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National Defense Industrial Association’s Tech Trends 2000 Conference "R&D in the New Millennium"
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre , Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tuesday, April 06, 1999

May I begin first by saying thank you to Chairman [Rep. Curt] Weldon for inviting me. I am genuinely honored to be included here, and it isn’t just because you chair a subcommittee that controls our budget. [Laughter.] It is because you, unlike so many of your colleagues, have an absolutely visionary perspective on the future. It’s not just spending more money, it’s challenging the innovation that’s inherent in the American spirit. I simply can’t tell you how much I admire that in you.

I would also thank [Ret. Army Lt. General] Larry Skibbie [President, National Defense Industrial Association] for helping NDIA to organize this conference. Thank you, Larry.

I was asked to talk about setting the scene for Tech Trends 2000. Obviously, my perspective is going to be highly dominated by the defense issues that the United States faces. Technology has been very much in the fore in our thinking in the last several weeks. It truly is a very difficult challenge to try to deal with a capable and enormously determined opponent on the ground who is prepared to do remarkable and terrible things.

I think last night was a vivid example. As many of you may know from reports this morning, one of our bombs went astray and did not hit its intended target. Instead, we hit an apartment building and I think five civilians were killed. An accident that led to five civilians losing their life stands in stark contrast to the news that at the same time another 90,000 civilians [ethnic Albanian Kosovars] were shoved out of their homes last night and are right now marching toward the border.

This contrasts the very best that technology can bring to the awful business of warfare with the terrible violence in people’s hearts that has an almost medieval quality. And so, [the situation in Kosovo] makes this conference even more vivid, and I’m glad I could have a chance to be here, Mr. Chairman.

As Yogi Berra said, forecasting is a pretty hard thing, especially when it’s about the future. I don’t know how to forecast where technology is going other than to ask about the dimensions of the national security challenges that we are going to confront and how we will be asking our science and technology industry to deal with and help us with these problems. So if I may, [I would like to] outline the world that I think is emerging, with a brief recounting of where we’ve come as a country.

We have had probably five distinct security epochs in our national history. I think we’re in the front end of the sixth. The first, of course, took place from around 1776 when we started our War of Independence and ended around 1820. [This] was the period when the United States in some ways was muscling its freedom against the backdrop of the international security order, which was highly dominated, of course, by the European security order. When [that epoch] finally ended after the War of 1812 and a few subsequent skirmishes, we had largely established our freedom of operations.

The second epoch was that period from around 1820 to the end of the 19th century, around the time of the Spanish American War. It was a period when, as I said, America was freed from a lot of the entanglements of the European security order, insulated by the royal navy and preoccupied by the expansion into the great interior of the United States. We did have, of course, the painful experience of the Civil War, perhaps the most productive time of technical innovation entering into American warfare.

America [then came] into its imperial phase, from 1900 to around 1920. America had become a global power, an imperial power, which we demonstrated quite frequently in Central America, in the Philippines, and so forth. All this [occurred] at a time when the European security order was decaying catastrophically, as demonstrated when the Balkans exploded and led to World War I.

That third epoch ultimately produced two very important phenomena that dictated the inter-wars years, the fourth epoch. Those [phenomena] were the rise of international communism and the great global depression, both of which tore at the United States deeply.

Ending that period, of course, was World War II. And World War II itself led to this fifth security period, the Cold War. I guess it’s hard to say exactly when the Cold War ended. Probably the date historians will adopt is 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down. And so, we’ve had the last ten years -- it seems surprising that it’s been ten years -- when we’ve lived in this transition period toward the new security era.

Now, what can we say about this new security period? It has several [features], and it’s still foggy to be honest, but it has some distinct features. The first is that we’re seeing, of course, the collapse of the old static, bipolar era, where the world was divided unevenly into relatively static blocs -- the West, the Eastern bloc, and then the non-aligned movement -- which floated in and out depending on the issues. That has now collapsed into a very confusing post Cold War dynamic.

The rise of ethnic conflict seems to characterize this period. [We see] terrible struggles. Of course, we see one right now in Kosovo, between the Kosovo Albanians and the Serb majority. But we see comparable problems in Ethiopia and Eritrea. We see civil war, of course, in Chechnya against Russia; in the Abkhazia region against Georgia; East Timor against Indonesia. And it goes on and on. I think right now there are some 50 civil wars or [instances of] ethnic strife going on around the world. So this new security epoch is characterized by a startling chaos.

