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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
December 30, 1997

Secretary Cohen: This has been a particularly difficult time for all of you to be away from home, but I wanted you to know that I come in contact on a daily basis with members of Congress, obviously; but with local officials, and most important with many millions of people across our country, and they are strongly supportive of everything that you're doing. They recognize the kind of service you're giving to your country. Even though they can't always see you, you are always in their hearts. They understand, also, what you're doing for the world.

When Janet and I have an opportunity to travel around the world visiting our troops, what we find is that you are great diplomats as well as warriors.

We recently finished a study last spring called the Quadrennial Defense Review, the so-called QDR, and what was the basis of the QDR was our strategy. Our strategy was summed up in three words -- shaping, responding and preparing. That is our entire strategy for our national security system.

Shaping the environment means that we are forward deployed. You are a part of that forward deployment.

And when we're forward deployed -- be it in the Med, be it in the Pacific, be it in the Atlantic, all across the globe -- what we are doing is we are shaping the environment in ways that are friendly to our country and sending a signal to any potential adversary that there is someone you should not contend with, and that is us.

So we shape the environment by being forward deployed.

We also are able to respond across the entire spectrum of the kind of threats that we might face -- all the way from the NEO operations that you have participated in, to humanitarian missions, to the kind of peacekeeping missions that we see, of course, in Bosnia, Haiti and elsewhere, all the way up to the major regional conflicts. There we're looking, of course, at something called Korea, should it ever be necessary, or Southwest Asia should we have to contend with Saddam Hussein or Iran or anyone else in that region. We have to have that capability, and you provide that capability for us.

So we have this ability to shape the environment, to be able to respond to any kind of contingency. Then we also have to be prepared for the future. That's something that we are working on very determinedly.

We're trying to save enough money out of our operations so that we can continue to invest in the kind of technologies that will make sure that we're number one, always.

And most importantly in all of that -- in that shaping, responding, preparing -- are you. You are the ones that really make us number one. We could have all of the high tech equipment -- and we have a lot of it and we're investing in a lot of it -- but if we don't have superior people coming in, not only coming in but staying in...

That brings me to another point just briefly because you've got some entertainment coming up. The staying in has to pertain to your quality of life. The captain was just telling Janet and me about some of the new things that you have now available to you -- namely e-mail. That you can communicate with your families back home almost instantaneously. That you're able to watch not only one football game, but even two football games simultaneously. So I guess you probably saw the Army/Navy game recently. (Applause) I don't know how a quarterback runs for a couple of hundred yards, but apparently you've got one in the Navy that did that.

But these issues of quality of life are terribly important to us. Because if we can't number one, attract you; and number two, keep you; we're not going to be able to maintain the superior level that we have today. We're not going to be able to maintain the kind of dominance that we expect of you and our forces all over the world.

So Janet and I wanted to be here to say that we understand that it's painful for you to be away from your families during this particular Christmas time, but hopefully you understand that your families are very supportive of what you're doing. We take great pride in what you're doing. We also send our prayers that you will return home safely.

And we appreciate the history -- the service and sacrifice you're making go all the way back to the days of George Washington when he was crossing the Delaware on Christmas Day helped by some able and very capable seamen to cross the raging Delaware; all the way up to the landing at Great Britain and I guess the Japanese defenders of World War II; up to sending in our forces to get Manuel Noriega on Christmas Eve; through the 500,000 troops who were over in the Persian Gulf about to take on Saddam Hussein's people who were then in Kuwait. That all took place during the Christmas season, so you're following in that tradition.

I wanted you to know on behalf of all of us, how important that is for us, for our country, how much we truly appreciate what you're doing.

Finally, I'm just completing reading Steven Ambrose's most recent book called "Citizen Soldier". In the conclusion of this, he was going back and looking at what happened during World War II. He said something at the very end of the book. He said, "At the core of the United States values, the citizen soldier's core, they knew the difference between right and wrong, and they were unwilling to live in a world in which wrong or evil triumphed, so they fought and they won, and we and those who are yet to be born are eternally grateful."

The same thing can be said for each and every one of you. That you know the difference between right and wrong; that you're unwilling to live in a world in which wrong shall triumph; that you've made great sacrifices; and each and every one of us are grateful -- not only those of us who are living today, but those who will be born in the future -- grateful, deeply grateful and appreciative of all that you're doing on behalf of our country.

So Janet and I wanted to be here to say thank you. Merry Christmas. We appreciate you. God bless you and keep you safe and sound. And now I'd like to introduce my wife Janet, who will come up and make another introduction.

Thank you very much.

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