Seal of the Department of Defense U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
On the Web:
Media contact: +1 (703) 697-5131/697-5132
Public contact:
or +1 (703) 571-3343

2nd Annual Electronic Commerce Day
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Ronald Reagan International Trade Building, Washington D.C., Thursday, June 10, 1999

Thank you for your comments. Deputy Under Secretary [for Acquisition Reform, Stan] Soloway, [Deputy] Assistant Secretary [for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, Marv] Langston, Generals [Henry] Glisson [Director, Defense Logistics Agency] and [David] Kelly [Director, Defense Information Systems Agency], distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I apologize to you for being late. I understand that you have been sitting here for some time, awaiting my arrival. I should explain to you that the President of the United States just had a press conference. He announced that there has been, in fact, a beginning of a pull out on the part of the Serb forces. Gen. [Wes] Clark [Supreme Allied Commander] has verified that there is beginning compliance with the agreement that was signed yesterday. [President Clinton announced] that we could suspend the bombing campaign and allow the Security Council of the United Nations to proceed forward and pass that resolution which would then allow our forces, which are now moving on the ground as we speak through Macedonia and other regions, to prepare for the so-called K-FOR to go into Kosovo. [Applause.]

It was an important day and at the conclusion of the President's presentation, we had a series of phone calls to make, and one of them was to [Russian] President [Boris] Yeltsin. That, too, had its historic significance because President Yeltsin did, in fact, contribute significantly to helping to produce the settlement that was finally agreed upon. So all in all, we have had a very fine morning. There is still a lot of work to be done. There are many pitfalls along the way to having a true success -- when the refugees are able to go back to their homes safely and securely. And so, we're beginning that process now.

I must say that we owe a great deal to the persistence and the dedication on the part of the President in his commitment to see this through to a successful conclusion. He took great pains today to point out that we should be very, very proud of the men and women in uniform who were able to carry this out to an extraordinary degree.

I was going to just spend a few moments this morning as I did a couple days ago when I talked at the Acquisition Reform Week about how for the past 11 weeks, Americans and people all over the world have been truly astonished by the capabilities of our warriors and our weapons in the Balkans, if you think about it. We have had more than 34,000 sorties that were flown, 34,700, I think, but maybe a little short or over that number, but 34,000 sorties. All but two aircraft returned safely. Hundreds of surface-to-air-missiles were fired and launched at our pilots, and yet, we lost two aircraft and no pilots. That is an extraordinary achievement in the history of air warfare to be sure. [Applause.]

We have Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that are flying now, giving a bird's-eye view over Kosovo to make sure that they are going to be complying with the agreement. We saw B-2 bombers leave their base, fly all the way across the Atlantic, drop their munitions, all of which landed within 20 feet of the target and then go all the way back home. This is an incredible display of air power that we, again, should be very, very proud of. Satellite-guided precision missiles have locked onto targets such as a radio antenna or transmitter in downtown Belgrade with little, if any, damage done to surrounding buildings. Again, a great testament to the kind of technology we have developed over the past few years, much [more than] during the Persian Gulf war; most of those munitions were unguided.

Today, most of the munitions are guided with a tremendous difference in accuracy and precision. And even though we'll never be able to lift entirely the fog of war, our technology and our talent has made this the most precise campaign in the history of warfare. So once again, that is due to the dedication of folks like yourself and the military men and women and all who supported, particularly the American people who have supported the kind of funding that's necessary to keep us the best in the world.

I would like to say that this is not a unique capability. It has, in fact, been carried out before. We carried it out in Desert Fox. We forgot about that so soon. We had a four-day air campaign just last December, once again carrying out an incredible mission with absolute perfection. We are providing massive airlift aid assistance to victims of Hurricane Mitch and refugees now going to Kosovo. Our armed forces have excelled in virtually every mission they have had to perform, notwithstanding the reductions in size of our force, the size of the budget, the restructuring that's had to take place. All of this has been going on while we have been carrying out these kinds of missions all the way from rescue operations to humanitarian missions to preparing to go against Saddam Hussein or anyone else who challenges us. So we have a lot to be thankful for and very proud of.

In contrast, I should say the Department of Defense, the agencies and organizations that support our military men and women, have not always been quite as aggressive in pursuing [innovations]. We sort of had a Cold War boot where, in fact, we needed a much more nimble piece of footwear so that we could be as quick and flexible as our forces are. So we've had to look at ways in which we could change. We have a Revolution in Military Affairs that we're pursuing very aggressively. Now, we're pursuing a Revolution in Business Affairs.

