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American Forces Press Service

Panetta Welcomes Senate-confirmed Leaders to Pentagon

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today formally welcomed three recently Senate-confirmed leaders to the Defense Department as undersecretaries of defense during a Pentagon ceremony.

Panetta introduced Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, who was confirmed May 24; James N. Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, confirmed May 25; and Erin C. Conaton, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, confirmed June 8.

“It’s a little odd, frankly, to have a ceremony welcoming these people into the Pentagon family,” Panetta said. “It’s a little bit like ‘Uncle’ Frank, ‘Uncle’ Jim [and] ‘Aunt’ Erin -- welcoming them to a family that they’re already part of. And they very much are a part of this family.”

Panetta noted all three undersecretaries had gone through the “gauntlet” of Senate confirmation and were rewarded with “some of the hardest, most challenging and most demanding jobs in government.”

“All three of these individuals that we’re honoring today have actually been working very hard, and for some time, in this department shaping our most important policies,” he said.

“From our new defense strategy to reforming the way we buy new equipment to managing all aspects of our Air Force, they are very much a part of the core team that I engage with every day,” the secretary said.

Panetta described the trio of defense leaders as people who help “talk through all the issues and challenges that we have to confront … to help run one of the largest bureaucracies in the world.”

“Very frankly, there is no way I could do this job without the team of people that work with me every day to help take on the challenges that we face,” the secretary said. “Every one of these individuals, and everyone who is part of my team, is very much a profile of service to the country.”

Panetta spoke of each undersecretary, beginning with Kendall. Panetta said Kendall has a “very important position in the Department of Defense.”

Kendall’s position, Panetta said, has the challenge of dealing with DOD regulations, different weapons systems, the requirements and rules imposed by Congress and elsewhere, negotiations with contractors across the country and other challenges relating to cost controls and cost management.

“Frank manages a $400 billion-a-year acquisition system that ensures that our troops have the best, most-advanced weapons, most-advanced technology in the world,” Panetta said.

“Jim Miller … is our new undersecretary for policy,” the secretary said. The position, he added, is a “very unique job, in part [because] you have to have big brain.”

Panetta said Miller’s job requires the skill sets of an academic, a negotiator, a politician, statesman and psychologist, among other traits.

“Jim brings to this position really a remarkable strategic insight into the challenges that we face,” he added.

Panetta described Conaton’s job as a “battlefield” position compared to the jobs of the previous two undersecretaries of defense he introduced.

“You are on the frontlines in the job of undersecretary for personnel and readiness,” Panetta said to Conaton. “You’re dealing with issues that confront people in this department from birth, through their career, to their death. It’s all dealt with in this shop.”

“It really does relate to the quality of life that our people have -- men and women in uniform -- and our civilian workforce,” Panetta added. “I know that in this position Erin will be an outstanding advocate for all of our volunteer force, our department civilians and their families.”

Panetta also praised Conaton’s tenacity, noting she’s a native of New Jersey. “When you come from New Jersey, you have a certain sense of fight that you have to have,” he said. “And she has that. She’s a proven leader and she’s a proven fighter.”

In addition to welcoming the three undersecretaries, Panetta expressed his personal gratitude to their families for their support. He also thanked Jo Ann Rooney, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, who held Conaton’s position on an interim basis while she underwent the confirmation process.

The defense secretary acknowledged there has been “an awful lot of movement” in the department’s leadership in recent months.

“But we now have a full team in place,” Panetta said. “A team that I’m very confident will help us meet our responsibility to the men and women in uniform, and the men and women who are part of our civilian workforce.”

“This department is stronger, and I believe our country is safer, because of your talent, your dedication and your teamwork,” he said.

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