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Release No: 142-97
March 28, 1997

Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen to the Navy League Exposition - Thursday, March 27, 1997

Remarks as Delivered

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Navy League Exposition

Washington, D.C.

Thursday, March 27, 1997

John Adams once noted that "the counsel which Themistocles gave to Athens, Pompey to Rome, Cromwell to England, DeWitt to Holland, and Colbert to France, [is that] all reasonable encouragement should be given to a navy. The trident of Neptune is the scepter of the world."

For over 200 years, America's Navy has been our scepter, and today, at the end of the 20th Century, America's naval, land, air and space forces, combined with our economic might, permit us the honor of being the sole superpower on the world stage today. But it's a world that's made uneasy by the lightning pace of its own progress and permutations. We are, as President Clinton has noted, at a moment of change and choice. Nowhere are the changes or the choices more conplex than in the field of national security, where the threat of global nuclear holocaust has been replaced by new threats and dangers. They're harder to define and harder to contain. Today I'd like to talk for just a few moments about some of the important security choices we face as a nation as we move into the 21st Century, including the choices made by President Clinton and President Yeltsin last week at the summit in Helsinki.

We often speak about living in the post-Cold War era as if we are simply left to the task of sweeping up the debris caused by the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The term has lost its relevance and its meaning in today's world, and it's time that we discarded that phrase.

The President has rightly decided that the policy of containment has to be replaced with a policy of engagement. That we must be up front and out front on a multitude of diverse and elusive problems -- problems such as ethnic rivalries that are fueling the civil wars in Southeast Europe, of what is to become of the nuclear scientists in the former Soviet Union, of what we are to do about genocide in Central Africa, of drug trafficking in Latin America, and of religious extremism, leading to extreme violence in the Middle East and elsewhere. And, of course, compounding all of these problems are the more traditional concerns of regional aggression by rogue regimes who threaten American interests in places such as the murky waters of the Persian Gulf, and the cold, barren hills of the DMZ in Korea. Moreover, the very fact of our superior conventional capability may tempt our adversaries into using unconventional or asymmetrical means in order to achieve their goals, such as that of terrorism, or weapons of mass destruction, or information warfare or environmental sabotage. So it's clear that on one side of this world coin is the danger of disorder--but on the other side is that of enormous and momentous opportunity.

We too, like Dean Acheson, are present at the creation, where some of the world's most vibrant stock markets are not found only in places such as New York and Tokyo, but also in Warsaw and Prague and Budapest; where a luxury high rise now stands atop the ruins of the Hanoi Hilton POW camp where Senator John McCain spent some six years of his life on a slab; and where closer to home we're building an entire Western Hemisphere of peaceful democracies, and where the legacy of the past and the promise of the future are evident in every single step that we take.

Both the past and the present were on display last week in Helsinki, which I believe proved to be a major success for the United States on many fronts, and I'd like to talk about a couple of them.

First, on strategic nuclear reductions. Here, both President Clinton and President Yeltsin underscored how important it is to secure the ratification of the START II Treaty by the Russian Duma, and that is by no means a guaranteed action on their part. In response to the Russian concerns over the cost of dismantling bombers, missile silos and submarines, both Presidents agreed to extend START II's deadline for the elimination of those weapons to the end of the year 2007. All the systems scheduled for elimination under the treaty will, however, have to be deactivated by the end of the year 2003 by removing their warheads through an agreed-upon method. So by stretching out the elimination period, it should help facilitate the Russian ratification of START II (which is in their interest and our interest) and the deactivation at the same time preserves the security benefits of START II.

Then, to enhance our security even more, both sides also agreed to pursue a START III Treaty that would establish a ceiling of somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 nuclear weapons for each side by the year 2007. That's a substantial cut from where we were when President Reagan first started this process -- about two-thirds reduction from when President Reagan first began.

So in addition to these accomplishments, both Presidents reaffirmed the significance of the ABM Treaty and they reached an agreement that gives a green light to the deployment of theater missile defenses that we need to protect our troops in the field from ballistic missile attacks.

For years, I must tell you, both sides have been grappling with the very difficult technical issue of how we distinguish theater missile defenses from national missile defenses which are limited by the ABM Treaty.

In Helsinki, I believe we appear to finally have cut this Gordian knot.

First of all, we agreed that TMD systems will not be tested against targets whose velocity exceeds five kilometers per second or whose range exceeds 3500 kilometers.

Second, we agreed that neither side will develop, test, or deploy space-based theater missile interceptors. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a concession. It's simply a recognition there's no such thing as a space-based TMD interceptor. Any space-based interceptor that's capable of knocking down a theater missile defense, by its very nature, is also capable of taking out ICBMs, which of course, is precluded by the ABM Treaty. So this provision has given up nothing, given up zero. It simply confirms the fact of where we are today.

Third, to help build confidence we've agreed to exchange information, detailed information, annually, about our theater missile defense plans and programs.

