Leon E. Panetta Takes
Formal Oath as 23rd Defense Secretary
July 23, 2011–
Leon E. Panetta took
the oath of office as the nation’s 23rd secretary of defense in a
President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to Defense Secretary
Leon E. Panetta, accompanied by his wife Sylvia, during a formal
ceremony at the Pentagon, July 22, 2011. The former CIA director took
over as the 23rd secretary of defense after a private swearing-in
ceremony, July 1, 2011. DOD photo by R.D. Ward
Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath in a formal ceremony
three weeks after Panetta officially took office in a private July 1
“I want to first begin by thanking the president for placing his trust
and his confidence in me,” Panetta said. “I am truly humbled by the
responsibility and the opportunity that has been given to me at this
great moment in time.”
Panetta vowed to continue working with Congress to strengthen the
Defense Department’s mission.
“I’d like to express my deep gratitude to the members of Congress that
are here today,” he said. “I pledge to all of you that I will continue
to work closely with members of both of those great chambers on
[Capitol] Hill and that I will continue to work with both political
“I can’t do this job without you,” Panetta continued. “It’s that simple.
I really believe that Congress has to be a full partner in the
department’s mission of protecting America.”
Panetta thanked the military’s leadership for its support, especially
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the
services’ uniformed and civilian leaders.
“Chairman Mike Mullen, who has become a dear friend, I thank you for
your leadership, and I thank you for your continuing guidance as I take
on this challenge,” Panetta said. “And I also want to express my deepest
thanks to the outstanding service chiefs and service secretaries for
their guidance, for their counsel, and for their support.”
In particular, the secretary said, he appreciates the leaders’ insights
into the needs of the men and women who serve on the front lines, and
The defense secretary also expressed his gratitude for his own family’s
constant support during his career.
“My family has been tolerant beyond all measure during 40 years of
public service,” Panetta said. “And above all, I want to thank Sylvia,
who is here today. My three sons [and] my six grandchildren have been a
great source of pride for Sylvia and me. And I am so grateful for their
continuing love and support.
“That’s the story of my family,” he added. “And the story of my family
tells you a lot about what America means to me and to all of us.”
Panetta expressed his confidence in the U.S. military.
“I believe there is no better guarantor of our security, and ultimately,
our freedom, than the strength of America’s armed forces,” he said.
“This is a time of historic challenge -- for this department, and for
our country. And change will only accelerate the challenges we face.”
Panetta spoke of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon,
which occurred just a few hundred yards from today’s ceremony.
“That day, the nation suddenly understood that we had to confront a new
and uncertain period of conflict,” he said. “Unlike the Cold War, we now
face a multitude of security challenges [and] dangers that are spread
across the globe.
“These threats are daunting, to be sure,” he continued. “But these past
few years have also shown the world that America, with our strong
intelligence and military capabilities, is up to that challenge. We will
not back down when our homeland is threatened. We will do whatever it
takes to defend this country.”
Panetta saved his strongest words of resolve for enemies of the United
States and its interests.
“No one attacks the United States of America and gets away with it,” he
said. “We have been relentless in the efforts to disrupt, dismantle and
defeat al-Qaida and al-Qaida’s extremist affiliates. … I believe that we
are within reach of achieving a strategic defeat of al-Qaida. But to do
that we have to continue to put pressure on them where ever they are.
And if we continue that commitment, then ultimately, we will succeed.”
reaffirmed his commitment to taking care of service members and their
families, calling it his most important responsibility.
“Like my good friend and predecessor, Bob Gates, I will be a tireless
advocate for [service members] and their families,” he said. “We owe it
to them to make sure that they have what they need to accomplish their
mission, but to also support their families back home.”
Mindful of the challenges ahead, Panetta thanked the military for its
service to the nation.
“Thank you for your support,” he said. “May God bless the men and women
who are out there serving us, but most importantly, may God bless the
United States of America.”