Full Text Political Headlines May 25, 2013: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s US Military Academy Commencement Address — Tells West Point Cadets Sexual Assault Is a ‘Profound Betrayal’

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Chuck Hagel to West Point Cadets: Sexual Assault Is a ‘Profound Betrayal’

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-25-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking at the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told cadets that sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a “profound betrayal” and charged them with the responsibility to stamp out the sexual assault problem plaguing the military….READ MORE

United States Military Academy Commencement

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, West Point, N.Y., Saturday, May 25, 2013

Source: DOD, 5-25-13

General Huntoon, thank you.

I am not unaware, especially on a rainy day, that graduates, their guests, and their families, prize brevity.

No, I’m not finished.

I told my wife last night that the last thing I want you graduates to remember is your Secretary of Defense droning on and on and that it’s raining.  I want you to remember me and your experience here with far more positive memories.

First, let me thank you very much for this privilege to participate in such an important and historic occasion for all of you and for this institution.

Secretary McHugh, General Odierno – distinguished West Point Class of 1976 – we’re still figuring out of he has problems that he left behind here that we haven’t uncovered yet.  If he’s walked everything off, then we can be sure he’s clean.

Members of Congress, West Point alumni and distinguished guests: I really am honored to be here with you to help celebrate this Class of 2013 and their families.

I’ve been looking forward to my visit to West Point since I was informed that I was asked to be your speaker.  I’ve traveled to West Point over the years as a United States Senator many times and was always inspired by my visits and but I was mostly inspired by the conversations with the cadets.  A long-time friend, who is no stranger to this institution, who has given me years of sage advice, came with me today – Harry Walters.  Harry’s a member of the Class of ‘59.  As you all know, Harry was the starting fullback on that great undefeated Black Knights team when Pete Dawkins won the Heisman Trophy.  You also know that Harry was an Assistant Secretary of the Army and Administrator of the Veterans Administration under President Ronald Reagan.  I always feel better when Harry’s around.  Harry, thank you for what you have meant to this institution and our country.

I also want to acknowledge another good friend and distinguished West Point graduate, who you all know, my friend and former Senate colleague, Senator Jack Reed, Class of ‘71.  Jack and I got to the Senate the same year, 1996.  He’s been not only a friend and colleague but a confidant who has given me wise counsel over the years and continues to do that.  As you may know, Senator Reed is the only West Pointer in the Senate.

Congratulations to the parents of the West Point Class of 2013.  This is your day too.  I know how very proud you are of these young American leaders.  Four years have passed since you performed the “90 second goodbye” at Eisenhower Hall, and first saw your sons and daughters march in formation on the way to Trophy Point.  At every step these cadets have benefited from your love, your support, and your reassurance.  So thank you, thank you all.

To the faculty and the staff: thank you.  We are grateful for your hard work in molding these young Army leaders.  Many of you are combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you for your service, and thank you for sharing your experience, and for helping prepare these future officers for the challenges that lie ahead.

I also want to recognize and welcome the members of the Class of 1963, celebrating their 50th anniversary.  ‘63 is my vintage.  You have built an enduring bond with these graduates.  You welcomed the Class of 2013 as they reported to these grounds on R-Day, took part in their oath ceremony and spent time with them over the last four years.

To the class of 2013: congratulations!  We’re all very proud of you.

Like every man and woman who has stepped forward to serve in uniform, you made a courageous decision to offer yourself for a very purposeful life.  This institution has educated, trained, and inspired you to help shoulder the wheel in defense of our nation.  You’ve learned the meaning of duty, honor, and country.  And you will now be asked to lead our nation’s soldiers, an awesome responsibility.

My time in the Army shaped me forever, as it did for so many in this stadium today.  And while tactics, techniques and training have all surely changed in the decades since I was in the Army and since many of you who have served, the basic principles of soldiering and leadership remain the same.  Character and courage are still the indispensable requisites of both life and leadership.

In Vietnam, I learned that combat is a furnace that can consume you, or it can forge you into something better and stronger than you were before.  But it requires leaders to help bring the best out in all of us.

Many of you in the Corps of Cadets with prior service have already learned these hard truths of war.  You have also seen what is expected of young officers in today’s military – new demands of a shifting and complicated world.

Great leaders are men and women who know who they are, what they believe, and where they want to go.  Great leaders listen.  And they listen carefully.

Behind my desk in the Pentagon hang the portraits of two of the Army’s greatest leaders – men who played defining roles in shaping America and the world: Dwight David Eisenhower, West Point Class of 1915, and George Catlett Marshall.  They each embodied every dimension of leadership – in particular, they were intense listeners and deep thinkers.  And they knew when to act and when not to.  There are differences and there consequences for both.  They were never intimidated by failures or mistakes.  We all have them, we all make them.  But they learned and made adjustments and made wiser decisions as a result of those experiences.

The most important part of leadership is taking responsibility for your actions and decisions, and holding all around you accountable.

The military career of General Eisenhower provides one of the greatest examples of this kind of accountability.  You all, I’m sure, know the story.

On the eve of the Normandy invasion which he would command, Eisenhower scribbled a message on a piece of paper in the event that D-Day was a failure.  Eisenhower’s framed words hung in my Senate Office for twelve years.  They read: “Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops.  My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available.  The troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do.  If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.”

That is accountability, and I often think of that story when I look at Eisenhower’s portrait in my Pentagon office.  Eisenhower’s simple and honest statement should be a guiding point for all of us in positions of authority and responsibility, and for all of you as you embark upon your military careers.

Remember always that the coin of the realm of leadership is trust.   In preparation for your career, you have been taught how to shoot an azimuth – how to use a compass to set your course toward an objective.  You’ve scrambled through these granite hills as new cadets and yearlings, learning how to guide yourselves.  Then you roamed them again as rising firsties, learning how to guide others.  You know by now that the greatness of leaders lies in their ability to shoot an azimuth that is straight and true, even under hostile fire or trying circumstances.  Adjust, adapt, be agile and be flexible, but don’t get thrown off course by the always-present distractions and uncontrollables of life.  For they will always be present.

Leaders don’t cut corners.  When you are faced with difficult decisions, you will always know that the right thing to do…is the right thing to do.  Do it.  Listen to yourself and be guided by what you believe is right.

Standing against the crowd and choosing the harder right instead of the easier wrong, as the Cadet Prayer prescribes, can be very lonely and frightening at times.  And it requires immense moral courage.  But it will serve you well over the long haul and throughout your life.

As you embark on your new profession, you are charged with the clear responsibility of helping ensure that the Army is prepared for the future, just as you have been prepared here on the Hudson.  Pay attention to your environment and all around you, and listen carefully to your NCOs.  For your NCOs will help you engage and navigate, and they’ll keep you out of the deep ditches of command.

The Army you enter today is emerging – and in many ways recovering – from more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.  During what has been the longest period of sustained combat in American history, the ground forces have shouldered a very heavy burden – doing the fighting and dying, and adapting under fire to a kind of conflict far different than what the Army’s leadership trained and prepared for after the Cold War.

