REMARKS BY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM S. COHEN TO THE BUSINESS EXECUTIVES FOR NATIONAL SECURITY EISENHOWER AWARDS DINNER MARRIOTT HOTEL, WASHINGTON, D.C. MAY 6, 1997
The playwright John Osborne said never believe anything you
see in the mirror or read in the papers. To that I would say any
accolades paid you by one of your very closest of friends.
It's an honor for me to be here. It's an honor to have
Warren Rudman introduce me. As Sid indicated, reading from some
portion of his book, he was born with a warrior's heart. He took
an oath to defend this country and the constitution against
enemies, foreign and domestic. He defended against those foreign
enemies on Pork Chop Hill in Korea. He defended against domestic
enemies that were eating away at our physical integrity here at
home. And so it is a great honor for me to have Warren come up
here and say a few very generous words.
He makes it hard to be humble, but, of course, I have my
wife Janet here. (Laughter.)
We were in a shop recently, I went in and had one of those
weighing machines that you put a coin in, you get a card back,
something out of the '40s and '50s, and I stepped on the machine
and put a coin in, got a card back, and I looked at the card and
it said, "You are one of the earth's anointed people. You are a
born leader of men. You are irresistible to the opposite sex.
You are bound to succeed in any endeavor." And so I could feel
the sort of preening narcissism rushing up. I took the card and
I handed it to Janet and she looked at it and said, "Yes, and
they've got your weight wrong, too." (Laughter and applause.)
I asked Warren, I said, "How do I play to this group
tonight? I mean, I how do I address a group of this awesome
power and responsibility? What should I say?"
He said, "Oh, Bill, just give them 10 or 15 minutes of
something light and not too intellectual." He said, "Don't
worry, I've heard you speak before, I know you can do it."
I gave a speech one time -- one of my favorite stories -- I
gave a speech and a lady came up to me afterwards and she said,
"Senator Cohen, that was probably the finest speech that I have
ever heard in my life. It was absolutely -- it was just
I couldn't tell whether it was a slip of the tongue or the
slip of a knife into my ribs. And I said, "Well, thank you,
ma'am. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of having it
She said, "Oh, wonderful, Son. The sooner the better."
And, of course, my favorite story is that of Henry Ford who
after having made all his millions in this country wanted to go
back to his fatherland in County Cork, Ireland, and his
reputation for wealth had well preceded his arrival. So when he
finally got off the plane, there was a group of local town
officials who were seeking a contribution for the construction of
a local hospital. And Ford was quite accustomed to being touched
in that fashion; he pulled out his checkbook and he made a check
out for $5000.
The next day in bold print in the local press it said, "Ford
contributes $50,000 for the construction of local hospital."
Well, the town officials were terribly upset; they were
distraught. They came rushing back to Mr. Ford. They said, "Mr.
Ford, we're terribly sorry. It wasn't our fault. It must have
been a typographical error. We'll be happy to see to it that a
retraction is printed in tomorrow's paper."
Ford said, "Wait a minute. I think I have a better idea."
That's really where that phrase came from. He said, "If you give
me one wish, I'll give you the balance of $45,000."
They said, "That's an offer we can't refuse. Anything you
He said, "What I want, when the hospital is finally
completed, [is that] they have a quote taken from the source of
They said "It's done." He made the check out; he gave them
the check; they built the hospital; the hospital is there. It
has a quotation from the Book of Matthew and it says, "I came
unto you as a stranger and you took me in." (Laughter and
I come unto you a little bit as a stranger tonight, I hope
you'll take me in, but not quite in that fashion.
Earlier this evening I spoke about the Vice President's
passion and dedication to governmental reform and the same, of
course, can be said and was said about our friend Warren Rudman,
who in many ways, I think, was the cause of last week's budget
I haven't checked with Warren just yet, but he might in fact
deny parenthood without a blood test, but we've had a chance to
talk about that this evening. But in reality, the measure that
he took in response to a refusal on the part of our own president
to come up with a balanced budget approach to solve our fiscal
problems stirred him in one of his moments of not uncommon
passion to say we've got to do something to save the country.
And he got together with Senator Gramm and others, and I was
part of that little round group, and we got together in the
Republican cloakroom and that's where Gramm-Rudman-Hollings was
born. And it served a very valuable function. It put us on the
road to start to think about the things that Warren is doing now
with the Concord Coalition and thanks to this group as well,
coming out and supporting the kind of changes that need to be
made if we're going to have a sound fiscal policy for this
country so we can continue to do the things that we need to do.
I know the history of BENS. About your commitment to
national security particularly your support for the chemical
weapons convention treaty. Without your help, we probably
couldn't have secured the ratification of that.
