people: We must stay on the offense and bring our enemies to justice before they hurt us again.”
The president said that Rumsfeld will remain in office until the Senate confirms Gates.
Bush said the defense secretary must have the vision to see threats still over the horizon and prepare the United States to meet them. “Bob Gates is the right man to meet these critical challenges,” he said.
Gates, who is the president of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, said the war on terrorism will shape the world for decades to come. “Because our long-term strategic interests and our national and homeland security are at risk, because so many of America's sons and daughters in our armed forces are in harm's way, I did not hesitate when the president asked me to return to duty,” he said. “If confirmed by the Senate, I will serve with all my heart and with gratitude to the president for giving me the opportunity to do so.”
Gates has served as a member of the Iraq study group, chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. He has met with political and military leaders in Iraq. “He will provide the department with a fresh perspective and new ideas on how America can achieve our goals in Iraq,” Bush said.
Bush also stressed Gates’ service under presidents of both parties. “He is a man of integrity, candor and sound judgment,” the president said. “He knows that the challenge of protecting our country is larger than any political party, and he has a record of working with leaders on both sides of the aisle to strengthen our national security.”
Bush praised Rumsfeld for his almost six years of service in the administration. “Don has served in times of great consequence for our nation,” Bush said. “Few will forget the image of Don Rumsfeld as he helped rescue workers carry the victims from the rubble of the Pentagon.”
The president listed some of the secretary’s accomplishments at the helm of the department. He said Rumsfeld helped shape one of the most innovative campaigns in modern warfare, driving the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies from power in a matter of weeks.
“In 2003, on my orders, he led the planning and execution of another historic campaign, Operation Iraqi Freedom that drove Saddam Hussein from power and helped the Iraqi people establish a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East,” the president said. “History will record that on Don Rumsfeld's watch the men and women of our military overthrew two terrorist regimes, liberated some 50 million people, brought justice to the terrorist (Abu Musab al-) Zarqawi and scores of senior Al Qaeda operatives, and helped stop new terrorist attacks on our people.”
Yet, even as the U.S. military fought in the war on terror, Rumsfeld kept preparing the department for the threats of the future, Bush said. “He developed a new defense strategy. He established a new Northern Command to protect the homeland, a new Joint Forces Command to focus on transformation, a new Strategic Command to defend against long-range attack and transformed U.S. Special Operations Command for the war on terror,” he said.
He praised Rumsfeld for his efforts to create a new NATO response force, to restructure the U.S. military’s global footprint and to revitalize America's efforts to develop and deploy ballistic missile defenses.
“Over the past six years, I've relied on Don Rumsfeld's advice and counsel. I've come to know his character and his integrity,” Bush said. “As the secretary of defense, he has been dedicated to his mission, loyal to his president, and devoted to the courageous men and women of our armed forces.”
Rumsfeld thanked the president for his praise and for the opportunity to serve in the Defense Department again. “I must say that it's been the highest honor of my life to serve with the talented men and women of the Department of Defense, the amazing men and women, young men and women in uniform,” the secretary said. “It's a privilege. And their patriotism, their professionalism, their dedication is truly an inspiration. They have my respect. They will remain in my prayers always.”