T.S. Eliot wrote that "April is the cruelest month."
April 1995 has been one of the cruelest months our nation has ever seen. The savage bombing in Oklahoma City destroyed lives and sent shock waves from coast to coast, shock waves that will reverberate in the hearts, minds and consciousness of Americans for a long, long time.
Public servants bore the brunt of this attack. Indeed, it appears that they were the target of the attack. So this Public Service Recognition Week is particularly significant. As we mourn those who lost their lives, pray for the injured and for the families whose lives were shattered, and send what help we can, we should also recognize and celebrate the public servants who responded to this tragedy, saved lives and worked hard to solve this vicious crime.
Sometimes from awful tragedy comes clarity. From this awful tragedy America got a clearer picture of who their public servants are and what they do. They saw real people who do important work, day in and day out, on behalf of all Americans. Among those who died were men and women who help retired people get their Social Security checks; people who certify the safety of our highways; people who help our veterans get well and adjust to civilian life; and people who find talented young men and women to join our armed forces.
And the men and women who jumped to the rescue and worked around the clock to solve this crime -- the firefighters, police, FBI, the National Guard and others -- they're public servants too. I would like to thank the Defense Department personnel and units that responded to the cry for help in Oklahoma City. They included blast effects engineers, search and rescue squads, K-9 units and casualty assistance teams. They came from nearby installations and as far away as Virginia and Florida. They brought cargo planes full of clothing, medical supplies, rescue equipment and even shower units for the rescue workers.
As we mourn those who were taken away from us, let us also be inspired by the dedication, humanity and love of country shown by these remarkable public servants. Just as the nation will never forget this terrible incident, neither will the nation ever forget their great courage.
Public Service Recognition Week gives me the opportunity to do something that I like to do and that I feel deeply about, which is thanking the people in this department for the work that they do in emergency situations, but also for the work they do every day to make America's forces the most effective forces in the world. You are living proof that public service attracts some of the best that America has to offer, and I, for one, deeply appreciate it.
Last year at this event I outlined the three challenges that I face as secretary of defense. First, to manage the use of military force in this new era. Second, to prevent a re-emergence of the nuclear threat that attended the Cold War. And third, to properly manage the drawdown of the Cold War force structure. Today I would like to give you a status report, because many of you have spent the past year helping me directly or indirectly to meet those challenges. In fact, we have moved the ball forward on all three objectives.
First of all, we are building the armed forces we need to ensure that our decisions to use or threaten to use force will be highly credible. More than a year ago, in the Bottom-up Review, we took a comprehensive look at our post-Cold War security requirements. Then we developed a defense strategy to meet those requirements. A key element of this strategy is a force structure that can quickly mount, fight and win two major regional contingencies, nearly simultaneously, anywhere in the world.
Today we have that force structure. I can say that with certainty, because we have tested it in several ways. Most recently, the Joint Chiefs of Staff conducted an intensive war game called Nimble Dancer to verify whether we had the right force structure. We passed this test, factoring in our force enhancements and modernization plans.
And we also know our forces are ready to mount contingency operations at a moment's notice. Two operations last year proved that Vigilant Warrior, where we deployed to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to deter Saddam Hussein, and Uphold Democracy, where we deployed a substantial force to Haiti. In both cases we had significant forces and equipment in the theater in a matter of days. As a result we didn't have to use them. We achieved our security objectives without firing a shot.
We've also made progress in meeting the second challenge, which is to prevent a return to the Cold War nuclear threat. Most of us have lived under the threat of nuclear war for our entire adult lives. We owe it to our successors and our grandchildren to prevent the re-emergence of that threat. One way we're doing this is through a defense program called Nunn-Lugar. It provides about $400 million a year to help former Soviet states dismantle and destroy the nuclear weapons arsenal left over from the Cold War. This includes more than 20,000 nuclear weapons and a vast complex of facilities and personnel.
Last year, under the Nunn-Lugar program, we assisted Russia in the dismantling of more than 2,000 nuclear weapons and associated infrastructure. Last month I went to Russia and Ukraine to see the Nunn-Lugar program in action. And I toured Russia's Engels Air Base, where Soviet bombers are being destroyed under the START I arms reduction agreement with the help of Nunn-Lugar funds.