A new Army is being shaped and you will not only be present in that new Army that’s being shaped.  You will have the responsibility of helping shape it and you will have the responsibility of helping lead it, and this all during a very complicated and uncertain time in the world.  The past decade reinforced a consistent theme in the history of America’s armed forces:  we can never predict when, where and how we will be called upon to fight.

The only thing we can predict is that wars are unpredictable, and they remain a fundamentally human endeavor.  Those who believe that war can be waged with precision from a distance, with minimal personal risk, would do well to remember this lesson.

These great uncertainties have implications for the kinds of thinkers and leaders the Army and America will need you to be.  The challenge you will face is how to build on the skills honed during the past decade of war while preparing for conflicts that are likely to take on a new and unfamiliar form – and to do this in an Army that will have fewer people and less money than it’s had in recent years.

You are entering the military at a time when the world is undergoing historic transformation.  A new world order is being constructed.  This moment, like others before it, calls for American leadership and engagement.  That leadership will include continuing to build coalitions of common interests and strengthening alliances and forging new ones.

The words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at his Fourth Inaugural on January 20, 1945 echo even more loudly today, when he said: “We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations, far away…We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.”

Understand that there are rarely quick and easy solutions to every problem, there are evolving solutions, that require managing problems to the higher ground of resolution…and ultimately to a solution.  Too many costly strategic and tactical mistakes have been made by not appreciating this complicated reality in world affairs.

All this will matter little if the Army you lead is not maintained as a ready, disciplined, and cohesive force.  As the Army returns to garrison after more than a decade of constant deployments, some of the strains and stresses placed on soldiers and their families are easing.  At the same time, budget constraints are forcing the Army – along with all our services – to curtail training and cancel exercises, impacting readiness and morale.  Meanwhile, other threats to the health and quality of the all-volunteer force are increasing – alcohol and drug abuse, suicide and mental illness, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.

You will need to not just deal with these debilitating, insidious and destructive forces but rather you must be the generation of leaders that stop it.  This will require your complete commitment to building a culture of respect for every member of the military and society.  Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal of sacred oaths and sacred trusts.  This scourge must be stamped out.  We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens.  We cannot fail the Army or America.  We cannot fail each other, and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead.  As President Obama said yesterday at the Naval Academy: “These crimes have no place in the greatest military on earth.”

While the Army today continues to be under stress, it is also far more professional, adaptable, lethal, and capable than it has ever been.  It is likewise growing more diverse.  We are all benefiting from the continued expansion of opportunities for women to serve in our military.  The United States military has long benefited from the service of gay men and lesbians.  Now they serve openly with full honor, integrity, and respect.  That makes this Army stronger.

You know from your time here at West Point you will continue to learn from the work of generations of leaders – all generations of Army leadership – as you confront the new challenges of today and tomorrow.

This morning I have focused on your responsibilities – to the soldiers you will command, and to the institution that you will lead.  But the Army also has obligations to you.  In particular, it has a responsibility to put in place a culture and an organization that enables you to grow and succeed.  I know our leaders sitting here today and all of Army’s leadership across the globe work every day to achieve that accomplishment, an important objective that never, ever ends.  America will always need an Army that cultivates its best and brightest leaders, provides them and their families with incentives to remain in service, we always take care of our people.  You must always take care of your people.

In preparing for today, I reflected on many of my own experiences.  I reflected on my own experiences in particular during my days in the Army and all the great opportunities I’ve had in my life to serve this country.  And I thought about what insights I might be able to leave you with and not minimize the opportunity you’ve given me to be with you today.

That reflection brought me to a concluding observation.  It’s a reflection not about my own experience, not about me, but rather, it’s about someone else.  A professional soldier who walked these grounds as a young cadet fifty years ago.

Robert George Keats was a member of West Point’s Class of 1965.  He was an outstanding writer who helped put together General Douglas MacArthur’s memorial articles.  He established West Point’s history club and became its first President.  After graduation, he completed Airborne and Ranger schools, married his high school sweetheart, and volunteered for duty in Vietnam.

A few months after arriving in Vietnam, Captain Keats took command of my company – B Company, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division.  Within ten days of taking command, on February 2, 1968 – shortly before his 24th birthday – he was killed.  I was there.

Captain Keats is buried at West Point Cemetery, alongside other heroes of the Long Gray Line – including 33 of the more than 90 West Point graduates who have died in uniform since September 11, 2001.

One of Captain Keats’ brothers, Walter Keats, and his West Point roommate, Robert Scully, are here with us today.

At Captain Keats’ funeral service a letter he had sent as a cadet was read aloud.  He wrote of being an idealist, committed to upholding and defending American values and virtues.  His letter included the following words: “I am in a fight to save the ideal now.  I shall be until the day I die.  The world can only be saved by people who are striving for the ideal.  I know we shall win, it can be no other way.”

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember, that like Robert George Keats, you chose to be a soldier at a defining time in our nation’s history.  You too are fighting for an ideal – as the Class of 2013 motto says, you are “defending the dream.”

America needs you, and it will count on you to uphold this ideal.  In Captain Keats’ words, “It can be no other way.”

Thank you for what you will do for our country and your families – and God bless you all.

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Full Text Political Headlines February 7, 2013: Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta’s Testimony & Statement on the Attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya before the Senate Armed Services Committee

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Statement on the Attacks on the US Facilities in Benghazi, Libya before the Senate Armed Services Committee

Source: DOD, 2-7-13

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Washington, D.C., Thursday, February 07, 2013

Chairman Levin, Senator Inhofe, members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to discuss the terrorist attacks on our facilities in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012.

Before I go into my testimony, let me just state my deepest thanks to all of you for the support and friendship that I’ve had with all of you on both sides of the aisle.  I’ve had the honor to live the American Dream as the son of Italian immigrants in the various capacities that I’ve had to serve this country.  The greatest privilege I think I’ve had is to serve as an elected member in the House and had the opportunity to work with many of you in that capacity, and then as member of the executive branch had the opportunity to work with you, as well.  I thank you for your dedication to the country, and I thank you for your willingness to serve the United States.

On that tragic day, as always, the Department of Defense was prepared for a wide range of contingencies.  I remind you that the NCTC in the six months prior to that attack identified some 281 threats to U.S. diplomats, diplomatic facilities, embassies, ambassadors and consulates worldwide — and obviously Benghazi was one of those almost 300 areas of concern.

But, unfortunately, there was no specific intelligence or indications of an imminent attack on that — U.S. facilities in Benghazi.  And frankly without an adequate warning, there was not enough time given the speed of the attack for armed military assets to respond.  That’s not just my view or General Dempsey’s view.  It was the view of the Accountability Review Board that studied what happened on that day.

In the months since the tragedy at the temporary mission facility in the nearby Annex in Benghazi, we’ve learned that there were actually two short duration attacks that occurred some six hours apart.  And again, there was no specific intelligence that indicated that a second attack would occur at the Annex which was located some two miles away.