I've spent the past 18 years in Congress, in the Senate, six
in the House, trying to achieve essentially a Defense Department
that was leaner, that was more competitive, more efficient in its
business practices and I find it somewhat ironic that I'm up here
I, after pushing for all of those years for governmental
reform on Capitol Hill, now sit on the largest bureaucracy in
government and I feel something like Captain Ahab. I have
finally come face to face with the white whale that I've been
chasing all these years and I'm lashed to it.
In telling the story of Moby Dick, Ishmael said, "Give me a
condor's quill, give me Vesuvius' crater for an ink stand because
to produce a mighty book you must choose a mighty thing."
Well, the Pentagon reinvention is a mighty thing and I will
need mighty tools, and I will need mighty help, and I have been
blessed so far in my work in the Pentagon to have quite a group
of heavy lifters, weighty thinkers. I am thinking of General
Shalikashvili and his wife Joan who are here. I'm thinking of
others who are in the audience this evening -- General Ralston
and his wife who are here. There are so many others that I can
barely see. I know you're out there, that I've been blessed to
have your support and cooperation as we have endeavored to try to
redefine exactly who we are as a country.
And I've used this expression before, but I think it fits
even now, when I use the quote from Jim Stockdale, Admiral
Stockdale. When he was running for the vice presidency, he asked
those existential questions, "Who am I? Why am I here?" And it
was met with some laughter, some derision, but those were very
important questions for him to ask. They're important questions
for us to ask ourselves. As a country, who are we? Why are we
here? Where is it we want to go or to be?
And we see this phrase constantly: We are the world's only
superpower. What does it mean? What does it mean to be a
superpower? What are the benefits of being a superpower? What
are the burdens that one must carry to be a superpower? Should
we just relegate ourselves to being one power among many? And
what are the risks involved in simply witnessing the
multiplication of power centers in a world that is not truly
stable? So we have to ask questions of exactly who it is we are
and what is it we want to do with our country.
Technology has succeeded in miniaturizing the globe. It's
reduced vast oceans to mere ponds. Distant countries are now
almost neighboring counties in terms of travel. The world is not
much bigger than a ball, a basketball to Abe Polin, spinning off
the finger of science. And so with the fall of the Soviet Union,
the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a lot of people were seized with
a sense of euphoria.
I recall Francis Fukyama wrote an interesting piece called
"The End of History" in which he, at least as part of the thesis,
said that we now will witness the spread of economic capitalism
and democratic institutions across the globe. And that prompted
one South African academician, Peter Val, to say , "Rejoice, my
friends, or weep with sorrow. What California is today the world
will be tomorrow." (Laughter.)
I say that with trepidation. And, of course, people
criticize that particular view, saying it's terribly naive.
After all, have you failed to take into account that we might
have different cultures and a clash of cultures, as Samuel
Huntington has, at least has put forward, first in an article,
now in a book, and that all western values may in fact come into
conflict with those of Confucian or Islamic and other societies?
It's not the end of history, it's simply the beginning of a
new era and that's really what the QDR process that you've heard
so much about is trying to determine: Who are we? Where are we
going? Why are we here?
We have devised a strategy, I'm not going to let any secrets
out this evening, we've been talking about many different types
of forums. We first have to say what are the threats that we
face today, what are they likely to be tomorrow and into the
indefinite future, to make an assessment of exactly what we have
to do to defend this country's national security, our interests
here at home and abroad. And so we look and we say that we think
it's important that we try to shape the environment.
If I had to sum it up in three words, it's "shape, respond
and prepare." Those are the three essential elements of our
strategy. And the strategy involving shape means to be engaged.
We have to be engaged in world affairs. We can't simply swing
back to a continental cocoon and zip ourselves in and watch the
world unfold on CNN. We can't shape events if we're simply
sitting in CONUS America, which is the continental United States.
We have to be engaged, we have to be forward deployed.
You've heard President Clinton, Vice President Gore,
Secretary Albright, myself and others say, yes, we intend to
continue to have roughly 100,000 people forward deployed in the
Asia-Pacific region. We intend to maintain roughly 100,000
people forward deployed in Europe. And we think we're in a
better position to influence events, rather than becoming a
captive of events, if we're out there.
So we intend to try to shape people's opinions, influence
their judgment, their opinion of us, their sense of who we are,
that we are a reliable, strong, flexible ally, that we can be
counted upon in times of crisis. So shaping the environment is
very much a part of our strategy.
Responding. We intend to respond across the full spectrum
of operations. We can respond all the way from a humanitarian
rescue mission, what our Joint Chiefs will tell you are NEOs, non-
combatant evacuations, that we might have and had in Albania,
possibly in Zaire, all the way up to small contingencies,
conflicts, to major types of conflicts. We have to have that
kind of flexibility, otherwise we really are pretty limited in
our capability of responding to these types of threats.