It was truly an awesome sight at Engels. One of the journalists who was traveling with us wrote, "Immense bombers lay in pieces as if ripped apart by angry gods -- a fuselage here, a heap of wings there, and a pile of propellers from the heavy bombers known as Bears." But this wasn't the work of angry gods, it was the work of Russian workers using equipment provided by the United States.
Closer to home, we've also advanced the ball on our third objective, managing the post-Cold War drawdown properly. I have good news to report: With the FY [fiscal year] 96 budget the post-Cold War drawdown is nearly complete. This is good news because it means we can put the turbulence associated with large-scale reductions behind us. Turbulence hurts readiness. By reducing it, we can better protect readiness.
We're taking steps to protect this readiness -- in the near term, the medium term and the long term. We're protecting near-term readiness by fully funding operations, maintenance and training. We're protecting medium-term readiness by taking steps to improve the quality of military life with better pay, better housing and better family services. This will help us attract and retain the quality forces we need. And we're protecting long-term readiness with a force modernization plan that will protect our technological edge on the battlefield.
Protecting this readiness will cost more money. We plan to get this money from three sources: Find savings from closing bases we don't need; second, from increasing the defense budget by 1999; and finally, by counting on people like you to reduce the cost of doing business at the department. This means cutting red tape, buying commercially and using commercial standards and practices wherever possible, and giving each of you the challenge -- and the power -- to find ways to do what you do better.
This is what we mean by reinventing government. And because it is critical to our force readiness and modernization, reinventing government is not a low profile, esoteric management task, and it is not window dressing. It is one of my highest priorities. Every dollar we save by doing business better is a dollar that can go to better supporting our men and women in uniform.
So I am pleased today, as we inaugurate Public Service Recognition Week, to recognize four groups of public servants who have successfully reinvented government in their jobs and to present to each of them, on behalf of Vice President Al Gore, the Vice President's Hammer Award.
The first Hammer Award winner is S&S [Systems and Services] of DIOR [Directorate for Information, Operations and Reports] in WHS [Washington Headquarters Service], which sounds like alphabet soup, but whose job is to manage the thousands of excess DoD computers. Under a presidential executive order, the government is to donate excess computers to local schools. But schools can't use computers that don't work, and we don't have the time or money to test them. So these folks set up a program with a local school system in which students would be taught to test and refurbish them. We save money, the schools get free computers, and the kids get training they can use. That's what we call win-win-win.
Our second Hammer Award winner today also put computers to good use. They're the people at the Defense Personnel Support Center who order food, clothing and medical supplies for our military installations and units. They used to order massive quantities the hard way -- on paper and store it in government warehouses. Now DPSC's customers place their orders directly from the vendors electronically. The orders are confirmed in minutes and delivered in days. It saves not only time, but also inventory costs. For their great work this group also will receive an award tomorrow from the Public Employees' Roundtable for excellence in public service.
The third Hammer Award winner is helping to reduce the department's legal costs. They say American society is too litigious. The Office of the Chief Counsel for the Army Corps of Engineers is doing its part to make it less so. They're preventing disputes from arising by linking up with local communities, environmental groups and individuals affected by their projects before they start. And if disputes do arise, the corps is resolving them out of court using mediation, arbitration and other cooperative means.
Finally, the fourth Hammer Award today goes to the Navy team that's upgrading the sonar system on some of our ships. They not only increased the capability of this sonar, they also made it much easier to operate, maintain and troubleshoot, and -- on top of that - made it 25,000 pounds lighter. They also did the upgrade well under cost. And they did all of these things by applying the best ideas of defense acquisition reform: They bought commercial technology off the shelf; and they brought together a team of hand-picked experts from several Navy organizations to figure out the best way to upgrade this system. They gave us a better sonar at less cost.
These award winners have not only saved the department money we can use to better support our forces. They are an inspiration to us all. And they give America a clearer picture of who their public servants are: real people who do important work, day in and day out, on behalf of all Americans. To all of the department's public servants, I am proud to be your secretary of defense.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the 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