So we've had to adopt what Scottie [Knott; Director, Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office] called the Defense Reform Initiative. I want to point out [that] President Clinton has agreed to the first major spending increase for military purposes in 15 years. [This is a] major, dramatic increase in spending. We will increase our spending by at least $112 billion over the next six years. That is a remarkable achievement as well because we have Congressional support for that and perhaps even more. But that should not in any way derail our commitment to have this reform in our organization and in our ability to manage our affairs more effectively.

So we're going to continue to consolidate; recall the words that we used in the mantra. We're going to consolidate. We're going to compete more jobs than ever before. We are going to, in fact, close those things that we can. We were not successful in getting another round or two rounds in base closures, but we are going to eliminate some 8,000 buildings which are empty now and simply using up a lot of utilities. So we're going to do this at a point in our lives where we are now sort of maximizing the use of taxpayer dollars. Instead of spending this on wasteful practices, we are going to have a better organization with better lines of communication, better technology to get us where we have to be for the next century.

So we started this out a year ago. Scotty was right. At Fort Belvoir we had the great electronic [cake-cutting] at that time. It was simply the beginning. It was the beginning of the end. It was the beginning of the end of a department that was burdened by paper. It was the beginning of a new department whose lifeblood was going to be the electron. And indeed, when we created that Joint Electronic Commerce Program Office, we turned our rhetoric into reality.

I must tell you that your dedication and determination are on display throughout the length and breadth of this country. We have an amazing electronic mall that's now selling everything from socks to semiconductors. We have made $27 million in sales to date. We have dramatically reduced our overhead costs, times for delivery for countless agencies. We now have the government card that's being used for the vast majority of small purchases. And perhaps most importantly, we are now rapidly approaching the point where we can say we're going to have a virtually paper-free contracting system [next year]. These were once simply lofty hopes. We are turning those into reality.

And I wanted to be here today and take this time, even though we have a crowded agenda on our plate, to tell you how grateful I am for the kind of dedication that you have demonstrated for the past year. You, indeed, have been dedicated to the mall, which is making this possible. It's always been said that the toughest thing about success is you have to keep on being successful. And that's what we're here today not only celebrating your past, but your potential. We have to continue to harness the power of the microchip so that our men and women in uniform can get what they need when they need it, faster, better, cheaper than ever before. Bear in mind your essential mission -- they can't be successful unless you are successful, unless we are successful.

And so, we have to carefully sculpt our reforms. I can tell you that no matter how much we may want this [reform effort], no matter how many directives I may send out or other department heads send out, success depends upon the willingness of the people within and outside the department to change. Unless you have this commitment, no matter what I say, now matter what directive I give, no matter what regulations are passed, it is not going to happen. And so, we have to change not only the way in which we operate, but we have to change the way in which we think about operating. And you have done that.

Thanks to the leadership shown by our civilian force and military men and women who are working within the department and also the private sector, there is now a commitment to change the way in which we are all in business. And the beneficiaries are going to be the American people to be sure, and the men and women in uniform who we ask to put their lives on the line every day of the year. They will be able to contribute to stabilizing the world in a way in which we have been doing for so long.

That really was the message of President Clinton this morning as he looked out to the cameras, saying that we did something that was right. It was just and it was necessary. We intend to continue to be a force for good and for prosperity and peace and stability in the world. We will act to protect our interests. We will act to help our allies. We will make judgments in terms of when we can be of assistance, when we should be of assistance, but we need to have the capability. The only way we can have the capability is by continued commitment of all of you who are here and all that work with you.

So I came by to say thank you very much. It's a proud day for this country. It's a proud day for our alliance. If you think about it, 19 countries, 19 democracies all came together in a common pursuit. That takes extraordinary leadership on our part. It takes an extraordinary commitment on the part of all of those 19 leaders who have different relations to the Balkans, different ethnic ties, different commercial ties, different cultural and historical ties.

Yet notwithstanding all those differences, you had 19 democracies saying we are going to stay the course and make sure that we never allow this notion of ethnic cleansing, something we thought we saw an end to at the end of World War II, to ever take place again. And so, we've had 19 democracies stay the course. They have depended upon U.S. leadership. We can only continue to lead as long as we are strong, we are vibrant and flexible and durable. We have the capability to take that technology, integrate it fully into our training and doctrine and strategy. And that can only happen if we have complete integration. Those who are thinking about our defense reorganization, our Defense Reform Initiative, working together with the reform and the Revolution in Military Affairs. So thank you very much. This has been an important day. It's been an important year. And the best is yet to come. We now are, in fact, implementing all of those reforms we just talked about a year or two ago.

Thank you again. [Applause.]