Q. At the moment, what are your quality of life priorities?
A. Well, the three major priorities, one of them is
compensation, not just the level of compensation but a stability
in the compensation, which I think is important. Secondly is
sustaining the quality health care that we have.
So the first is to maintain the stability and the
compensation, and the second is sustaining the quality of the
health care we have, and the third is improving the quality of
the housing -- both family and barracks. And I should, maybe more
precisely, say, accelerating the improvement in the housing.
Those are issues, of course, we worked on for several years,
and it made a variety of progress. But I would say those are the
three most important priorities.
Q. How do you sustain the level of compensation?
A. The single most important thing we've done on
compensation is get the increases incorporated in the five-year
plan -- the first time that's been done to my knowledge. A very
significant step, and that puts the stability into the
compensation plan that we've never had before. But we can't ever
relax on it because the money is not appropriated yet. But the
fact it is in the five-year plan, the fact that has it has been
endorsed and supported by the key leaders in the Congress, makes
me confident we're going to be able to maintain that stability.
When I speak to our troops on this issue, I convey to them a
high level of confidence that we have achieved stability in the
compensation. Now having said that, I don't mean to suggest that
nailing down that maximum legal pay allowed by law should be the
end of the compensation picture. That's what the quadrennial
review is about, is looking more broadly at whether we are
dealing adequately with compensation. So I will look with very
great interest on the findings of the quadrennial review. The
base from which we work will be the stability we get by having
that salary increase incorporated in the five-year plan.
Q. In what way are we accelerating housing improvements?
A. One of the things we have done there ... was shine a very
bright laser beam on that problem and get a lot of people
interested in it -- at the base level, at the command level and
in Congress. And as a consequence of that, there have been a lot
of individual actions.
Base commanders using their base funds for improved housing.
Committee chairmen in Congress putting in additional money for
housing. All of that on top of the extra funds that went in as a
result of the quality of life initiative that we launched over a
But we haven't nailed down and institutionalized yet a very
important recommendation from the Marsh panel, which was
establishing ways of funding housing off-line. And it is clear we
are not going to get the legislation we need this year to make
that happen. So that has to be an initiative passed on to next
year. I still believe that is important to do.
I believe that you get the real acceleration -- we have made
improvements, but to truly accelerate those and to get more
energy and more momentum behind them, I think we still have to
make a move along the lines recommended by the Marsh panel, which
will bring in nongovernmental sources of funding. To do that, we
have to have changes in the law. We did not succeed in getting
those changes this year. I believe it's important to maintain
that objective and push hard to get that legislative change next
Q. Are there other ways that we've institutionalized the
focus on quality of life?
A. If I summarize the major ways to institutionalize it, the
first, getting the pay increase in the five-year plan, was an
institutionalized effort -- that was important. Secondly, getting
that quality of fife increase in the five-year plan also
effectively institutionalized it. There's no opposition to that
any more, and the services have now appropriated those in their
Third, the Marsh panel itself set out, made a series of
proposals to institutionalize the housing. Those have not yet
been acted on because they do require legislation. So that is to
be done. The reason for doing that is just as compelling now as
it was when Jack Marsh and his panel made that proposal. It does
require legislative changes. We do not have those changes yet,
But I consider that to be a high priority of business in the
coming legislative year.
Q. Is the Senior Enlisted Panel likely to continue and be
another way these concerns -- the focus on quality of life --
will be institutionalized over time?
A. Well, that will continue, and that is an
institutionalization. The quadrennial review, of course, is an
institutionalization as well. And I might say that the major --
very major -- institutional factor affecting quality of life was
first of all the creation of, years ago, the senior enlisted in
the services and having them report -- and the influence that
they have on the chiefs, service chiefs and the secretaries.
But beyond that was the creation of our quarterly senior
enlisted base visits. That has been institutionalized this term.
It is my expectation that that will become an institution, that
is, certainly as long as I am secretary I will maintain that. But
I think that has been so successful that successive secretaries
will also follow that. I will certainly recommend the successive
secretaries follow that same. So I do believe that will become
institutionalized, as well.
Q. What do you feel would have been missed if that program
hadn't been started during your term?
A. There have been a whole series of, first of all, I would
say immediately responsible for identifying the importance of
quality of life and to me, specifically motivating me, to put
forward the quality of life funding increase which I requested
over a year ago from the president. That came directly out of the
meetings with the senior enlisted. Secondly, the emphasis
pointing out that the short deficiency of housing and therefore
the emphasis on our initiatives on improving housing. That led to
a large number of specific action on improving housing as well as
the creation of the Marsh panel and the specific recommendations
they made. But a host of smaller, specific, not small, I mean
very specific and concrete, issues that affect a particular
problem in a particular base.
