Defense Issues: Volume 12, Number 36-- Quality of Life: A Military Preparedness Priority
Thank you very much. ... Others will be speaking to you on specific voluntary education issues, so I'd like to use my time this morning to lay out some of the context in which our voluntary education programs exist. I want to give you a general feel for Secretary [of Defense William S.] Cohen's direction for our department as a whole and education's place in it. Let's start with some recent history.
For the first half of the '90s, as you know, we focused on the task of downsizing the military following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This reduction of an all-volunteer force was unprecedented in scale and at the time it began, it wasn't at all certain that things would go smoothly. As I hope everyone now knows, the downsizing was a remarkable success story: After a reduction of one-third, from 2.1 million to just under 1.5 million people on active duty, our force is now proportionately higher in quality, has more experience and is more diverse than ever before.
I know that all of you in the education community saw and experienced the effects of the downsizing, and I appreciate the adjustments you've had to make in the last eight years -- because I know some of them were not easy. There are still some reductions to be made, but the vast bulk of the personnel cutbacks in our military have now been completed. Once we were comfortable that the downsizing of our forces was a success, our focus shifted.
In 1994, then-Secretary of Defense Bill Perry turned our attention to the quality of life concerns of our service members. He saw quality of life as a military preparedness priority. He knew that our quality of life programs, including voluntary education, help us recruit, retain and motivate our service members. He also knew that once the downsizing was over, our recruiting needs were going to increase and we had no choice but to make the military an attractive career alternative for our young people.
I think it is fair to say that we have succeeded in improving and institutionalizing our quality of life programs under Secretary Perry's leadership over the last three years. We have established the standards and metrics that should ensure adequate resourcing of quality of live now and for the future. Now, let us turn to the big picture -- the ordering of defense priorities as we move into the next century. We have just completed a process called the Quadrennial Defense Review that is a blueprint, and I would like to give you a brief summary of where we are headed because the Quadrennial Defense Review has implications for everything we do in the Defense Department from now on.
The goal of the QDR, as it's called, is to move beyond the post-Cold War mind-set and reorient ourselves to a new era and a new century. First, we must shape the international security environment in ways favorable to our national interests by promoting regional stability, preventing conflicts, reducing threats and deterring aggression and coercion on a day-to-day basis in key regions.
We promote regional stability and deter aggression through forward presence of our forces, strong alliances, cooperative defense relationships and other peacetime engagement activities. We reduce threats through efforts like the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program and military-to-military contacts. But we also need strong, ready forces that can respond quickly and decisively to threats across the full spectrum of crises -- everything from small-scale contingencies to major theater war, including challenges like chemical and biological weapons, terrorism and information warfare.
We must maintain the ability to fight and win two major theater wars that overlap. Without this capability, our allies could question our commitment and seek alternative security solutions. Our adversaries would be emboldened to challenge us, especially once we became engaged in a large operation elsewhere. Indeed, we could become self-deterred -- hesitant to respond to a crisis for fear an enemy in another region would seize its chance. America would become just another power, unable to protect our global interests with confidence.
The force of the 21st century will need the best people our nation can offer. It will also need the best technology our scientists and engineers can produce. And this technology will transform the way our forces fight. We want them to be able to dominate any situation into which we send our service members. Frankly, we don't want a fair fight -- we want a decisive advantage. We are challenged to achieve these goals in a resource-constrained environment. The reality is that we can get by, as some have argued, with no real growth above this year's budget of $250 billion -- if we are allowed to shift funds from current operations and support activities into modernization.
But our track record has not been very good -- year after year, procurement funds have been taken to pay for unexpected operations and support costs. As a result, we are failing to modernize for the future at the pace necessary. That is why the QDR rebalanced our program: accelerating some new programs and slowing others, depending on the maturity of the technology. We have also reduced the size of some programs, because their advanced capabilities mean fewer are needed. And we have worked to weed out unrealistic expectations and fix deficiencies in the service and defensewide budgets so that our programs are more stable and more efficient. The result is that we can now execute a solid, realistic plan to exploit the so-called Revolution in Military Affairs.
The plan coming out of the QDR will allow us to reach that Revolution in Military Affairs that we seek. But a central conclusion of the review was that the only way we could pay for this revolution was to also have another revolution -- a Revolution in the Business Affairs of DoD to slough off the excess weight we still carry from the long winter of the Cold War. What we're talking about is a fundamental re-engineering of the way we do business.
