Secretary Cohen, General Shalikashvili, General Ralston and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Senator Thurmond, distinguished colleagues and guests. Thank you very much for being here.
Thank you, Secretary Cohen, for your generous remarks. It has been my privilege to serve as Deputy Secretary of Defense during your first months in office. The smoothness of this transition is a tribute to your skills and your insights. I am proud to have been involved in this early, critical part of your tenure. Betty and I thank Janet and you for the many kindnesses you have shown us during your time in office.
General Shalikashvili and members of our Armed Forces, thank you for this ceremony today and for the honor you pay me. When I accepted this job two years ago, I knew it would be demanding and challenging it has been. But I did not anticipate how truly satisfying it would be to serve in the Department again with our men and women in uniform. The most profound change over my career has been the improvement in the quality of our armed forces. I served as a lieutenant in a first class military. But today's is so much better. So, as I am honored by your tribute to me, let me respond in kind: To the men and women of the Armed Forces, I salute you.
When I accepted the challenges of serving as Deputy Secretary of Defense, I talked about change. I observed how well this institution had weathered the storm of global turbulence over the past several years. I also stressed how important it was for us not only to weather this turbulence, but to harness and master it, to continue to prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead. Those words remain valid today. Indeed, we are learning that the new era of global military presence is demanding, uncertain, and dangerous. We must not only respond to this new era, we must engage and actively shape it as well.
Today I am proud to say that we are on course. I believe that the Quadrennial Defense Review describes both the challenges we face and the way to address them. It lays out our strategy and our program and the path to continued readiness and combat superiority for the coming decade and beyond. The decisions made by the Secretary and endorsed by the President are the correct decisions, but they require implementation, Therefore, the task before us is to convince the Congress and the American people of what must be done.
Under the leadership of President Clinton, it has been my privilege to serve with two Secretaries of Defense as we have steadfastly exercised American leadership in the causes of peace and freedom.
During this time we have forged new relationships with Russia I have just returned from meeting with the new Russian Minister of Defense, as we continue our unprecedented level of dialogue and cooperation we have worked with our Allies to enlarge the zone of peace and security in Europe, we have worked with our international partners to bring peace to Bosnia, and we have continued to maintain the lonely vigils and deterrent patrols in Korea and in Southwest Asia. While conducting these demanding missions we have sharpened both the effectiveness and protection of the force.
I have personally visited our troops and talked with them and with their commanders around the world. I have talked with our Allies and our international partners. I can say from personal observation that the United States military is today setting an example for the world, an inspiration that is shaping the course of history.
We are doing this you, the All Volunteer force, are doing this every day, all around the world, with a dedication and professionalism that are unprecedented. Now what has been built must be maintained.
Today, we face a new set of challenges. Recent headlines raise concerns about whether we treat each other with dignity and respect, whether we value the contributions of each member of our diverse force. The answer is yes - and we have a long history of accomplishments to prove it. But those accomplishments will be lost if we do not redouble our efforts to ensure every member of our Armed Forces that she or he is special. Our leaders at all levels must set that tone and example, and I am confident they will do so in this case, just as they have so often in the past.
Let me also address the civilians of our Department, especially the men and women of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. No one knows better than I do the long hours, tireless commitment, and hard work you bring to your support of the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary. I thank you for your dedication, your loyalty, your professionalism. You deserve more recognition than you receive, and the Department and the nation are in your debt.
Finally, a special word of thanks to General John Shalikashvili and General Joe Ralston. No military officers better embody our ideals of service, of integrity, of leadership. John and Joe, I will always treasure the memories of working with you to preserve and defend our country and its ideals.
As I once again leave the Department of Defense, I am reminded of the philosopher who said that all change has its melancholy side, because we must leave behind a part of ourselves. At the same time, I believe the work we have done will have a lasting impact, and I am confident in the course we have set.
While I am leaving a part of myself behind, I am also taking with me fond memories, pride in accomplishment, and gratitude for being allowed to serve with you.
Thank you all very much.