The bottom line is this, that we were not dealing with a prolonged or continuous assault, which could have been brought to an end by a U.S. military response, very simply, although we had forces deployed to the region.  Time, distance, the lack of an adequate warning, events that moved very quickly on the ground prevented a more immediate response.  Despite the uncertainty at the time, the Department of Defense and the rest of the United States government spared no effort to do everything we could to try to save American lives.  Before, during and after the attack, every request the Department of Defense received we did, we accomplished.  But, again, four Americans’ lives were lost, and we all have a responsibility to make sure that, that does not happen again.

The four Americans who perished in Benghazi, Ambassador Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith and the security personnel, all were heroes, and all were patriots.  I had the opportunity to join the president, Secretary Clinton and other officials at Andrews Air Force Base for the dignified transfer ceremony when those bodies of those heroes were returned home, and I had the opportunity to meet with their families.  I believe we all have a solemn responsibility for the families and to the personnel who put themselves at risk to find out exactly what happened, to bring those involved to justice and to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to prevent it from happening again and to ensure the safety of our personnel and facilities worldwide.

To that end, the Department of Defense has fully supported efforts by the Congress and the State Department to review the events and decisions surrounding the attacks in Benghazi.  We have made every effort to respond promptly to numerous requests for additional information, to provide briefings, to provide testimony to members and committees in the Congress.  In fact, General Dempsey and I were among the very first U.S. government senior officials to brief Congress on this tragedy.

We appeared before this committee on September 14th, 2012, three days after the attack, and provided the best information we had at that point as to what had taken place.  Additionally, the Defense Department participated in classified briefings and answered questions from the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security Oversight Committees, even when we were not called to testify.  We’ve also provided all requested support to the Accountability Review Board that was co-chaired by Ambassador Pickering and by Admiral Mullen.

Based on the information we compiled and the reviews that we conducted, let me describe for you DOD’s response to the events on September 11th, some of the lessons that we’ve learned and the adjustments we are making to our global force posture given continuing unrest throughout North Africa and the Middle East.  In fact, in many places, if we get the heads up that we need, the changes we made have already resulted in early decisions to deploy additional security or withdraw diplomatic staff in the advance of a crisis, from Central America to Khartoum, from Tunisia to Yemen, from Egypt to Mali and others.

While DOD does not have the primary responsibility for the security of U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world, we do work closely with the State Department and support them as requested.  In the months prior to the Benghazi attack, as I’ve said, we had received from the intelligence community almost 300 reports on possible threats to American facilities around the world.  Over the course of the day on September 11th, General Dempsey and I received a number of reports of possible threats to U.S. facilities, including those in Cairo, Egypt.  But there were no reports of imminent threats to U.S. personnel or facilities in Benghazi.

By our best estimate, the incident at the temporary mission facility in Benghazi began at about 3:42 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 11th.  The Embassy in Tripoli was notified of the attacks almost immediately, and within 17 minutes of the initial reports, about 3:59 p.m., AFRICOM directed an unarmed and unmanned surveillance aircraft that was nearby to reposition overhead the Benghazi facility.  My understanding is that that UAV arrived about an hour and 11 minutes after the attack had begun and was focused on the primary facility there to try to determine what was taking place.

Soon after the initial reports about the attack in Benghazi were received, General Dempsey and I met with President Obama and he ordered all available DOD assets to respond to the attack in Libya and to protect U.S. personnel and interests in the region.  It’s important to remember that in addition to responding to the situation in Benghazi, we were also concerned about potential threats to U.S. personnel in Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo, Sana’a, and elsewhere that could potentially require a military response.

In consultation with General Dempsey and AFRICOM Commander General Ham, I directed several specific actions.  First, we ordered a Marine Fleet Anti-terrorism Secure Team, a FAST team, stationed in Spain to prepare to deploy to Benghazi.  A second FAST platoon was ordered to prepare to deploy to the embassy in Tripoli.  A special operations force, which was training in central Europe, was ordered to prepare to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe, Sigonella.  And a special operations force based in the United States was ordered to deploy to an intermediate staging base in southern Europe as well at Sigonella.

Some have asked why other types of armed aircraft were not dispatched to Benghazi.  The reason simply is because armed UAVs, AC- 130 gunships or fixed-wing fighters, with the associated tanking, you’ve got to provide air refueling abilities;  you’ve got to arm all the weapons before you put them on the planes; targeting and support facilities, were not in the vicinity of Libya.  And because of the distance, it would have taken at least nine to 12 hours, if not more, to deploy these forces to Benghazi.  This was, pure and simple, in the absence, as I said of any kind of advance warning, a problem of distance and time.

Frankly, even if we were able to get the F-16s or the AC-130s over the target in time, the mission still depends on accurate information about what targets they’re supposed to hit.  And we had no forward air controllers there.  We had no direct no communications with U.S. personnel on the ground.  And as a matter of fact, we had no idea where the Ambassador was at that point to be able to conduct any kind of attacks on the ground.

The quickest response option available was a Tripoli-based security team that was located at the embassy in Tripoli.  And to their credit, within hours, this six-man team, including two U.S. military personnel, chartered a private airplane deployed to Benghazi.  Within 15 minutes of arriving at the Annex facility, they came under attack by mortar and rocket-propelled grenades.  Members of this team, along with others at the Annex facility, provided emergency medical assistance and supported the evacuation of all personnel.  Only twelve hours after the attacks had begun, all remaining U.S. government personnel had been safely evacuated from Benghazi.

Looking back, our actions in the immediate aftermath of these attacks have been subject obviously to intense scrutiny and review.  But let me share with you the conclusion of the Accountability Review Board, which I believe accurately assessed the situation.  And I quote:

“The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time, given the speed of the attacks, for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.  Senior-level interagency discussions were underway soon after Washington received initial word of the attacks, and continued throughout the night.  The Board found no evidence of any undue delays in decision- making or denial of support from Washington or from the military combatant commanders.  Quite the contrary:  the safe evacuation of all U.S. government personnel from Benghazi twelve hours after the initial attack, and subsequently to Ramstein Air Force Base, was the result of exceptional U.S. government coordination and military response, and helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans.”

Still, after all of that, it is clear that there are lessons to be learned here and steps that must be taken to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to protect our personnel and our facilities abroad.  So, in concert with the State Department and the intelligence community, we are in the process of developing enhanced security for U.S. personnel and facilities in the wake of Benghazi.  There will always be a tension between mission effectiveness for personnel — the ability to get out and do what they’re supposed to do in these countries — and their physical security.

We’re committed to steps that avoid a bunker mentality, and yet we still must afford greater protection from armed attack.  We’re taking steps along three tracks.  First, host nation capacity.  We have been able to better assess and build up the capabilities of host governments to provide security for U.S. personnel and facilities.  The fact it, as you all know, that our embassies and consulates depend on host country personnel to provide the first line of security.  And this episode raises concerns about the ability of some newly established or fragile governments to properly secure U.S. diplomatic facilities.

To address these concerns, we are working with the State Department in considering how DOD can better help host nations enhance the security provided to our diplomatic facilities.  Where permissible and appropriate, and in collaboration with the Secretary of State and the U.S. Chief of Mission in the affected country, we believe that the Defense Department can assist in their development using a range of security assistance authorities to train and equip those forces in the host country, and we are doing exactly that.

