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Release No: 462-97
September 08, 1997

Remarks prepared for Delivery Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen United States Marines Corps Recruits Parris Island, South Carolina September 4, 1997

Secretary Cohen: ... warriors who can carry out the missions that will be required of them in the future. I've only been here a while but what I have seen has been most impressive. These young men and women who have been here a short period of time seem to be in rather extraordinarily good physical condition. That's not always the case in every facility I've been to, but it seems to me that they are undergoing very rigorous physical training, mental training, and will qualify them to become among the elite that we have in the Marine Corps.

So it is very beneficial to me, as I hear reports from time to time that perhaps America is going soft, that we're not producing the kind of warriors that we have in the past, that gives me an opportunity to say, "I've been there. I've watched them. I've seen them. I am satisfied that we still are producing the finest military in the world today."

And as I was talking to the recruits, I perhaps should expound upon that a bit. I have a number of ministers of Defense who come to visit me at the Pentagon and virtually every one of them wants to get out to see how we're doing it, how are we able to produce the kind of NCO corps, the officer corps, the competence, the excellence, the capability that we have, because every one of them look to the United States with admiration and also with envy. We have something to be very, very proud of.

All too often we tend to see a daily headline and start to imply from those headlines that something is fundamentally wrong with our military. Based on my own experience of almost a quarter of a century on Capitol Hill and now some eight or nine months as Secretary of Defense, I can tell you that we still have the very finest military in the world and the envy of the world, and I think that will continue given the kind of leadership that we have. We have strong leadership here, we have strong leadership throughout our military and all of our services. I am very pleased and very proud of what I am seeing here today.

  Q: (Inaudible?)
  A: Well, we are going to have to have more rounds of BRAC in the future. I was hopeful that we might have authorization for one round in '99 and another in the year 2001. I am determined to try to persuade my former colleagues that as painful as it is -- and as a former Member of Congress, I know how painful BRAC proceedings can be -- but, nonetheless, if you look at what needs to be done, we have to rid ourselves of excess capacity.

We are carrying excess infrastructure. We have cut our force structure. We will have cut it by the time the QDR is fully implemented by up to 36 percent reduction in the past decade. We have only reduced our infrastructure approximately 22 percent. We are carrying some 15-16 percent excess capacity, and carrying that excess overhead is going to undermine our ability to make the kind of investments that I've talked about for the future.

And so over a period of time, what I hope to do is to demonstrate to my former colleagues that there is life after BRAC. I came from Orlando today to see the kind of redevelopment that is taking place there. I was in San Francisco a month or so ago looking at what they're doing in San Francisco.

We can point to success story after success story that those communities who have suffered reductions or elimination of their facilities, nonetheless have been able to replace those jobs that are lost and replace them with long-term higher paying private sector jobs. And so we need to carry that message forward as well.

In the meantime, we will simply have to get by as best we can. But I will point out next January and February when I present the next budget, when there are questions are raised, "Why aren't you investing more in procurement?" Because Gen. John Shalikashvili has testified year after year that we have to get from where we are today and roughly $42 billion a year up to approximately between 55 and 60 billion a year to invest in the future, that when my former colleagues fail to see that line going up toward that $60 billion mark, I can point out that the reason for it is we have been unable to make the kind of reductions that are necessary to allow us to make that investment.

So they will have a choice to make. Obviously, Congress plays a major role. They are full partners, maybe even senior partners because they have control of the purse strings, and that they will have to make choices as to whether they are going to hold on to facilities that are no longer essential and thereby deprive our young men and women who are risking their lives of the kind of technology and equipment that will be necessary for them to carry out their mission. Those are the kinds of choices they're going to have make in the coming years.

  Q: (Inaudible?)
  A: Well, I have taken the position that I should defer to the service to make a determination as to how they feel they can produce the best product. For the Marine Corps, the separated training appears to be working very well, and I can see that here in this very brief visit. For the Air Force and for the Army and for the Navy, except in the Army where they're training primarily for combat missions, as such, they seem to feel that integrated training is working well for them.

Right now I have a task force that has been instructed or directed to come back and make some recommendation to me in terms of whether or not gender-integrated training is the correct way to go for the individual services or whether or not the Marine Corps model ought to be emulated.

But I think the services ought to make that recommendation and, frankly, unless I can be persuaded that there is some fundamental reason for change, I would defer to the service itself.

  Q: Sexual harassment (inaudible)?

A: Well, sexual harassment, if we're talking about Aberdeen, for example, it's usually --

  Q: (Inaudible.)

A: Well, but Aberdeen is the one that's most in the news. That is not basic training. That's advanced training. The argument that if you have segregated training and we point to Aberdeen as an example, it doesn't really apply.

I think it really has to do with leadership. I think it has to do with those who are in charge of their troops, of being in charge of their troops, understanding exactly what's going on, insisting upon rigorous oversight and accountability. I think that if we have that, then we will deal with the problems be it at Aberdeen or Fort Jackson.

A: Anything else? Okay. Thanks very much.

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