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Nation's Prosperity Linked to Global Engagement

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2000 – International security is to economic interest as oxygen is to the body, according to Walt Slocombe.

"You don't notice it when it is there, but you cannot live without it and you feel it immediately when you run short," he said, quoting Harvard's Joe Nye, a former assistant defense secretary for International Security Affairs.

Slocombe, undersecretary of defense for policy, has led DoD's international security engagement for more than six years. Since the early 1970s, the Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law School summa cum laude graduate has served in national security and senior defense positions. He first came to the Pentagon in January 1977 as deputy assistant defense secretary for international security affairs.

The policy expert recently shared his views on the role American service members play in safeguarding U.S. economic, political, cultural and strategic interests in an address here at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He pointed out that today's armed forces are vitally involved in "more cooperative military activities -- exercises and exchanges -- with more countries in more corners of the world than ever before.

"Engagement in international affairs is not a favor we do the rest of the world," he stressed to about 300 corporate leaders Oct. 5. "It is a matter of cold-blooded protection of our own interests."

Slocombe spoke at the Military Quality of Life Summit, the first of proposed annual meetings of senior military and business leaders aimed at strengthening military and corporate partnerships. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and his wife, Janet Langhart Cohen, initiated the event, calling on Slocombe to highlight the special role the military plays in America's international efforts.

"In an increasingly interdependent world, our concern with other nations cannot be limited to securing our borders or even to protecting our trade," he said. "Without security and stability on a broader scale, neither our safety nor our prosperity can be assured.

"Investments in our military are not just investments in deterring and winning future war," he said. "Our armed forces play an important role by engaging with other countries to increase our security and build bridges of understanding."

Today's security challenges are very different from those of the past, Slocombe said. The end of the Cold War lifted the specter of global nuclear war, but there are still "real security problems, ranging from seemingly isolated conflicts, often bred of ethnic or religious hatred that threaten to spread, to the growing dangers of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism."

"Without security against these threats as well as against the classic threat of invasion," Slocombe stressed, "the promise of a new century free of the horrors of the last will prove hollow."

The military's primary purpose is to be ready to defeat the nation's enemies in combat, he said. That requires maintaining quality people, ensuring they have the equipment, the respect and the rewards they need to fulfill that mission, he said.

Maintaining powerful, ready forces is expensive in terms of money and the burdens placed on service members and their families, Slocombe noted. If the nation is to protect its interests, he said, it must bear these costs.

Since joining the defense leadership team, he said, he's found it inspiring to work with the military's men and women "because of the dedication they always display and their willingness to take risks -- sometimes putting their lives on the line -- for their country and for freedom."

Industry plays a valued role in supporting the military, he added, by helping to ensure U.S. forces maintain technological superiority and that potential adversaries do not have access to technologies and capabilities that can be used against them.

"All Americans," Slocombe said, "need to join together to support our men and women in uniform in bearing the burdens and risks that their service entails."

For more information on the Military Quality of Life Summit, go to "Spouse Employment Tops DoD Summit Agenda.".

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