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Cohen Discusses Three-Pronged Defense Strategy

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 8, 1997 – "Shape," "respond," "prepare" sum up the nation's future defense strategy, William S. Cohen said here May 6.

Speaking at a Business Executives for National Security dinner, the defense secretary said DoD officials have devised a three-pronged strategy to defend the national interests today and in the 21st century. It was formulated during the Quadrennial Defense Review due out May 15, he said. While Cohen would not reveal details ahead of the deadline, he talked about the three components of the overall strategy.

DoD plans to "shape" the environment by remaining engaged in world affairs, Cohen said. "We can't simply swing back to a continental cocoon and zip ourselves in and watch the world unfold on CNN. We have to be engaged. We have to be forward deployed."

About 100,000 U.S. forces will remain in the Asia-Pacific region with another 100,000 in Europe. "We intend to shape people's opinion, ... [show] we are a reliable, strong, flexible ally that can be counted on in times of crisis," he said.

Responding to crises is the second part of the review strategy. DoD will be called upon to respond to humanitarian rescue missions, noncombatant evacuations like that recently conducted in Albania, as well as minor and major conflicts, Cohen said. "We have to have that kind of flexibility; otherwise, we are limited in our capability of responding to these types of threats."

Preparing for the future, the third part of the review strategy, requires streamlining the department and modernizing the force, Cohen said. Each year, about $15 billion migrates from DoD's modernization account to pay for such contingency operations as peacekeeping in Bosnia, he said.

DoD needs to recapitalize the armed forces to take advantage of a revolution in military affairs, he said. Incorporating information age technology will provide total domination of the battlefield, Cohen said. The department also needs to revolutionize its business affairs. Progress is being made toward a faster, more efficient, less costly way of doing business, he said.

"DoD contract payments were all paper just two years ago; now 50 percent are conducted through electronic means. Fifteen months ago, all commercial invoices were paper; today, 25 percent are electronic. Twelve months ago, one out of every 10 travel reimbursements was done electronically; now it's six out of 10. In the last year, all the services have terminated their office supply operations at military bases and have contracted out the work."

More effort in this direction is needed, Cohen said. "We've got to streamline. We've got to downsize. We've got to outsource. We've got to have more competition. We've got to use commercial products off the shelf."

The department's infrastructure -- bases, facilities, depots -- is too large, Cohen said. While troop strength has been cut by a third and procurement by two-thirds in the last decade, infrastructure has been cut by only 18 percent. DoD officials say base and depot closures are in store. Choices will be difficult, Cohen said, but necessary.

"We have to ask Congress, 'Should depots remain in government hands in place of high-technology weapons in soldiers' hands? Do we protect facilities instead of protecting our forces?'"

Further downsizing includes reforming the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Cohen said it is "too big, too bureaucratic." He said he will announce formation of a defense reform task force May 9 to "squeeze a good deal of the fat from the tail that currently is wagging the teeth."

Cohen will soon present what he calls a blueprint for DoD's future to the president and Congress. "Ultimately, it's Congress who has control of the purse strings, who must make these choices I've talked about," he said.

"I think we've come up with a proposal that protects our short-term security interests, that is developing our systems for the future and is squeezing money out of operations to put them into modernization," Cohen said. If approved, the nation will have "a fighting force for the future which is as good as it is today -- and every one of you know, we have the best fighting force in the world."

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