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Admiral Vern Clark Retirement (Change of Command)
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Alumni Hall, Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, Friday, July 22, 2005

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.  It is a real privilege for me to join this truly impressive gathering in honoring Admiral Vern Clark.  And Vern, it says a great deal about you and your service and your extraordinary accomplishments, that so many distinguished guests and friends from all over the world, all over the country, are here to celebrate your service and to share this important occasion with you, and with all of us.

And before I say another word, a special thanks to Connie Clark.  Connie, you have been a wonderful and amazingly energetic contributor these several decades, and a supporter of military families, all families.  And the impact you’ve had is widely known and deeply appreciated.  So I thank you for your service as well.

It is fitting we are here, in this special place in naval history, to honor this officer who has led the Navy in historic times, as our country wages the global struggle against the enemies of freedom, the enemies of civilization.

The buildings and fields on this Yard carry names of some of those who have left their mark on the Navy, left their mark on our country.

I have no doubt that history will recognize Admiral Vern Clark’s contributions during his ten command tours, and his exceptional second appointment as Chief of Naval Operations.  Indeed, we can already see his mark on the fleet as it sails today in America’s defense.

The Navy that Admiral Clark inherited as Chief of Naval Operations some five years ago still reflected aspects of the Cold War posture.  Large, blue-water battlegroups made regular six-month deployments across the world’s oceans -- and then experienced drops in combat capability on their return home.

And consider how much has changed in past five years!

Today, the Navy is bringing credible firepower around the world – indeed, around the clock.  The programs that Vern has championed create sustained striking power on short notice, including:

  • Expeditionary Strike Groups;
  • Seapower 21;
  • The SSGN; and
  • The Fleet Response Plan.

We have already benefited from these innovations.  The Navy was on station in the Arabian Sea within hours of the attacks on September 11th.  And today’s Sailors are on the front lines of our country’s defense and they continue to a wide range of efforts – including, if one thinks about it, to the rapid, life-saving work in the tsunami relief in South Asia.

Vern Clark will be remembered for his vision; his courage in fashioning; and transforming a service steeped in over two centuries of tradition – no easy task.

Visionary leaders through the decades have proved crucial to the long-term success of the Navy.

I have work with Vern for four-and-a-half years.  He is bold; he is purposeful.  He’s also passionate.  He’s helped mightily in moving from simple deconfliction to the powerfully leveraged cooperation of truly joint warfare.  He has taken on the right fights and been willing to do so for the good of the Navy to be sure -- but also, for the good of the armed forces and for the good of our country.  He leaves a stronger and more capable navy to the benefit – the great benefit of the United States of America.

Now those duties fall to another leader – one who has worked closely with Vern -- Admiral Mike Mullen.  He brings extensive command experience to this post -- solid accomplishments during his tour as Vice Chief of Naval Operations.  Mike, we are confident that you will keep the Navy moving forward smartly, and I congratulate you on this, assuming this critical leadership post for our country.

We have seen some Midshipmen training on the Yard today.  They, and of course, thousands of other young men and women, have stepped forward to answer their country’s call – they’ve raised their hands and said:  “Send me.”  They are the future leaders of the Navy.  And I know that we all thank them for the decision they have made.

And they will do well to follow the example of the many leaders from our history who are memorialized throughout this Academy.  And our Navy will become even more capable and more successful in the years ahead as they follow the examples of such leaders as Admiral Vern Clark.

Vern, on behalf of the American people, I thank you for your contributions to our country for more than 30 years.

Mike Mullen, know that we wish you every success as you assume the leadership of our great Navy and lead it forward through the challenges and the tumultuous seas of this new and dangerous era.

Thank you, and may God bless all who serve our country.