American industry has re-engineered the way it does business and as a result has regained its leadership in rapidly changing global markets. We must do the same if we are to retain our leadership in the rapidly changing global security arena. This will free up resources that we need to modernize the force. It will also make our support organizations more responsive to the warfighters they support. That's why we have proposed modest reductions in our active forces.
The QDR will reduce 109,000 civilian and military personnel associated with infrastructure. That's also why we have asked Congress for two additional rounds of base closures. Even after four base closure rounds, we still have excess facilities. Our force structure is down 33 percent and will be down 36 percent under our plans. But over the same period, our domestic infrastructure will be down only 21 percent. It's time to take the next step to bring reductions in our infrastructure in line. To get the ball rolling from an organizational and staffing standpoint, Secretary Cohen recently appointed a Defense Reform Task Force, which will be overseen by DoD Comptroller John Hamre, to make a fundamental re-examination of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, defense agencies, defensewide activities and the military departments.
It will recommend the best way to restructure, consolidate and re-engineer them. They will report to the secretary in November, but in the meantime, he plans to proceed with steps that make sense. The bottom line is that we must deregulate DoD so that we can become as efficient and agile as our warfighters. The American people will not stand for waste and inefficiency, whether it stems from "tradition" or legislation.
The QDR addressed and tackled many tough issues and required difficult choices. As I mentioned, much of the QDR is based on the concept of a Revolution in Military Affairs -- a higher-tech, information-based type of warfare. That will take a force that is smart and well educated, one that is comfortable with technology and can think critically. That's where you come in. The force of the future will require life-long learning. The speed and complexity of our missions will only increase with modernization, and critical thinking skills, in addition to technological knowledge, will be required at every level of command. In a multipolar world with complex missions, subjects like history, geography, languages, diplomacy, economics and many others will become key to mission success.
All of our service members must be well educated in these areas, because any one of them could be faced with a lethal situation in which those skills will be needed. Voluntary education is also important to our overall quality of life program because it is so highly valued by service members. Access to education is one of the great benefits of being in the military. It not only makes troops smarter, it attracts recruits and keeps highly trained veterans in our armed forces. It also helps service members when they retire. And voluntary education has done something else.
Our Troops to Teachers program has placed over 2,000 veterans in classrooms, helping to turn around schools in communities in America that were in trouble. Half of those 2,000 are former enlisted members, and most of them got the degrees which allow them to teach through voluntary education. Three years ago, Ed Dorn, who until last Friday, was undersecretary for personnel and readiness and my boss, stood before you and pledged that we would achieve a policy that guaranteed that all service members, regardless of branch, would receive a uniform level of tuition assistance.
I am happy to say that on May 27, I signed a memorandum directing that such a policy be officially implemented. We took this step because we feel so strongly about our commitment to a robust voluntary education program. As I alluded to earlier, all of our programs compete in a challenging resource environment, including the voluntary education program. We will seek efficiencies in all of our programs, so I call upon each of you to use an entrepreneurial spirit to find new ways to accomplish our goals and to use the resources available as efficiently as possible. And as our force becomes more mobile and deploys with greater frequency, we must become even better at using technology, such as distance learning, to leverage the delivery of our voluntary education services.
We've faced resource challenges before, and I am confident that the QDR has positioned us to face them successfully again. So in my view, our national security posture is secure. In fact, we have an exciting future to look forward to -- one in which we can be optimistic. Just look at a few significant indicators:
First, we are by far the strongest and most advanced military in the world. Our global leadership is unquestioned and our foes, while still dangerous, are weak and isolated.
Democracy is spreading in every region of the world. For the first time in history, a united and democratic Europe is a real possibility. An expanding NATO and European Union are bringing stability to a continent whose divisions have sparked more tragedy and fear than perhaps any place on Earth. With one small exception, the nations of the Americas are all democratic, the bloody civil wars of the '70s and '80s have mostly ended, militaries are coming under civilian control, freer trade is bringing prosperity, and the rule of law is growing stronger. In the rest of the world, too, American ideas and American values are on the rise.
We have achieved a strong bipartisan coalition in support of international engagement. The vast majority in Congress and the public recognize the importance of U.S. leadership and the necessity for a strong, ready and well-supported military.
With your continued hard work and support, I am confident that the outlook for us as a nation and for our service members, who we rely on to ensure our security, remains bright. Thank you very much for inviting me to join you, and good luck on the rest of your conference.
Published for internal information use 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. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.