Remarks Prepared For Delivery by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry - International Convention of the Air Force Sergeants Association
Wednesday, August 14, 1996
As Secretary of Defense I accept this award with a deep
sense of humility.
In my job I am constantly being judged -- by
the Congress, by the media, by scholars, by the public.
judgment means more to me than the approval of the men and women
of the Armed Forces.
And I am particularly honored to receive
this award from the Air Force Sergeants Association.
Many years ago, when I was an E-4 in our army of occupation
in Japan, I could not have imagined ever being the Secretary of
Defense, or receiving this award from you.
Nor could I have
imagined then the quality of our military forces today.
The reality is that we have today, the highest quality
military in the world.
One manifestation of that quality is that
my counterpart Defense Ministers all over the world send their
officers and NCOs to our military schools.
They send their
combat units to use our training ranges and to exercise with us.
But our quality is not just displayed in exercises or
training, it has been amply demonstrated in very demanding real
world operations -- in DESERT STORM, in the flawless insertion of
forces into Haiti, and in the magnificent performance of our
forces in Bosnia.
It is demonstrated each month in unglamorous,
but technically very difficult, operations -- such as the very
recent evacuation of thousands of Americans and other refugees
from Liberia -- all done without a single casualty.
How did our forces get this good? And how do we keep them
that way? I believe our forces reached this peak of quality by
excelling in the three "T's" -- technology, tactics and
Let's start with the first T, technology.
In DESERT STORM
the United States demonstrated a vast array of new technology,
some of it used in combat operations for the first time.
When the ground war started our reconnaissance and
intelligence capabilities told us exactly where the enemy was.
But we shut down his reconnaissance systems, so the Iraqi
commanders, knew only what they could see from their foxholes.
At the same time our Global Positioning Satellites gave us
precise locations of our own forces.
So our tactical commanders had total battlefield awareness.
this battlefield awareness we were able to designate precisely
the targets to strike and the threat areas to avoid.
precision guided munitions we were able to attack those targets
with devastating effect.
And finally, the new stealth technology
allowed us to deliver our weapons with minimal loses to our own
Despite the opinion of some in the General Accounting
Office, this combination of technologies gave us a critical
battlefield edge in DESERT STORM, which we exploited for decisive
Accountants who look purely at the number of weapons
fired or dropped, and multiply costs to draw conclusions about
effectiveness, miss the multiplier effects of precision, stealth
The real multiplier effect of technology is that it gives
our troops an unfair competitive advantage -- it allows them to
dominate the battlefield.
Now that we have experienced military
dominance, we like it, -- and we are going to keep it.
not be easy since technology is rapidly spreading.
So we will
have to work hard to sustain our edge in military technology.
To effectively use technology, you also have to develop
tactics, the second T.
Prior to DESERT STORM, we developed remarkable new technologies,
but we also developed the right tactics and doctrine to take
advantage of that technology.
For example, we had developed radically different tactics
for dealing with air defense systems by exploiting Stealth.
Stealth technology allowed us to put F-117s over the critical
Iraqi targets with the highest air defense threat and then
precisely knock out the key nodes in their air defense system.
That effort opened the way for the rest of our air attack force
to decimate the Iraqi ability to carry on a coherent battle.
Because we had broken down their air defense system as an
integrated whole, we were able use conventional platforms to
further suppress their air defenses, break up their
communications, and cut their logistics routes, again relying on
precision weapons delivered from the safer high altitudes.
further suppressed their defenses we were able to use more
platforms to attack tactical targets, using both precision and
Being able to develop decisive tactics to use new
technology requires an additional leap beyond the mere
acquisition of the devices.
The third T, training, is the key to maintaining our
troops at their current high level of readiness.
No other nation
has developed the kind of training and training facilities that
we have -- typified by the dissimilar combat training that we
conduct at facilities such as the National Training Center and
Nellis Air Force Base.
Such training gives our forces the
enormous advantage of being able to make their mistakes on a test
range, where the mistakes are embarrassing.
Not on a
battlefield, where they can be fatal.
When the First Armored Division was training to go to
Bosnia, General Joulwan made sure they had tough training.
had a mock Bosnia set up in Germany at the Hohenfels training
range, complete with all the hazards they would find in Bosnia:
snow, mud, opposing forces, paramilitary forces, black
marketeers, -- even CNN.
George [Joulwan] told me, I want the
scrimmage to be tougher than the game. And today that training
is paying off.
When I was in Bosnia last month, soldiers told me
of incidents that occurred in Bosnia that were almost identical
to the incidents that occurred in training.
So we do have a competitive advantage in training -- so how
can we sustain it? We sustain that edge by directing the
services to have fully funded training plans in their five year
budget submissions; by protecting those submissions in the budget
And by protecting those funds whenever we have to
reprogram money for other purposes.
As a consequence every
armored brigade will make its scheduled rotation to the NTC,
every fighter squadron will make its scheduled rotation at
We are also creatively using new technology to enhance our
training opportunities, by making full use of simulators and
In the simulator, the pilot, or tank driver, or
tank gunner, can get the full experience of encountering
realistic situations time after time at a fraction of the cost of
Nothing completely replaces field experience,
but extensive practice in simulators makes that field exercise
experience much more effective and productive.
simulators also present crews with experiences that are
impossible to duplicate safely in the field.
Even more cost effective and productive are battlefield
simulations for battle commanders and leaders.
