Congressman John Kline issued the following statement today after CIA Director Leon Panetta was confirmed by the United States Senate to become the next Secretary of Defense. Panetta is replacing Sec. Robert Gates, who is retiring on June 30, 2011:
"Secretary Gates has been a strong advocate and ally of our sons and daughters in uniform and has made their well-being a priority before, during, and after deployment. He established priorities and found efficiencies to reduce Pentagon waste. He has worked tirelessly to ensure our troops deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world have the equipment, resources, training, and time they need to successfully complete their missions and return home safely.
"As the Department of Defense undergoes a transition in leadership, we must recognize that we are engaged in a war with Islamist extremists who discern no geographical boundaries and have no regard for human life. As a former Congressman, Director Panetta has a unique understanding of the importance of consulting with Congress on matters of our national defense. I encourage him to work with the President to ensure this important Constitutional requirement is adhered to. As we continue to draw down our troops in Iraq and constantly evaluate our mission in Afghanistan, I look forward to his transparent and candid conversations with Congress on the current and future challenges facing our national security.
"Last month, the Minnesota National Guard sent more than 2,400 troops -- the famed "Red Bulls' -- to Kuwait and Iraq for "Operation New Dawn,' the final phase of "Iraqi Freedom.' I look forward to working with Mr. Panetta to ensure we leverage the success of the Minnesota Guard's own Yellow Ribbon reintegration program to provide the best care possible for our troops and their families during their deployment and when they come home."