Thank you Admiral [Gaffney, NDU President]. When I look at my schedule for the rest of the day I think I might like to just stay here for awhile. [Laughter]
Actually, this is supposed to be off the record so let me just tell a little secret. The most beautiful office I know of in Washington is one they gave me on the corner of the main War College building right out near where the two rivers come together. I'd love to be back here. It's gorgeous.
[Voice: Any time, sir. Laughter.]
Believe me, I'm smart enough not to try to compete with my boss, but you notice that he gives me a lot of running room. In fact, when Rumsfeld swore me in, he made a joke which I've repeated many times-he noted the fact that I was back at the Pentagon for my third tour of duty there. He said, "Paul, we're going to keep bringing you back until you get it right." [Laughter] I felt like commenting that he was back for his second tour and what did that mean? [Laughter] I decided that was another one of those places where you don't push your boss too closely.
Ray is back in the Pentagon and we feel that you've got to make up for lost time so we keep piling one job after another on him. And Ray DuBois is really somebody who is wearing many hats. He has been on the job day and night. We asked him to take the lead in Installations and Environment, and if that weren't enough we asked him to take on running one of the biggest installations of all, the Pentagon itself. That famous place, what do we have about 25,000 people there? Secretary Weinberger was once asked how many people work in the Pentagon? He said, "Oh, about ten percent." [Laughter] Maybe that was true once upon a time, but it's not true today. I think it's a hundred percent today.
In fact, that remarkable achievement of putting the building back together in less than a year produced, what is I'm told, one of the most unusual scenes in the American construction industry, which is to say, a building site where everybody was working day and night and the spirit of those workers was fantastic. And the spirit of the people in the building is fantastic. It's what it ought to be because we're serving in the finest military any country could ask for. And the men and women that we support deserve that dedication.
Ray has the job now that the late truly immortal Doc Cook occupied, whom we jokingly referred to as the "Mayor of the Pentagon." It was the job of being all things to all people but not everything to everybody because you have to do a lot of saying no as well, Ray. But, at any rate, thank you for all you've taken on and thank you Admiral Gaffney, for organizing this inaugural seminar. I think it is a terrific event and I think it underscores the importance that we attach as a department, and I think we need to emphasize as a department, to our critical relationships with the environment. In a way even as much time as I spent in the department, I hadn't quite realized how many environmental issues come to us, how many times, places in the country where metropolitan areas are expanding and environments for endangered species and other natural habitats are shrinking. And oddly enough the places where we train and drive tanks and shoot guns are the last refuges for critical species, the last places where natural environmental conditions are to be preserved.
It puts an extra responsibility on us, an extra burden, and I think what we're talking about here with this conference and in the legislative changes that we've asked for in the Congress is how to get it balanced right.
Indeed when we think about it, or if you ask the people who administer our environmental programs and the people who are responsible for those training bases, it is the same thing we ask of Ray, which is to be all things to all people. That's because the challenge is nothing less than supporting the twin imperatives of producing the best trained military force in the world and providing the best environmental stewardship possible. And that's a tough challenge. But it's one I believe the Defense Department is up to because we've understood for quite awhile that conserving the environment is an inseparable part of military leadership. And that's why you have convened here today.
The primary responsibility, of course, of the Department of Defense is to ensure that America's men and women in uniform are prepared to defend our nation with the best weapons and the best training that we can possibly give them. That's worth underscoring, the best training we can possibly give them. In many ways if you had to choose, and we don't want to choose, training is even more important than weapons.
I remember visiting the 2nd Armored Division in Southern Iraq at the end of the Gulf War with then-Secretary Cheney. He talked to this very tough-looking senior master sergeant. I was glad I hadn't encountered him in a dark alley and I was glad he was on our side-a very tough guy and a veteran of 26 years in the Army. Secretary Cheney asked him, "Was it tough for you?" He said, "Well, you might say so, but nothing as tough as the National Training Center." When our training is tougher than combat we know we're doing it the right way. We know that we're saving lives and protecting our country. It was important 12 years ago; it's even more important today.