But I think it's important that we understand what was not agreed to at Helsinki. The agreement reached by both Presidents does not impinge on the development, testing, or deployment of any of our planned TMD systems -- whether we're talking about the Hawk, the Patriot, MEADS, THAAD, Navy Area, Navy Theater Wide or Upper Tier systems. Every one of these programs can go forward as planned. And the agreement places no limitation on the speed of the TMD interceptors, contrary to what you may have read in the press.

The agreement does not contradict congressional legislation on the topic -- in fact, just the opposite. Congress has been on record since 1990 as endorsing the negotiation of a demarcation agreement so that our TMD systems could proceed without being challenged as violating the ABM Treaty. Moreover, in 1995, the Republican-led Congress endorsed the precise terms that the President outlined in Helsinki -- limiting targets to a speed of five kilometers per second and a range of 3500 kilometers. I should know. I was a principal author of those laws.

I might add at the time that some members of Congress even questioned whether the President would ever be able to get the Russians to agree to this. Well, at Helsinki we pushed on the door and the Russians opened the door, so we should be very pleased with that particular result.

Finally, we have not foreclosed our future options on national missile defense, including the option to conduct research on space-based lasers. Nothing agreed to in Helsinki in any way is inconsistent with the 3+3 proposal that was really authored by former Secretary Perry, whom I just talked to on the phone a few minutes before coming here. He's doing very well, thank you, in California, and enjoying his life. [Laughter]

But he helped develop the concept of the 3+3 approach. Namely, that for the next three years we would conduct research and development of a national missile defense system--by the year 2000. We should then make an assessment as to whether we should deploy that system based upon the intelligence we have available at that time.

Of course, the demarcation agreement on the thresholds of five kilometers per second and 3500 kilometers of range have no applicability whatsoever to the national missile defense program which we can test against any target at any velocity of any range.

So these agreements that are reached in Helsinki, they are important in their own right. On the one hand, the START agreements help us close a chapter on the past; the demarcation agreement helps us deal with the present as well as the future.

But I want to say that Helsinki is just a piece of a much more fundamental issue that we're grappling with today. That is, what is the geopolitical role of America today and into the future?

You may recall that back in 1992, Vice Presidential candidate, Admiral Jim Stockdale, asked the question, "Who am I, and why am I here?" That produced some criticism on the part of some saying that perhaps they made light of his question, but they're very important questions. They're important questions for every individual, but also for our country to ask. Who are we? Why are we here? Why are we over there? Exactly where do we wish to be in the future? Do we wish to remain the world's sole superpower, or are we going to be just one power among many in the world?

At the Pentagon right now the Quadrennial Defense Review, what we call the QDR, is now asking what it means in military terms to be the world's sole superpower. What choices are involved if we're going to maintain that status? What kind of military forces do we need to guard against the very real dangers of today and the uncertain dangers of tomorrow? Are we a continental-based power with global interests? Or a maritime operating power with global reach? How ready should our forces be, and ready for what? What kind of weapons do we need and how many? Can we do everything under the current fiscal restraints, or do we have to make some tough choices among desired capabilities? What are the tradeoffs? What are the risks and benefits of those tradeoffs?

I made it very clear from the beginning that the QDR is not, in essence, a budget exercise. It is being driven by our national security strategy and our defense strategy. Just as we have to be realistic about the many threats that we face in the world today, we have to also be realistic about the kind of environment that we're operating in as far as fiscal restraints.

So I am operating, and the entire building is operating, on the assumption that barring a major crisis, the defense budget is likely to be no more than roughly $250 billion in real terms for the foreseeable future. This reflects a judgment of America's body politic that we want to balance the budget by the year 2002. This, in turn, reflects an opinion, shared by me, that balancing the budget is very important to the national security and long term economic health; that ultimately, national security begins here at home.

So what we're doing in this QDR process is trying to find the right match of strategy, programs, and resources. The only way to do that, in my judgment, is to put everything on the table. That means reviewing strategy, force structure, modernization, readiness, infrastructure, human resources and information operations and intelligence. We have to be willing, and I would indicate to you we are willing, to challenge all pat answers and all pet projects. And nothing is going to be immune from scrutiny.

We have quite a ways to go until the May 15 deadline when I intend to submit this report to Congress, but let me just give you a brief outline of where we are today.

We have a three-part basic strategy that's starting to emerge, which is anchoring, if I can use that term, anchoring all of our efforts. I even wore my special cuff links here in honor of you today. [Laughter]

First, we want our military forces and posture to be able to shape the strategic environment. Shaping the environment can involve actions that range all the way from the forward deployment of forces, joint exercises with these new emerging democracies, to dismantling nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union under START I, START II, and, hopefully, START III. All of these activities help make the strategic environment more hospitable to our interests and to lessen the chances that we're going to have conflict or that will increase the chances for peace and stability.

Secondly, we want our military forces to be able to respond to the full spectrum of threats and contingencies. That means having forces that can get to a crisis area quickly and be able to dominate the battlefield once they are there. We also want those forces to be flexible--flexible enough to be able to carry out missions besides full-scale warfare, whether it's the enforcement of no-fly zones, counter-terrorism operations, or peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations.

