Farewell for secretary of the Navy Gordon England

Farewell for secretary of the Navy Gordon England

Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC, Thursday, January 23, 2003.

Good morning. It’s a great pleasure to be here, or I suppose, a bittersweet pleasure to be here. This is such a distinguished audience. I think I’m going to get in trouble if I try to recognize all of you. So let me just note for those of you who haven’t noticed, we have some of the most distinguished members of the House and Senate with us today, and some very distinguished ambassadors. It’s quite a turnout.

Gordon [inaudible] for what you’ve done, and I’m very pleased, although I have to apologize, I have to leave immediately to go to New York. I was delighted to be able to be fitted in here at the front of the program to express my own deep appreciation for Gordon’s service and my very high expectations for his continued service.

Two years ago, Gordon England was nominated by President Bush to lead the Department of the Navy. At his confirmation hearing, he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that, after a long career in industry, he wanted to apply his experience and energies to public service. He pledged to Congress and to the nation that he would devote himself to preparing the Navy and the Marine Corps for what he termed “the threats and opportunities of the 21st century.” I’m not sure Gordon quite knew what he meant when he talked about those threats–none of us did.

A few months later, on September 11, the American people discovered exactly what those threats included.

By then, of course, Gordon was already hard at work, implementing the President’s and the [Defense] Secretary’s agenda for the Navy. That program involved four key objectives: Raising the level of combat capability; improving the quality of life for servicemen and women and their families; accelerating the adoption of technology; and improving business practices in the Department–something for which Gordon brought a special expertise.

Over the weeks and months, I had the pleasure of working closely with Gordon on the Department’s Senior Executive Council, where we were both members. We also collaborated closely on the Strategic Defense Review and the Quadrennial Defense Review. And I had a few occasions when I was able to join him on his tireless travels to bases around the world. Gordon, I especially enjoyed the day we were together in New York for the commissioning of the USS Bulkeley. I came away from all of those experiences with the highest regard for Gordon’s ability, his ability to lead and his determination to get things done–not to just occupy an office.

No one who knows him should be surprised that in the course of his tenure, he logged over 110,000 miles; made 150 speeches; granted over 80 interviews; and trooped up the Hill to testify on more than 100 separate occasions. Take note Chairman Young [Laughter.]

As a result, he leaves the Navy with an enviable record of accomplishment. There isn’t time today to list all of his achievements, but the record will show that he did what he said he would. On his watch, combat readiness was improved in both the Navy and the Marine Corps. Improvements were made in base pay and Sea Pay. Barracks were modernized. Housing was privatized. Employment programs for spouses were introduced.

What’s more, to get more bang for the buck in technology, Gordon placed greater emphasis on COTS, which, of course, you all know as “Commercial Off-the-Shelf” procurement. He dramatically improved the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet and brought Rear Admiral Chuck Munns aboard to run that critical program. I know the bureaucratic obstacles he had to overcome to get it done–but you got it done.

It means the Navy and the Marine Corps will share a common computing and communications environment for the first time. Among his major achievements, and I things are always shared with others, working with the Commandant [of the Marine Corps] and the CNO [Chief of Naval Operations], he launched a merger of Navy and Marine Corps tactical air power that is truly revolutionary, that can remove redundancies and has anticipated savings of some $30 billion for that one initiative alone.

All that and more in just a little over 20 months. I’d say that’s a pretty good record for someone who was brand new to government. It would be an enviable record indeed for someone who had devoted his entire career to working for Uncle Sam.

There have been 72 Navy Secretaries in our nation’s history. Yet Gordon chose to keep the portraits of two Assistant Navy Secretaries on his office wall–you’ll never guess which two: Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As Gordon liked to explain to visitors, they served as a reminder that there was a life beyond the Navy. [Laughter.]

And so I have a word for Gordon’s faithful wife, Dottie: I know you’ve supported him in everything he’s wanted to do in his career. You deserve his gratitude–and ours. But if you expect to return to a nice quiet life someday, forget it. [Laughter.] This man has high ambitions [Laughter.] You might take him aside one evening and ask him exactly how far he plans to go.

In the meantime, there’s a saying in Washington that no good deed goes unpunished. And so, as a reward for his outstanding service in the Department of Defense, the President has asked Gordon to serve as Deputy Secretary of the new Department of Homeland Security. If the Senate confirms you, Senate willing, Gordon, you’re in for a change of life. You won’t have nearly so many people saluting you. [Laughter.] And you’ll have to get used to that familiar cry, “Oh, let the Deputy take care of that one.” [Laughter.] I can guarantee you, you will be a very welcome addition to the Deputies’ Committee. Indeed, your assignment is a critical one and an enormous challenge. As the President said in signing the Homeland Security Act, the new department involves “the most extensive reorganization of the federal government since Harry Truman signed the National Security Act” in 1947–that landmark legislation that created the Department of Defense as we know it today. And frankly, I can’t think of anyone better prepared to get that job done.

Governor Ridge–Secretary Ridge, as we are to call you now–your department’s gain is very much our loss in the Department of Defense and the Navy. But the ultimate beneficiary–the only one that really counts–is the American people. And they are the winners.

So Gordon, let me wish you luck on behalf of everyone at the Department of Defense. That includes Don Rumsfeld, who is in the Oval Office as we speak, visiting. Your new job is fitting recognition of the great work that you did as a member of the Defense team. Congratulations, and I guess it’s still appropriate to wish you “fair winds and following seas.” Thank you. [Applause]

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