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AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference (Hartford, CT)
As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England, Hartford, Connecticut, Monday, July 21, 2008

Many thanks for that warm introduction!  It’s great to be here…

39 years ago yesterday—on July 20th, 1969….one of the most extraordinary feats in human history occurred….  That was the day that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon!  So, I’d say that it’s very appropriate this conference be held this week.    

I understand that I’m the only obstacle between you and lunch, so I’ll limit my comments…. to an hour.

I especially appreciate the invitation to come to Hartford because I have a theory—that every day out of Washington, D.C. adds a week to my life!  So… in about 50 years, I’ll let you know how that theory works out!  I hope to be back!

Earlier today, someone asked me what it’s like to be the Deputy Secretary of Defense. …  Working in Washington, D.C. reminds me of the son who wouldn’t get up for school one Monday morning.  So, his mother goes into his room and tells him it’s time to go.  And, he says, “I don’t want to go to school!”  His mother responds, “Give me two good reasons why you shouldn’t go to school.”  He says, “Well, Mom, the teachers don’t like me and the kids don’t like me.”  Then he said to his mother, “Now, give me two good reasons why I should go to school.”  And, she said, “First, because you’re 70 years old.  And, second—because you’re the Principal!”  Although, in fairness—I should say that I’m the Vice Principal! 

I want to thank Lieutenant Governor Michael Fedele for being here today, and thanks to him and Governor Rell for all they do for this great state.  In Washington and in Hartford, it’s important to have effective leaders.  And, I’m blessed, as are the citizens of Connecticut to have great people like Congressman John Larson and Senator Chris Dodd—and, of course, my good friend, Senator Joe Lieberman serving.  

Welcome to everyone from industry, DoD, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, and NASA.  I was told that there would be 1,000 engineers at this event….

That reminds me—when I was Vice President of the General Dynamics Land Systems Company, the engineers started an annual ‘ugly tie’ contest.  Guys would come to work with just the absolutely worst looking ties imaginable.  One day, I was walking downstairs and I came upon this gentleman with this really wide, thick tie, weave material—it looked just like a carpet.  So, I said, “How’d you do in the contest?”  And, he looked at me with this puzzled expression and said, “What contest?”  I noticed a few of you looking down at your ties!

Engineer jokes aside, I can’t emphasize enough the exceptional value and contributions our industry partners, like Pratt & Whitney, and our professional organizations make to the health and vitality of our nation.  AIAA, ASME, SAE, ASEE—your contributions are absolutely critical to ensuring our country remains the world leader in engineering and technology. 

Currently, we’re in the middle of a transition to another Administration, a transition that actually started about a year ago.  This is the first time we’ve had to transition during a time of war in 40 years, and it is the first Administration transition in 8 years.  DoD is not a political organization.  Our job is to protect America and our concern is to make this transition as smoothly as possible, and the next six months in particular will be critical.  A new Administration always gets challenged early. 

At this moment, America’s brave men and women are deployed all around the globe.  We’ve got two wars going on, and we’re doing all this with an all-volunteer force.  The war we’re waging is against a new and unconventional enemy, and the national security threat continues to evolve.  These modern-day challenges demand a fighting force that is both exceedingly agile and mobile.  Intel is key—and, I’ll talk more on that subject a little bit later.

First, I’d like to point out that a remarkable thing happens every single day in America.  Tomorrow—here in Harford, in Washington, D.C., and across this great Nation—every single person will wake up free. 

Not by accident … not by chance … but because great Americans, have paid the high price of freedom on our behalf.  And, our job is to make sure that not only we wake up free, but our children and grandchildren wake up free, as well.

That brings me to my next point.  As one sage remarked—there’s no long-term if you don’t support the short-term.  Some people will argue that we’re compromising the future for the present.  However, the Department’s baseline budget for fiscal year 2008 is over $500 billion.  That’s a lot of money and it is money for procurement, R&D, etc.  You see, all war costs are paid for with supplementals.  So we are investing enormous amounts of money in research, development and procurement.  Now, with regards to the F-22—the answer is to buy the number that’s needed.  And, I strongly believe that we are buying the right number to meet future needs. 

With regards to the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan….  My measure of how well we’re doing in Iraq is not the level of violence or number of troops—it is foreign direct investment by companies in Iraq.  And, recently, we’ve begun seeing more investment, and that’s, I believe, the most hopeful sign.

Afghanistan is somewhat harder because that country doesn’t have the same kind of infrastructure in place as does Iraq—Iraq already had oil, water, and facilities in place.  I’ve often said that security and economic development go together.  You need security for economic development, but long-term you also need economic development for security. 

The situation in Iran is very unhelpful and it is a very big problem.  Our objective is to do everything we can economically and diplomatically through the UN.  However, we are willing to do whatever it takes if those efforts aren’t effective.

On July 4th, 1908, a young man, Glenn H. Curtiss—the future “father of naval aviation”—conducted the first pre-announced public flight in America.  He lifted off in a wood-and-fabric biplane propelled by a crackling, smoky engine, and he stayed airborne for almost a mile.  Before that historic flight, very few Americans had witnessed the marvel of aviation.

