WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2011 -- Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta praised six officers yesterday after the Senate confirmed their nominations for key leadership positions, including the military’s two top uniformed posts.

"I would like to congratulate General Martin Dempsey and Admiral James Winnefeld, who the Senate confirmed to serve as our next chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Panetta said in a statement. “I am thrilled these two great Americans will soon join me in leading the finest military in the world.

“They bring with them immense intellect, proven leadership and far reaching strategic vision,” he added, “and I know that both the president and I will greatly benefit from their candid advice and counsel as we confront the many security challenges facing our country.”

Panetta also praised the outgoing chairman, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, and the outgoing vice chairman, Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, calling them “two of the military’s finest leaders” and thanking them for their role in getting his tenure as defense secretary started. Panetta took office July 1, 2011.

“I have relied greatly on their counsel and benefited greatly from their wisdom during this period of transition,” he said, “and I look forward to paying full tribute to each before they retire from military service.”

The secretary also hailed four other senior officers the Senate confirmed yesterday for top positions in the Defense Department: Gen. Raymond T. Odierno as Army chief of staff, Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert as chief of naval operations, Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III as commander of U.S. Transportation Command, and Army Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., who will receive his fourth star and serve as commander of U.S. Northern Command.

"I look forward to working closely with all of these outstanding leaders to ensure that America's military remains the finest in the world and that our men and women in uniform, and the families who support them, get what they need as they work tirelessly to safeguard our great nation," he said.