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20th Anniversary Cooperative Threat Reduction Symposium

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Washington, D.C., Monday, December 03, 2012

Thank you.  Good afternoon.  Senators Nunn and Lugar, distinguished guests, ambassadors and officials from the partner countries, thank you all for being here today.        

I am honored to be able to participate in this important symposium marking the 20th anniversary of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program.

Let me thank National Defense University, and Major General Gregg Martin and Dr. John Reichart for their great work in organizing today’s conference. 

It’s been a day to reflect on the successes that have been achieved in nonproliferation over the past two decades through the CTR program. 

It’s a particular honor to be able to be in the company of Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Richard Lugar, whose leadership made this program possible. 

We can say that the course of history changed for the better because these two men helped the nation confront the threat of nuclear proliferation at the end of the Cold War.  The world would have been, without question, a far more dangerous and threatening place were it not for these two patriots. 

Earlier this afternoon, I was honored to be able to present Senator Nunn and Senator Lugar with the Distinguished Public Service Award, the Department of Defense’s highest civilian honor.  Sam and Dick, and you have made the world safer and more secure, and you have the profound gratitude of this nation and the global community.

I also want to recognize and thank my Deputy, Ash Carter, who played a critical role in thinking up and working with these two senators on their legislation, also established the Department’s CTR program in the early 1990s as an Assistant Secretary of Defense, and continues that effort now in the Pentagon.

Indeed, today, it’s also important that we use this opportunity to generate new thinking and new ideas for how best to carry this vital vision into the future. 

It’s important to have this discussion now because the CTR program is at a critical inflection point.  It’s evolved from a focus on nuclear infrastructure in the former Soviet Union to encompass a broader range of counter-WMD efforts across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. 

And despite the successes achieved in the Former Soviet Union, this program remains as critical as ever, and maintains the strong support of the Department of Defense’s leadership.

It also has the strong support of our special guest today, who I am honored to serve in his cabinet and am honored to introduce. 

President Obama has been a leader in reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction since he joined the United States Senate and partnered closely with Dick Lugar.  As President, he set a visionary agenda to achieve a world without nuclear weapons and has taken practical steps to move the world in that direction.  In doing so, he has helped renew America’s global leadership and he has helped advance the cause of peace and security in the 21st century.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to introduce our Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama.    

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