Now, I know that some of the cynics already have ridiculed
the "shape, respond, prepare," saying, well, there's really not
much new there and I think of H.L. Menkin, who said a cynic is
someone who sells flowers and always looks for a coffin.
But this strategy is right for us. This strategy is the
right one for the future. If it's valid today, it will be valid
tomorrow. We simply cannot afford to become disengaged. We have
to be out there. We have to be influencing people. We have to
be shaping their judgment and their calculations and their
calibrations, so that they are shaping them in ways that are not
adverse to us, that are in our interests.
So the response capability, it seems to me, is a valuable
one. Again, the issue of, well, do you intend to have two MRCs,
major regional contingencies? Well, let me ask you the question.
Should we only have one? And which one should it be? If it's
only one, why don't we just say to General Tilelli , bring those
37,000 men and women home, we don't have to be in Korea any more.
Why don't we tell those who are responsible -- over in,
General Peay, over in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- don't worry
about Saddam, he won't move again. And don't worry about Iran;
there's still some martyrs that we're looking for today.
You may recall Warren Rudman and I had a discussion about
that. I shouldn't say this -- I guess I won't say it. I have
learned about the big difference between being a United States
senator and being Secretary of Defense. (Laughter and applause.)
Warren can tell you, say anything as a United States senator
and the folks back home may listen, the national press might
listen, but it won't make too many ripples overseas, but if
you're Secretary of Defense, if you utter a single word, if you
lift an eyebrow, there is all sorts of Teutonic types of
implications that can be drawn from that, so I will try to curb
my normal sense of humor.
The problem we have is in the preparation. If we're trying
to shape the environment, if we're trying to be able to respond
across a full spectrum of threats, how do we prepare for the
future? And what we really need to do is to re-capitalize our
force, to capture and exploit that revolution in military
affairs, things you've been reading about in Force XXI, the kind
of experimental techniques that are being developed at Fort Irwin
in California that have total domination of the battlefield, the
We are doing some exciting things as far as developing these
technologies. They're not here just yet, they're not that far
away, but the question is how do we acquire them, how do we
purchase them? Because right now, what we know, and General
Shalikashvili will tell you, General Ralston will back him up as
his vice chair, that we're losing roughly $15 billion a year that
is migrating out of our modernization accounts into operations.
So how do we deal with that? We've got to have a revolution
of military affairs, we've got to have a revolution in business
affairs, something that the Vice President talked about early
this evening, and I won't repeat it. We certainly have an
infrastructure that's too large. We need to continue to draw
upon the legacy of Tom McInerney when he was the Vice President's
reinvention ambassador to the Pentagon. A lot of people were
inspired by his example and the Pentagon has earned more Hammer
Awards than any other federal agency, but a great deal more needs
to be done.
As the Vice President said, I'm sure when he started talking
about that telephone, he didn't tell you that it was actually on
a submarine, so -- (inaudible). (Laughter.)
What I used to do up on Capitol Hill, I used to wave the 14
pages of regulations that were required before you could actually
compete to sell the Pentagon chocolate chip cookies. Not too
long ago, we had 236 pages of regulations involving travel
reimbursement. Thanks to Dr. John Hamre, we now have -- we're
down to about 20 or so -- 13 pages in the private sector. When
you have those 236 pages of regulations and all the other
regulations that we have for the Pentagon, it usually costs about
13,000 Maine spruce trees in order to produce them. Seventy-five
percent of the purchases under $2,500 are still negotiated out in
It's amazing. Think about this. Seventy-five percent of
all the purchases we make that are under $2,500, we still have
yet to make maximum use of the impact credit card. And Dr. Hamre
is working on that.
We had a situation last year where a day care center in
Europe had ordered probably $1,200 in supplies for a party, a
birthday party. They had to fill out an 11-page contract with 50
different account lines. It cost roughly $24 to process each one
of those account lines, so it cost $1,200 to process the
accounting to purchase $1,200 worth of goods.
Four years ago -- just a few years ago -- it took us roughly
four years to acquire computers in the Defense Department. It
takes on an average in the private sector roughly 18 months. And
yet we found that the computers were out-of-date before they were
out of the box.
We passed legislation last year that's changing that. DoD
contract payments were all paper just two years ago; now 50
percent are conducted through electronic means. Fifteen months
ago all the commercial invoices were paper; today 25 percent are
electronic. Twelve months ago one out of every ten travel
reimbursements was done electronically; now it's six out of ten.
[In] the last 12 months all the services have terminated their
office supply operations at military bases and have contracted
out the work.