But in the broad sense, it was the money that went to the
quality of life initiative, it was the creation of the Marsh
panel, and it was the housing initiative, which are very large
and broad objective results that came out of those meetings. I
think in addition to that, ... there was a much more intangible
but no less important [thing that came] about, which is an
understanding developing between the civilian leadership of the
Pentagon and the enlisted men in the field -- in both directions.
Certainly I gained a better understanding of what their
needs, of what their motivations, were. I think they also were
able to gain a better understanding of what I was trying to do as
the secretary, what the leadership department was trying to do.
That may be one of the best reasons for maintaining those senior
enlisted meetings as an institution, for the bonding that can
develop between the leadership in the department and the enlisted
personnel and the mutual understanding of the results of that.
Q. Moving on to the aftermath of Khobar Towers. You have
said that you don't want our troops living 24 hours a day in a
bunker mentality. How are we going to avoid that if we take them
out and isolate them at remote bases?
A. That's really a pretty complicated question that has many
components to it. One of them is a frame of mind.
We do understand, and our military personnel understand,
that there are some risks inherent in military missions. And so
neither they nor their commanders should go into a mission with
the idea that they get somehow -- organize their lives in such a
way that there will be no risks involved with it.
Just the basic training we do, training missions we conduct,
have risks associated with them. And we take those risks in
training because we believe they diminish the risks if we
actually enter combat. So there's that kind of a tradeoff.
So the first important component of that question is the
mindset. We, our troops and our commanders, our leaders, have to
have the mindset -- you never have the mindset that the military
mission can be done without taking some risks. Our job is to
minimize those risks, but we understand there are going to be
risks associated with military missions.
The second point I would make about it is that every
commander, when he is organized into his mission, has in mind,
and he communicates to his troops what the mission is -- what the
components of the mission are. One of those components is always
force protection, but there are other components of the mission
as well, and those have to be balanced off.
In Operation Southern Watch, for example, in Saudi Arabia,
the force protection mission has to be balanced against the
mission of conducting air sorties over southern Iraq. In Bosnia,
the force protection component of the mission has to be balanced
against how many patrols you can conduct and how extensively you
conduct them. ...
In Bosnia, force protection is the No. 1 mission, and when
Gen. [William] Nash [1st Armored Division commander] briefed me
on his mission in Bosnia, that was the one he listed as No. 1.
That's not the only mission, and we could enhance the force
protection in Bosnia simply by not going out on patrols. But we
would not be able to do the other part of our mission and,
therefore, Gen. Nash never considers that. His job is to balance
The commander has to make that judgment. He makes the
judgment between how he could protect his forces, what he has to
do to protect his forces vs. what he has to do to carry out the
other components of his mission. And he will never -- a good
commander will never simply abort the rest of his mission in
order to avoid risks.
Q. Gen. [J.H. Binford] Peay [commander in chief, U.S.
Central Command] testified before the Senate Armed Services
Committee July 9 and has been quoted as saying, "While the
American people have every right to demand competence, character
and leadership from our military commanders, they should not
expect zero defects. Demanding such a rigid standard produces
timid leaders afraid to make tough decisions in crisis, unwilling
to take the risks necessary for success in military operations.
This 'zero defect' mindset creates conditions that will lead
inevitably to failure in battle and even higher casualties."
A. Gen. Peay made a very important point in that testimony -
- that the American people should not expect zero defects from
the missions which the American forces conduct, not just deployed
overseas but training mission in the United States. And as they
conduct these missions, particularly if they are operating at the
edge of the envelope, on occasion, there will be errors. They
will make mistakes. Gen. Peay points out that American people
have the right to expect ... leadership, character, courage and
confidence. I like the way he phrases that. That is what they
expect. When I evaluate one of our commanders, that's what I am
evaluating. Not whether he's never made any errors. It is
important when we make errors to learn from them.
We have airplanes crash every month, in fact every week.
Every one of those crashes we study, and we learn from. And as a
consequence of what we've learned from these crashes, we have had
a truly amazing reduction in the accident rate over the last 10
to 20 years. The reason for that improvement is, partly, improved
technology. But I think it's mostly the care with which we study
the mistakes we made -- the actions we have. And our motive is to
incorporate improvements in our process, improvements in our
procedures, improvements in our training.
A good leader, I believe, is into more than just punishing
people who make mistakes. He learns from mistakes, and he
incorporates what is learned in his training, teaching his people
to do better. I think the record shows that the American military
has done well on that. And I used the example of airplane
accidents and the very substantial improvement in the accident
rate to make that point.
