Rumsfeld Reflects on Accomplishments, Highlights at Pentagon Helm
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2006 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today told members of the Defense Department that he will leave his office proud to have served with them and of what they have accomplished and inspired by their dedication, patriotism and sacrifice.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld steps up to the lectern to thunderous applause and a standing ovation Dec. 8 for his final town hall meeting with Pentagon employees. Rumsfeld will step down as defense secretary Dec. 15. Photo by R. D. Ward (Released)
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rumsfeld, speaking to hundreds of military, civilian and contract employees at the Pentagon during his 42nd town hall session, reflected on his past six years in the top Pentagon post and the satisfaction he’s found leading the department.
“Every day, in one way or another, I have seen the strength of the men and women in uniform and the dedication of the many thousands who serve here -- military and civilian -- who do their jobs, knowing that theirs is the essential business of protecting a nation (and) a people,” he said. “You do so knowing that you contribute directly to the safety of millions of people: people you will never meet, whose names you will never know.
“I leave this office proud to have served with you,” he said, “(and) proud of what this great institution has achieved,” during what he called one of the most challenging periods in DoD’s 59-year history.
“If there is one thing I wish could be more widely known, it is the miracles that the men and women of this department perform every day,” Rumsfeld said. He rattled off examples of DoD’s accomplishments during his time as secretary, including:
- Supporting military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan while putting pressure on terrorists around the globe;
- Delivering aid to millions of people affected by devastating natural disasters: the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the earthquake in Pakistan, and Hurricane Katrina along the U.S. Gulf Coast;
- Training counterterrorism forces in the Philippines and Horn of Africa;
- Putting in place an initial missile defense system to protect Americans from rogue states;
- Establishing the new Northern Command to better protect the homeland;
- Standing guard over some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, while suffering what he called “grossly uninformed and irresponsible charges in the media and from almost every quarter;”
- Overseeing the largest domestic base realignment and closure in DoD’s history;
- Implementing the most sweeping changes in the U.S. global force posture since World War II while transforming from a Cold War posture to one suited to the 21st century;
- Putting in place a new National Security Personnel System for civilian employees that adds flexibility in hiring and assignments and links pay to performance;
- Bolstering special operations forces to meet new demands of the global struggle against violent extremists; and
- Transitioning the Army from a division-based force to a more agile and more capable combat brigade force.
“Each of you here in this room and listening to (this broadcast on) The Pentagon Channel has played a part in one or more of these accomplishments (and) endeavors,” Rumsfeld said. “You can look at all you have done here in this past period with great pride.”
Rumsfeld reflected on some of his personal high and low points during his second term as secretary of defense.
He remembered attending the inauguration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the first democratically elected leader in his country’s 5,000-year history. Amid the historic significance of the event, Rumsfeld said he was particularly moved to watch young Afghan girls sing at the ceremony and hear reports of children flying kites in celebration. He noted that both acts were forbidden under the Taliban repressive rule.
Rumsfeld acknowledged the Iraqis who “through it all, believe their future is bright,” and who “are working to forget something they have never had before: a free (and) representative country.”
He recalled the emotions he experienced meeting with families of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Alaska after DoD extended their loved ones’ deployment in Iraq beyond their initial one-year tour and the green woven bracelet he received from a military wife that he wore until the unit returned.
Rumsfeld paid tribute to the “great American heroes” who have become a part of history during his tenure as defense secretary. He specifically noted Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor, and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham, whose family will accept his Medal of Honor during ceremonies in January.
While remembering the highlights of his Pentagon days, Rumsfeld also reflected on some of the most difficult times as well. He noted how angry he felt hearing “irresponsible comments by some who tried to sully the image of the courageous and dedicated men and women in uniform who keep America safe.”
He recalled how stunned he felt when he learned of abuse at the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq.
But even amid that painful time, Rumsfeld said, he was impressed by the determination so many people demonstrated as he tried to find out how the incident could have happened and how to “make it right.” He told the audience to take comfort in knowing that “your Department of Defense eventually demonstrated to the world how our democracy deals openly and decisively with such egregious wrongdoing.”
Rumsfeld told the audience that they, like he, will carry their own different memories with them when they leave the Defense Department. Some of those memories will be of hard, behind-the-scenes work that goes unnoticed by many, he said. But he urged DoD employees to always remember the important role they have played in their country’s future.
“But let there be no doubt,” Rumsfeld said. “Each of you and the future generations of Americans, as well as the future generations of Iraqis and Afghans, will be able to look back on these past six years as a time of enormous challenge, of historic consequence and of solid accomplishment.”