Whether they are
all virtual or a mix of simulated forces with real forces, this
dynamic new capability will allow us to keep our fighting edge.
The importance of simulation technology has been recognized by
the services and they are budgeting for it and pulling it into
their training plans in creative new ways.
But all three "T's," technology, tactics and training take
That was one of the big issues in the 1970's
when we were developing this new technology and we were debating
I was constantly being told by experts -- the troops
will never be able to operate this new equipment in the field.
What they were implying was that our troops would not be smart
enough to handle the new technology.
The experts were wrong.
Not only can the troops operate it -- they can repair it.
they are always thinking up creative new ways to use the new
So we succeeded because we had quality people.
But how are
we doing today? Can we sustain that quality? The answer is yes.
We continue to recruit quality people.
In 1995 and 1996, 95% of
all our recruits were high school graduates.
And 70% scored in
the upper half of the Armed Forces Qualification Test.
have the top recruits we must offer them quality training, which
I have already discussed.
But to get the full benefit of the
training, we have to retain those quality people.
retaining -- Training and retaining. These are the keys to a
And retaining our force means offering them a
decent standard of living and quality of life.
think that I push for better quality of life for our troops
because I am soft hearted.
Pushing for a better quality of life
is not soft-hearted, it is hard-headed.
After all we've done to recruit, train and equip top quality
people, we want to keep them long enough to develop the skills of
a senior NCO.
That means we must give them interesting and
challenging work and a decent quality of life.
has the most interesting and challenging jobs in the world.
a decent quality of life requires constant attention and it
requires commitment of resources.
So, with the full approval of the President, and strong
support from the Congress, I have made quality of life issues a
Working together with Congress we have provided
for full funding of the highest pay raises allowed by law for the
remainder of the decade and increased funding for BAQ and child
care facilities. And we are revitalizing military housing using
innovative new tools.
Recruiting, training, equipping and retaining high quality
people is not the end of our obligations.
We must also protect
our forces -- to make sure that they can carry out their
Force protection is a key component of any mission.
It is my top priority whenever I approve a military operation or
a training exercise.
That is why our forces in Bosnia are required to wear flak
jackets and Kevlar helmets when they are outside secure
It is why one out of every three of them are on guard
And it is why we have a no-alcohol policy for our forces
These are burdensome rules, but they save lives.
During the first six months of our deployment to Bosnia, we
compared the accident and injury rates with the unit's previous
six months in Germany.
It turns out that on a statistical basis
they were healthier and safer the first six months in Bosnia then
they had been the previous six months in Germany.
But we cannot be complacent.
We have to work at force
protection every day. The terrorist bombing attacks on our forces
in Saudi Arabia were grim reminders of what we all know -- that
there are inherent risks in any military operation.
a risk that is particularly hard to deal with.
We cannot fully
eliminate the risk of terrorist attack and still carry out our
Our forces cannot perform their mission if they are
hunkered down in bunkers 24 hours a day.
But we can minimize
that risk by taking every reasonable step to improve force
I recently sent a message to all of our military commands to
underscore the threat of terrorist attack and re-emphasize the
need to devote resources and attention to force protection.
sent out specific instructions for commanders in the Arabian Gulf
region to perform force protection reassessments.
Passive force protection measures such as larger perimeters
and improved barriers are being installed everywhere in the Gulf
region and these are important.
But they must be accompanied by
active measures such as improving our intelligence capabilities.
We want to seek out the terrorists, identify them, and do what we
can to disrupt or pre-empt any planned operation.
All that I have talked about today to implement the three
"T's" -- technology, tactics, training -- requires leadership --
especially at the NCO level.
The quality of America's Non-
Commissioned Officers is one of the defining factors that set the
standard of our military forces above all others and make our
military forces the envy of the world.
I care a lot about the quality of leadership provided by our
NCO corps -- I have to -- since my whole strategy for a quality
military depends on your leadership.
That is one of the reasons
I go out on base visits every couple of months with the senior
NCO's of the services.
We travel as a team to get a look at the
situation on the ground -- the training, the equipment, the
quality of life.
The information flow goes both ways -- I give
them my policy perspectives, and they give me the hard truths
about how those policies are really working out.
These trips are truly invaluable to me -- as is any visit to
see real troops.
They're the best way I spend my time, because I
see first-hand how our missions are going.
In the course of
these visits I have learned that our NCO corps is unmatched
anywhere in the world.
But that is not just my opinion, it is an
opinion shared by senior military officials from around the
Two years ago, a high ranking Russian military officer spent
two weeks visiting U.S. military bases and meeting U.S. enlisted
troops in the field.
At the beginning of his visits, he was
convinced that the NCOs he saw at work were really officers.
was sure we had constructed a Potemkin Village, of sorts, and it
was all a sham to pull the wool over his eyes.
And that he was
actually being introduced to officers wearing enlisted uniforms.
As his visit continued, he came to realize that they were real
NCOs, doing the kind of work they do every day.
At the end of
his visit, he told me that no other military in the world has the
quality of NCOs that he found in the United States.
He went on
to say quite wistfully, That's what gives America its
competitive military advantage. That statement from a Russian
General Officer only affirmed my own belief.
It is the reason other nations like the Czech Republic,
Hungary, Romania, and Poland have asked us to teach them about
the American military NCO system.
And why NCOs from other
nations line up to attend our senior NCO academies.
It is why I
say -- with complete objectivity, that The United States has the
best damn military in the world.