Public Affairs

Secretary of Defense Panetta Addresses CSU Presidents

March 9, 2012

Leon PanettaAs part of CSU's Hill Day activities in Washington D.C., Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta gave the keynote address at a breakfast held on February 29 with campus presidents and others. He described his long relationship with the CSU and California, which he still calls home, and his role in helping to transform Fort Ord into what is now CSU Monterey Bay. Panetta also stressed the importance of educational opportunities and services needed for veterans returning home.

"We anticipate that one million service members will depart from the military over the next five years," said Panetta, "and they'll join the civilian workforce, hopefully. To give you a sense of how this will impact the state of California, more than 210,000 current service members live in California. That's 5 percent of the force."

CSU currently has more than 11,500 student veterans and service members enrolled across the system, and has launched a number of initiatives and committed resources to creating enduring veteran programs at all campuses. These include having veteran support teams at each campus, partnerships with local military bases, and veteran-oriented career programs.

Panetta highlighted the need to enhance educational opportunities for service members and veterans, and stressed the need to provide assistance in transitioning to civilian life.

"The Department (of Defense) needs to work with quality educational institutions like CSU and others to ensure that we meet our obligations to our service members," he said. "You are on the front lines of what our democracy is all about. It's about education. Without giving our students, without giving our troops, without giving their families the opportunities that this country is all about, we would not be successful in this country."

Following Panetta's talk, CSU campus presidents and their delegations spent the day on Capitol Hill talking with congressional representatives about CSU's priorities for 2012. In terms of support for veterans, CSU is focused on not being simply "veteran friendly" but on promoting veteran success by enhancing the support for veteran personnel and centers on campus; providing additional support for programs that successfully transition veterans to rewarding careers, and improving the coordination among the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Education, institutions of higher education and the private sector.