It’s made more dangerous because the collapse of the old order, the bipolar Cold War order, which left us in a world with large arsenals of frightening things. I think there were over 30,000 nuclear weapons in the old Soviet Union before it started to break up, and millions of rounds of chemical ammunition [and] huge stocks of biological weapons. Even more startling is the technical knowledge that 50 years of science brought in developing frightening weapons. We see this, as the brains that produced these breakthroughs in the old Soviet Union, start to migrate to places where they can get jobs. So we see a frightening diminish to this new sixth epoch of American security.

There are four major challenges that we have to deal with. The first is confronting the fact we need to develop and deploy a national missile defense system. I know this brings little joy to [Rep.] Curt Weldon, who has been on the forefront, carrying the torch for so many years on this. But I think we’ve come to see this as something we have to do.

A second challenge which is probably infinitely more complicated is how to deal with this potential threat of a chemical or biological weapon that might be used by a terrorist in the United States. This is a very tough problem, in some ways dramatically harder than national missile defense.

There is one [advantage in operating] a national missile defense [system]: [in] an ICBM attack, you know exactly who did it, the time, and the place. That’s not going to be the case with someone who smuggles in a five-pound bag of anthrax. It’s dramatically harder to deal with this problem. Here, we do need some technical help. We need significant help, actually. We do not have good biological detectors. We’ve got some primitive first-generation biological detectors. [But] we’re still limited to using what the scientists call a "wet media." [We have] to get the agent into a petri dish, grow it for a little while, see what comes out of it, and then do some diagnostics. This takes days, maybe, in a few cases, hours -- a frighteningly long time when you’re dealing with the spread of a biological agent or a chemical weapon.

We have first responders [to attacks involving chemical and biological weapons]. I’ve had many conversations with Chairman Weldon, about first responders, in his role as head of the emergency response caucus in Congress. Our role in the Defense Department is to try to be helpful to the first responders who are going to confront this problem before we do.

It is really a binary problem. If you’ve got a chemical weapon, the first thing you want to do is to get everybody away. If you’ve got a biological weapon, the first thing you want to do is to keep everybody in, so it doesn’t spread. Early detection [and] early diagnosis become the most important things we can do, and [those are] the biggest holes we currently have in our technology. We need not only the capacity to do near real-time diagnostics on agents, but we need to try to find a way to do it remotely, from a safe distance. This is a very serious problem.

We are making progress in the technologies that provide for more efficient barriers for operations in a contaminated environment. The new chemical-protection [and] biological-protection suits we have are an order of magnitude improvement. I don’t know how many of you here have lived with MOPP [military operational protective posture] gear. It’s a little like chemotherapy: it may save you, but it’s going to kill you in the process. Fortunately, the new equipment for barrier operations is dramatically better, but we still need significant improvements beyond that. So I think this second area is one where we clearly have enormous challenges, and not just for the Department of Defense, but for our first responders who are going to be confronting this.

A third area where we have a genuine challenge is in the area of cyber protection. America has become very vulnerable because it has become so computerized. We now routinely control the infrastructure in American society remotely through computers. Unfortunately, we have not [devoted] nearly as much attention to the protection of that infrastructure. Chairman Weldon has held two remarkable hearings on the subject to try to bring attention to the need for cyber protection.

This is a very complex and difficult problem because the solution when you’re being attacked in cyberspace is not to unplug yourself from the network because that’s frankly where the core of our innovation is being plugged in. You can’t just decouple yourself from cyberspace when you get scared. You have to learn to operate in cyberspace when you’re under attack. And that does require, as the chairman said, encryption. It does require fire walls and it does require trusted operating environments inside public networks. Ninety-five percent of our communications in the Defense Department go over public systems. [So] we’re going to have to protect ourselves in cyberspace and that means very strong encryption tools so we can protect ourselves.

If you’ll forgive me for doing a bit of campaigning on the subject, let me take advantage of [your attendance] to say that there are some people in our midst who are cyber-libertarians. [They] say that the government has no role in modulating the emergence of encryption in American society. We know very well how to protect civil liberties in America. I live, frankly, with the frustration of that every day. Americans are more afraid of their government than they are of their businesses, when it comes to cyberspace. The Government cannot do anything in terms of looking at individuals’ personal records without getting a court order. But right now, there are commercial firms that are selling your own personal, private information without any restriction. We can’t buy it in the Department of Defense.

We know how to assure due process to protect Americans in cyberspace. But I’ve also got to tell you that you can’t hamstring America’s law enforcement or America’s intelligence organizations by saying that we cannot regulate the flow of encryption technology over time. We have to be able to do that. We will not know what answer one could possibly give to the President when he says, "Why couldn’t you warn me of this cyber attack?" Or: "Why couldn’t you warn me of this chemical attack in the United States?" The answer is: "Well, it was encrypted." So we’re going to have to strike a balance between privacy and national security and public safety.

