Change of Command at the Pentagon (Updated)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, second from right, tours the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial with Michael L. Rhodes, left, the Defense Department’s director of administration and management, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser and Marcel J. Lettre II, right, the secretary’s special assistant, Feb. 27, 2013.(DoD photo)

Now that Chuck Hagel has finally been confirmed by the Senate as the new Secretary of Defense, things are moving fast across the Potomac.

Senator Chuck Hagel will be arriving bright and early, 7:30 a.m. EST, at the Pentagon tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

Edit: The following important item in the timeline has just been made available and is inserted here:

At 8:15 a.m. EST, Senator Hagel will take the oath of office in a private ceremony attended by family members and his immediate office staff. Senator Hagel will be sworn in by the Director of Administration and Management, Michael L. Rhodes.

Chuck Hagel is sworn into office as the 24th defense secretary by Michael L. Rhodes, the Defense Department’s director of administration and management, as Hagel’s wife, Lilibet, holds a Bible at the Pentagon, Feb. 27, 2013. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

At 10:30 a.m. EST Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will give remarks to service members and civilian employees of the department in the Pentagon Auditorium.

Secretary of Defense Hagel will hit the deck running and will be immediately faced with, among other, the pending sequestration and all its ramifications

Here is Leon Panetta’s farewell message:

Tomorrow morning, Chuck Hagel will be sworn in to succeed me as Secretary of Defense. It’s been the privilege of my life to serve with and lead the men and women of this Department, and I am grateful that President Obama selected such an outstanding leader to take my place.

As my final act in this position, I want to express my deepest gratitude to each and every one of you who are fighting and working every day to keep this country safe. I also want to share with you my pride in what we’ve been able to accomplish together as one team and one family at the Department of Defense.

First and foremost, I’m proud that because of all of your hard work, your sacrifice, and your dedication, we’ve kept this country safe. I’m proud of the courage and commitment you’ve displayed in combat, and for your determination to defeat our enemies, prevail over significant challenges in two wars, and give the people of Iraq and Afghanistan a chance at a much brighter future.

I’m proud of the gains we’ve made in weakening Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. At all levels in this Department, you’ve shown the ability to work together closer than ever before with our partners in government and abroad. Your skill and teamwork are undermining and frustrating our enemies’ designs to attack this country.

I’m proud of the defense strategy that we’ve developed and started to implement, which sustains the world’s strongest military and helps meet the Department’s obligations to fiscal discipline. Together we’re keeping our military agile, flexible, and ready; we’re rebalancing our force posture; we’re building new partnerships and investing in new technologies.

I’m proud of expanding opportunities for everyone in the military, because I believe everyone deserves a chance to serve. And I’m proud of what we’ve done to help and care for returning service members, veterans, and their families, who’ve sacrificed so much especially over this past decade of war.

Most of all, I’ll always remain proud and honored to have led brave warriors who are risking their lives on behalf of the American people. Everything our military has been able to accomplish is because of dedicated people like you – it is because of your willingness to deal with extended absences from loved ones and deploy in harm’s way.

I’ll never forget, honoring our fallen to whom our nations rendered final honors, and I’ll keep their families in my prayers. In my time as Secretary of Defense, I’ve seen the profound difference that each of you has made in the life of this nation and our world. You have responded to the call of the bugle with courage and with selfless dedication to country.

My prayer as I leave is that we all share the same courage and dedication to protecting the United States of America, the home of the free and the land of the brave.

God bless America, God bless you, and God bless the men and women of the Department of Defense.

During his retirement, Panetta will likely continue tackling challenges with a partner’s help: Sylvia Panetta, currently director and formerly co-director with her husband of the Panetta Institute, also has teamed with him in raising three sons and spoiling six grandchildren.

“She has endured extended absences and long hours and the demands that come with public service, but she has always been there,” Panetta last week said of his wife of 50 years. “And I will never be able to thank her enough for her constant love and support. Her Valentine gift is both of us going home together.”

We wish you all the best, Mr. Secretary, and Thank You for your Service

Sources: Department of Defense

Edited to add photos

  

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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