Speaking with reporters at the White House, Obama said McDonough -- who currently serves as deputy national security adviser -- is "a man of deep faith, and he understands that in the end, our policies and our programs are measured in the concrete differences that they make in the lives of our fellow human beings and in the values that we advance as Americans."
The president said he has been "counting on Denis for nearly a decade -- since I first came to Washington, when he helped set up my Senate office."
Obama got a laugh when he said McDonough was among the Capitol Hill veterans who were "able to show me where the restrooms were and -- how you passed a bill."
"He has been an indispensable member of my national security team as well," the president said. "Denis has played a key role in every major national security decision of my presidency -- from ending the war in Iraq to winding down the war in Afghanistan; from our response to natural disasters around the world like Haiti and the tsunami in Japan to the repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' to countless crises in between, day and night -- and that includes many nights."
Obama said McDonough "understands the importance of reaching across the aisle to deliver results for the American people -- whether it's on jobs and the economy, healthcare or education, reducing the deficit or addressing climate change."