THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. When I took office, I pledged to do whatever was required to protect the American people and restore American leadership in the world. And over the past 20 months, that's exactly what we've done. During this time, I've relied every day on the advice and counsel of my National Security Advisor, General Jim Jones.
When I talked to Jim about taking this job shortly after the election, it was a difficult decision for him. He had just retired from the military, had a wide range of family obligations. But because of his patriotism, his dedication to keeping America safe, we were able to agree that he would serve, but he asked that we would -- he would serve for about two years. I am extraordinarily thankful that both he and his wife Diane agreed to make that additional sacrifice for our country.
Today, as we approach that two-year mark, I'm announcing that Jim has decided to step aside as National Security Advisor later this month, and that he will be succeeded by his very capable deputy, Tom Donilon.
The American people owe Jim an unbelievable debt of gratitude for a lifetime of service. As a Marine in Vietnam, he risked his life for our country and was highly decorated for his courage. As Commandant of the Marine Corps, he led our Marines into the 21st century and won widespread admiration within the Corps and beyond. As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, he helped the NATO alliance prepare for the new missions of our time. And given the multiple crises that we inherited, Jim has drawn on all of these experiences as National Security Advisor.
The list of challenges that our country has faced these last two years is daunting. Since my administration took office, we have removed nearly 100,000 troops and ended our combat mission in Iraq. We've refocused on the war against al Qaeda, and subjected its leadership to relentless pressure. We are pursuing a new strategy that finally devotes the resources we need in the fight against extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
We've reset relations with Russia, and signed a historic New START treaty. And after years of drift, we have built a broad international coalition to hold Iran accountable, and applied unprecedented pressure through tough new sanctions.
We have renewed the push for peace in the Middle East, charted a course to secure vulnerable nuclear materials within four years, and reestablished our leadership in the Pacific Rim, while taking the lead in forging a response at the global level to the economic crisis.
And in between, we've responded to a range of crises like Haiti and the floods now in Pakistan that are required from us as leaders in the world.
In short, we've spared no effort to keep the American people safe, while also repairing old alliances, building new partnerships, and restoring America's leadership in the 21st century.
Through these challenges, Jim has always been a steady voice in Situation Room sessions, daily briefings, and with meetings with foreign leaders, while also representing our country abroad with allies and partners in every region of the world. At the same time, he has led an unprecedented reform of our national security staff here at the White House. Reflecting the new challenges of our time, he put new emphasis on cyber security, development and climate change, and made sure that homeland security is fully integrated into our efforts.
Serving as National Security Advisor is one of the most difficult jobs in our government. But through it all, Jim -- like the Marine he has always been -- has been a dedicated public servant and a friend to me. After a lifetime of service, I know this was also an enormous sacrifice for the Jones family. Many of them are here today, and I want to thank them as well. Jim, like your father and uncle and generations of Joneses who served before you, you complete this assignment knowing that your country is safer and stronger. I thank you, and the American people thank you.
GENERAL JONES: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I am also proud to announce that General Jones will be succeeded by his deputy, and one of my closest advisors, Tom Donilon.
Tom has a wealth of experience that will serve him well in this new assignment. He has served three Presidents and been immersed in our national security for decades. Over the last two years, there is not a single critical national security issue that has not crossed Tom's desk. He has helped manage our national security team and the policymaking process, and won the respect and admiration of his colleagues in the White House and across the administration. He has a probing intellect and a remarkable work ethic -- although it's one that depends on a seemingly limitless quantity of Diet Coke. (Laughter.)
Tom, however, is not the only valuable member of the Donilon team who works here at the White House. His wife Cathy, who's here, has done an extraordinary job as Jill Biden's Chief of Staff. I'm grateful to the Donilon family for all the work that they've already done for our nation, and for agreeing to take on this additional responsibility.
We have some huge challenges ahead. We remain a nation at war. And we will not rest in our efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda. And above all, we are committed to forging the kind of American leadership that can shape the world in the 21st century just as we shaped the world in the 20th -- a world of greater peace; a world of growing markets and expanding prosperity; a world of shared security; a world where American leadership enlists the support of old allies and new partners, while advancing the values that help keep us safe and make America a beacon to the world.
That is the kind of American leadership that Jim Jones has always stood for, and the kind of leadership that Tom and my entire national security team will continue to work for in the years to come.
So with that, I want to once again personally thank Jim for his outstanding service and offer the mic to him to say a few words.
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