So we are making progress. What we need to have is for the
revolution in business affairs to continue. We can point to so
many people in our department. Paul Kaminski, Dr. Kaminski is
here this evening. We'll have a ceremony for him tomorrow. He
has truly been a knight in shining armor. I've referred to him
in so many different ways, but he has been in the forefront of
reforming our acquisition procurement system, and we'll miss him.
He's done an extraordinary job in trying to say we've got to
do business differently. We've got to have more competition.
We've got to streamline, we've got to downsize, we've got to
outsource. We've got to use commercial products off the shelf.
And he has been a leader in that, and he's forced that leadership
on those who are below him, and the building has responded. But
we have a lot further to go.
He wants to have a stable acquisition system. Stability is
the key to getting real price reductions. We haven't been able
to do that as much as we'd like. But thanks to Paul Kaminski
we're a lot better off today than we were before he took over the
Walter Lippman said that success makes men richer, and they
tend to exalt stability over all other virtues. And that's
really what's been taking place. We've been exalting stability
within the Department itself, but stability has a way of turning
And we have a classic situation coming up. Classic choices
coming up. I can't tell you at this point what our
recommendation will be, but we have to ask the Congress, should
depots remain in government hands in place of high technology
weapons and soldiers' hands? Do we protect facilities instead of
protecting our forces? Do we have global defense contracts
preserved and solid enlistment contracts pursued?
Let me tell you, in my judgment, the Office of Secretary of
Defense is too big, too bureaucratic, and has to be reformed.
It, in my judgment, is the one area that we haven't focused on
enough in the QDR, and as a result of that, I am going to
announce on Friday the formation of a defense reform task force.
A group of experts in the field, who will then supplement their
own expertise by calling on corporate executives who have had to
downsize their operations, streamline them, squeeze savings out.
And we intend to -- will -- work with the national defense
panel and produce a recommendation by next December that will
squeeze a good deal of the fat from the tail that currently is
wagging the teeth. And BENS is going to play an instrumental
role. I would need your help in order to persuade a lot of
people that that's the direction we have to go.
We've got to have a change in attitude, the attitude of not
yet, not here, not now, and not mine. That has to change.
I quoted a moment ago from Walter Lippman, somebody I have
studied over the years in terms of the advice he was giving to
some of his colleagues years ago. I remember that on the 30th
anniversary of his graduation class at Harvard, he stood before
his fellow alumni, he looked out at them, and he said, "You know,
whenever we have a choice to make, we've always chosen the easy
way out. It happened after World War I; it's happening now.
We've always yielded to the soft voices of pleasure rather than
the hard choices of virtue."
And he said something on the eve of World War II to his
Harvard brethren at that time which I think still resonates
today. He said, "For every right that you cherish, you have a
duty you must fulfill. For every hope that you entertain, you
have a task you must perform. For every good wish you wish to
preserve, you must sacrifice your comfort and your ease. There
is nothing for nothing anymore."
That's the message that we have to bring to all of our
colleagues, members of Congress, and general public. We've got
to get back to the stern virtues of self-discipline, and
austerity in some cases, in order to become the most efficient
producers that we can. Not being a consuming society, but a
So I hope that BENS will continue to play the role that you
have played to date -- 15 years of success -- that you'll
continue to weigh in on issues on chemical weapons treaties and
other issues where the national security of the country is
And there could be no further assistance that I could ask of
you than to weigh in, once the QDR process is presented to the
Congress -- and, understand, it's only a blueprint, it's a first
step -- to say, "Members of Congress, here is the plan that I and
the Joint Chiefs and the commanders-in-chief of our regional
commands support. We think this is the right way to go. We
think this is the balance we need to achieve. We think we need
to be engaged, yes, for the immediate term. The world isn't
going to change in the short-term, and we still have to start
shaping our forces as well for the mid-term and long-term. But
this is what we believe is necessary. If you've got better
ideas, we're hoping to hear them."
And, ultimately, Congress will decide. Ultimately, it's
Congress who has the control of the purse strings, who must make
these choices that I've talked about. And in making those
choices, they will depend a great deal upon the voices that they
hear from their own community, and the voices that they hear on
television programs from experts in the business community who
are concerned about national security issues.
So you will play an instrumental role in deciding how we
form our system in the coming years. Now, please ignore the
criticism of the cynics on the right or the left who say, "Well,
it's not enough. They cut too much."
I think we've come up with a proposal that protects our
short-term security interests, that is developing our sysystems for
the future, and is squeezing money out of operations to put them
into modernization. If you help us with that, we'll go with a
fighting force for the future which is as good as it is today.
And every one of you know we have the best fighting force in the