Remarks by the Deputy Secretary of Defense
The Honorable Gordon R. England
24 May 2007
Thank you Jim [Colonel Jim Jones] for the warm introduction! Thanks to the 55th Wing of the United States Air Force for organizing and hosting this fine symposium….
It’s great to be back where I belong … with the United States Air Force. My 40 years in industry were almost exclusively aerospace and, within aerospace, almost exclusively with Air Force programs. It therefore seemed quite logical that if I was to be a Service Secretary, it would be Secretary of the Air Force. But, of course, as all of you well know, with the government, logic does not always prevail! After being Navy Secretary twice, I did finally gain enough experience to be Secretary of the Air Force but was diverted when Paul Wolfowitz left as the Deputy Secretary of Defense.
In the meantime, I am delighted to work every day with my good friend, Mike Wynne, the Secretary of the Air Force, and who spoke with you here yesterday.
It is a special pleasure to join you this evening, but I am acutely aware that I’m the only thing standing between you and the end of this Conference and the beginning of Memorial Day weekend preparations. So you will be pleased to hear my theory of after-dinner remarks: Start with a short and interesting introduction, end with a short but memorable conclusion and keep the introduction and conclusion as close together as possible.
For the last few days, you’ve been hearing a lot about Airborne ISR from experts and senior leadership. So, tonight, instead, I’m going to share some of my own perspectives with you about the nature of the strategic challenges the nation faces and just a bit about how ISR fits into the solution.
On the 7th of December, 1941, I was four years old. As a kid in Baltimore during World War II, I still remember the blackouts, the civil defense wardens, the ration stamps, and the newsreels at the local theatre. The courage of our military in those days, and the will and determination of the United States and our allies and friends made the life I’ve lived possible – and all of your lives, too.
My personal experience in World War II has a parallel today – my granddaughter was four years old – on September 11, 2001. The nation owes her generation – and succeeding generations – the same hope and opportunity the Greatest Generation gave us.
It was freedom that triumphed in World War II – made possible by the extraordinary men and women in uniform, and by the extraordinary civilian men and women who were the backbone of our industrial and technical might.
When the war ended, people felt entitled to a period of peace, but communism didn’t cooperate. Rather, the nation found itself again in conflict – in Korea.
In those days, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The history of free men is never written by chance, but by choice – their choice”. During the Cold War, America’s political leaders made the choice to stand together. They disagreed about many things, but they put security first, based on a fundamental belief in freedom and liberty. And liberty did win the day, through the shared commitment of the United States and our allies and friends.
After the Cold War ended, most people again expected a peace dividend. Instead, on 9/11, terrorists turned civilian airliners into guided missiles, and killed 3,000 people of 60 different nationalities. Do you know why terrorists killed 3,000 people that day? I’ve concluded that the reason they killed 3,000 was that they didn’t know how to kill 30,000, or 300,000, or 3 million. But they would have if they could have – and they are still trying.
Our terrorist adversaries have declared war, openly and explicitly, against the United States, our friends and allies, and all who love freedom and liberty. They are ruthless, and they are patient…and no nation or part of the world is immune. All who love liberty and freedom are fair game for them, and the conflict is likely to be a long one.
Today, again, America has a choice….a choice about whether to fight for freedom. The philosopher, John Stuart Mill, said it best:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free… unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself…”
Choosing the path of freedom is no easy task. As President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” Those of you here tonight clearly understand this profound reality.
Today, America is choosing to help lead the way toward greater freedom – in parts of the world that have known very little of it. President George W. Bush has said, “We will act boldly in freedom’s cause”. This is not the time for America to pull back from the world. The greater the freedom enjoyed by other countries, the more secure our own nation, and the world, will be. This is a time for America’s bold leadership – and for international cooperation and resolve.
Today, Iraq and Afghanistan are front lines in the war on terror. The logic of the strategy in Iraq is to use security measures – a greater troop presence, and new methods of working with the Iraqis – to create space and opportunity for essential political and economic progress.