Today, in comparison—at any given moment, roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the U.S.  Our military aircraft are equipped with state-of-the-art propulsion systems, firepower, and stealth technology.  And, in the July issue of Scientific America there’s an article about a University of Florida professor’s proposal to develop a real-live, plasma-powered flying saucer!  I don’t dismiss anything!

The many pioneering, state-of-the-art programs that you are helping to develop will likely have remarkable impact in the future.  In particular, these programs have the potential to transform military aviation in several critical areas—including the engine. 

Over the last quarter of a century, the U.S. has achieved a number of notable improvements to our engine systems.  Today’s engines are more powerful, efficient, and reliable.  In fact, today’s F-16 averages less than one engine-related Class-A mishap for every 100,000 hours flown.  This rate has improved 4-to-1 in 12 years—this is a dramatic improvement in a short period of time.  And, it is a reflection, in part, of better manufacturing tools and planning tools. 

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will also be a dramatic improvement by all criteria—also with just a single engine.  And, this program is really symbolic of where we are in DoD—and, that is joint.  The F-35 has set the standard for close cooperation between Government and our partners in industry.  It has laid the foundation for true jointness among our military Services.  And, it is has strengthened our interdependence with international friends and allies.  Looking ahead across the full range of products and technologies will need to be joint.   

I also hope that there’s a future for hypersonics, particularly in terms of our missile systems.  If we are successful in developing this advanced technology, it will greatly extend global reach in the next decade.  And, hopefully we could have less forward basing and faster response times. 

In particular, the Blackswift Testbed being jointly developed by DARPA and the Air Force will demonstrate technologies that could enable missiles capable of hitting targets on another continent at a moment’s notice, providing 50 times the coverage of today’s subsonic cruise missile systems.  And, a hypersonic aircraft could provide rapid surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities if overhead assets are denied.  Hypersonics could be very, very useful for DoD.   

Earlier, I mentioned intel as a key to current operations…. General George S. Patton and General Rommel, “The Desert Fox”—had something in common besides being great Armor innovators and leaders.  Both flew their own airplanes over the battlefield—Patton around parts of Europe and Rommel in Africa—to get a firsthand report of what was going on.  Eventually, “Flying Jeeps,” as they became known, found widespread use as valuable wartime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets.

Today, a variety of high-tech, unmanned aerial vehicles collect battlefield intelligence.  And, the information is relayed almost instantaneously to leaders on the ground.

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are providing warfighters at every level of command with critical intelligence information, including timely surveillance, verifiable target acquisition, and battle damage assessment.  Today, UAS provide over 90% of the full motion video capability to our warfighting forces.  They’ve experienced greater than 1000% growth over the last 5 years, and we have still not satisfied the need.  And, we never will—there’s no limit to the demand for intelligence surveillance.  And, while primarily providing ISR capabilities, UAS are increasingly expanding into new mission areas including strike, force protection, communications relay, and strike support. 

The next wave of UAS will employ enhanced autonomy and airborne sensing capability, providing for dramatic reductions in crew manning and training.  Yes, unmanned systems still require extensive infrastructure support, including crews—which are short in supply.  That’s actually the biggest shortage—crews to support UAS. 

Advanced propulsion technologies, including hydrogen and fuel cells, will reduce conventional fuel use and, combined with automatic air-refueling, will push endurance from several days to several weeks.  We also need improved sensing to provide greater coverage with fewer sorties, thus increasing effectiveness and supporting more users at all levels of command.  And, in virtually every case, the UAS trend line is to deliver these capabilities at a lower operating cost.

While these further advances may worry some—like pilots, the good news is that they still do require engines!  

Another key area of research and development where we need to continue to make gains is in the exploration of energy alternatives and fuel efficiency efforts aimed at reducing our military’s reliance on traditional fuel.  Improving energy efficiency continues to be one of the top 25 overarching goals as Deputy Secretary of Defense. 

DoD is likely the largest single user of petroleum products in the world—certainly in the U.S. 

Last year, in 2007, DoD spent almost $13 billion on jet fuel, diesel, and other fuels, with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan consuming almost $2 billion of that total.  Today, every time the price of oil goes up by $1 per barrel, it costs us in excess of $130 million.  Fortunately, Congress gives us supplementals to pay for added fuel costs.   

Certainly, this is an area in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and cost where you can help us.  Alternative fuel sources would be hugely beneficial.  However, I am not a proponent of bio-fuels that rely on corn or other food sources.  Disrupting the food supply makes no sense.  I challenge industry to help to develop other alternatives.

I thank you for what each of you does every day in your offices, laboratories, and at your test facilities.  It is so important to the future strength and security of our nation.  And, what you do also has important civilian applications as well. 

One last request to all of you before I conclude…  If the greatest short-term threat to the United States is a terrorist attack, then the greatest long-term threat is the decline in science and technology.  Unfortunately, in the U.S., the number of engineers is not keeping pace with other countries.  We need to identify and nurture the best talent, early – it’s important to the U.S. commercially, and to the military. 

I know that many of your organizations offer on-line resources and programs for students and educators.  As an American, I appreciate you doing all of that.  But, I’d also urge each of you to take every opportunity to actively reach out to young people, and to encourage them to consider a career in science and technology as they make decisions about their future education and careers.  We cannot survive if we are not preeminent in science and technology.  So, it is extremely important that you do whatever you can do to help out.

Finally, 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 for your patriotism. 

God bless you and God bless America.