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Farewell Tribute to General Cartwright by Secretary Panetta

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Marine Corps Barracks, Washington, DC, Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Thank you.  Usually in my forty years of political life in this town the cannons have been aimed at me, not away from me. So I appreciate the honor.  It is truly an honor to be here this morning to pay tribute to one of our military’s great visionaries, and I believe one of its finest leaders, General Hoss Cartwright.  I’m also delighted to visit these historic barracks for the first time as Secretary of Defense.  The precision and excellence on display at this ceremony are a fitting tribute to this outstanding Marine that we are honoring today, a man whose career in uniform began forty years ago this November, in the early 1970s. 

For all of us who work with him now, it’s pretty hard to imagine Hoss functioning with the technologies of the early 70s.  Back then it was typewriters, we relied on books to retrieve information, and we didn’t worry about something called cyber warfare or a digital Pearl Harbor attacks.  Still, there were signs of the changes to come.  It turns out the first e-mail message ever transmitted was sent on a DOD computer network around the time Hoss that was commissioned as a second lieutenant.  There were only two dozen computers on the whole network at that time.  And knowing Hoss, he was probably trying to get his hands on one.

In all seriousness, Hoss Cartwright is truly one of a kind.  He possesses a unique blend of technical and strategic brilliance that has been the hallmark of his career.  It’s a perspective he developed and honed as an aviator with a serious intellect and with impressive academic credentials.  Before becoming Vice Chairman, Hoss set himself apart as one of the military’s most original thinkers in a series of key command and staff postings – including a very successful tenure as Commander of Strategic Command.

Since coming back to Washington myself, I’ve had the great good fortune to be able to work closely with Hoss, particularly in my previous job at CIA.  Thanks to his efforts and insights we made extraordinary progress in deepening the ties between military and intelligence teams in the effort to go after al Qaeda and their militant allies –it had a real impact on the battlefield. 

When we developed the intelligence on bin Laden, the first person I turned to for guidance on how we would be able to go after that compound was Hoss Cartwright.  He was instrumental in the planning and execution of the operation that took bin Laden down.  And it showed the world the extraordinary capabilities and skill of the United States military and the intelligence community.  It is an achievement that all of us are very proud of, particularly because it is an example of the kind of teamwork, courage and unique skills that make the United States of America one of the strongest countries in the world. 

As Hoss goes on to a well-deserved retirement, I will truly miss his counsel, his friendship and his professionalism.  Those of us who know Hoss, know he does not easily tolerate fools.  Welcome to the civilian community Hoss. 

As the Department confronts the strategic and institutional challenges that lie ahead, we will be a much stronger country, a much stronger America, because of his outstanding tenure as Vice Chairman.  He was determined not to conduct business as usual, he challenged positions, he was not afraid of a contrary view.  And he pushed the Department to curtail some unnecessary acquisition programs, pushing to invest in the systems that are most relevant to the real world we all live in.  He was the perfect officer to drive these program decisions: as an aviator and as an all-purpose gear head, he knew technology, he knew the platforms, and his rigorous analytical work convinced skeptics in the services, convinced skeptics in the Congress, and convinced individuals in the White House that he was the man to turn to. 

Hoss, you’re an extraordinary public servant and you are an extraordinary Marine.  Your dedication, your keen mind, your strategic vision have left the United States Armed Forces a more capable and a more lethal force.  Our fellow citizens, and future generations of Americans, are safer because of your work.  On their behalf, I thank you for the great service that you have performed for this nation.  The measure of any individual in life is whether you make a difference.  And Hoss Cartwright made a difference. 

You’re a great American, you’re a great patriot –  and more importantly, you’re a damn good Marine.  Thank you Hoss and best of luck.

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