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    Tribute to Rick Debobes

    by Former Senator Carl Levin

    Posted on 2013-02-27

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    LEVIN. Mr. President, there is a document posted on the wall of the offices of the Senate Armed Services Committee with all of the staff listed in order of seniority, with the dates on which they started their service. The second name on the list is that of Rick DeBobes, the staff director of the committee, who joined the committee staff 24 years ago, on March 9, 1989. That record of service is all the more remarkable because Rick did not come to the Senate until after he had completed a distinguished 26-year career in the Navy. His last assignment on Active Duty was as legal advisor to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff William Crowe.

    This week, Rick will retire for the second time, culminating an extraordinary record of 50 years of service to the Senate, the Navy, the men and women of our Armed Forces, and his country.

    In the course of his service on the committee staff, Rick has played a key role in the enactment of 24 National Defense Authorization Acts. A proud graduate of Georgetown University, Rick received his law degree from Fordham University and a masters' degree in international law from the National Law Center at George Washington University. He has gone on to have what I am sure must be a far greater influence on international law than any of his professors or mentors could have imagined. It is no exaggeration to say that Rick DeBobes has been involved in writing or improving virtually every major piece of national security legislation to come before the Congress in the last quarter century, starting with the Goldwater-Nichols legislation that he helped shape before joining the committee staff.

    For the last 10 years, Rick has served as staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee--one of the toughest and most important jobs in the Senate. In this capacity, Rick has not only helped guide our annual National Defense Authorization Act to enactment each year, but also played a vital role in congressional oversight of our military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. His leadership of the committee staff has also seen the enactment of the Wounded Warrior Act, the Detainee Treatment Act, the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act, TRICARE for Life, and the repeal of don't ask, don't tell, along with other major legislation. Rick's advice and counsel on all of these matters--informed by his unique background and experience--have been invaluable not only to me and to other members of the Armed Services Committee, but also to our military chiefs of staff, combatant commanders, and other senior military and civilian officials in the Department of Defense.

    In the 16 years that I have served as chairman or ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, Rick has spent countless hours in my office, discussing national security matters of every kind. He has joined me on virtually every overseas trip I have taken, including more than a dozen trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. We have met together with Senators, Secretaries of Defense, chiefs of staff, and foreign heads of state. We have been through markups, floor debates, and conferences together. Through all of this, I have not only appreciated and needed Rick's wise counsel, I have enjoyed his company.

    Rick's hallmark as staff director has been the composure, the steadiness, and the sound judgment that he brings to the job every single day. The committee staff often line up outside Rick's office door, bringing him one crisis after another that needs to be addressed. Whether it is early in the morning before a hearing or late at night after a ``Little 4'' meeting in conference, Rick always makes time for the staff. And I don't think any of us have ever seen Rick lose his cool--except perhaps when his beloved Georgetown Hoyas basketball team blows a late lead.

    As Rick leaves us to enjoy a well-deserved retirement with his wife Margaret, his children, and his grandchildren, I know I speak for the entire Armed Services Committee--members and staff--when I say: Thanks, Rick, for a job extraordinarily well done, and best wishes for the future.


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