Remarks Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen - U. S. Conference of Mayors January 29, 1998
Thank you, Mayor Helmke, for that wonderful introduction. I also want to acknowledge the past president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Richard Daley of Chicago, as well as Mayor Wellington Webb of Denver. Each of you has contributed to this body's tradition of sterling leadership, allowing the Conference to make real and valuable contributions to our national life.
Some of you may be wondering why the Secretary of Defense, whose concerns are traditionally thought to be across the oceans and in foreign lands, was asked to speak to our nation's mayors, whose concerns are here at home and among the people. But we have a lot more in common than you might think. For starters, I too, was once a mayor in my hometown of Bangor -- Maine's third largest city -- and I know how tough the job can be.
Ed Koch once observed at an unfriendly rally in New York City: "If you don't like the President, it costs you 90 bucks to fly to Washington to picket. If you don't like me, 90 cents for the subway ride." So I know that mayors are closer to the people.
As a former mayor I also appreciate your efforts. I appreciate how your leadership has fueled our national prosperity and made you partners in our national security. Over the years, you have provided hometowns for our troops and their families, and hard-working labor for our bases and facilities. And always, the character of your cities has been illuminated -- a character defined not just by strong reaction in times of challenge and crisis, but also by solid action in times of peace and prosperity.
And that is why I am here today to call upon you again for solid action in the name of national security . . . in a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity.
Today, America is the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world, the sole global superpower. But if we want to keep it that way, we cannot rest on our laurels or declarations. The Soviet threat that shadowed America and the free world for over four decades has given way to new threats that are harder to define and in some ways harder to defend against. Threats such as: regional aggression and ethnic conflict; terrorism -- such as we have seen in Saudi Arabia and at the World Trade Center; and chemical and biological weapons -- what we saw in the subways of Tokyo, we can just as easily see in the streets of any of your cities.
We have adjusted to this new environment by cutting our defense budget by 40 percent and cutting our force structure by 36 percent. At the same time, we have reoriented our forces to meet these new challenges.
Today, America's forces must be ready to go on a moment's notice wherever we need to send them -- and that means we must: keep them well-trained; keep their equipment well-maintained; and it means offering an attractive quality of life -- decent pay, housing, health care, and other support programs -- that keeps the best of our service members in the service.
This is a difficult task, but perhaps an even more difficult one is finding those resources that will carry our forces and our security into the 21st century. Our future security depends on building a military force that is the smartest, fastest and most flexible anywhere, one that can not only quickly and soundly defeat any foe, but can deter potential adversaries and prevent conflict from ever starting.
Building this force requires more than an evolution to newer weapons. It also means new strategies, doctrine and operational concepts for employing our forces. In short, it means a complete revolution in military affairs -- a revolution that harnesses America's strengths: our brains, our creativity and, especially, our technology, a revolution that employs the power of the microchip to make our troops on the battlefield to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful while denying sight, knowledge and power to the enemy.
If I can paraphrase Lincoln Steffens, "I have seen this future -- and it works."
If you travel to Fort Irwin, Calif. and watch the Army's Force XXI conduct advanced warfighting experiments you will see soldiers with satellite navigation sets in their backpacks, M-16s in their hands equipped with thermal sensors, laser rangefinders and image-intensifiers. You will see Humvees with computer screens bolted to the dashboards showing troop locations across an area the size of Rhode Island. You will see similar technological marvels at the warfighting experiments of the Navy, Marines and Air Force -- marvels that make what we saw during Desert Storm look as dated as a pinball game.
But technology, whether it is pinball or laser-tag, is never free. And right now DoD's biggest challenge is finding the resources to both keep today's force ready to fight, while at the same time investing now in future technologies. Our defense budget, as I mentioned, has been reduced 40 percent over the past decade, and it will remain flat for the foreseeable future.
Many of you in this room understand this all too well, because you actually felt these cuts. Cold War military budgets not only provided security they provided jobs. Today, that connection between national security and jobs still remains strong but as the world has changed so has that relationship.
It took a huge standing force to face the threat from the Soviet Union. Today, we need a smaller, more mobile and more lethal force, built to face the uncertainty of today's threats. We need the structures that support our forces to be every bit as lean and agile. And while today, the Department is certainly smaller than it was 10 years ago, many of our support structures and business practices are still stuck in the past.
And if we do not change that, we will not only be cheating the taxpayer, but even more importantly, it will become increasingly difficult to keep today's force ready to fight, and it will become virtually impossible to properly equip the force of tomorrow. In short, there will be no revolution in military affairs unless there is also a revolution in the business affairs of the Department of Defense.
That is why two months ago I unveiled DoD's Defense Reform Initiative. This is not just another study it is a set of decisions designed to take our forces into the next century. It rests on what we call the four pillars of reform: reengineer, consolidate, compete, eliminate. Many of you will undoubtedly recognize these pillars. We learned them from reform efforts in the business world and your own cities.
We have learned about reengineering from mayors like your president, Paul Helmke, who is using modern decision-making processes to reinvent the way city hall works in Fort Wayne, and mayors like Richard Daley who is completely reengineering how Chicago educates its 400,000 public school students.
At the Pentagon, reengineering means: adopting state-of-the-art business practices from the private sector and innovative local officials; moving to a paperless weapons buying system so we can acquire the latest technology faster and cheaper; and streamlining our logistics operations.
We have learned about consolidating from mayors like Deedee Corradini of Salt Lake City who reduced the number of city departments and dramatically increased efficiency. In DoD, our goal is to consolidate and reduce my staff at the Office of Secretary of Defense by 33 percent over the next year and a half, with similar sized cuts to the Joint Staff and Defense Agencies.
Mayors like Patrick McCrory of Charlotte have showed us how to ensure the best services by enabling the best people to do the job. In DoD, we are doing that by opening up a lot of the work we now do in-house to competition. In 1997 alone, we initiated more than 10 times as many public-private competitions as the year before.
And like mayors and managers across America, we know that