Q. Considering the kind of climate that came out as a result
of the Brown crash [April 3 Air Force jet accident that killed
U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and his entourage in Dubrovnik,
Croatia] and the 16 officers who were disciplined, what would you
advise a young officer or NCO who encounters the kind of climate
where no one wants to be the bearer of bad tidings?
A. Let me caveat ... that I cannot make any comments on the
Brown crash at this time because it is a command influence issue.
But let me generalize from that that if the young officer looks
out and sees another officer who has made a mistake and is
disciplined for it, will he be afraid to conduct missions that,
will he be afraid to take chances?
I think the essence of military leadership is making that
balance between taking the risks necessary to succeed in the
mission and ... prudent judgment for force protection. There is
no formula that we can give any leader, any commander, for that.
But a successful military leader, probably more than the leader
in almost any other profession, will have a certain amount of
daring in his character, and we should find ways of encouraging
that daring instead of stomping on a person every time his daring
has led him to a mistake.
I don't have any simple answer to that question.
Fortunately, the military continues to attract people who have
that boldness in their character, because it's that boldness
which leads to the most successful warfighters that we have. As
our leaders -- myself, chiefs of staff, CinCs [commanders in
chief] -- should seek ways to encourage that boldness rather than
stomping on it.
Q. Are there situations that you can envision where you
would actually advise an officer to seek support from his chain
A. Yes. The commander has a mission to perform. He knows
what his mission is, and he has resources to conduct that
mission, he has constraints. And a good commander will use his
initiative and all of the initiative available to him to try to
carry out that mission using those resources. We judge how good a
commander is by his ingenuity and his tenacity in overcoming the
obstacles of carrying out a mission. We place a very high premium
on initiative in our commanders.
When should a commander ask for help? When should he say
this is beyond my initiative to be able to do it? It seems to me
that if he reaches a place where he recognizes that he cannot
carry out his mission with the resources he has or with the
political constraints put on him, he has exhausted all his
initiative to do that, then I think he has a responsibility to
get word out to his command chain that he is not able to carry
out his mission, whether it's the force component of the mission
or some other aspect of the mission.
If he cannot carry out the mission in his judgment, if his
initiative is not going to be successful to overcome those
options, then ... he needs to carry it up the chain of command
either to ask for more resources or to ask for assistance in
overcoming a political barrier. Ultimately, that can come up to
me as the secretary of defense, and then I have the
responsibilities, as I see it, of either providing those
resources or providing him the assistance to overcome his
political barriers or to ... tell him he is not to try to do that
mission. I will change the mission to one that can be
accomplished within the resources allocated and the political
parameters that are agreed.
Q. The services have been plagued by bad news this year.
We've had the Brown crash, Khobar Towers, aftershocks of Tailhook
never go away. What can commands do to bolster morale in light of
all of these kind of negative image things about the military?
A. I guess any year in the history of the services there are
going to be accidents. We've had terrorist attacks on our troops
almost every year. There are going to be suicides. There are
going to be soldiers doing things they shouldn't do -- getting in
trouble with the law. Each of those affect the way we think about
the military, the way we think about ourselves, the way it
affects our morale. But I think most fundamentally what affects
our morale, and what affects what we think about ourselves, is
how well we are doing our basic missions.
How well did we do in Haiti when we were called to go in
there? We had a very difficult task. Sent in 20,000 soldiers to
do it. It was done remarkably well. How well did we do when we
sent our troops into Bosnia? What kind of pride can our
commanders and our soldiers have about the performance they've
had in Bosnia? At the same time, I read accounts about how some
of our Navy has low morale about the newspaper accounts on
Tailhook. The very week I was reading that I was getting a report
from the battle group commander of the [aircraft carrier USS]
George Washington telling about his six-month deployment, what a
truly impressive military feat that was and what he and all of
his battle group had great pride in.
So fundamentally we need to look at what we're doing; what
our military missions are; how well we're protecting the security
of the nation; how well we're doing our training. We're doing
pretty damn well at that. And more than anything that should
influence our view -- sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marine ... --
what kind of a job they're doing, how they feel about themselves,
how they feel about the service.
I know it influences the way other countries, other military
organizations think about us. Every time I talk with the Army
chief or the Air Force chief or the minister of defense from
other countries and they come to visit our troops, they come away
enormously impressed, not only in what they see in our training,
but the way they see them perform in Bosnia, the way they saw
them perform in Haiti.
Our military force is the envy of all the other military
forces in the world, by their competence, by their morale, their
spirit and, by God, by their initiative -- whatever disincentives
[they may perceive], our military leaders ... still show it, and
that's manifested by the performance of our units in the field.
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