Remarks Prepared for Delivery by William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense Farewell to John P. White, Deputy Secretary of Defense Fort Myer, Washington, D.C. June 30, 1997
John Lejeune, the famous Marine Corps General, once listed the crucial qualities of leadership. He said they are: "industry, energy, initiative, determination, enthusiasm, firmness, kindness, justness, self-control, unselfishness, honor and courage."
Those are the qualities needed to run an organization as large and complex as the Department of Defense. And those are the qualities I was looking in someone to help me make a successful transition into office as Secretary of Defense. I knew that I also needed an experienced hand. Someone who knew the building. Someone who knew where the Department had been, and the issues that it faced heading into the 21st Century. I found such a person in the next office over from mine, in a former Marine named John White.
Even before John came back to DoD two years ago, he had made his mark on this institution. He helped to establish the All Volunteer Force, which gave us the quality troops we have today. He was an early advocate for what became the Goldwater Nichols Act, which gave us our quality leadership and command structure. And he led the Commission on Roles and Missions -- the CORM -- which recommended ways to improve our joint military operations. That brought him to Secretary Bill Perry's attention, and he promptly asked John to be his deputy.
When John first started the job, he said to Bill Perry, "There are some recommendations by the CORM you won't like." To which Bill Perry replied, "now that you're the Deputy, there are some recommendations by the CORM you won't like."
As Deputy Secretary, John's primary responsibility has been to oversee the Department's operations. But John's unique contribution these past two years has been much greater, not unlike that of a baseball relief pitcher -- the fireman -- who is called to the mound when the game hangs in the balance.
The prototype for the modern relief pitcher is none other than Dick Radatz of the 1960s Boston Red Sox. Radatz's claim to fame was that he struck out Mickey Mantle 47 times in the 63 times they met. But his claim to glory came during the '63 All-Star Game. The American League was behind 5 to 3 in the 8th inning. The National League had an awesome lineup coming up to bat -- including three Hall of Famers. Then Radatz took the mound. And one after the other, he struck out Willie Mays, Dick Groat, Duke Snider, Willie McCovey and Julian Javier.
John White has been the Pentagon's own relief pitcher from Boston. When the going got tough and we needed a win, John was called in to take the mound. The lineup of tough issues he has faced has been as awesome as the National League All Stars. The bedeviling problems of base closures and depot maintenance. The aftermath of the tragic bombing at Khobar Towers. The questions surrounding Persian Gulf Illnesses. The need to reform DoD and launch a revolution in our business affairs. And the most far-reaching challenge of all -- looking into the future of defense and designing a plan to achieve the Revolution in Military Affairs through the Quadrennial Defense Review.
One after another, each time John faced these tough problems, he rose to the occasion, threw perfect strikes and sent the boomers back to the dugout.
Isaac Newton once said, "If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." As we build a more vibrant, agile, efficient and effective Pentagon, we will succeed because we will stand on the shoulders of John White.
Success, as we know, is not a place at which one arrives suddenly, but the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey. John's successful journey in public service -- as a Marine, as a successful businessman, as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, and especially here at the Pentagon -- has been marked by a spirit of both determination and daring, by both candor and caring. And we know that it is in this spirit that he will continue his journey after he parts from us.
The poet Edward Pollock wrote that in The Parting Hour: "The one who goes is happier/Than those he leaves behind." He was right. John, a sincere thank you for everything you have done for the Defense Department and for our men and women in uniform. And especially for the deep friendship extended to those you're leaving behind as you continue your journey.