Secondly, we have to enhance diplomatic security.  We’ve got to harden these facilities and we, again, are working with the State Department to try to reassess diplomatic security overall.  To determine what changes may be required, we assisted the State Department in the deployment of an interagency security assessment team to evaluate the security level at 19 vulnerable diplomatic facilities, including our embassy in Libya.  And we’re in the process of developing recommendations on potential security increases as required.

As part of this review, we have also considered how the role, mission and resourcing of the Marine security guards could be adapted to respond to this new threat environment.  In the near term, we’ve agreed with the Department of State to add 35 new Marine Security Guard detachments — that’s almost 1,000 Marines — over the next two and three years, in addition to the 152 detachments that are in place today.  We’re working with State to identify those specific locations for the new detachments, and we will identify any necessary resource and force structure adjustments in order to support this initiative.

Although there was not a Marine Security Guard detachment posted to the Benghazi Temporary Mission Facility, based on our review of all Embassy security incidents that occurred in September of 2012.  In Tunis, in Cairo, in Khartoum and in Sana’a, we have initiated coordination with the Department of State to expand the Marines’ role beyond their primary mission of protecting classified information.

As some of you know, their primary mission is not providing outside security.  Their primary mission is to protect classified information.  But we believe that we can try to augment their role into terms of providing greater security protection as well.  This could include the expanded use of non-lethal weapons, additional training and equipment to support the Embassy Regional Security Officer’s response options when host nation’s security force capabilities are at risk of being overwhelmed.

The third area is enhanced intelligence and military response capacity.  We are focused on enhancing intelligence collection and ensuring that our forces throughout the region are prepared to respond to crisis if necessary.

The United States military, as I’ve said, is not and, frankly, should not be a 9-1-1 service capable of arriving on the scene within minutes to every possible contingency around the world.  The U.S. military has neither the resources nor the responsibility to have a fire house next to every U.S. facility in the world.

We have some key bases, particularly in this region.  We have some key platforms from which we can deploy.  And we have forces on alert, and we’re prepared to move.  But our ability to identify threats, to adjust posture, to prevent plots, and respond to attacks to our personnel at home and overseas depends on actionable intelligence — and it always will.

Therefore, we’re working with the State Department and the intelligence community to ensure that our collection and analysis is linked with military posture and planning.  We’re working to enhance our intelligence collection to improve the responsiveness of contingency assets and to adjust the location of in-extremis reaction forces.  At the same time, we’re working closely with State to ensure they have our best estimate of response times for each at-risk diplomatic facility so that they can make the best informed decisions about adjustments to their staff presence in areas of increased security threat.

We’ve deployed key response forces abroad.  We have reduced their response time.  But let me again say to you that even those forces that are on a tight alert time of N-plus-two — notice plus two hours — to be able to on a plane.  Once those forces are put on airlift, it still requires many hours in that part of the world to fly distances, long distances in order to be able to respond.

I firmly believe that the Department of Defense and the U.S. Armed Forces did all we could do in the response to the attacks in Benghazi and employed every asset at our disposal that could have been used to help save lives of our American colleagues.  We will support efforts to bring those responsible to justice, and we are working with the task force involved and headed up by the FBI to do just that.

As I said going forward, we intend to adapt to the security environment, to ensure that we’re better positioned and prepared to support the Department of State in securing our facilities around the world.  But in order to be able to effectively protect the American people and our interests abroad at a time of instability, we must have an agile and ready force able to quickly respond.  And above all — and forgive me for being repetitious — we have got to end the cloud of budget uncertainty that hangs over the Department of Defense and the entire U.S. government.

I’ve got to use this opportunity to express, again, my greatest concern as Secretary.  Frankly, one of the most greatest security risks we are now facing as a nation, that this budget uncertainty could prompt the most significant military readiness crisis in more than a decade.

The Department of Defense faces the prospect of sequestration on March 1st.  If Congress fails to act, sequestration is triggered.  And if we also must operate under a year-long continuing resolution, we would be faced with having to take about $46 billion-plus out of the defense budget and we would face a $35 billion shortfall in operating funds alone for our active forces, with only a few months remaining in the fiscal year.

Protecting the warfighters, protecting the critical deployments we have, we’re gonna have to turn to the one area that we have in order to gain the funds necessary, and that’s readiness.  It’s maintenance.  This will badly damage our national defense and compromise our ability to respond to crises in a dangerous world.

The responsibility of dealing with this crisis obviously rests with the leadership of the nation.  I know the members of this committee share the deep concerns that I’ve raised about sequestration, and, obviously, I urge you to do whatever you can to try to avoid this threat to our national defense.

The State Department and the intelligence community, obviously, also must be provided the resources they need in order to execute the missions that we expect of them — including the enhancements that I’ve described today.

Whatever steps are required to be taken to properly posture U.S. forces for possible emergency response operations, those steps would be seriously impacted by the readiness crisis caused by uncertain resources.

We have a responsibility — and I take that responsibility seriously — to do everything we can to protect our citizens.  That responsibility, however, rests with both the executive branch and the Congress.  If we work together, we can keep our Americans safe.

Political Headlines February 7, 2013: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s Testimony at Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on the Benghazi, Libya Terror Attack

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Panetta: Budget Cuts Threaten Security

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-7-13

State Department photo

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday that the automatic budget cuts prescribed in the sequestration legislation would undermine the Department of Defense’s ability to fulfill its responsibility to protect American citizens.

“This will badly damage our national defense and compromise our ability to respond to crises in a dangerous world,” Panetta told senators at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

“The responsibility to protect our citizens rests with both the administration and the Congress,” Panetta said….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines January 31, 2013: Chuck Hagel’s Opening Remarks at Senate Confirmation Hearing — Transcript

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Text of Chuck Hagel’s Opening Remarks

Source: NYT, 1-31-13

The following is Chuck Hagel’s opening remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee, as prepared for delivery.

Related

Thank you Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Inhofe, and Distinguished Members of the Committee. I am honored to come before you today as the President’s nominee to be Secretary of Defense.

I want to thank my friends Sam Nunn and John Warner for their support, encouragement, and friendship over many years. These two distinguished Americans represent what’s best about American public service and responsible bipartisanship. They have embodied both in their careers and are models for each of us.

To my family, friends, and fellow veterans who are here this morning – and those who are not – thank you. A life is only as good as the family and friends you have and the people you surround yourself with.

I also want to thank my friend Leon Panetta for his tremendous service to our country over so many years. If I’m given the privilege of succeeding him, it will be a high honor.

Finally, I want to thank President Obama for his confidence and trust in me. I am humbled by the opportunity and possibility he has given me to serve our country once again.

I fully recognize the immense responsibilities of the Secretary of Defense. I assured the President that if I am confirmed by the United States Senate, I will always do my best for our nation and for the men and women – and their families –

who are called on to make the enormous sacrifices of military service. Their safety, success, and welfare will always be at the forefront of the decisions I make.

