Seal of the Department of Defense U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
On the Web:
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public contact:
or +1 (703) 571-3343

Civilian Service Award Ceremony (Washington, D.C.)
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, October 21, 2008

      Thank you, Mike. To family and friends in the audience, many thanks for your efforts and support and for joining us today. I’m glad to have this opportunity to recognize the achievements of these men and women and express my appreciation for your extraordinary service to the Department of Defense and to our country. It’s not always fashionable in this city to honor employees of the federal government for their service. In fact, more than a few politicians are elected by criticizing the very government they seek to lead. During my career, however, I have dealt with governments all over the world and have always found that the United States has the most dedicated, most honest, and most capable public servants of any.
      Each of you eight honorees has been chosen because of distinguished service. Whether it has been:
      • Providing housing for our troops;
      • Fielding new weapons systems while ensuring the troops in the field continue to have the support they need;
      • Teaching safety training to our foreign partners in the field;
      • Helping to stand up the new Africa Command;
      • Negotiating treaties with our allies; or
      • Training new leaders.
      All of you have helped put the Department of Defense on a 21st century footing when it came to business practices, saving millions of taxpayer dollars.
It has been an honor to work with the people in this Department, professionals whose overriding priority is the defense of our nation. Long ago, I learned something about leading large institutions: Leaders come and go, but the career employees endure long after the appointees have gone. Without the dedication of civilians, this department simply would not function. You are the foundation that allows the Defense Department – the largest and most complex organization on the planet – to operate smoothly and efficiently with more than 23,000 people in this building alone, that is no easy task.
      Public service can often seem to be a thankless job, but I counsel young people to take up the mantle and accept the challenge in spite of the problems and difficulties. Because in truth, the satisfactions far outnumber the difficulties.  I know that to deliver this message to you is preaching to the choir. You have all chosen this path, and it is to the betterment of our 2.7 million men and women serving in the active and reserve armed forces, and to our leaders here.
      In a few months this department will have new management, but it will continue to count on your input and leadership. My heartfelt thanks for all that you do.