THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release December 15, 1993
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
AND SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LES ASPIN
The Oval Office
5:21 P.M. EST
SECRETARY ASPIN: I have been proud of the work that
President Clinton and I have done over the past year to reshape our
American military to deal with the new dangers of a vastly changed
world. We now have a new working consensus about how much we should
spend on defense. And we can work together building the right kind
of military strengths that we need.
As a result, this year we have been able to focus our
agenda at home, because we have been agreed on our military effort
and what we need to remain strong. We have also worked together with
our uniform military to find common ground on some very, very
difficult social issues that could have distracted us from
maintaining a ready-to-fight force.
Dealing with all of these changes have made for a very
challenging and interesting year. I am extremely proud of the work
that we have done together.
I have been working continually for over 20 years to
help build a strong American military. It's time for me to take a
break and to undertake a new kind of work. So I have asked the
President to relieve me of this duty as Secretary of Defense as of
I know that while Bill Clinton is our Commander in Chief
our country will continue to grow in all of its strengths, our men
and women in uniform will always be honored, and we will be true to
our best values as a people.
THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, it is with real
sadness that today I accept Secretary Aspin's request to be relieved
of his duties as Secretary of Defense for personal reasons. I am
very grateful that he's agreed to remain at his post until January
20th, and beyond if necessary, so that we can plan together for the
coming year and effect a smooth transition at the Pentagon.
Les has been a close advisor and a friend of mine for a
long time. I have valued his wise counsel as a key member of our
national security team. And I have told him that after he takes the
break he's requested I very much hope he will consider other
assignments for this administration.
During a lifetime of public service in Congress, with
our transition, and at the Pentagon, Les Aspin has made invaluable
contributions to this nation's defense and security. None of them
have been more significant than his service as Secretary of Defense.
Along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he has provided solid
leadership for our uniformed and civilian defense personnel during a
period of transition that is historic and has at times been
He helped launched creative policy responses to the
fundamental changes of this era -- from the dissolution of the Soviet
empire, to the growing challenges of ethnic conflict and weapons
proliferation. And through it all, he has led with character, with
intelligence, with wisdom and the unflappable good humor that is both
his trademark and his secret weapon.
One of his most important contributions in this past
year has been his efforts to help our administration relate our
defense strategy in this new era and our defense spending. Under his
leadership, the Pentagon conducted the first comprehensive review of
our forces since the end of the Cold War. This now well-known,
bottom-up review has provided our nation with a profile of this era's
threats and a vision of our force structure that will guide our
nation's military for many years to come.
He's provided steady leadership for the entire defense
community as it has confronted the inevitable downsizing that
accompanied the end of the Cold War. He acted on the recommendations
of the Base Closure Commission in a way that demonstrated equity,
responsibility and a great concern for the communities and the
families that were hit hard by the closure of our military
facilities. And as we've reduced our force levels, he's been the
first to voice concerns for the men and women in uniform who shoulder
the burden of our national security.
His leadership has also been invaluable in helping our
country to adapt to our military social changes. He led the way in
our efforts to open the doors for women to serve our nation in combat
roles and helped to ensure more equitable rules toward homosexuals in
our military. He's provided creative leadership as he's mobilized
the Pentagon to develop new and stronger responses to the many
security challenges of this new era, such as his new
counterproliferation initiative. And on a range of tough decisions
and tough challenges abroad, from Bosnia to Korea, he has called them
as he saw them, bringing to bear a lifetime of experience and
dedication and a razor-sharp mind to our nation's security interest.
Above all, Secretary Aspin has provided deep strategic
thinking and leadership at a time of profound change in this world.
As a result, when our citizens go to bed tonight, we can do so secure
in the knowledge that our nation is building the right forces and
acquiring the right capabilities for this new era.
I will always appreciate the thoughtful and dedicated
and, ultimately, selfless service that Les Aspin provided to me and
to this nation over this last year. I asked a lot of him -- tough
times and tough problems. He gave even more to me, to our military
and to our country than was asked, and I will always be very, very
END5:26 P.M. EST
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