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American Forces Press Service

Cheney, Pace Praise Rumsfeld at Farewell Ceremony

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2006 – Donald Rumsfeld is “the finest defense secretary the nation has ever had,” Vice President Richard B Cheney said at today’s Pentagon farewell to Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld steps down as secretary Dec. 18, when Robert Gates will become the 22nd secretary of defense.

Cheney, who himself served as defense secretary, said that Rumsfeld “never demands more of others than he does of himself.” Cheney, who worked for Rumsfeld in the Ford administration, said Rumsfeld was the toughest boss he’d ever worked for but is a superb executive who knows how to cut through to the heart of an issue at once.

“He embodies the adage that a statesman should act as a man of thought and think as a man of action,” Cheney said.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace has worked with Rumsfeld for five years, first as vice chairman and now as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Pace said the secretary is a man of enormous commitment. “The only person he pushed harder than us was himself,” Pace said. “The man's work ethic is simply incredible, and he brought to this building and to this department a sense of urgency that quickly filled us all.”

The chairman also said the secretary has the courage to speak his mind. “Sometimes the course of the nation changed because he had the courage to speak at those times,” Pace said.

Both Cheney and Pace spoke about the secretary’s loyalty and devotion to the men and women in uniform. Rumsfeld took responsibility for problems in the department. “He loves the men and women of this department, and he loves this country, and he has served it exceptionally well,” Pace said. “And all of us who have served under his leadership owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Cheney said that Rumsfeld emanates loyalty, integrity and love for the United States and a devotion to its cause. “The record of the years 2001 to 2006 only confirms the good qualities and the gift for leadership that Don Rumsfeld has shown all his life,” the vice president said. “The attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001, found Don Rumsfeld at his post and then sprinting to the rescue. Under his leadership, even as this great building burned, the men and women of the Pentagon moved immediately to protect the country and to prepare the response to acts of war.”

When President Bush called on the department to act in the aftermath of those attacks, the men and women of the department were ready. “And today, even after more than five years of unrelenting action, this department continues to wage the war on terror systematically and decisively,” Cheney said. “Under Secretary Rumsfeld, we've struck major blows against the al Qaeda network that hit America.”

Under Rumsfeld’s leadership, the United States has toppled two totalitarian regimes, liberated 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and “stood by young democracies as America always does,” Cheney said.

The fight goes on because the set of challenges that arrived on Sept. 11, 2001, is unlike any this nation has ever faced. “In the depth of their hatred, the technologies they seek and the ambitions they have announced, these enemies threaten civilization itself,” the vice president said. “They are hidden, dispersed, asymmetrical in their methods and unconstrained by the laws of warfare or the rules of morality.

“Unlike other conflicts, this war is not a matter of finding an opposing army and engaging it or finding a navy and sinking it,” he continued. “There is no manual for how to wage this fight and not even much guidance from military history. Yet the stakes are as high as can be imagined, and the margin for error is exceedingly small.”

Through the transition from Rumsfeld to Gates, America’s goals will remain constant, Cheney said. “Every member of our military and every person at the Pentagon can be certain that America will stay on the offensive in the war on terror,” he said. “The president of the United States and his national security team understand the threat and the enemy's changing tactics and its unchanging nature. We're not dealing with adversaries that will surrender or come to their senses. They hit us first; they hit us right here on this ground at this building.”

Pace recognized Joyce Rumsfeld for her contributions to her husband’s service in the Pentagon. “Anybody who has ever been in the same room with Joyce Rumsfeld knows her warmth, her compassion,” the general said. “She spent so many hours volunteering, working on family issues, visiting troops in the hospitals.”

Pace presented her with the department’s Distinguished Public Servant Award. Pace boiled the award citation down to, “Joyce, thank you, we love you, God bless you and your husband in the next stages of your lives.”

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