WASHINGTON (CNN) - Friday's government report showing a rise in unemployment shines a light on a new hurdle facing young people in need of work: the military isn't the reliable source of employment that it used to be. The Army and Marine Corps are getting smaller, and now there's a nearly year-long wait list just to get into boot camp, no matter which branch you want to join.
The shrinking Army and Marine Corps are part of a long-planned reduction in the size of our Armed Forces.
But the backlog for enlistees is a new issue. Incoming recruits will spend quite a bit of time before they see a Pentagon paycheck. "Some may take a year or slightly longer, the typical new enlistee would probably be somewhere between 9 and 11 months," Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said in an email response to CNN's questions about recruiting.
CNN's Chris Lawrence explores U.S. casualties in Iraq that some American leaders believe are caused by Iranian weapons.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates left the Pentagon for good Thursday, but not without a few laughs.
Sendoffs by President Obama and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were sprinkled with humor and anecdotes, often about the many years Gates spent in public service.
In his opening remarks, Mullen praised his character, which he believes mirrors the grit of troops down range.
“I think that’s why so many of them are drawn to him,” Mullen said. “He tells it straight, no bull, no fancy words–not that he doesn’t have a fabulous vocabulary or even a colorful one at times”.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a career civil servant who has advised eight presidents over four decades turned to his wife at the Pentagon's official farewell ceremony Thursday and said "Becky, we're really going home this time."
Gate's promise to his wife was a not so subtle reference to his track record of leaving Washington and then reluctantly coming back or staying longer than planned. Today he’s really leaving—for his retirement home across the country in Washington state.
Most recently, as the President George W. Bush's second term was ending, Gates made several comments about having a clock in his office counting down the days until he could leave Washington when Bush left office.
In his last full day on the job, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor, on Thursday during a tribute in front of the Pentagon.
"I'm deeply honored and moved by your presentation of this award," Gates said after President Barack Obama announced the award.
"It was a big surprise. But we should have known. ... You're pretty good at this covert ops stuff," Gates joked.
Gates - whose four decades of public service spanned eight U.S. presidents - is succeeded by former CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Thursday will be a “goodbye” day at the Pentagon for departing Defense Secretary Robert Gates even as behind the scenes senior officials are already getting ready to say “hello” Friday morning to incoming Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Panetta is expected to head up the Pentagon’s massive outdoor stone staircase on Friday morning and get right to work. Pentagon officials tell CNN Panetta will have a morning meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the secure room known as “the tank” and a senior staff meeting to get his tenure off to a brisk start. Insiders say look for a Panetta’s traditional yellow pad of paper to be quickly covered with notes, ideas and plenty of questions.
Panetta stepped down as director of the CIA earlier this week. A lot of CIA-Pentagon “watchers” are waiting to see if the former CIA chief Panetta brings one very important personal “operative’ with him to his new post at the Pentagon – his golden retriever named Bravo. Bravo has been a semi regular at the agency, padding the hallways and sitting at Panetta’s feet during some of the most classified briefings inside the agency. Bravo is widely described by straightfaced CIA officials trying not to smile as the only dog in government with a ‘very top secret clearance.”
First of course Panetta will be sworn into office in a small private ceremony. Gates will have left the Pentagon Thursday afternoon, but does not officially leave office until Panetta takes the oath.
After the formal departure ceremony at the Pentagon Thursday morning, Defense Secretary Robert Gates will come back into the Pentagon one last time for a reception and lunch and then head down the stairs from his third floor office, out the door, and into retirement at his home in Washington state. As he walks down those stairs, its expected he will walk through a wall of applause from his senior staff and dozens of other Pentagon workers, both military and civilian who plan to follow the tradition of lining the staircase when a secretary or senior commander departs for the final time.
The Pentagon says the message below– from Defense Secretary Gates on his last full day in office– is going out today to "all U.S. military personnel, active and reserve, around the world"
TO THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES: TOMORROW, 30 JUNE 2011, I WILL RETIRE AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. IT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST HONOR OF MY LIFE TO SERVE AND TO LEAD YOU FOR THE PAST FOUR AND A HALF YEARS.
ALL OF THAT TIME WE HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN TWO WARS AND COUNTLESS OTHER OPERATIONS. IT HAS BEEN A DIFFICULT TIME FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR FAMILIES, FROM LONG AND REPEATED DEPLOYMENTS FOR THOSE IN ALL FOUR SERVICES - AND THE ASSOCIATED LONG SEPARATIONS FROM LOVED ONES - TO THE ANGUISH OF THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE LOST FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN COMBAT OR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE SUFFERED VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE WOUNDS OF WAR YOURSELVES. BUT YOUR DEDICATION, COURAGE AND SKILL HAVE KEPT AMERICA SAFE EVEN WHILE BRINGING THE WAR IN IRAQ TO A SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION AND, I BELIEVE, AT LAST TURNING THE TIDE IN AFGHANISTAN. YOUR COUNTRYMEN OWE YOU THEIR FREEDOM AND THEIR SECURITY. THEY SLEEP SAFELY AT NIGHT AND PURSUE THEIR DREAMS DURING THE DAY BECAUSE YOU STAND THE WATCH AND PROTECT THEM.
When Defense Secretary Robert Gates gets on a plane for his final return to his private home in Washington state on Thursday afternoon he actually will still be Defense Secretary. Gates will travel by military aircraft with full security and communications teams because incoming Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will not be sworn into until Friday morning in a private quick ceremony. Once Panetta is sworn in by Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson and signs a few papers, then he will officially take the chair, according to Defense Department officials.
Its an important thing to keep track of because the secretary of defense must be reachable at all times in the event of crisis, as well as being part of the succession of government if other senior members of the government are dead.
There will be a more formal “arrival” ceremony for Panetta at the Pentagon in early July with plenty of pomp, circumstance and military gold braid and stars in attendance.
President Barack Obama is expected to announce this week that 30,000 U.S. "surge" forces will be fully withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, an administration official has told CNN.
Obama will deliver his highly anticipated speech on the troop drawdown on Wednesday.
The time-frame would give U.S. commanders another two "fighting" seasons with the bulk of U.S. forces still available for combat operations. Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates has pushed for additional time to roll back Taliban gains in the country before starting any significant withdrawal - a position at odds with a majority of Americans, according to recent public opinion surveys.
Gates acknowledged Tuesday that domestic public opinion and congressional support for further military engagement must be taken into account by the president.
The U.S. is watching closely to the see the ultimate fate of the most powerful man in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army’s chief of staff. Pressured by the U.S. to crack down on terrorists, while at the same time he was kept in the dark about the US raid to kill Osama Bin Laden, Kayani “is facing more vocal and strident criticism than he has in the past,” a senior U.S. military official told CNN. “We really think he is coming under increased scrutiny by junior and mid-grade officers.” This is the type of scrutiny, the official said, senior Pakistani generals like Kayani are “not accustomed to facing.”
Criticism of Kayani inside Pakistan had grown in recent months as he visibly became close to the Obama administration and the Pentagon. But in the wake the U.S. military raid into Pakistan to kill Osama Bin Laden, that criticism has increased from an officer corps furious that U.S. troops invaded Pakistan’s territory without the Pakistani military, and especially Kayan,i being consulted.
Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff is one of Kayani’s closest professional and personal allies, having met with him many times in the last several years. “Mullen does consider him a friend,” said the Admiral’s spokesman, Capt John Kirby. “That doesn't mean there aren't still disagreements, it doesn't mean Kayani doesn't feel betrayed."