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Signing Ceremony for Transfer of Property from Fort Ord, California
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense de Leon, Monterey, California, Tuesday, August 08, 2000

Thank you, Congressman [Sam] Farr, and the Mayors [Jim Perrine of Marina, Jerry Smith of Seaside, Jack Barlich of Del Rey Oaks, and Dan Albert of Monterey]. Secretary [of Defense William] Cohen likes to say that he was once Mayor of the third largest city in the state of Maine before he became a Senator and that he dealt with BRAC [Base Closure and Realignment] directly in Loring Air Force Base.

I'm in the process of working on the 26th defense budget of my career. [Former White House Chief of Staff] Leon Panetta has served in most of those in some role, either as a member or chairman of the budget committee, as Director of OMB [Office of Management and Budget] or as White House Chief of Staff. And in those 25 budgets I have worked on just about every kind of defense issue imaginable, from recruiting to procurement to the housing issue that Congressman Farr just mentioned. So we truly appreciate his broad perspective on behalf of our military men and women that he exercises on the appropriations committee and in the Congress.

But of all of those issues, there is none that is more difficult or more challenging than BRAC. As a military organization, we have our roots in these communities, whether it's Fort Ord, where generations came for their basic training and then deployed overseas; the bases in the upper Midwest that are unique; Texas and Louisiana; up to the upper Northeast. We've invested in those communities, and so when the BRAC process came and these decisions were made -- and they were inevitable and necessary -- it was nonetheless very painful because we had our roots in these organizations.

The '90s has been a period of transition. The Cold War ended. We've changed our perspective and our role in the world. We've also learned in terms of how to work with these communities and to take the next step forward as reflected in the conveyance that is being agreed to here today.

Fort Ord -- with its panorama of Monterey Bay, and its history of deploying soldiers to battlefields – [now has] the responsibility in the 21st Century for the great educational expertise of California. This county and this community will launch and train the next generation who may go to Silicon Valley, become teachers themselves or go on to all other kinds of places where individuals can make contributions.

But this has been a decade of great challenge for your community and for the Department of Defense. We've all learned by working together on what has been a very, very hard issue through a transition.

We're lucky to have Randall Yim [Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations]. Many of us came to know Randall when he was working for the County of Sacramento. We saw the energy he brought to that community with his creativity on the re-use side and his vision to look beyond the pain of this BRAC decision to how we really move into the future.

We saw all that energy and talent and said, "Hey, this is somebody that could make life in the Pentagon different." He has been a tremendous asset for us. Randall, we are in your debt for all that you have helped accomplish.

Congressman Farr, thank you for your contribution. When we're on the right track, he's with us; when we get slightly off track [laughter] he knows how to give us that right navigational compass.

Next is Leon Panetta, whom I have a long personal relationship with. We owe you so much for your integrity, for your toughness, but also for your fairness, your sense of good humor that you always displayed and for your leadership in the Cabinet meetings. I still remember in the late spring of 1993 when you sat with the President, the Director of OMB, and other senior members of the administration who had experienced BRAC directly in their home towns. They knew that the old ways of doing business weren't going to work and that assets that really were no longer part of our national security structure still had great value to local communities, whether it was the housing or the golf courses or even the view that looks out on this historic bay of Monterey.

So let me say to the Colonel [Peter Dausen, Garrison Commander, Presidio of Monterey], to Randall Yim, to [Principal Deputy] Assistant Secretary [for Installations and Environment, Ray] Clark of the Army, and to our friends here in the community: Our roots are entwined in a century of service together, and we are committed to be with you as you move in this new direction.

We know that if we get off course Congressman Farr and Leon Panetta will be able to put us right back on the track. We've been partners in this decade, and I think it's reflected in the occasion today that we commemorate. So Congressman, thank you very much. [Applause.]