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The 49th Annual Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Awards
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Pentagon Auditorium, Friday, November 19, 2004

Well, good afternoon, everybody.  I’m truly delighted to be able to participate in this ceremony with all of you.  Let me offer a special greeting to the honorees and to their friends and families.  Are any families here with these folks?  There are some hands going up.  Terrific.  Well, we welcome you, too.  It’s so nice to have you here.

The fact that we’ve got so many Assistant Secretaries and I think every Undersecretary here almost, and the Joint Staff who are back there; it says something about the feeling that the senior people in this department have for the work that is done by the talented people we honor today.  We do owe a great deal to the families and the support systems that all of these people have.  So it is a special pleasure to welcome them.  And thank you for your patience and your understanding.

First, tell me about this new auditorium, Ray [DuBois].  I didn’t even know it was being built.  [Laughter]  You can just pass me a little note and tell me what it cost, after.  [Laughter]

I think it’s correct to say that President Theodore Roosevelt captured the spirit of the service of these six individuals well.  He said it pays – no matter what comes after it – to try to do things, to accomplish things in this life, and not merely to have a “soft and pleasant time.”  And I’m sure that in the years of service of these individuals, on behalf of the American people, that these years have been anything but soft.

You’ve accomplished a great many things, in a wide range of activities, and our country and indeed the world are better because of them.  The individuals we honor today have provided:

  • Technological and financial management and policy expertise that have significantly improved the Department of Defense’s effectiveness during the global war on terror;
  • Logistics support that has contributed in important ways to the successive operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere;
  • Advancements in the destruction of chemical weapons;
  • Approaches to information technology that have considerably improved our ability to talk to each other in this department;
  • And much more.

The dedication represented by these men and women have long been the hallmark of the Civil Service.  I hope sometime you will visit this corridor that Ray mentioned – the Civil Service – the Career Civilian Corridor, I guess it’s called  – here in the Pentagon.  Men and women honored in those displays and their stories and their accomplishments are impressive, and they merit our recognition.

You’ll come across vignettes about Mary French and Roger Easton and Albert Hoyt Taylor – civil servants who helped revolutionize defense technologies in the 20th Century.  There’s a plaque honoring Leonard Niederlehner.  He was someone who gave legal advice to all of the Secretaries of Defense from 1953 to 1991, including this former Secretary of Defense some 30 years ago.  He was a very special talent and friend.

There’s a story of clerks and warehouse and Navy Yard workers who were called to military duty during the Civil War in July of 1864, as Confederate troops advanced towards Washington.  Those local civil servants took up arms and held the line of defense for the nation’s capital, until the Union reinforcements arrived.  I did not know them.  [Laughter].  Close, but not quite.  [Laughter].

These are the kind of stories that have defined America through our more than two centuries.  And each of you has added a new chapter.  Your contributions come during an era of unprecedented challenge for our country and indeed for civilized societies across the globe.  Added to that challenge is the knowledge that we face an unrelenting enemy that continually probes for weaknesses, for vulnerabilities that they can exploit.  And as all of this is going on, the Department of Defense, of course, must continue with all of our other essential business and the work of transforming the military for the new challenges of this still new century.

Dealing with these many challenging tasks is certainly not easy, and I know that; people work long hours.  But these efforts have been steadily advanced, year after year, by hard work and a determination to pursue new ideas and new concepts, and – I would add – a steely perseverance that has moved us forward.  These characteristics can be found in the men and women we honor today.

So my very warm congratulations to each of you on this well-deserved recognition and I want to thank all of you and each of you so much for your service to our nation.  Thank you.