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Cragin: Guard&, Reserves Role Essential as U.S. Prepares Response to WMD Threat
Remarks by Charles L. Cragin, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, The Reserve Officers Association (ROA) National Convention, Boston, Mass. , Thursday, July 02, 1998

Thank you, Colonel Harmon, for that kind introduction.

Secretary Sharratt, Major General Sandler, other flag and general officers and fellow Reservists, members of the association, distinguished guests, I am delighted and honored to be here.

We will soon celebrate the anniversary of our nation's independence. And in this time of great challenge and change, it is useful to look back on how we began our struggle for liberty and search for lessons from the past.

In July 1775, not far from where we gather today, General Washington arrived in Cambridge to take command of the Continental Army, which included several of my ancestors from Meriam's Corner.

Washington's men were printers and shopkeepers, lawyers and laborers, farmers and woodsmen.

They were citizen soldiers.

Drawn from across the colonies and from across the social spectrum, they were united in their determination to be free. To the British, this group of rebels was anything but an "army," Continental or otherwise.

They soon confounded the world with their warfighting talents and secured our nation's liberty. And then they returned to their homes and farms. But they stood ready, should the call go forth, to rally again and defend the nation.

The proud tradition of the citizen soldier is still with us today, and it echoes down to us through the centuries. You are the embodiment of that tradition. Today we are relying on you more than ever.

You and your colleagues are enforcing the no-fly zone over Iraq. You're building new partnerships with old adversaries in Europe, and you're bringing peace to Bosnia, where nearly 17,000 of you have served with great distinction.

Together, you number 1.5 million men and women. You represent half the Total Force. In the Gulf War alone, during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield, nearly 270,000 Reservists and Guardsmen were mobilized.

These are compelling facts and figures any way you view them. But what they ultimately show is that we simply cannot sustain our current operations tempo or undertake major missions without the Guard and Reserve.

You have become an absolutely integral part of our defense planning and execution. You are essential to our national security. We simply cannot do the job without you.

Every day around the globe thousands of active duty men and women in uniform risk their lives and make great sacrifices to defend our national interests. And, increasingly, Reservists are there alongside, serving extended tours away from their homes, families and jobs.

Many of you are probably familiar with the notion of the "weekend warrior." We know General [Henry H.] Shelton [Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff] is!

In fact, from my own experiences, I can say that many of you have probably been referred to as "weekend warriors." I have recently seen an image of one such warrior depicted in the televised cartoon, "The Simpsons."

The quintessential weekend warrior appears as an infantryman, wearing a sports coat, with a rifle in one hand and a briefcase in the other. Despite its simple visual appeal, that is an outdated representation, as General Shelton observed.

The ending of the Cold War has brought a new beginning and a new chapter to the long history of the citizen solider. And within this context, the term "weekend warrior" seems increasingly inappropriate. As each year passes -- the Cold War ended nearly a decade ago -- we see that old certainties have given way to new uncertainties.

Communism has collapsed, the Soviet Empire has evaporated, and the specter of nuclear Armageddon has receded. But in their place have come grave instabilities, the increasing militarization of regional rivalries, and ethnic, religious and nationalist tensions that threaten to undermine any semblance of post-Cold War stability.

Some commentators seem to yearn nostalgically for the cold certainties of the Cold War, when at least we knew who the enemy was. But in this changing world of changing threats, the Department of Defense has looked to the future and adapted accordingly.

We are harnessing the amazing technology of today to meet the uncertain challenges of tomorrow. We are embracing modern business practices to streamline our operations, reduce waste and enhance performance. We have eliminated thousands of civilian jobs, closed scores of military installations and reduced the size of our military forces by thirty percent. And all the while we have had to face declining budgets and an increasing workload.

To square the circle, to balance increasing commitments against declining resources, we have come to rely on what once was known as the "weekend warrior."

I urge you, as Secretary [of Defense William S.] Cohen recently urged an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to strike that term from your lexicon. It no longer makes sense in today's world.

