Be seated. Thank you. Good morning.
I seem to be asked questions every day from:
· the press;
· the Congress;
· the men and women that I work for;
· civilian and military, here in the Department, but I thought it might be useful to speak to a broader group and be able to respond to questions from a broader group.
And I thank you very much for being here. Also I thank those who are participating by television or phone or e-mail -- as the case may be.
When I'm around the country and people learn I work at the Pentagon, the question most frequently asked me is, "Do you know Admiral Quigley?" And I'm proud to say I do.
And he indicated that they would put on the DefenseLINK the information with respect to questions that aren't answered here -- that we don't have time for.
I would also suggest that we put on the DefenseLINK the ones that I don't know the answers to -- which is just as likely.
I'm also asked -- when I wander around the building or the country, people say, "Well, what have you found as the new Secretary of Defense?" And what I have found are several things, really.
One is a force-strategy mismatch that's been the case for several years. And I know you've read about this, but it's just a fact. We have not had the forces for the strategy, and the strategy didn't fit our forces. And it's important to elevate that and acknowledge it.
Second, as a result of that, we have had a situation where our forces and our equipment have been, in a sense, overused for some period of time -- the so-called OPTEMPO problem with respect to the people, and the fact that the equipment is aging. The average age of aircraft, for example, has gone up about 10 years in recent years. The ships are getting older, and the maintenance cost rises. As we all know, if we have an old car or an old bike, that -- the maintenance costs go up.
The infrastructure has not been recapitalized at the rate it would be, for example, in the private sector, whether it's housing or hangars or buildings.
The result is that we're faced with a number of tasks:
· One task is to get the strategy force in balance.
· A second is to repair the needs that we see so obviously and to modernize the force.
· Another is to recognize that there are new threats out there that we need to transform the force to meet -- for example, the problems of cyber attacks, which many of you are aware of as a result of your work here; the problems of terrorism, homeland defense, which there's been a good deal of discussion about, as well as cruise and ballistic missile threats, and weapons of mass destruction.
We all know, of course, that resources are finite. They always are. So we face a complex set of issues, and we've been wrestling with them.
The one thing that is very much the same, I would say, is the fact that the men and women of the armed forces all across the world are voluntarily putting their lives at risk every day so that the rest of us can go about our business in peace. And we have to be deeply appreciative of that.
One other thing I've found is that there's not -- does not seem to be a full understanding of the effects of the procurement holiday that took place, or the effects of the increase in use of the force at a time when we were reducing the force. And it's the kind of thing that we all understand. It doesn't happen in a minute. You don't see it. But it happened so slowly over time that when you finally realize it and sense it, the magnitude of it is significant. And we need to understand that.
The President, as a result, and the Congress both have asked for a review of our defense policies, and of course that's what we've been engaged in. It's not an easy thing to do. It's complex, it's a challenge, and we're trying to find ways to balance the risks that exist.
One obvious risk we're all aware of is the risks that in effect are operational risks or war plan risks. Those we understand, and the Department does a very good job of analyzing those risks and balancing them.
But there are other risks that are quite different in nature: the risk of not stepping up and dealing with the need to modernize the force and to get maintenance costs down, and to get newer pieces of equipment, and to slow down the OPTEMPO. The risks to people. If we don't treat people right and see that we have the right set of incentives for them so that they feel that they -- we're able to attract and retain the people we need here so that we can operate this important force and run the Defense Department in a way that is respectful of the taxpayers' dollars and that is able to provide the kind of deterrence and defense for our country, why we make a big mistake. We must do that right. So that's a risk.
And there's also the risk, as I mentioned, of transformation; that if we fail to meet those new threats in three or four or five years, and don't make the investments now that we need to make, why we put our country at risk.
Now, if there are those kinds of risks, it's obvious that you can balance the risks in any category relatively easily. You can balance operational risks, and you can balance the force risks, and you can balance the transformation risks. It's when you try to balance the risks between those four categories that it becomes a real challenge. It's trying to compare apples and oranges, and they're just different in nature. And that's why when you read and hear about this Defense Strategy Review and the Quadrennial Defense Review you read it's difficult. It is difficult, it is a challenge. I only can say that we've been hard at it. It's coming to a close. We'll probably be issuing defense-planning guidance sometime next week, after I get back from Moscow. I think I go tomorrow for some meetings there with the Russians.
Now I'll stop. Be happy to respond to questions. Except to say thank you for all you do for this Department and for your country. We appreciate it.
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