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Statement on National Security Personnel Changes

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, White House, Washington, DC, Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind words.  I want to thank President Bush for first asking me to take this position, and you, Mr. President, for inviting me to stay on -- and on and on. I also thank my wife, Becky, for 44 years of extraordinary patience, but especially the last four and a half years of patience. 

Every single day I have been Secretary, our military has been engaged in two major wars and multiple other missions.  It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve and to lead our men and women in uniform and our defense civilians.  They are the best America has to offer.  I will continue to give my all to them and to the President right through June 30th because obviously there is much left to do. 

My highest priority from my first day in office has been to do everything I could for our uniformed men and women in harm's way -- to help them accomplish their mission, to come home safely, and if wounded to get them the best possible care from battlefield to home front.  I've done my best to care for them as though they were my own sons and daughters.  And I will miss them deeply.

There will be other occasions to speak over the next two months, so for now I'll just congratulate Leon Panetta and thank him.

Leon, I believe, is the best possible choice to succeed me, and I also congratulate General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, and General Allen.  And I want to thank you again, Mr. President, for the opportunity to serve and to work with you. 

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