Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced today that he would be stepping down from his position overseeing the Department of Defense. Hagel, who served in the Army during Vietnam, is the 24th Secretary of Defense.
Speaking from the State Dining Room of the White House, President Obama noted that Secretary Hagel has helped to oversee a significant period of transition for both the Pentagon and the country:
The draw-down in Afghanistan, the need to prepare our forces for future missions and tough fiscal choices to keep our military strong and ready. Over nearly two years, Chuck has been an exemplary Defense Secretary, providing a steady hand as we modernized our strategy and budget to meet long-term threats, while still responding to immediate challenges like ISIL and Ebola. Thanks to Chuck, our military is on a firmer footing, engaged in these missions and looking ahead to the future.
President Obama also spoke on Secretary Hagel's military background, and what it meant for his time at the Department of Defense. "He understands our men and women like few others, because he’s stood where they stood, he’s been in the dirt and he’s been in the mud, and that’s established a special bond, the President said. "He sees himself in them and they see themselves in him. And their safety, their lives, have always been at the center of Chuck’s service."
After the President thanked the Secretary for his service and his friendship, Hagel reflected on his service from the podium:
As the President noted I have today submitted my resignation as Secretary of Defense. It’s been the greatest privilege of my life; the greatest privilege of my life to lead and most important, to serve -- to serve with the men and women of the Defense Department and support their families.