I also assured the President that I would always provide him with my most honest and informed advice. I make that same commitment to this Committee and to the Congress. If confirmed, I will reach out to the members of this Committee for advice and collaboration. It will be a partnership, because the national security challenges America faces require it.

Our nation’s security is the highest priority of our leaders and our government. We cannot allow the work of confronting the great threats we face today to be held hostage to partisanship on either side of the aisle, or by differences between the bodies represented in Articles I and II of our Constitution. The stakes are too high. Men and women of all political philosophies and parties fight and die for our country. As this Committee knows so well, protecting our national security or committing a nation to war can never become political litmus tests. I know Secretary Panetta has put a strong emphasis on reaching out to the Congress. I, like Leon, come from the Congress, and respect and understand this institution’s indispensable role in setting policy and helping govern our country.

We are all products of the forces that shape us. For me, there has been nothing more important in my life – or a more defining influence on my life – than my family. Whether it was helping my mother raise four boys after my father – a World War II veteran – died suddenly at age 39 on Christmas Day, or serving side by side my brother Tom in Vietnam, or the wonderful miracle of my wife Lilibet and me being blessed with two beautiful children. That is who I am. We each bring to our responsibilities “frames of reference” formed by our life’s

experiences. They help instruct our judgments. We build out from those personal foundations by continually informing ourselves, listening, and learning.

Like each of you, I have a record. A record I am proud of, not because of any accomplishments I may have achieved, or an absence of mistakes, but rather because I’ve tried to build that record by living my life and fulfilling my responsibilities as honestly as I knew how and with hard work. Under-pinning everything I’ve done in my life was the belief that we must always be striving to make our nation a better and more secure place for all of our people.

During the twelve years I had the privilege of serving the people of Nebraska in the United States Senate, I cast over 3,000 votes and hundreds of Committee votes. I’ve also given hundreds of interviews and speeches, and written a book. So, as you all know, I am on the record on many issues.

But no one individual vote, quote, or statement defines me, my beliefs, or my record. My overall worldview has never changed: that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world; that we must lead the international community to confront threats and challenges together; and that we must use all tools of American power to protect our citizens and our interests. I believe, and always have, that America must engage – not retreat – in the world. My record is consistent on these points.

It’s clear that we are living at a defining time. Our nation is emerging from over a decade of war. We have brought our men and women in uniform home from Iraq, and have started to bring them home from Afghanistan.

That does not mean the threats we face and will continue to face are any less dangerous or complicated. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Recent events in Mali and Algeria remind us of this reality. Twenty first century complexities,

technologies, economies, and threats are bringing the seven billion global citizens closer together. And as our planet adds another two billion people over the next 25 years, the dangers, complications, and human demands will not be lessened, but rather heightened.

Despite these challenges, I believe we also have historic opportunities to help build a safer, more prosperous, more secure, more hopeful and just world than at maybe any time in history. Yes, the curse of intolerance, hatred, and danger exists around the world, and we must continue to be clear-eyed about this danger – and we will be. We will not hesitate to use the full force of the United States military in defense of our security. But we must also be smart, and more importantly wise, in how we employ all of our nation’s great power.

America’s continued leadership and strength at home and abroad will be critically important for our country and the world. While we will not hesitate to act unilaterally when necessary, it is essential that we work closely with our allies and partners to enhance America’s influence and security – as well as global security. If confirmed, I will continue to build on the efforts of this administration and of former Secretary Gates, Secretary Panetta, and Secretary Clinton to strengthen our alliances and partnerships around the world. I will also look forward to working with my former Senate colleague and friend, John Kerry, in this effort.

As I told the President, I am committed to his positions on all issues of national security, specifically decisions that the Department of Defense is in the process of implementing. This includes the Defense Strategic Guidance the President outlined in January 2012. Allow me to briefly address a few of those specific issues now.

First, we have a plan in place to transition out of Afghanistan, continue bringing our troops home, and end the war there – which has been the longest war in America’s history. As you know, discussions are ongoing about what the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will look like after 2014. The President has made clear – and I agree – that there should be only two functions for U.S. troops that remain in Afghanistan after 2014: counterterrorism – particularly to target al Qaeda and its affiliates, and training and advising Afghan forces. It’s time we forge a new partnership with Afghanistan, with its government and, importantly, with its people.

Second, as Secretary of Defense I will ensure we stay vigilant and keep up the pressure on terrorist organizations as they try to expand their affiliates around the world, in places like Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa. At the Pentagon, that means continuing to invest in and build the tools to assist in that fight, such as special operations forces and new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies. And it will mean working hand-in-hand with our partners across the national security and intelligence communities, to confront these and other threats, especially the emerging threat of cyber warfare.

Third, as I have made clear, I am fully committed to the President’s goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and – as I’ve said in the past – all options must be on the table to achieve that goal. My policy is one of prevention, and not one of containment – and the President has made clear that is the policy of our government. As Secretary of Defense, I will make sure the Department is prepared for any contingency. I will ensure our friend and ally Israel maintains its Qualitative Military Edge in the region and will continue to support systems like Iron Dome, which is today saving Israeli lives from terrorist rocket attacks.

Fourth, while we pursue the reductions in our deployed stockpiles and launchers consistent with the New START Treaty, I am committed to maintaining a modern, strong, safe, ready, and effective nuclear arsenal. America’s nuclear deterrent over the last 65 years has played a central role in ensuring global security and the avoidance of a World War III. I am committed to modernizing our nuclear arsenal.

As we emerge from this decade of war, we also must broaden our nation’s focus overseas as we look at future threats and challenges. As this Committee knows, that’s why DoD is rebalancing its resources towards the Asia-Pacific region. We are in the process of modernizing our defense posture across the entire region to defend and deepen our partnerships with traditional allies, especially Japan, South Korea, and Australia; to continue to deter and defend against provocations from states like North Korea, as well as non-state actors; and to expand our networks of security cooperation throughout the region to combat terrorism, counter proliferation, provide disaster relief, fight piracy, and ensure maritime security.

I will continue this rebalancing, even as we continue to work closely with our longtime NATO allies and friends, and with allies and partners in other regions. At the same time, we will continue to focus on challenges in the Middle East and North Africa, where we have clear national interests. Rather, it is a recognition that the United States has been and always will be a Pacific power, and the Asia- Pacific is an increasingly vital part of the globe for America’s security and economy. That’s why we must become even more engaged in the region over the coming years.

Doing all of this and much more will require smart and strategic budget decisions. I have made it clear I share Leon Panetta’s and our service chiefs’ serious concerns about the impact sequestration would have on our armed forces. And as someone

who has run businesses, I know the uncertainty and turbulence of the current budget climate makes it much more difficult to manage the Pentagon’s resources. If confirmed, I am committed to effectively and efficiently using every single taxpayer dollar; to maintaining the strongest military in the world; and to working with Congress to ensure the Department has the resources it needs – and that the disposition of those resources is accountable.

Even as we deal with difficult budget decisions, I will never break America’s commitment to our troops, our veterans, and our military families. We will continue to invest in the well-being of our all-volunteer force. And, working with the VA and other institutions, we will make sure our troops and their families get the health care, job opportunities, and education they have earned and deserve – just as I did when I co-authored the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill with Senators Jim Webb, John Warner, and Frank Lautenberg. This includes focusing on the mental health of our fighting force, because no one who volunteers to fight and die for our country should feel like they have nowhere to turn.

