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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington DC


Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise to support the nomination of Leon Panetta to be the 23rd Secretary of Defense. Director Panetta has a long history of government and private sector service and experience, including service in the U.S. Army.

Director Panetta served ably for eight terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, rising to be chairman of the House Budget Committee. He left that position to be President Clinton's Director of the Office of Management and Budget and later served 2 1/2 years as President Clinton's Chief of Staff, which is where I got to know him well. He then spent 10 years codirecting a foundation with his wife that seeks to instill in young men and women the virtues and values of public service. Knowing Director Panetta, this comes as no surprise. In February 2009, he became the 19th Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and it is in this capacity where I have had the opportunity to work very closely with him over the last several years and consider him a close friend.

Director Panetta has been an outstanding leader of the Central Intelligence Agency, and it is bittersweet to see him leave. Director Panetta is a true leader in every sense of the word. He understands how Capitol Hill works since he served in Congress for 16 years. He has always shown the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is the committee that oversees his organization, the right kind of deference and responded to our questions and concerns promptly and directly.

Although he leaves the CIA, he is not leaving the administration and I am quite pleased that I will continue to have the opportunity to work with him as Secretary of Defense. I think he has the right qualifications for his new job. He understands budgets, and in this time of economic austerity we need someone with that knowledge and his ability to understand and manage the resources of a huge organization such as the Department of Defense.

In his current capacity as Director of the CIA, he has also worked and built strong partnerships with the Department of Defense, having been involved in the planning and execution of numerous joint operations, including of course the most recent operation against Osama bin Laden. He will continue this strong partnership in his new position, and I know he will continue to ensure that these two organizations work closely together and cooperate successfully in the interest of our national security and for the safety of our country.

Director Panetta has a very challenging job ahead of him. The United States is involved in three major military operations overseas, as well as countless smaller ones. Budgets are extremely tight, and they are only going to get tighter. However, no country has the global interests and global responsibilities that the United States has, and for that reason we need a military that can protect those interests and carry out those responsibilities. Director Panetta will need to decide how we do that and will also help decide what, if anything, the United States can and needs to stop doing.

He will also need to take responsibility for shaping our military to be prepared for the future. For the last decade, our military has necessarily been focused on fighting and winning the conflicts we are in; namely, Iraq and Afghanistan. We continue to meet that challenge, and I am very optimistic that we, with the Afghan people, will prevail against insurgents in Afghanistan, just as we prevailed with the Iraqi people against insurgents in Iraq. However, we can't take our eyes off the future. As a nation, we have a very poor record of predicting where our next conflict will come from.

I have heard it said that when Secretary McNamara had his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Defense in 1961, no one asked him a question about a country called Vietnam. And when Secretary Rumsfeld had his confirmation hearing in 2001, no one asked him about Afghanistan. But, in both cases, those were the issues that would dominate their tenure as Secretary of Defense.

If I might say, Director Panetta, if a new global hot spot dominates your tenure as Secretary of Defense, there is a good chance that it will be one that no one asked you about at your confirmation hearing.

For this reason, our Armed Forces need to be prepared to fight conflicts that are unlike our current ones. We cannot, and should not, assume that the next war will be like the current one. We need to be prepared for both high-end and low-end conflict. We need to be prepared not just so that we can fight and win these conflicts but so we can deter potential adversaries and not have to fight in the first place.

I know Leon Panetta realizes that, and I know he will continue to be committed to ensuring our military is as prepared as possible to meet whatever challenges may come our country's way. That will not be easy, and it will take a man of his ability to do this successfully and in a way that takes into account our current fiscal situation. However, I believe the President has chosen the right man for the job.

I support Leon Panetta's nomination to be the next Secretary of Defense, and I encourage my colleagues to support that nomination as well.


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