(Department of Defense and Department of Labor memorandum of understanding signing. Participating were Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and David S. C. Chu, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.)
Chu: Be seated please. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It’s my great privilege to welcome you today to this occasion that brings the Department of Defense and Department of Labor together in a common purpose. One of the great issues of course we share is people and how people are treated. And the two secretaries as you know are going to sign a memorandum of understanding that celebrates not already done in this regard but points to the new programs that we will together undertake for the future, particularly those that might benefit military spouses and their employment, their careers.
I need not really relate to you -- Secretary Rumsfeld’s background as you all know it but perhaps a little less attention paid over the years to the fact that he actually was a military dependent himself at one time in the not to distance past.
Rumsfeld: There was never a military spouse.
Chu: But no military spouse. But he had a military spouse. So, with that, Secretary Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld: Can we sign this?
Chu: Not yet.
Rumsfeld: Not yet -- all right.
Thank you, David. Welcome everybody. Elaine, we’re so pleased to have you here and thank you for coming. Congressman Brown and Congressman Michaud and Congressman Reyes we’re very pleased to see you. We also have Les Brownlee and HT [Johnson] is here and General Pete Pace and I think we’ve -- is the sergeant major here? There he is. Good, sitting right back there. Sergeant Major Estrada, nice to see you.
I thank everyone for coming -- it’s always a pleasure to see Elaine and to be able to cooperate with her and with the Department of Labor. We have something very much in common, our two departments. We recognize that people are the most important thing that we have as a resource and we value them greatly.
In the military we spend a lot of money on platforms and technology and all of that and most of the discussion you hear is about those things. They are fought over and discussed in Congress and debated. How many of these should we have? But the truth is that without the people and their skill and their courage and their training and their dedication this department wouldn’t be able to do anything approximating of what we are capable of doing.
As David said, during World War II my father was in the Navy and we went from North Carolina in a blimp base to Birmington, Washington waiting for an aircraft courier, Cornado, California. And my mother was a substitute school-teacher and she tracked around trying to do that. When I was in the Navy I went through -- my dad was out in the courier the pacific most of that time. When I was in the Navy as a pilot we went through I think 4 or 5 changes of station in a relatively short period of time and my wife had to work and she bounced from sending out bills in a tailor shop to working in a dress store and the likes. And it’s not easy, they’re hampered unquestionably by a number of factors and certainly in our case at least, the fact of frequent moves is a difficult thing.
So this partnership between the Department of Labor is important, it can help spouses get steered toward careers that are compatible with frequent relocations, it can also provide access to national and local employers, both of which of course can help the Department of Defense in that it improves its retention and recruiting as well as the quality of life. So we owe all of our people are volunteers, the people who serve and of course we owe them a great debt of gratitude but also their families and their spouses. If there’s anything we can do to improve their lives and create a circumstance that’s better for them is just enormously important. And this is one of them, so Elaine we thank you for coming, we thank you for the work that you and the fine men and women of the Department of Labor have given to this project and would like to have you come up and say a few words.
Chao: Thank you.
Thank you, Don, for those wonderful remarks and I’m just delighted to be here. You know it is so special for civilians such as myself to be able to come to this building, which speaks about the greatness of our country and the loyalty of our citizens. The tremendous, tremendous dedication, professionalism and patriotism of our Armed Forces.
I’m also delighted to join Secretary Rumsfeld on this very special occasion because it is a very good day in which we can help lots of people. We are so pleased that the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs are here with us today as well as the distinguished members of Congress. And as I have learned with the Congress people you always mention their name twice -- lets go through it twice. Congressman Henry Brown and Congressman Mike Michaud and of course Congressman Sylvester Reyes we appreciate very much what you do.
We also want to note the presence of a number of people in the Department of Labor and that’s Assistant Secretary of the Employment Training and Administration who have worked so hard on this and that’s Assistant Secretary Emily DeRocco who have done a great job.
We are so proud of our men and women in uniform both active and reserve who serve in the extraordinary campaign to liberate the people of Iraq and protect us as a nation from terrorism. They fought in a manner that reflects the resolve, the generosity and the compassion of the American people. And now it is our turn to support them by providing separating service members, military spouses and veterans with the help that they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce.
We are committed to connecting these men and women with employers who are very eager to tap their dedication, their talent and their skills. And the Labor Department has so many programs and we want to use these programs to help military spouses transition more easily between job markets. We’ve got programs to give separating service members and veterans a head start as they build new careers and bright futures for themselves and their families.
Some of our initiatives include expanding the services available to veterans and military spouses through Americans job bank and through our nationwide network of more than 3,900 one-stop career resource centers. We also want to promote our employment website for military spouses at www.milspouse.org which provides all sorts of information about employment and training opportunities for military spouses.
We also want to improve access to the Transition Assistance Programs or TAP for separating service members. This offers a full range of employment and training services both here and overseas and in fact our staff is already on its way to four coordinating sites overseas.
We also want to develop internet based tools including EVETS which you’ll love because it is tailored to the individual needs and of the veterans in which military professionals and their spouses can access regardless as to where they’re stationed anywhere in the world. We want them to use this service to acquire credentials on line for private sector careers. And as part of our collaboration we will give military recruiters greater access to the resources of the Job Corps and America’s job bank to help identify young men and women with the skills and desires to serve our country in the Armed Forces.
So the memorandum of understanding that Secretary Rumsfeld and I will be signing today establishes a joint working group between the Department of Defense and the Department of Labor. And both Secretary Rumsfeld and I look forward to receiving a progress report from the working group identifying other areas of potential collaboration, barriers that need to be address and recommendations for improved outreach to military families.
So we are here today to once again affirm the tremendous gratitude of a nation that is so proud of our brave men and women in uniform and their families. I want to say that you contribute to our country long after you leave military service through your patriotism, your dedication to serving others and your can-do attitude.
This memorandum of understanding is a concrete expression of our thanks, our support and as you’ve heard our tremendous pride in all of you.
God bless you and God bless America.
Rumsfeld: Could we have Lisa Clay and Ms. Icka Regino.
Is that the correct pronunciation?
Spouse: Pretty close.
Rumsfeld: Say it right.
Rumsfeld: Regino -- nice to see you. Glad you are here.
These are Marine spouses I believe.
Why don’t we get the three members of Congress to come up and stand here with us also. There we go.
Congressman: Thought you’d never ask.
Rumsfeld: Nice to see you. Thank you -- we’re glad you’re here.
All right -- we’ll sign this.
How do you spell Rumsfeld?
There we go. The 11th.
Chao: Great -- I think we changed (Inaudible.).
Rumsfeld: Good -- there you go.
Chao: Maybe we can give these pens --
(Gives pens to spouses.)
Spouses: Thank you.
Rumsfeld: General Pete Pace. How long have you been in the Marine Corps.
Pace: 36 years, sir.
Rumsfeld: 36 years.
Chao: My goodness -- that’s great.
Rumsfeld: Do you think this is a good thing we’re doing?
Pace: This is perfect – yes, sir. This is great.
Rumsfeld: I think so too. I really do.
Voice: Plus four years at the Academy -- 40 years all together -- right?
Pace: 40 years total, yes, sir.
Rumsfeld: Is that right?
Voice: If you count the Academy time – yes, sir.
Rumsfeld: Good, good. All right.
Chao: Thank you very much.
Rumsfeld: Thank you everybody.
Chao: We did a good thing today.