In my twelve years in the Senate, my one guiding principle on every national security decision I made and every vote I cast was always this: Is our policy worthy of our troops and their families and the sacrifices we ask them to make? That same question will guide me if I am confirmed as Secretary of Defense. Our men and women in uniform and their families must never doubt that their leaders’ first priority is them. I believe my record of leadership on veterans issues over the years – going back to my service in the Veterans Administration under President Reagan – demonstrates my rock-solid commitment to our veterans and their families.

We must always take care of our people. That’s why I will work to ensure that everyone who volunteers to fight for this country has the same rights and opportunities. As I’ve discussed with many of you in our meetings, I am fully committed to implementing the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and doing everything possible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members. I will work with the service chiefs as we officially open combat positions to women, a decision that I strongly support. And I will continue the important work that Leon Panetta has done to combat sexual assault in the military. Maintaining the health and well-being of those who serve is critical to maintaining a strong and capable military, because an institution’s people must always come first.

As we look ahead to the coming years, we have an extraordinary opportunity now to define what’s next for America’s military and our country. It is incumbent upon all of us to make decisions that will ensure our nation is prepared to confront any threat we may face, protect our citizens, and remain the greatest force for good in the world.

If confirmed as Secretary of Defense, it will be my great honor – working with the President, this Committee, the Congress, and our military – to ensure our policies are worthy of the service and sacrifice of America’s finest men and women. Thank you. I look forward to your questions.

Political Headlines January 15, 2013: New York Dem. Sen. Chuck Schumer Decides to Support Chuck Hagel’s Nomination for Secretary of Defense

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Hagel Scores Backing from New York Dem. Chuck Schumer

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-15-13

Win McNamee/Getty Image

Chuck Hagel’s prospects just got a bit brighter. New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer offered his blessing Tuesday morning after a 90-minute meeting with Hagel Monday, saying he approves of President Obama’s pick despite previous reservations on Middle East policy.

“When Senator Hagel’s name first surfaced as a potential nominee for secretary of Defense, I had genuine concerns over certain aspects of his record on Israel and Iran,” Schumer said in a written statement. “Once the president made his choice, however, I agreed to keep these reservations private until I had the opportunity to discuss them fully with Senator Hagel in person.  Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel, I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency January 7, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Nominating Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense & John Brennan as CIA Director

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Wants Chuck Hagel to Run the Pentagon

Source: WH, 1-7-13

President Obama announces Chuck Hagel as his nominee for Secretary of Defense (January 7, 2013)President Barack Obama announces former Senator Chuck Hagel, second from left, as his nominee for Secretary of Defense, and John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, second from right, as his nominee for Director of the CIA, during an announcement in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2013. Joining them are departing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, and acting CIA Director Michael Morrell, right. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, President Obama today announced two key nominations for his national security team. He tapped John Brennan to serve as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and he asked Sen. Chuck Hagel to serve as Secretary of Defense.

“Chuck Hagel’s leadership of our military would be historic,” he said. “He’d be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense, one of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department. As I saw during our visits together to Afghanistan and Iraq, in Chuck Hagel our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and strength. They see one of their own.”

The President and Hagel have known each other for nearly a decade and served together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hagel spent two terms in the upper chamber of Congress and helped to lead the fight for passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Under President Reagan, Hagel served as a deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration, and while co-founding his own business, he served as the CEO of the United Service Organization. He’s also co-chaired the Intelligence Advisory Board for President Obama.

“Chuck knows that war is not an abstraction,” President Obama said. “He understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that’s something we only do when it’s absolutely necessary.”

At the event, Sen. Hagel thanked the President for the opportunity to again serve the United States and its men and women in uniform.

“These are people who give so much to this nation every day with such dignity and selflessness,” he said. “This is particularly important at a time as we complete our mission in Afghanistan and support the troops and military families who have sacrificed so much over more than a decade of war.”

Watch video of the event

President Obama Nominates John Brennan as CIA Director

Source: WH, 1-7-13

President Barack Obama listens to the remarks of John BrennanPresident Barack Obama listens to the remarks of John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, his nominee for Director of the CIA, during the announcement in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2013. The President also announced former Senator Chuck Hagel, second from left, as his nominee for Secretary of Defense. Joining them are departing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

After announcing Chuck Hagel as his nominee for the next Secretary of Defense, President Obama today nominated John Brennan as the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, has served as President Obama’s Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security since 2009. “For the last four years,” President Obama said, “John developed and has overseen our comprehensive counterterrorism strategy — a collaborative effort across the government, including intelligence and defense and homeland security, and law enforcement agencies.”

President Obama called Brennan “one of the hardest working civil servants I’ve ever known” and said that he valued Brennan’s integrity and commitment “to the values that define us as Americans.”

“He has worked to embed our efforts in a strong legal framework,” the President said. “He understands we are a nation of laws. In moments of debate and decision, he asks the tough question and he insists on high and rigorous standards.”

President Obama also invited Brennan to say a few words.

“Leading the agency in which I served for 25 years would be the greatest privilege as well as the greatest responsibility of my professional life,” Brennan said.

Brennan explained that, if confirmed as CIA director, he would “make it my mission to ensure that the CIA has the tools it needs to keep our nation safe, and that its work always reflects the liberties, the freedoms, and the values that we hold so dear.”

Remarks by the President in Nomination of Secretary of Defense and CIA Director

Source: WH, 1-7-13 

East Room

1:15 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please have a seat.  As President and Commander-in-Chief, my most solemn obligation is the security of the American people.  Over the past four years, we’ve met that responsibility by ending the war in Iraq, and beginning a transition in Afghanistan; by decimating the al Qaeda core and taking out Osama bin Laden; by disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives.

Among an outstanding national security team, I am especially grateful to Leon Panetta, who has led the CIA and our military with incredible skill.  Leon, after nearly five decades of service, you have more than earned the right to return to civilian life.  I’ll have much more to say about Leon’s distinguished service in the days ahead.  Today, I simply want to convey both to you and to Sylvia the eternal gratitude of the entire nation.  Thank you so much, Leon.

I also want to thank Michael Morell, who has earned the admiration of all of us who’ve worked with him across government and here in the White House.  In moments of transition, he’s guided the CIA with a steady hand as Acting Director — not once, but twice.  And he is a consummate professional.  As I said, everybody in the White House who works with him, everybody across agencies who works with him considers him truly to be one of our most outstanding national security team members.  And so, Michael, on behalf of all of us, thank you and Mary Beth for your continued service.

As these leaders know, the work of protecting our nation is never done, and we’ve still got much to do:  Ending the war in Afghanistan and caring for those who have borne the battle; preparing for the full range of threats, from the unconventional to the conventional, including things like cyber security; and within our military, continuing to ensure that our men and women in uniform can serve the country they love, no matter who they love.