We’re going to have to strike a balance between the freedom and the privacy that every American wants and that I honor -- I strongly believe it -- and the needs of your government to be able to protect you. Again, I thank Chairman Weldon for being fairly heroic last year in fighting a very unpopular battle in Congress to protect the right of the government to protect you. We’re going to have that fight again this year. I’m pretty sure of that.

Finally, and this is probably far more interesting to you, is where I think we will be trying to take technology into its fourth phase to modernize American warfare. You’re seeing kind of the third phase, the revolution in military warfare, underway right now. With precision munitions, [for example], you’re able to knock out just a wing of a building. I’m awestruck [in] looking at the after-action assessments that we’ve had in Iraq and Serbia and Kosovo, [and in seeing] how absolutely limited the collateral damage has been. It’s really been because of this breakthrough in technology in precision warfare and microprocessors.

We’re really on the edge of a fourth revolution in that area, I believe. I’ve said this to several people before, but the reason we had so many casualties during the Civil War was because the technology of firepower had so outstripped the technology of communication. [During] the Civil War, in order to communicate, an officer had to be standing close enough to shout orders to his troops. The troops had to be close enough to hear it, to hear the bugle or to hear the drums. [But by] that time, firepower [also] had brought cannon and muzzle loaded riflery onto the battlefield. And [those weapons] just slaughtered people because they had to stay close to hear [orders] --staying close meant there were lots of targets [clustered together].

The new revolution that’s emerging is going to be just exactly the reverse. We’re going to be able to give our troops the opportunity to never even have to see each other and yet to mass their fire and bring it on an opponent. [We will be] dramatically reversing the vulnerability that we had during the Civil War and dramatically improving the survivability for our troops today. And that’s through technology like the digital battlefield overlay that the Army is pioneering down at Fort Hood -- very exciting stuff.

I don’t know how many of you have been in a tank out at the national training center. It’s a terribly disorienting environment. You’re bouncing all over. It’s a closed environment, the turret’s pointed [one] way, the vehicle’s going [another] way. It is very hard to know where the heck you are and what you’re looking at. [So one must ask:] "Is that an enemy or is that a friend?"

Now, for the first time, we’re going to be able to put a terminal inside that tank to give that commander a total vision of what’s on the battlefield -- where the good guys are and where the bad guys are. It’s going to be like putting a radar for the first time in the cockpit of an airplane. It’s going to revolutionize the way we’re going to be able to fight war, saving a lot of American lives and hopefully getting the battle over with quickly. That’s just one example of the things you’re going to see.

You should be very proud of what our armed services are doing in their battle labs -- very exciting stuff. It’s all motivated by harnessing the incredible ingenuity of the American military mind today, using the best that technology can offer and putting it as an effective system on the field. Most of the time, I must say, I don’t think [technological advances will come] by inventing brand new things in our [DoD] laboratories. Quite frequently now, [we are] adapting things that have been pioneered in the private sector and bringing them into military applications. For example, I know that there is an innovation that the Army is working on, with a number of institutions in the Delaware River valley, to use cellular telephone communications to provide a digital architecture, so we’re no longer constrained by radio beacons that we have to put up in a tactical environment. That kind of brilliant innovation is coming, [through] taking all this dynamic information technology and industry that we have and bringing it into the gritty business of warfare.

I would echo what Mr. Weldon said earlier, that the challenges are so great, and we’re a big organization, but we can’t afford to fix this by ourselves. We’ll spend eight, nine billion [dollars] on tech-based research and development this year, but that isn’t going to be enough. We’re going to have to harness the innovation in the industry that exists inside the private sector, inside our universities.

I think we’re finally walking out of that kind of Dark Ages when America’s universities and colleges didn’t want to work with the Defense Department. I think we’re finally getting over that hang-up, and we’re starting to see each other as genuine partners in a shared mission, the shared mission of protecting and defending this country. But it only comes with people like you, people like the chairman, [who is] making this an opportunity for all of us. [He is creating] not just a business opportunity -- although we want you to be profitable because otherwise, you’re not going to be there -- but frankly an opportunity for us to defend this country. The challenges are going to get harder because as I look as this sixth security era, and we’re really just on the front end of it, I don’t know where it ends.

One of the dimensions of this security era, unlike the Cold War bipolar years is that it’s harder to see how you deter the bad guys from acting in this era. In the last [era], deterrence worked because there were centrally controlled state authorities. [But] how do you deter an Osama bin Laden in this era? It will take the ability to get inside their planning and to stay ahead of them. And the only way that will work is with the genius of American innovation. It’s for that reason that I’m grateful to have been asked to be here and grateful that all of you would come to be a part of what I think is an enormously important step for our future.

Thank you very much.