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Pentagon spokeswoman stepping down

Victoria Clarke
Victoria Clarke

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke, the U.S. Defense Department's most visible woman, is leaving her post at the end of the week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced Monday.

In a short statement, Rumsfeld said Clarke would "be sorely missed."

"Torie Clarke is a gifted communicator," he said. "During her remarkable two years of service in the Department of Defense, she has developed countless new methods to tell the story of our fighting forces and bring their courage, dedication and professionalism into sharp focus for all Americans."

Clarke, citing personal reasons for her resignation, said working for the U.S. military "has been a true honor."

"I depart sadly because this has been the best professional experience of my life," she said.

Clarke did not indicate what her next steps would be.

Lawrence DiRita, special assistant to Rumsfeld, will assume Clarke's duties until a permanent replacement is confirmed, according to the defense secretary.

Before becoming assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, Clarke was the general manager of the Washington office of Hill & Knowlton, a global public relations and marketing firm.

Her career as a political spokeswoman began when she graduated from George Washington University with a bachelor's degree and became a press assistant to then-Vice President George Bush in 1982.

Clarke was a press secretary for U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, an assistant U.S. trade representative and press secretary for the re-election campaign of President Bush in 1992.

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