To help meet the challenges of our time, I’m proud to announce my choice for two key members of my national security team — Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense and John Brennan for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve.  He is an American patriot.  He enlisted in the Army and volunteered for Vietnam.  As a young private, and then a sergeant, he served with honor, alongside his own brother.  When Chuck was hit by shrapnel, his brother saved him.  When his brother was injured by a mine, Chuck risked his life to pull him to safety.  To this day, Chuck bears the scars — and the shrapnel — from the battles he fought in our name.

Chuck Hagel’s leadership of our military would be historic.  He’d be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense, one of the few secretaries who have been wounded in war, and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department.  As I saw during our visits together to Afghanistan and Iraq, in Chuck Hagel our troops see a decorated combat veteran of character and strength.  They see one of their own.

Chuck is a champion of our troops and our veterans and our military families.  As a leader at the VA, he fought to give our veterans the benefits they deserved.  As head of the USO, he devoted himself to caring for our troops.  Having studied under the GI Bill himself, he helped lead the fight for the Post-9/11 GI Bill so today’s returning heroes can get their education, too.  Having co-chaired my Intelligence Advisory Board, he knows that our armed forces collect, analyze, and depend on good intelligence.

And Chuck recognizes that American leadership is indispensable in a dangerous world.  I saw this in our travels together across the Middle East.  He understands that America stands strongest when we stand with allies and with friends.  As a successful businessman, he also knows that even as we make tough fiscal choices, we have to do so wisely, guided by our strategy, and keep our military the strongest fighting force the world has ever known.

Maybe most importantly, Chuck knows that war is not an abstraction.  He understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that’s something we only do when it’s absolutely necessary.  “My frame of reference,” he has said, is “geared towards the guy at the bottom who’s doing the fighting and the dying.”  With Chuck, our troops will always know, just like Sergeant Hagel was there for his own brother, Secretary Hagel will be there for you.

And finally, Chuck represents the bipartisan tradition that we need more of in Washington.  For his independence and commitment to consensus, he’s earned the respect of national security and military leaders, Republicans and Democrats — including me.  In the Senate, I came to admire his courage and his judgment, his willingness to speak his mind — even if it wasn’t popular, even if it defied the conventional wisdom.

And that’s exactly the spirit I want on my national security team — a recognition that when it comes to the defense of our country, we are not Democrats or Republicans; we are Americans.  Each of us has a responsibility, Chuck has said, to be guided not by the interest of our party or our President even, but by “the interests of our country.”

So, Chuck, I thank you and Lilibet for agreeing to serve once more in the interests of our country.

Now, when I’m on the subject of patriots, let me say a few words about John Brennan.  In John Brennan, the men and women of the CIA will have the leadership of one of our nation’s most skilled and respected intelligence professionals — not to mention that unique combination of smarts and strength that he claims comes from growing up in New Jersey.  (Laughter.)

A 25-year veteran of the CIA, John knows what our national security demands — intelligence that provides policymakers with the facts, strong analytic insights, and a keen understanding of a dynamic world.  Given his extensive experience and travels — which include, by the way, traveling through the Arabian Peninsula where he camped with tribesmen in the desert — John has an invaluable perspective on the forces — the history, the culture, the politics, economics, the desire for human dignity driving so much of the changes in today’s world.

Having held senior management, analytic, and operational positions at the agency, John is committed to investing in the range of intelligence capabilities we need — technical and human.  He literally built — and then led — the National Counterterrorism Center.  And he knows the risks that our intelligence professionals face every day.  John has lost colleagues and friends — heroes whose stars now grace that memorial wall at Langley.

For the last four years, as my Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, John developed and has overseen our comprehensive counterterrorism strategy — a collaborative effort across the government, including intelligence and defense and homeland security, and law enforcement agencies.

And so think about the results.  More al Qaeda leaders and commanders have been removed from the battlefield than at any time since 9/11.  Their communications, recruiting, training, finances are all under enormous strain — all of which makes it harder to plan and carry out large-scale attacks against our homeland.  And our entire team, including our exceptional Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper, will remain relentless against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

In all this work, John has been tireless.  People here in the White House work hard.  But John is legendary, even in the White House, for working hard.  (Laughter.)  He is one of the hardest-working public servants I’ve ever seen.  I’m not sure he’s slept in four years.  (Laughter.)  When I was on Martha’s Vineyard, John came and did the press briefing — this is in summer, it’s August, he’s in full suit and tie.  And one of the reporters asked him, don’t you ever get any down time?  And John said, “I don’t do down time.”  (Laughter.)  He’s not even smiling now.  (Laughter.)

There’s another reason I value John so much, and that is his integrity and his commitment to the values that define us as Americans.  He has worked to embed our efforts in a strong legal framework.  He understands we are a nation of laws.  In moments of debate and decision, he asks the tough question and he insists on high and rigorous standards.  Time and again, he’s spoken to the American people about our counterterrorism policies because he recognizes we have a responsibility to be [as] open and transparent as possible.

And so, John, you’ve been one of my closest advisors.  You’ve been a great friend.  I am deeply grateful for your extraordinary service.  I’m even more grateful for Kathy’s willingness to put up with you.  And I’m grateful to both of you for your willingness to take this assignment.

Today, I can say to the men and women of the CIA:  In Director John Brennan you will have one of your own; a leader who knows you; who cares for you, deeply; and who will fight for you every single day.  And you’ll have a leader who has my complete confidence and my complete trust.

As I said, the work of defending our nation is never done.  My number-one criteria in making these decisions was simple — who is going to do the best job in securing America.  These two leaders have dedicated their lives to protecting our country.  I’m confident they will do an outstanding job.  I urge the Senate to confirm them as soon as possible so we can keep our nation secure and the American people safe.

And so, Chuck and John — congratulations.

And with that, I want to invite each of these leaders on stage to say a few words, starting with Mr. Leon Panetta.

SECRETARY PANETTA:  First of all, let me express my deepest gratitude to the President for giving me the honor and the 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 to be 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 the Defense.  And let me also add, as former Director of the CIA, to commend the President for his choice of John Brennan.  I have 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 also 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’s 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 — began in 1964 when I served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army, and then in both the legislative and executive branch positions in Washington — the time has come for me to return to my wife Sylvia, our three sons, their families, our six grandchildren, and my walnut farm — (laughter) — dealing with a different set of nuts.  (Laughter.)

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 have accomplished during these last four years being on the President’s national security team.

As both Director of the CIA and as Secretary of Defense, I have always believed that our fundamental mission is to keep America safe, to keep America secure.  And because of the outstanding dedication of our intelligence and military professionals, America is safer and more secure than 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 wars in Iraq 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 the 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’ve had the honor to serve with at the Department of Defense and at the White House.  In particular, let me deeply thank the outstanding men and women in uniform, who I’ve had the privilege to serve and to lead, those who put their lives on the line every day on distant battlefields for this country.  Their sacrifices teach us that freedom is not free; a strong democracy depends on a strong defense.  But you can also not 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 servicemembers 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.