There are no guarantees… but with concerted efforts by the Iraqi leadership and people, there is hope.
When I think back… Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t “wars” in themselves. They’re actually a lot like Korea – the first bloody battle in what turned out to be a very long war, the Cold War, that ended only when the wall came down in 1989.
The war on terror is not likely to end any time soon. Radical Islamists are on a different clock altogether, dating back a millennium or so into the past and stretching generations into the future. It’s completely out of synch with the clock in Washington - driven by electoral and budgetary cycles. This war will not be lost on the battlefield…but it could be lost in Washington.
Ultimately, all wars are about political will. It’s not about Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Rather, it’s about a shared political vision of preserving freedom and liberty – and especially when the going gets tough. That’s when the tough get going – they don’t withdraw!
The recent debates about war funding – supporting our men and women in uniform – show a disconcerting short-sightedness on the part of many. Too many in Congress regard Iraq and Afghanistan as the war – rather than early battles in a much larger and longer strategic conflict.
The challenge to the nation is to summon the requisite will, commitment, and resolve to show the terrorists – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and around the world – that they will not succeed… not now, and not 20 years or 50 years from now.
Meanwhile, the nation also faces a broader array of security challenges than ever before:
· Major states like China and Russia continue to pursue sophisticated military modernization programs, and their future choices are not yet clear.
· Rogue states are a more immediate concern – Iran directly sponsors terrorist groups and continues to pursue nuclear weapons. North Korea tested a nuclear device last October and continues to threaten other nations.
· And the danger of proliferation only rises, in an increasingly globalized world – illicit materials transit far more easily, and technological know-how can travel around the world in an instant.
ISR is an essential part of the solution today and tomorrow. ISR is as old as time itself. From the earliest days of man, it has played a critical role in winning wars and preserving peace. From the ancient and wise Chinese military leader, Sun Tzu, to the Prussian military theorist, Karl von Clausewitz … to Admiral Nimitz and to the battlefields of the war in which we are now engaged, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance has been, and will always be vital to success.
Sun Tzu’s timeless words still ring true today:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning and losing are equal. If ignorant of both your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril.”
Warfare used to be primarily about massed armies of sovereign states clashing on the open battlefield. Today, the target is very often a single individual…who blends in with the local population, hides among civilians, and is savvier than we are about the local culture… Today, the key to an operation is often a single piece of data correlated with other seemingly disconnected data to provide valuable insights.
· Today, it’s about persistent ISR – an ‘unblinking eye’ over the battlespace, whatever and wherever it might be.
· It’s about making information readily and immediately available to those who need it – moving the data to the user – the tactical use of ISR to complement boots on the ground and the execution of tactical missions with strategic impact.
· It’s about fundamental interdependence among the Services – not a capability that everyone has, but a capability that everyone shares.
At the end of the day, we won’t win this war because our economy is stronger, our military more powerful, or our cause more just – though all of those things are true. We’ll win this war – with commitment and resolve – because we out-think the enemy … we get ahead of him, and stay ahead of him.
That’s what your efforts and success in ISR do for the nation. You do this out of the limelight and away from the general public view. Like our special forces, your community is made up of silent warriors, key to winning this new type of war.
In his inaugural address, President Kennedy said, “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.” This is one of those generations – and many of you have directly been a part of that noble effort.
You’ve deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, or you’ve worn the uniform in support, here at home … or you’ve provided critical civilian support, in government or industry. The Department – and the nation – are deeply grateful to you and your families for your sacrifices.
On 9/11, a reporter asked a little 9-year-old girl, “What is patriotism?” And she said – and remember, she’s only 9 years old – “Patriotism is taking care of America”.
I thank each of you here this evening – for your patriotism to America. Thank you for your hard work, dedication, and sacrifice and for everything you do, every day, to leave a safer and more secure world for our children and grandchildren.
May God bless you, your families, and all our men and women serving tonight in harm’s way.