First of all, let me express my deepest gratitude to the President for giving me the honor and privilege of serving in your Administration these last four years as Director of the CIA and now as Secretary of Defense. I have been extremely proud to be part of your national security team, Mr. President, and proud of what it has accomplished in your first term.
Looking ahead to the second term, I want to commend President Obama on his decision to nominate Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense, and let me also add as former Director of the CIA to commend the President for his choice of John Brennan.
I had the opportunity to work with John on counterterrorism issues these last four years. He knows the CIA. He will be a strong leader of that great intelligence agency. I’ve known Chuck for a long period of time as well, and I had the opportunity to work with him closely, particularly in his capacity as Chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. I greatly appreciate the work he has done to strengthen our intelligence enterprise. It has been extremely important to our ability to improve our intelligence capabilities. And as Secretary of Defense I also benefited from his work when he served on our Defense Policy Board.
Chuck Hagel is a patriot, he is a decorated combat veteran, and he is a dedicated public servant. I believe his experience, his judgment, his deep understanding of the security issues facing this country make him the right choice to be Secretary of Defense.
As for me, after close to 50 years of serving the American people, which began in 1964 when I served as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army and then in both legislative and executive branch positions in Washington, the time has come for the time has come for me to return home to my wife Sylvia, our three sons, their families, our six grandchildren, and my walnut farm. Dealing with a different set of nuts. I want to deeply thank my family for giving me the fullest measure of love and support during my many absences from home throughout my long career in public service.
But I will leave Washington with a very deep sense of pride in what we accomplished during these four years being on the President’s national security team. As both Director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense, I have always believed that our fundamental mission is to keep America safe, to keep America secure. Because of the outstanding dedication of our intelligence and military professionals, America is safer and more secure that it was four years ago, and we have reached a turning point after more than a decade of war.
And on that, as we’ve reached that turning point we’ve developed a new defense strategy for the 21st century. We have, with John’s leadership, decimated al-Qaeda’s leadership and weakened their effort to attack this country. We have brought the war in Iraq to an honorable conclusion and we will bring the war in Afghanistan to an honorable conclusion. We’ve opened up opportunities for all Americans to serve in our military. And we continue to strongly support our forces, their families, and our wounded warriors.
These are some of these achievements that I am proud of.
Let me close by expressing my profound gratitude to the outstanding team of military and civilian staff and leaders that I have had the honor to serve with and to lead at the Department. In particular, let me deeply thank the outstanding men and women in uniform who I’ve had the privilege to serve and to lead, especially those who put their lives on the line for this country on distant battlefields.
Their sacrifices teach us all that freedom is not free. A strong democracy depends on a strong defense. But you cannot have a strong and stable defense without a strong and stable democracy. As we continue to confront strategic challenges and fiscal austerity, my hope for the future is that the sense of duty our service members and their families exhibit every day inspires the leaders of this nation to have the courage to do what is right to achieve the American dream to give our children a better life and to build a more secure future.