SENATOR HAGEL:  Thank you, Mr. President.  I’m honored by your trust and your confidence in me, and not unmindful of the immense responsibilities that go with it.  I want to also acknowledge my wife, Lilibet; my daughter, Allyn; and our son, Ziller, who is in Chicago today, we hope, back attending his first day of classes at DePaul University.  (Laughter.)

And to my friend, Leon Panetta, thank you for your extraordinary service to our country over so many years in so many capacities.  You are one of the premier public servants of our time.  To follow you at the Department of Defense will be a most challenging task, but I will try to live up to the standards that you, Bob Gates and others have set for this job and this nation.

Let me also express my deep appreciation and congratulations to my friend, John Brennan, and to also acknowledge the President’s confidence and trust in John Brennan.  Thank you, John, for your service and what you will continue to do for our country.  To Mike Morell — who I have gotten to know over the years not just serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee, but also, as the President has noted, the privilege of co-chairing the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board with former Senator Dave Boren — thank you, Mike, for your continued service.

Mr. President, I am grateful for this opportunity to serve our country again and especially its men and women in uniform and their families.  These are people who give so much to this nation every day with such dignity and selflessness.  This is particularly important at a time as we complete our mission in Afghanistan and support the troops and military families who have sacrificed so much over more than a decade of war.

I’m also grateful for an opportunity to help continue to strengthen our country and strengthen our country’s alliances, and advance global freedom, decency, and humanity as we help build a better world for all mankind.  I will always do my best.  I will do my best for our country, for those I represent at the Pentagon, and for all our citizens.  And, Mr. President, I will always give you my honest and most informed counsel.  Thank you very much.

ACTING DIRECTOR MORELL:  Mr. President, thank you for your very kind remarks, and thank you for the trust that you placed in me when you asked me to be Acting Director twice.

I have had the honor of knowing and working with John Brennan for the last 20 years.  We have worked particularly closely the last three years.  John Brennan is a intelligence professional with deep experience in our business, a public servant with extraordinary dedication, and a man of deep integrity.  With Senate confirmation, I know that he will be an outstanding Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

As the President noted, John started his career at CIA and spent nearly a quarter century.  So this is a homecoming for John.

John, on behalf of the talented and dedicated men and women of CIA, it is my deep honor to say, welcome home.

MR. BRENNAN:  Mr. President, it is indeed a tremendous honor to be nominated to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  The women and men of the CIA are among the most dedicated, courageous, selfless and hardworking individuals who have ever served this country.  At great personal risk and sacrifice, they have made countless invaluable contributions to our national security and to the safety and security of all Americans.  Most times, their successes will never be known outside the hallowed halls of Langley and the Oval Office.

Leading the agency in which I served for 25 years would be the greatest privilege as well as the greatest responsibility of my professional life.  Mr. President, I want to thank you for your confidence in me, but even more for your confidence and constant support to the CIA and to those who serve in the intelligence community.  They need and deserve the support of all of their fellow Americans, especially at a time of such tremendous national security challenges.

If confirmed as Director, I will make it my mission to ensure that the CIA has the tools it needs to keep our nation safe, and that its work always reflects the liberties, the freedoms and the values that we hold so dear.

I’m especially proud to stand here today with such patriots as Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel and Michael Morell.  It was a tremendous honor to serve with Leon over the past four years, and I very much look forward to the opportunity and privilege to serve with another of America’s great patriots, Chuck Hagel.

And I am especially proud and touched to be able to stand here today with my close friend and colleague, Michael Morell, who epitomizes what it means to be an intelligence professional.  Michael’s leadership at the CIA, as well as his 32-year career, has been nothing short of exemplary.  Michael, I very much look forward to working with you in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

And I also look forward to working with Congress, as our national security rests on the ability of the executive and legislative branches of our government to work as a team.  While the intelligence profession oftentimes demands secrecy, it is critically important that there be a full and open discourse on intelligence matters with the appropriate elected representatives of the American people.  Although I consider myself neither a Republican nor a Democrat, I very much look forward to working closely with those on both sides of the aisle.

Finally, and most importantly, to my wife Kathy; to my children Kyle, Jaclyn, Kelly; to my parents in New Jersey, a shout-out — (laughter) — Owen, who is 92 and my mom, Dorothy, who is 91; my brother Tom and my sister Kathleen and my Jersey roots:  I could not be where I am today without their love, their patience, their understanding and their support.  And there is no way that I can ever repay that, except to say I think I’m going to need it for a little bit longer.  (Laughter.)

So again, Mr. President, I am deeply grateful for this opportunity.  It will be bittersweet to leave all of my close colleagues and friends here at the White House and at the national security staff, who I have come to work with and respect so deeply over the last four years.

But if confirmed by the Senate, I will consider it to be the honor of my life to serve as the 21st Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, these are four outstanding individuals.  We are grateful to all of them.  I want, in particular, to thank Mike Morell and Leon Panetta for their extraordinary service.  And I just want to repeat, I hope that the Senate will act on these confirmations promptly.  When it comes to national security, we don’t like to leave a lot of gaps between the time that one set of leaders transitions out and another transitions in.  So we need to get moving quickly on this.

The final point I will make:  One of the reasons that I am so confident that Chuck Hagel is going to be an outstanding Secretary of Defense and John Brennan is going to be an outstanding Director of the Central Intelligence Agency is they understand that we are only successful because of the folks up and down the line in these respective institutions — the folks on the ground who are oftentimes putting their lives at risk for us, and are oftentimes at great remove from Washington and its politics.

To have those who have been in the field, who have been in the heat of battle, who understand the consequences of decisions that we make in this town and how it has an impact and ramifications for everybody who actually has to execute our national security strategies, that’s something invaluable.  It will provide me the kinds of insights that I need in making very difficult decisions, but it will also mean that these folks are going to be looking out for the people who work for them.  And that’s something that, I think, in these leadership positions is absolutely critical.

So I’m looking forward to working with these two gentlemen.  They are going to be outstanding.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
1:42 P.M. EST

Political Headlines January 7, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Chuck Hagel to Lead Defense Department, John Brennan to CIA

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Taps Chuck Hagel to Lead Defense Dept., John Brennan to CIA

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-7-13

The White House

President Obama moved to round out his second-term national security team Monday, nominating former Sen. Chuck Hagel to head the Department of Defense and counterterrorism advisor John Brennan to lead the CIA.

Obama launched a vigorous public defense of Hagel, whose anticipated nomination had already stirred opposition on both sides of the aisle.  He called the Nebraska Republican the “leader that our troops deserve” and a “patriot,” who served heroically in combat, saving the life of his brother….

Turning to Brennan, Obama said the 25-year veteran of the CIA was one of the “most skilled and respected” members of his national security team, contributing “strong analytic insights” and “invaluable perspective.”….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 4, 2013: President Barack Obama Poised to Name New Defense, Treasury Secretaries

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Poised to Name New Defense, Treasury Chiefs

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-4-13

Alex Wong/Getty Images

With the “fiscal cliff” crisis behind him, President Obama is poised to name two new key players to his cabinet, with at least one announcement expected early next week….

Former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is a leading candidate to head the Department of Defense, while current chief of staff Jack Lew is the likely nominee for the top role at Treasury….READ MORE

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