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Release No: 567-96
October 03, 1996

Remarks as Given by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry To the National Academy of Engineering

Wednesday, October 2, 1996

Washington, D.C.

Pro bono humanis, for the good of mankind.

Eighteen years ago when I was the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, I spoke for the first time to the National Academy of Engineering. I talked about how engineers who worked on national security problems could promote the good of mankind.

In those days, the great national security problems were the threat of nuclear holocaust and the threat of a blitzkrieg sweeping across Europe. Those threats seemed very real to us and we were sharply focused on what we could do to deter them. The problem was how to deter in the face of a Soviet Union that was spending perhaps 20 percent of its gross national product on its military and had fielded an army about three times the size of ours.

The engineering solution that was presented to that problem I discussed at that NAE meeting. I called it the offset strategy.

The offset strategy took advantage of the explosion in information technology which was underway, and applied this technology to a new generation of smart weapons on the theory that this could offset the quantitative superiority of the Soviet forces. And since the United States was the world's leader in that information technology, we reasoned that this would give the United States military what a businessman would call an unfair competitive advantage.

Those were very dangerous years, but deterrence did work. We did not have a nuclear exchange. We did not have a ground war in Europe. In time, the political and economic dynamics caused a collapse of the Soviet Union and an end of the Cold War.

Just as the Cold War was ending, a major conflict erupted in the Middle East and the United States led a military force with the goal of ejecting Iraq from Kuwait. In Desert Storm, as that operation was called, the smart weapons, stealth and intelligence systems that were developed as part of this offset strategy, all were combined and applied for the first time. Not against a superior force as we had envisioned when we constructed it, but against a force of about equal size. The result was not just battlefield superiority, it was battle dominance. We won quickly, decisively, and with minimum casualties.

Today I want to speak to you again about the role of engineers in national security, how they can serve the good of mankind.

National security problems today are very different. The threats of a nuclear holocaust and a Soviet blitzkrieg are gone, but it is still a very dangerous world. There are very real dangers of the proliferations of weapons of mass destruction, and there are very real dangers associated with the ethnic, the nationalistic, the religious fanaticism which can erupt into regional conflicts.

While these do not threaten the national survival of the United States, they do threaten our vital national security interests.

In the Cold War, our goal was to deter a war. Today the goal is more ambitious. That is, our first line of defense is to prevent war, to create the conditions which promote peace.

As we speak, the President and his National Security Advisors are meeting with Mideast leaders, trying to do just that -- promote the conditions for peace. And the Defense Department is working not just on weapons of war, but on programs to promote the conditions for peace. That is on programs of preventive defense.

What are we doing, for example, to reduce the danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction? We have a major defense program called the Nunn/Lugar program, named after two senators who created this program some years ago, whose goal is to dramatically reduce the nuclear legacy of the Cold War. We have already, under this program, dismantled 4,000 nuclear weapons and destroyed almost 1,000 launchers.

Let me illustrate this with a story about a town called Pervomaysk. Pervomaysk was the home of the largest and most modern ICBM field in the former Soviet Union. There were 700 nuclear warheads at Pervomaysk, all aimed at targets in the United States. Three years ago we began a program to remove nuclear weapons from Ukraine including, of course, those at Pervomaysk. That program reached a dramatic climax this past January when I joined the Russian and Ukrainian Defense Ministers and the three of us pressed a button which caused the silo to explode.

Then in July I went to Pervomaysk again with my fellow Defense Ministers, and we celebrated the fact that the last nuclear weapon had been removed from Pervomaysk, the last nuclear weapon had been removed from Ukraine. Ukraine was now a nuclear- free nation. Ukraine, which had been the third largest nuclear power in the world, was now nuclear-free.

We celebrated that by planting sunflowers on the missile field -- an entirely appropriate gesture to symbolize the new era.

What are we doing to reduce the danger of regional conflicts? The major preventive defense program is called the Partnership for Peace. This is a program instituted by NATO two and a half years ago, and subsequently, 27 Central and Eastern European nations have joined NATO in this Partnership for Peace, participating with them in peacekeeping exercises and in joint training.

The Partnership for Peace has the potential of replacing the Iron Curtain with a circle of security and stability which can include all of the nations of Europe.

These are two examples of the preventive defense programs underway today in the United States Defense Department. But even as we pursue these programs, we recognize that preventive defense cannot compel other nations to act in the way we wish, and preventive defense will not always work. Therefore, we must also be prepared to deter, or if deterrence fails, to win quickly, decisively and with minimum casualties as we did in Desert Storm. So today, our defense warfighting strategy sustains and builds on the offset strategy which I described to you. That is, the application of advanced information technology to gain great military leverage to continue to give us this unfair competitive advantage.

During the '70s, we introduced this offset strategy through what engineers call technology push. That is if the customer was reluctant, the engineers "pushed" the technology onto them. There were many, many skeptics.

Today, in the wake of the performance of Desert Storm, the military leaders themselves are not only asking for it, they're demanding technology. So now we have technology "pull." Indeed, in Desert Storm we had battle dominance. We liked it, and we plan to keep it.

The question is, how do we do that? Particularly, how do we do that in the face of the reality that the defense budget today is 40 percent less than it was during the Cold War, during the era in which we developed these technologies?

The first and the most obvious way is to apply the information technology to the next generation of the smart weapons. We are doing that. The first generation had latent vulnerabilities in them. The new generation now being developed will be all weather and will be what we call "fire and forget" to overcome those vulnerabilities.

The second way, though, of applying this information technology is not so obvious, but just as important.

The engineering profession tends to focus on the things that we do to make the systems we build better, more effective. But an equally important part of our job is making them more efficient and less costly. That, indeed, is the emphasis we're applying today in information technology to the defense systems. Today there's a very great potential for information technology dramatically improving the way we manage defense programs. That is, smart weapons are not enough. We need smart logistics, smart training, and smart buying.

The achievements that have been made in that regard in the last few years are very impressive, but that is another story for another day. Let me simply summarize those by saying the potential efficiencies to be achieved here have been well demonstrated in the pilot programs we've set up, and we're not talking about a five to ten percent reduction in cost, but really more like a 50 or 60 or 70 percent reduction. So very great benefits can be achieved in this area.

So in this new era, our defense strategy will continue to pursue the preventive defense that I've described to you, and it will continue to increase our military power through the application of information technology. But what is the purpose of this power?

Two weeks before his assassination, Prime Minister Rabin made a remarkable statement about the United States. He said that in the whole entire history of the world, the United States was the only nation that achieved dominant power and then chose to use this power not to dominate other nations, but for the good of all mankind. Pro bono humanis.

The engineers dedicated to national security, then, do have an opportunity to serve mankind. Indeed, they have an opportunity to apply their technology not just to building more weapons, but to building more security in the world. If we succeed, we will make the world safer, and our children and our grandchildren will thank us.

Thank you.