Third, we want to prepare our military forces for the uncertain types of threats that they're going to face tomorrow. That means that we're going to go forward with what we call the Revolution in Military Affairs by investing in leap-ahead technologies and developing the tactics and the doctrine to sustain them.

Just last week I went out to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin where the Army is harnessing the power of information technology and they're field testing what they call Force XXI. I must tell you, it's very, very impressive. The Navy is doing much the same thing with its fleet battle experiments; the Marines' Sea Dragon warfighting experiments. They're all trying to combine to look well into the future in terms of what kind of technology we're going to need to face the kinds of dangers that will be out there.

Over 20 years ago, Alvin Toeffler warned that unless you tame technology, you will encounter future shock. Well, today, I must tell you that our services are taming technology and they are turning "future shock" into "future security."

So given this strategy of shaping the security environment, responding to threats, preparing for the future, how do we pay for it? Big question. How do we pay for it?

When I first presented our fiscal '98 budget to Congress, I testified that the Department of Defense did, and it must continue, to do the outstanding job they're doing now in terms of recruiting high-quality people and retaining them, and producing ready forces. So it's people, it's readiness, and what else? It's modernization. The fact of the matter is, we have slipped on modernization.

We have continued to push modernization further and further into the future, which means we've got a much steeper hill to climb. I've alluded to it as being much like the climb of, in this audience, an F-18. I think I said F-15 during my testimony, but it's an F-18 today. It's a very steep climb that we have to reach in order to achieve our goal of having roughly $60 billion a year for modernization. That's what it's going to take-- roughly that amount of money. So by deferring this over the years we find that it's going to be even more difficult to achieve.

How do we do that? How do we achieve that kind of expenditure for our modernization program?

Part of the answer lies in reforming the Department itself. We need to carry out a Revolution in Business Affairs that will bring the same kind of efficiencies to our support elements that the Revolution in Military Affairs is bringing to the warfighting elements. There is no excuse for not operating more efficiently. Acquisition reform is already beginning to revolutionize the quality, speed, and cost of incorporating this new technology into the force. We have to extend it. We have too much infrastructure, and so we have to cut it. We still have a tendency to do many things in-house that private firms can do better, so we have to curb it. And we still use a logistics supply system that operates according to the old military mindset of "just in case," instead of the modern business mindset of "just in time." So we've got to change it.

But even assuming we do all of that, it's still highly unlikely there's enough savings from these initiatives to achieve that $60 billion procurement budget by the fiscal year 2001. So all of the easy choices have been made, and that's why this process we're going through right now is so important.

After we issue our report on May 15th, we're going to have an independent group of experts--the so-called National Defense Panel--that's going to review this work. In fact, we're already working with the National Defense Panel. I'm meeting with them this afternoon, as a matter of fact, to discuss their overview of the work being done at the Pentagon right now. Of course, once this QDR report is presented to Congress that's just the beginning of the process. Then, of course, the Hill will have major input into those recommendations. The National Defense Panel is sitting on my shoulder overlooking the QDR process, and they will report to the Hill by the end of this year, by December 30-31st of this year. Then, of course, we have to develop a national consensus on how do we get from here to there.

So I think the process is well underway. I've been very impressed with the dedication of the Department of Defense looking at how we achieve these goals, producing the best force in the world for the future. We have the best force in the world today. We have to maintain that for the future. In that regard, let me quote from Donald Kagin in his book, "On the Origins of War." He said, "A persistent and repeated error throughout history has been the failure to understand that the preservation of peace requires active effort, planning, and the expenditure of resources and sacrifice, just as war does."

When I accepted the job as Secretary of Defense, I did so because I firmly believe that President Clinton recognizes that the preservation of peace requires effort, planning and sacrifice. It also requires skillful diplomacy and a strong, ready, military force.

I'm familiar with the expression that if you have ideals without technique, you have a mess. But if you have technique with ideals, you have a menace. The same is true as far as diplomacy is concerned. If you have diplomacy without power, you have a situation where you have endless discussion without decision; and if you have power without diplomacy, you have the potential for arrogant chauvinism and miscalculation. So we need both. We need diplomacy; we need military power. The military force is the muscle behind our diplomatic will, and both are essential in order to have an effective foreign policy, and both are essential to have a building of peace.

Finally, this really is what it's all about as far as the QDR or the NDP is [concerned] reaching this bipartisan consensus for the long-term future of this country.

One of George Washington's favorite pieces of literature was Joseph Addison's 1713 drama called "Cato." It was about the last stand of Cato the Younger, who was a Roman republican politician, who sought to defy Caesar, and it contains a wonderful line. It says, "Tis not in mortals to command success, but we'll do more . . . we'll deserve it."

Today it's not for us to command another American Century as outstanding and wondrous as the last has been, but we'll do more . . . because the American people deserve it.

Thank you very much.

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