So, maintaining mission readiness means that men and women must be trained to fight in a realistic environment. This includes access to the air, land and water resources that comprise our training and testing ranges. I might add too that we are pushing the envelope on training now. In the [Fiscal Year] '04 budget we're asking for money to develop a joint national training capability. At one point we called it the "Joint National Training Center," and someone pointed out you don't want it all in one place. In fact, you may be able to, with the miracles of modern technology, have two units training in different places at the same time and doing it jointly.
But we've seen just a glimpse, I think, in Afghanistan of what jointness can mean in this networked world that the information revolution has made possible. Where a sergeant on the ground in Northern Afghanistan-6,000 miles from any place he ever expected to deploy-can communicate with a B-52 pilot coming from thousands of miles away and put bombs on a target just a few thousand feet from where he is. It's extraordinary. I think we've just seen the beginning of it. In order to be able to develop that capability, to take full advantage of it, to protect our country and protect the men and women who defend our country we've obviously got to be able to train in ways we haven't trained before.
But our responsibility as stewards of some 25 million acres of America's land also means that-at the same time that we use these lands to train our forces-we must continue to see a balance between the needs of realistic military training and the environmental challenges that we encounter.
We will continue to clean up contamination from past practices, as we continue to invest in ways to minimize and reduce pollution in the first place. It's a lot cheaper not to create a problem than to have to fix it afterwards.
We'll continue to look for ways to successfully share our living and working spaces with the endangered and threatened species who also inhabit our installations. And we will continue to find ways to be good neighbors to those communities close by our bases and ranges. And this requires a balancing act.
In striving for this balance, last month I signed an overarching directive to establish a uniform policy for ensuring long-term sustainment of military test and training ranges, laying out a framework for how the military plans to ensure its ranges can continue to support realistic training and also continue to be good stewards of the environment.
The directive calls for coordination and outreach on a national, regional and local levels so that we can better achieve our goals. The thousands of military and civilian workers who help protect our environment each day prove that national security and environmental security are mutually reinforcing. We consider environmental impacts early on in mission planning, and we reduce costs and protect the environment as well as the health of our people, their families, and the neighboring communities.
When we cut back on our energy consumption we add to the funds we have to meet our military missions. When we guard our national and cultural heritage we're helping to protect the future of America. Clearly that is a national security imperative. When we successfully manage our environmental missions from the start we save money, time and energy that can benefit all our warriors, from those in Afghanistan to our men and women here in America and those who are stationed around the world. It is one important way to not only ensure they have the weapons and support they need today but to ensure that our bases and ranges can continue to offer them world class training and living environments.
Continued vision and dedication will be needed to help us fulfill this department's responsibility to ensure that our men and women have the tools they need to defend our nation this year and in the years and decades to come. And should we have to send our forces into harm's way, as we're doing even as we speak, they will have the very best training we can give them-because they deserve nothing less than that.
Our environment also deserves nothing less than the very best stewardship that we can provide. As President Bush has said, good stewardship is a personal responsibility, and it's a public value.
Those of you who have come here today understand both the responsibility and the value of environmental stewardship and leadership. I ask you to bring your best ideas to the table today. I encourage you to continue your dialogue after this forum concludes, and I note with satisfaction that it's called the inaugural forum -- I assume that means there will be many, many to follow.
So in closing let me thank all of you for coming and a special thank you to the National Defense University and to Admiral Gaffney who worked with Ray and his staff to bring you all together.
It's fitting I think that the issue of military environmental stewardship will be examined here where great issues of military leadership are much debated and discussed. As I said, for the Department of Defense this is an issue of military leadership.
Interestingly enough, it was just two centuries ago, in 1803, that President Thomas Jefferson sent a small band of men on a journey to explore the American West. Few people, or not so many people anyway, realized that this "Corps of Discovery" led by Merriweather Lewis and William Clark was a military expedition, whose leaders were Army officers chosen in part for their understanding of the physical world they were about to explore, and charged to study and record the new frontier.
So the idea of a military mission in harmony with nature is as old as our country. In that spirit of Lewis and Clark we hope that all of you who represent government, industry, academia, and the environmental community who've taken time from your busy days can help us discover new and better ways to manage our defense environmental issues. We hope we can capitalize on your expertise, your ideas, and your insights as we continue to integrate environmental stewardship in the day-to-day mission of national security.
I look forward to hearing the results of your discussions. On behalf of the President and Secretary Rumsfeld, I thank you very much for your attendance. Thank you. [Applause.]