[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book II)]
[December 15, 1993]
[Page 2177]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 2177]]

Remarks on the Resignation of Les Aspin as Secretary of Defense
December 15, 1993

    Ladies and gentlemen, it is with real sadness that today I accept 
Secretary Aspin's request to be relieved of his duties as Secretary of 
Defense for personal reasons. I am very grateful that he's agreed to 
remain at his post until January 20th, and beyond if necessary, so that 
we can plan together for the coming year and effect a smooth transition 
at the Pentagon.
    Les has been a close adviser and a friend of mine for a long time. I 
have valued his wise counsel as a key member of our national security 
team. And I have told him that after he takes the break he's requested, 
I very much hope he will consider other assignments for this 
    During a lifetime of public service in Congress, with our 
transition, and at the Pentagon, Les Aspin has made invaluable 
contributions to this Nation's defense and security. None of them have 
been more significant than his service as Secretary of Defense. Along 
with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he has provided solid leadership for our 
uniformed and civilian defense personnel during a period of transition 
that is historic and has at times been unsettling.
    He helped launch creative policy responses to the fundamental 
changes of this era, from the dissolution of the Soviet empire to the 
growing challenges of ethnic conflict and weapons proliferation. And 
through it all, he has led with character, with intelligence, with 
wisdom, and the unflappable good humor that is both his trademark and 
his secret weapon.
    One of his most important contributions in this past year has been 
his efforts to help our administration relate our defense strategy in 
this new era and our defense spending. Under his leadership, the 
Pentagon conducted the first comprehensive review of our forces since 
the end of the cold war. This now well-known, bottom-up review has 
provided our Nation with a profile of this era's threats and a vision of 
our force structure that will guide our Nation's military for many years 
to come.
    He's provided steady leadership for the entire defense community as 
it has confronted the inevitable downsizing that accompanied the end of 
the cold war. He acted on the recommendations of the base closure 
commission in a way that demonstrated equity, responsibility, and a 
great concern for the communities and the families that were hit hard by 
the closure of our military facilities. And as we've reduced our force 
levels, he's been the first to voice concerns for the men and women in 
uniform who shoulder the burden of our national security.
    His leadership has also been invaluable in helping our country to 
adapt to our military social changes. He led the way in our efforts to 
open the doors for women to serve our Nation in combat roles and helped 
to ensure more equitable rules toward homosexuals in our military. He's 
provided creative leadership as he's mobilized the Pentagon to develop 
new and stronger responses to the many security challenges of this new 
era, such as his new counterproliferation initiative. And on a range of 
tough decisions and tough challenges abroad, from Bosnia to Korea, he 
has called them as he saw them, bringing to bear a lifetime of 
experience and dedication and a razor-sharp mind to our Nation's 
security interest.
    Above all, Secretary Aspin has provided deep strategic thinking and 
leadership at a time of profound change in this world. As a result, when 
our citizens go to bed tonight, we can do so secure in the knowledge 
that our Nation is building the right forces and acquiring the right 
capabilities for this new era.
    I will always appreciate the thoughtful and dedicated and ultimately 
selfless service that Les Aspin provided to me and to this Nation over 
this last year. I asked a lot of him, tough times and tough problems. He 
gave even more to me, to our military, and to our country than was 
asked, and I will always be very, very grateful.
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 5:21 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White