Our Reserve Components are in the midst of a profound paradigm shift. Our Reservists -- you -- are no longer the force of last resort.

During the Cold War, our Reservists were true "reserves" -- a strategic force held in waiting to be thrown into the fury of battle if the Russians ever poured through the Fulda Gap. But today we don't really have a "reserve" anymore. It's the same word -- it's spelled the same -- but there's a different emphasis on the syllables.

Today's Reserve force is composed of people who "re-serve" on a continual basis. You re-served in Desert Storm, you re-served in Somalia, you re-served in Haiti. And now, in Bosnia, you are out front, re-serving side by side with the active force.

Last year those of you who "re-served" contributed nearly 13 million mandays to Total Force missions and exercises. That's the equivalent of adding nearly 35,000 personnel to the end strength of the active force.

You and your colleagues, our Reservists, are dedicated, highly skilled men and women, true partners in the Total Force, who are "re-serving" again and again. And that is likely to be the pattern for the future.

Because we live in a balanced budget world, we will continue to rely on you to help relieve some of the growing burdens on the active force. But we also live in a world of changing threats, so you will also be taking on new missions.

Our search for security in the post-Cold war world presents us with an unprecedented paradox: With no peer competitors, we are the world's only remaining superpower. And yet, despite our unchallenged strength abroad, we may prove to be weakest here at home.

Like Achilles' unprotected heel, our most vulnerable targets may be found in the unsuspecting sinews of our homeland. Future adversaries may seek to challenge us, not on the battlefields of foreign lands, but here at home, asymmetrically.

Weapons of mass destruction -- chemical and biological weapons -- may be the weapons of choice of our potential adversaries. These deadly, insidious weapons are the greatest threat the world has ever known. Secretary Cohen has called them "the poor man's atomic bomb."

Easy to make, easy to transport, difficult to detect, and catastrophically lethal when used -- what are we to do about these weapons? How can we defend against them?

Under the direction of President Clinton and Secretary Cohen, and in partnership with Congress, plans, policies and laws are being developed to help us prepare better for the day when terrorists or rogue nations threaten us with unconventional means.

President Clinton believes we must do more to protect our civilian population from the scourge of chemical and biological weapons. That we must prepare better to respond to attacks against our homeland. Our Reserve forces will play a critical role in helping us craft a comprehensive response to such threats.

You are the logical choice for such a mission. You live and work in nearly four thousand communities across the nation. You know the local emergency response plans and infrastructures.

If terrorists release bacteria, chemicals or viruses to harm Americans, we must have the ability to identify the pathogens or substances with speed and certainty.

Under a new plan now being implemented by the Department of Defense, 10 Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection (RAID) teams will be fielded across the nation. And the department will be training and equipping decontamination and reconnaissance units across the country.

These units will be drawn from Reserve components, especially the National Guard and the Army Reserve, which holds more than 60 percent of the Army's chemical and biological units.

Our objective is to help save lives, turn victims into patients, and mitigate the effects of an attack. But the mission of homeland defense does not end with chemical and biological weapons.

Our nation has the world's largest and perhaps the world's most vulnerable infrastructures. The federal government is now taking immediate action to protect telecommunications, banking and finance, energy, transportation and other essential services from attack.

We have seen recently how one malfunctioning satellite can wreak havoc on our systems. A concerted terrorist attack could be catastrophic, shutting down power grids, cleaning out banks, blinding air traffic control.

Consider for a moment how fragile our system is. If the computers went down in the local supermarket, you couldn't even buy bread, open the cash register or find the price of produce -- with[out] lasers to scan bar codes, we are blind.

With the battlefields of tomorrow moving increasingly into cyperspace, we are taking steps today to assess risks and reduce our exposure to cyberterrorism. And here again, we foresee a vital role for our Reservists, many of whom bring highly specialized, high-tech talents from their jobs in the civilian world.

