National Security Team
December 1, 2008
Good morning. Last week, we announced our economic team, which is
working as we speak to craft an Economic Recovery Program to create
jobs and grow our struggling economy. Today, Vice President-elect Biden
and I are pleased to announce our national security team.
The national security challenges we face are just as grave – and just
as urgent – as our economic crisis. We are fighting two wars. Old
conflicts remain unresolved, and newly assertive powers have put
strains on the international system. The spread of nuclear weapons
raises the peril that the world’s deadliest technology could fall into
dangerous hands. Our dependence on foreign oil empowers authoritarian
governments and endangers our planet.
America must also be strong at home to be strong abroad. We need to
provide education and opportunity for our citizens, so every American
can compete with anyone, anywhere. And our economic power must sustain
our military strength, our diplomatic leverage, and our global
The common thread linking these challenges is the fundamental reality
that in the 21st century, our destiny is shared with the world’s. From
our markets to our security; from our public health to our climate –we
must act with the understanding that, now more than ever, we have a
stake in what happens across the globe. And as we learned so painfully
on 9/11, terror cannot be contained by borders, nor safety provided by
Last week, we were reminded of this threat once again when terrorists
took the lives of six American among nearly 200 victims in Mumbai. In
the world we seek, there is no place for those who kill innocent
civilians to advance hateful extremism. This weekend, I told Prime
Minister Singh that Americans stand with the people of India in this
dark time. And I am confident that India’s great democracy is more
resilient than killers who would tear it down.
And so, in this uncertain world, the time has come for a new beginning
– a new dawn of American leadership to overcome the challenges of the 21st
century, and to seize the opportunities embedded in those challenges.
We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our
friends. We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring
partnerships. We will show the world once more that America is
relentless in defense of our people, steady in advancing our interests,
and committed to the ideals that shine as a beacon to the world:
democracy and justice; opportunity and unyielding hope – because
American values are America’s greatest export to the world.
To succeed, we must pursue a new strategy that skillfully uses,
balances, and integrates all elements of American power: our military
and diplomacy; our intelligence and law enforcement; our economy and
the power of our moral example. The team that we have assembled here
today is uniquely suited to do just that.
In their past service and plans for the future, these men and women
represent all of those elements of American power, and the very best of
the American example. They have served in uniform and as diplomats;
they have worked as legislators, law enforcement officials, and
executives. They share my pragmatism about the use of power, and my
sense of purpose about America’s role as a leader in the world.
I have known Hillary Clinton as a friend, a colleague, a source of
counsel, and as a campaign opponent. She possesses an extraordinary
intelligence and toughness, and a remarkable work ethic. I am proud
that she will be our next Secretary of State. She is an American of
tremendous stature who will have my complete confidence; who knows many
of the world’s leaders; who will command respect in every capitol; and
who will clearly have the ability to advance our interests around the
Hillary’s appointment is a sign to friend and foe of the seriousness of
my commitment to renew American diplomacy and restore our alliances.
There is much to do – from preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to
Iran and North Korea, to seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the
Palestinians, to strengthening international institutions. I have no
doubt that Hillary Clinton is the right person to lead our State
Department, and to work with me in tackling this ambitious foreign
At a time when we face an unprecedented transition amidst two wars, I
have asked Robert Gates to continue as Secretary of Defense, and I’m
pleased that he’s accepted. Two years ago, he took over the Pentagon at
a difficult time. He restored accountability. He won the confidence of
military commanders, and the trust of our brave men and women in
uniform, and their families. He earned the respect of members of
Congress on both sides of the aisle for his pragmatism and competence.
He knows that we need a sustainable national security strategy – and
that includes a bipartisan consensus at home.
As I said throughout the campaign, I will be giving Secretary Gates and
our military a new mission as soon as I take office: responsibly ending
the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control. We
will also ensure that we have the strategy – and resources – to succeed
against al Qaeda and the Taliban. As Bob said not too long ago,
Afghanistan is where the war on terror began, and it is where it must
end. And going forward, we will continue to make the investments
necessary to strengthen our military and increase our ground forces to
defeat the threats of the 21st century.
Eric Holder has the talent and commitment to succeed as Attorney
General from his first day on the job, which is even more important in
a transition that demands vigilance. He has distinguished himself as a
prosecutor, a Judge, and a senior official, and he is deeply familiar
with the law enforcement challenges we face– from terrorism to
counter-intelligence; from white collar crime to public corruption.
Eric also has the combination of toughness and independence that we
need at the Justice Department. Let me be clear: the Attorney General
serves the American people. And I have every expectation that Eric will
protect our people, uphold the public trust, and adhere to our
Janet Napolitano offers the experience and executive skill that we need
in the next Secretary of Homeland Security. She has spent her career
protecting people – as a US Attorney, an Attorney General, and as
Governor of Arizona. She understands the need for a Department of
Homeland Security that has the capacity to help prevent terrorist
attacks and respond to catastrophe – be it manmade or natural.
Janet assumes this critical role having learned the lessons – some of
them painful – of the last several years, from 9/11 to Katrina. She
insists on competence and accountability. She knows firsthand the need
to have a partner in Washington that works well with state and local
governments. She understands as well as anyone the danger of an
unsecure border. And she will be a leader who can reform a sprawling
Department while safeguarding our homeland.
Susan Rice will take on the crucial task of serving as Permanent
Representative of the United States to the United Nations. Susan has
been a close and trusted advisor. As in previous Administrations, the
UN Ambassador will serve as a member of my cabinet and integral member
of my team. Her background as a scholar, on the National Security
Council, and Assistant Secretary of State will serve our nation well at
the United Nations.
Susan knows that the global challenges we face demand global
institutions that work. She shares my belief that the UN is an
indispensable – and imperfect – forum. She will carry the message that
our commitment to multilateral action must be coupled with a commitment
to reform. We need the UN to be more effective as a venue for
collective action – against terror and proliferation; climate change
and genocide; poverty and disease.
Finally, I am convinced that General James Jones is uniquely suited to
be a strong and skilled National Security Advisor. Generations of
Joneses have served heroically on the battlefield – from the beaches of
Tarawa in World War II, to Foxtrot Ridge in Vietnam. Jim’s Silver Star
is a proud part of that legacy. He will bring to the job the dual
experience of serving in uniform and as a diplomat. He has commanded a
platoon in battle, served as Supreme Allied Commander in a time of war,
and worked on behalf of peace in the Middle East.
Jim is focused on the threats of today and the future. He understands
the connection between energy and national security, and has worked on
the frontlines of global instability – from Kosovo to northern Iraq to
Afghanistan. He will advise me and work effectively to integrate our
efforts across the government, so that we are effectively using all
elements of American power to defeat unconventional threats and promote
I am confident that this is the team that we need to make a new
beginning for American national security. This morning, we met to
discuss the situation in Mumbai and some of the challenges that we face
in the months and years ahead. In the coming weeks, I will be in
close contact with these advisors, who will be working with their
counterparts in the Bush Administration to make sure that we are ready
to hit the ground running on January 20. Given the range of threats
that we face – and the vulnerability that can be a part of every
presidential transition – I hope that we can proceed swiftly for those
national security officials who demand confirmation.
We move forward with the humility that comes with knowing that there
are brave men and women protecting us on the front lines. Troops
serving their second, third, or fourth tours. Diplomats and
intelligence officers in dangerous corners of the world. FBI agents in
the field, cops on the beat, prosecutors in our courts, and cargo
inspectors at our ports. These selfless Americans whose names are
unknown to most of us will form the backbone of our effort. If we serve
as well as they do, we will protect our country and promote our values.
And we move forward with respect for America’s tradition of a
bipartisan national security policy, and a commitment to national
unity. When it comes to keeping our nation and our people safe, we are
not Republicans and we are not Democrats: we are Americans. There is no
monopoly of power or wisdom in either party. Together, as one nation,
as one people, we can shape our times instead of being shaped by them.
Together, we will meet the challenges of the 21st century not with
fear, but with hope.
Now, before I take questions, I’d like to invite my team to say a few
words, starting with my friend Hillary Clinton. Thank you.
order at the press conference: President-elect Barack Obama, Senator
Hillary Clinton, Secretary Robert Gates, Eric Holder, Governor Janet
Napolitano, Dr. Susan Rice, General Jim Jones, USMC (Ret), Vice
President-elect Joe Biden