America Delivers for Service Members, Clinton Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 1999 "Today should be a proud day for our men and women in uniform," President Clinton said Oct. 5 as he signed the Fiscal 2000 Defense Authorization Act. "Time and again, they have delivered for our country. Today, America delivers for them."
"No matter how dazzling our technological dominance, wars still will be won today and tomorrow as they have been throughout history: by people with the requisite training and spirit to prevail," Clinton said during a signing ceremony at the Pentagon.
The act authorizes a 4.8 percent across-the-board pay raise for military and civilian workers on Jan. 1, 2000. It is the largest pay hike since 1981. The legislation goes further and institutes pay table reform. About 75 percent of service members will receive a further raise on July 1, 2000.
It also changes the military retirement system. "If there was any doubt as to whether Washington got the message from the field and fleet, you need only to look at the decision to end the Redux retirement formula, which the troops consistently told us was a disincentive to make the military a career," Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the signing.
The legislation, Shelton said, tells service members and and families that America truly values them. He said Congress and the administration have listened to service members' concerns and taken significant steps to correct deficiencies in pay and other benefits.
Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said America's security rests on the quality people of the military. "It is also clear to us that we have to recruit and retain the best people and provide them with the best quality of life if we're going to remain a dominant force in the future," he said.
"We have invested in our warriors and in our weapons. We have reversed a 13-year decline in procurement, and we're increasing pay," he said. "We can never pay you enough, but we can pay you more. And that is precisely what this bill is going to do."
Cohen said the authorization act puts DoD well on the way toward redressing readiness requirements. "We're putting money into operations and maintenance," he said. "We're adding $400 million for the integration of the active reserve forces. We are also renewing our commitment to modernization. We are climbing up that scale now and buying the equipment those forces will need for future battles."
Clinton, too, stressed DoD modernization. He said U.S. service members must have the tools to do the jobs the country asks of them.
"This bill makes good on our pledge to keep the armed forces the best equipped and maintained fighting force on earth," the president said. "It carries forward modernization programs: funding the F-22 stealth fighter, the V-22 Osprey, the Comanche helicopter, advanced destroyers, submarines and amphibious ships, command and control systems and a new generation of precision munitions."
Shelton reminded the mostly military audience that the world remains a dangerous and complex place. He said the challenges to U.S. interests around the globe have actually increased since the end of the Cold War.
"It will take a continuing commitment from all of us to meet our security needs in the future," he said. "The key to meeting the security needs will remain a trained and ready force of quality people with the best and most advanced equipment America can provide."
Clinton also used the occasion of the ceremony to push for Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, linking it to the elimination of threats to U.S. service members.
"I believe the treaty is good for America's security," he said. "I believe walking away and defeating it would send a message that America is no longer the leading advocate of nonproliferation in the world."
Clinton said the treaty would keep other countries out of the nuclear weapons arena. He said it would make easier the task of determining whether other countries are engaging in nuclear weapons activity and to take action if they are.
"Like all treaties, this one would have to be vigorously enforced and backed by a strong national defense," he said.
He said if the Senate rejects the treaty, nuclear arsenals will grow and other countries will develop the weapons. "Weapons will spread to volatile regions and dangerous rulers and even to terrorists," he said.
He said the Senate owes it to U.S. service members to lessen the threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons. He asked the senators in the audience to approach the treaty in the same bipartisan fashion they addressed the defense authorization act.
The treaty would eliminate underground testing of nuclear weapons. The United States has not exploded a nuclear weapon since 1992.