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Bush Praises Rumsfeld’s Transformation Efforts

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2006 – Even while waging a global campaign against terrorism, outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld kept his focus on the future and transformed the Defense Department into a more agile organization better suited for the 21st century, President Bush said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
President George W. Bush (right) smiles at Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld after Rumsfeld gave final remarks during his farewell parade at the Pentagon on Dec. 15. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“The record of Don Rumsfeld's tenure is clear; … there has been more profound change at the Department of Defense over the past six years than at any time since the department's creation in the late 1940s,” Bush said during Rumsfeld’s farewell ceremony at the Pentagon.

Bush noted that in 2001, he gave Rumsfeld the mission of preparing the U.S. military for the threats of a new century. After those threats hit home on Sept. 11, 2001, Rumsfeld launched one of the most innovative military campaigns in history, sending special operations forces into Afghanistan to link up with anti-Taliban fighters on horseback.

From there, Rumsfeld’s spirit of innovation just kept growing, Bush said.

In 2003, he said, Rumsfeld launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, ousting Saddam Hussein in 21 days and, over the years, seeing the Iraqi people through the resumption of sovereignty, two elections, a referendum to approve the most progressive constitution in the Middle East, and the seating of a newly elected government. “On his watch, the United States military helped the Iraqi people establish a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a watershed event in the story of freedom,” Bush said.

While fighting the war on terror, Rumsfeld developed a new defense strategy and a new command structure for the nation's armed forces, with a new Northern Command to protect the homeland, a new Joint Forces Command to focus on transformation, a new Strategic Command to defend against long-range attack, and a transformed Special Operations Command ready to take the lead in the global war on terror, Bush said. Rumsfeld also launched the biggest transformation of the Army in a generation and led efforts to transform the NATO alliance, he said.

“On his watch, NATO sent its forces to defend a young democracy in Afghanistan more than 3,000 miles from Europe, the first time NATO has deployed outside the North Atlantic area in the history of the alliance,” Bush said.

Bush also noted Rumsfeld’s other accomplishments: launching the Proliferation Security Initiative, a coalition of more than 80 nations working together to stop shipments of weapons of mass destruction; and taking ballistic missile defense from theory to reality.

“Most importantly, he worked to establish a culture in the Pentagon that rewards innovation and intelligent risk-taking and encourages our military and civilian leaders to challenge established ways of thinking,” Bush said of Rumsfeld.

These changes were not easy to make, Bush said, but Rumsfeld’s determination and leadership led to the best equipped, best trained and most experienced military in the world. “This man knows how to lead, and he did, and the country is better off for it,” he said.

Rumsfeld, who leaves office Dec. 18, was given a full honors parade today at the Pentagon. He received service awards from the Army, Navy and Air Force, and his wife, Joyce, received the Distinguished Public Servant Award.

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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