Our goal as we move into the 21st century is to have in place an effective, integrated and flexible response mechanism, able to respond to a wide range of unconventional threats against our homeland. So information warfare and rapid response to terror weapons will be new and growing missions for our National Guard and Reserve.

This increased use of Reservists, both at home and abroad, is based on a clear and unequivocal commitment by the secretary of defense to prepare our armed forces to perform their changing missions well into the next century.

Secretary Cohen believes that only a seamless and fully integrated Total Force can give us the capabilities we need. His vision of the Total Force seeks to do away with the old rigid distinctions between the active and Reserve components.

It's been eight months since Secretary Cohen signed an historic document -- a policy memorandum that went out to all the services and their secretaries. He called for the identification and removal of all remaining barriers, both structural and cultural, to the seamless integration of the Total Force.

Anyone who doubts his commitment to realizing this vision needs to take a closer look at what has happened since the Total Force memo was signed last September. Integration is being taken seriously at the highest levels of the department.

You have just been introduced to Major Generals Davidson and McIntosh, who have begun advising Chairman Shelton on Guard and Reserve matters. Their talent, experience and energy will help advance Total Force integration by giving the Reserve components new voices at the senior levels of the department.

Integration continues to take hold, both within and outside the Pentagon, and I am personally committed to ensuring that it continues to do so. One of the key features of our efforts toward integration is a focus on equity.

The Reserve Health Care Summit is a prime example of how, in this era of increased use, we are working harder to ensure that we take care of Reservists. Since February, the summit has brought together representatives from DoD, the services, all seven Reserve components and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Five working groups are now concluding their work in the areas of Reserve medical and dental readiness, incapacitation pay, and disability benefits from DoD and the DVA. They have recommended several key changes to current statutes and policies to ensure uniform and equitable health care for all Reservists and their families.

These will be presented for adoption by the full summit at its concluding meeting later this month. A final report will then be prepared for the Secretary of Defense.

We are also working to level the playing field for Reservists when it comes to appointments to military academies. Specifically, we are crafting a legislative proposal to be part of the FY2000 [fiscal year 2000] DoD legislative program. This proposal seeks to permit the children of Reserve component members who have completed significant service -- equivalent of eight years of active duty, or earned a Reserve retirement -- to compete for presidential appointments to the service academies.

The world of Reserve Affairs is dynamic and diverse-and it is not confined to the Pentagon.

I have been traveling a lot in recent months. My purpose in doing so is to learn how to do my job better, by meeting directly with the outstanding men and women who wear our nation's uniform.

Last January I was in Bosnia and I expect to return for another visit later this month. In May I was in Turkey at Incirlik, to visit with the Air Force Reserve unit flying missions on Operation Northern Watch. Last month I visited Fort Dix, where they are perfecting the concept of joint reserve basing. And two weeks ago I visited Fort Polk and the Joint Readiness Training Center for the rotation of the 41st Enhanced Brigade.

I still have a lot to learn, but I know one thing from my trips: I know that Total Force cooperation works better outside the Beltway than inside.

I know that on the ground, in-theater, you can't tell the difference among active, Guard and Reserve.

I know that our people expect us to make the right decisions. Their lives and their livelihoods depend upon it.

My mission is to take care of our people by working my hardest to do the best job that I can. I view myself as Secretary Cohen's senior action officer for the implementation of his Total Force policy.

My mission is to work with you to help build the Total Force of the future. I am honored to serve and I welcome your ideas and your comments. I am extremely proud to be a life member of this organization and I look forward to continuing our close relationship.

In two days we will celebrate our nation's past and the values that unite us. And we will look forward to a future in which the values and spirit of the citizen soldier continue to energize, enliven and defend our nation.

Born in revolution and renewed through constant change, our nation can approach the next millennium knowing that its citizen soldiers will be as strong and accessible in the next century as they have been in the last two.

Thank you.

 

Published by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission.