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Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
February 09, 1996 10:30 AM EDT

Wednesday, February 7, 1996 - 10:30 a.m.

[Secretary Perry addressed the Adjutants General Association of the United States]

Dr. Perry: Thank you very much, Bob, for that warm, that very warm introduction. Last June when I spoke to you, the National Guard had just made history when it deployed the 4th of the 505th Infantry, a unit made up mostly of Guardsmen, to perform multinational peacekeeping duties on the Sinai peninsula. Well, the 4th of the 505th made history a second time when they returned to the United States because they had proven the Reserve Component's capabilities for dealing with post-Cold war missions and playing an even greater role in our national defense. We are confident that the Guard can play this greater role in the total force because over the years in national disasters and national security threats, the Guard has proven itself ready and capable time and time again.

One of the Guard's roles today has been unfolding during the mission to bring peace to war torn Bosnia, where the Guard is serving from the flight lines in Aviano, to the supply lines in Germany and Hungary, to the front lines in Bosnia itself.

Today, I want to talk to you about Bosnia, because it's very much on my mind and it's probably very much on your minds as well. Last month, I went to the Bosnia theater to see how our deployment was going. I spent the first day at our air bases in Aviano and at Vicenza, in Italy. For two and a half years, NATO has conducted an operation called DENY FLIGHT which has prevented the warring parties in Bosnia from conducting aerial bombardments of cities. It didn't get much publicity. Most people don't understand what it did. But, it saved thousands and thousands of lives because it prevented that war from degenerating into indiscriminate bombing of cities.

DENY FLIGHT was in operation two and a half years and was challenged by the Bosnian Serbs only once. They sent four fighter bombers out and began bombing a city. Two F-16's intercepted those four, shot down all four of them, and it was never challenged after that. So, that was a very successful operation.

The second major activity in Aviano was the NATO air strike force that was put in place to coerce the Serbs to move their heavy weapons out of Sarajevo and stop the ground bombardment of that city. That threat worked initially and the weapons were silent. Prior to the institution of that threat, there were as many as a thousand shells a day being launched from the hills and mountains around Sarajevo into the city. That was stopped. But then later in `94, the Serbs began testing the limits and began challenging that exclusion. And the U.N. command fearing Bosnian Serb reprisals against their troops on the ground would not give the authorization for the NATO air strikes to be used effectively.

Unchecked, the Serbs continued to escalate their violations until finally they overplayed their hand when they violated the so-called safe area of Srebrenica. That violation was so egregious that even the nations with troops on the ground with the U.N. agreed at a meeting in London that it was time to use NATO air power and to use it effectively.

In fact, at that meeting in London, I made the proposal if there's any further violations that there would be a massive air campaign -- not just a bombing or two, but an air campaign. There was another violation. The nations had agreed to that air campaign and we had such a campaign. From Aviano and from the decks of carriers in the Adriatic, we launched one of the most effective air campaigns that we've ever had. It was over 1,000 sorties. Every target that had been designated was destroyed and there was zero collateral damage. This was a rare instance where by combination of exclusive use of precision guided ammunitions and very strict rules of engagement we conducted this massive campaign with no damage, no damage to civilians, no collateral damage of any kind.

Quite aside from the military effectiveness of the campaign, we know now, having talked with the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbian Serbs, that they were stunned by the power and effectiveness of this campaign. And more than anything else that's what led them to conclude that the continuing fighting was a losing proposition, and they decided to go to the peace table at Dayton. This was one of the rare examples in history of successful use of coercive diplomacy. That is, the use of military power to achieve diplomatic objectives.

On this trip, I also went to Vicenza. Vicenza is the air base near Aviano where we have the CAOC, which is the Combined Air Operations Center. This is one of the most effective air intelligence operations that has ever been put together. At the CAOC, we bring in national intelligence, tactical intelligence, synthesize it and get it to the user -- to the pilots in the air -- in a matter of seconds.

This whole operation was rejuvenated after the shoot down of Captain O'Grady. We looked very carefully in the after action analysis there and discovered that we had the information which could have warned off Captain O'Grady three minutes before the missile was fired. We got it to him five minutes later which is two minutes after the missile was fired. Five minutes is pretty good, but not good enough. Not good enough to prevent the shoot down of that airplane.

And so at that point, we decided to completely restructure and organize air intelligence support. We had to do two things. We had to change our procedures to get the information out to the field quickly, and we had to find a way of downgrading some of the highly classified strategic intelligence which was needed by the pilot -- by the warrior. Most of those things have been done and they are now operating quite effectively at Vicenza.

The other thing that's operating out of Vicenza is the management of the airlift operation into Bosnia. We have a massive airlift to deploy our forces and deploy our equipment into Bosnia. Everything is being coordinated out of Vicenza. I've seen the most effective logistics management that I've ever seen at Vicenza. The National Guard airplanes, Reserve airplanes, the active duty airplanes, all coming from the United States and from Germany into Bosnia. All were being managed out of Vicenza.

From Italy, I got on a C-17 and flew into Taszar, Hungary. In Hungary we are managing the logistics for all of the equipment and personnel flowing into Bosnia. The concept that General Joulwan had was that we would take all of our forces that are in Germany and instead of moving them directly to Bosnia, we would move them to a staging area in Hungary. So, we have 300 trains over a period of a month, each one with 20 or 30 freight cars go from Germany to Taszar. We unload it, regroup, and then from Taszar, we proceed by road in combat units into Bosnia. In combat units in full march with guns loaded ready for combat.

As it turned out, we did not meet any combat. We did not meet any armed resistance when we went into Bosnia. But we did not know we would not meet resistance, so we went in prepared for resistance. We will probably be criticized for having over-reached on this or having had too large a force, too well-armed a force. But my judgment was the same then as my judgment is now, that if I'm going to err, I want to err on the side of being too strong and too ready rather than the other way around.

Also, we will never know -- since we cannot rewrite history -- the extent to which the strength and the capability of that force deterred or dissuaded people from resisting. As it turns out, we have had absolutely no armed resistance in Bosnia. In fact, we're being met with full cooperation by all the parties there. And there was no question that the U.S. forces when they entered Bosnia were met with great respect. They came in as I said, fully armed with flak jackets, with their helmets, with their guns at the ready position and loaded. And people paid attention to that.

Now, our Reserve Components have played a key role in all of these operations I've described to you. They provided significant airlift access including a large percentage of the truly tremendous C-17 capability, which is being used to airlift the supplies in there and which I used to hitchhike a ride when I went into Bosnia. They're being used in the aero medical capability, and they provide about half of the tanker support. The Reserve Components continues to be crucial as we are slowly turning peace into a reality in Bosnia.

Now, we also saw Reserve component forces at the logistics staging area in Taszar, Hungary. We now have 7,000 people running this logistics center. One incidental side feature of the operation in Hungary is it has built-up a new relationship with the Hungarian government. We requested permission of Hungary to have a base in Hungary. Hungary's parliament met and by a vote of 300 to 1 they agreed to let the United States use their base. And when I visited that base, I was met by the leaders of the Hungarian government and I've never seen such a warm relationship between two countries as developed between Hungary and the United States all because of our use of the Taszar base.

From Taszar, I flew on to the Sarajevo Airport and then drove down to the president's residence where I met President Izetbegovic and his cabinet. On the drive from the airport into the president's office in downtown Sarajevo, I drove through the destruction that had been wrought by years and years of shelling in this city, and I was just heartsick to see this once beautiful city in Europe reduced almost to rubble.

But as I drove through it, I also was heartened to see that this had now stopped. We drove right down sniper alley without any danger. The shelling has stopped. I had a very good meeting with the President and when I left the meeting I came out of the office building, and there were 300 to 400 Bosnians on the other side of the street being held off by a police cordon. They wanted to see the American Secretary of Defense. I had no idea what kind of reaction we would have this in the crowd. But as I walked out the door, they started cheering and shouting "U-S-A, U-S-A," And I drove my security people actually wild at that point. I left my group, crossed the street, went through the police cordon and started shaking hands and talking with the Bosnians who were there.

For me, it was the most emotional moment of the trip -- to see their gratitude. These are people who for four years have been living in this city that was subjected to continuos shelling for much of that period. They now saw a prospect of peace. And there's no doubt in their minds that peace was being delivered to them by the United States. I was a symbol of the US and they wanted to show their gratitude.

From Sarajevo, I flew to Tuzla which is the headquarters of the American forces there, and met General Nash. We got into Black Hawks and flew over to the Sava River, landing on the Croatian side of the Sava River. This was the day after they had finished the bridge, opened the bridge.

I got out of the helicopter and walked up to the bridge and walked into Bosnia across the bridge. It was a cold, windy, muddy walk. Halfway across the bridge there were 30 or 40 American combat engineers still working on some aspects of the bridge. They were dirty, cold, and tired, but very proud of what they had done.


As it turned out, one of them had just completed his first enlisted term that week and had decided to re-enlist. And so we had the re-enlistment ceremony there on the bridge. General Joulwan, General Shali and I swore in this soldier for four more years in the U.S. Army. And I can tell you I have never been more proud of the Army than standing there that day and swearing in this soldier in the mud and the ice and snow. He had just been through that and he was ready for four more years of it. That tells you something about the spirit and the pride of the U.S. soldier. [Applause]

I went back then to the base camp at Tuzla. I got a real taste of the flavor of this operation and the jointness of it. This base is the headquarters for Army General Nash and his division and many of the battalions are based there. But working alongside of these Army units was an Air Force unit called Red Horse. Red Horse is an engineer team that builds bases. And if you ever want to see jointness in operation, go out to Tuzla and watch these Army soldiers not only working but living in the mud and the snow and the ice, coming back after a patrol, and finding that the Air Force had just completed building a tent for them with a wooden floor and a stove -- a warm, dry place to sleep that night. So, this was jointness in operation and the Air Force were the heroes of the day for the Army soldiers who were there.

Besides the jointness, this was a multinational operation. General Nash has in addition to two American brigades, has a Nordic brigade -- 4,500 people in the Nordic brigade. That is a build-up of a battalion that had been there in the U.N. forces. They brought a knowledge of the territory and knowledge of the people -- a great asset to General Nash to have that Nordic brigade there. There is a Turkish brigade. They also had been there with the U.N., and they also brought a familiarity with the people and terrain which is a great value to us. And most amazingly, we have a Russian brigade. When I was there, the advanced guard of that brigade had just arrived. But as of a few days ago, the entire brigade is there, is out conducting patrols, and it's just one of General Nash's brigades doing the job there.

I spent my whole career as a Cold warrior and I never, never would have contemplated the possibility of having a Russian brigade working in an American division conducting a peacekeeping operation in the Balkans. But there it is. And it seems to be working very well.

I can only imagine what General Eisenhower, the first SACEUR, would think if he saw a general from Russia sitting with General Joulwan, today's SACEUR, at the SHAPE compound reviewing NATO's operation plan for deployment in Bosnia. But indeed, General Joulwan and General Shetsov spent a week at SHAPE headquarters planning this whole operation which I saw getting started.


I spent a lot of time while I was in Bosnia talking with the intelligence people on their assessment of the mine situation. The good news is all three of the warring parties are trying to cooperate with us, providing charts where they think the mines are located, and helping to clear the mines.

Before all of our units went down there, each battalion spent a couple of months specifically training for combat operations that involved mine awareness, mine location, mine removal, and most importantly, mine avoidance. I spent some time yesterday at our Advanced Research Project Agency, reviewing some of their technology. One of the specific things I was looking at was the technologies that might be useful in this area. They're working on it, but I'm afraid the realistic assessment is that mine avoidance and detection is still a matter of training and discipline and attention to detail. And so, the training that we have done to prepare our soldiers was the best thing that we could have done in preparing our soldiers for the very real problems they're running into in Bosnia.

They've been there now for almost seven weeks and we've not had a fatality yet from a person stepping on or a vehicle going over a mine. We have had one fatality, but it turned out it was not a mine accident. We have had four or five different mine incidents. Fortunately, no one was killed in those incidents. But it's going to be a problem as long as we are in Bosnia. A way of dealing with that problem is going to be twofold: continuing to work with the warring parties for removal of mines on the one hand, and the second, very careful attention to detail, discipline, training to minimize our chance of the mine accidents.

I'm going to come now to a few conclusions about Bosnia to share with you. The first conclusion is so far, so good. I say this even as our hearts go out to the family of the American soldier who lost his life over the weekend. My second conclusion which is suggested by that though is that we still have ten tough months ahead of us and we must not get complacent.

When General Shali and I talked with our soldiers over there and our commanders, we had two messages for them really. The first, keep your focus. Pay close attention to detail. And the other was take care of each other.

My third conclusion is that this whole operation in Bosnia is going to determine the character of European security certainly for the rest of this decade, and probably on into the next decade. One of the single biggest security problems at the end of the Cold War was finding the right formula for maintaining the kind of security umbrella that NATO had provided for 45 years. We found that formula in Bosnia where all of Europe is pulling together for peace. Not only all of the NATO countries but one -- 15 in all (we had to exclude Iceland which does not have military forces) -- but even more non-NATO countries. Nineteen non-NATO countries are participating as well as the 15 NATO countries. The United States is leading the way, even leading the Russians.

This U.S. military performance in Bosnia demonstrates once more the capability and the effectiveness of our forces. Our equipment, our training, and our people are the best in the world. This goes both for the active and for the Reserve Components and our challenge is to make wise and full use of all of these assets. That means we need to involve the Guard and Reserve more deeply in the ongoing missions of our military.

You all know that last year we announced what we called the increased use initiative. The goal was to find creative ways to include our Reserve forces in real missions of the active duty forces, to increase their proficiency and their readiness, and to make more use of your talent and capability.


One of the important benefits of this is we helped reduce the very high operational tempo rate of the active duty force. After one year, preliminary reports say yes, we can do these things. But it's not just the reports that are saying it. More importantly, the CINCs are saying it too. They are saying it by spending time, effort, and money to make use of Guard and Reserve talents.

In 1995, for example, the CINCs called on Reserve Component personnel for 97 missions. In 1996, it will be up to 167 missions. The CINCs have pledged about $10 million dollars to make this integration possible. However, the CINCs are assigning Guard and Reserve personnel to real world, not make-work missions. The Army Guard, for example, is supporting the combat maneuver training center in Hohenfels, Germany. Navy Reserve engineer units are deploying to Haiti to work with the United Nations forces there. The Colorado National Guard will assume command of the 4th Space Warning Squadron taking over for an active unit which formerly performed that job.


The Defense Department has added $25 million dollars over the next two years to help the CINCs make more use of Guards and Reserves. I'm optimistic that if we put the total effort of our total force behind the program, it will be successful. But to make the program work, we must ensure that it achieves its intended affect of increasing the CINCs war-fighting capability as well as the readiness of our Reserves by not having unintended bad side effects, such as hurting the recruiting and retention in the Reserves. One way to protect the Guard and Reserve recruitment and retention is by doing what we can to protect the quality of life of the Reserve component. We can provide more support and outreach to Guard and Reserve families when their head of the household is on deployment. And we can also give employers better warning when we send their employees on deployment, and give employers a voice in our Guard and Reserve policies. Debbie Lee told you more about these and other quality of life initiatives for the Reserve Components. They are critical to making our increased use initiative a real success.

I'm going to wrap up now by telling you that in case you did not know it, I do believe in a strong Guard and Reserve, and I believe in taking care of our citizen-soldiers, their families as well, who serve our country. General Omar Bradley once said our military forces are a team; a team that's in the game to win. And each player on that team must be an All-American. Every member of today's total force -- the active forces, the Reserves, the National Guard, their families and their employers -- is an All-American. The National Guard and its leadership are doing an All-American job at home, around the nation, and wherever our country sends them. I am proud of your work and I am proud to be your Secretary of Defense. Thank you very much.

Unknown Speaker: Mr. Secretary, we appreciate your comments. The Secretary will take a couple of questions if you have some.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I appreciate your remarks about the 4th of the 505th. [Inaudible] been there and saw what they did in the [inaudible]. I would like to reinforce what you said yesterday. I think the National Guard, they had over a [inaudible] of that mission. What they brought to the table is a skills not only the professional skills of the Army National Guard, but the civilian skills that they brought whether it was electrician, whether it was plumbing, and there's not that much of support there so they were able to do that. Well disciplined, all mature. And so I believe in saying that maybe the National Guard since they proved they were acceptable as to [inaudible] states that participated that we could do that [inaudible] and relieve the active Army with the full faith that they have if we could do those missions and beyond [inaudible]. I think I speak for my colleagues when I say that the Guard is ready if you choose to call us.

And number two, Mr. Secretary, I would be [inaudible] if I did not say that you are well served [inaudible] by the National Guard. [Applause] And I must say America is well served. You've got a great team.

A: Thank you very much. I'm very encouraged with your comments on how well the Sinai operation went. And I think the suggestion of an all Reserve unit for that is a very good suggestion. I have been several times at operations where Guards and Reserves are working together with active duty forces and at one of them asked the question. I made the comment of wasn't this a good idea because it was a good way for the Guards to train with active duty forces and get the benefit of that. And one of the active duty persons said, you know, it's the other way around too. We get -- they bring to us skills and experiences from civilian life that we don't have and we learn very much from working together with the Guard units. So, I think that story simply reinforces the point that you were making.

Q: [Inaudible] Mr. Secretary, when you call up the Guard you call up [inaudible]. All communities that we represented it was very little said about the Sinai mission for 14 years until the National Guard participated. All across America now knows about the Sinai mission and supports the National defense policy of the United States much more than they did before.

A: Good point. Thank you, general. Yes?

Q: Sir, we were a little bit surprised. I knew that we were getting more missions, but I don't think we were planning [inaudible] on the Air Guard side where we're using fighters more. In Michigan, we saw that increase. [Inaudible] We had a [inaudible] team that was there that was going on two separate deployments this year and we accepted all of those. [Inaudible] missions. It's a little more difficult than it has been in the past [inaudible]. Our concern is that these missions continue to increase and especially in the [inaudible] field if we are to give out the [inaudible] Air Guard it would be very difficult for us to meet those commitments [inaudible].

A: I understand that point very well and it's going to be hotly debated issue in the weeks ahead. Believe me.

Q: Mr. Secretary, [inaudible]. I'd likely to know that this [inaudible] is working very hard [inaudible] to make that happen. [Inaudible].

A: Let me just comment on that. When I came back to Washington three years ago, three years ago this month, I met with a lot of people about the difficulty of the then deputy and later the Secretary's job and they were lining out problems I was going to be facing. One of the problems that was explained to me was the problems with the Guards and the Reserves. I have to tell you that after three years, to me, the Guard and Reserves are not a problem, they are a solution. [Applause]

Thank you very much. It was great to talk to you today.

Unknown Speaker: I've asked the Secretary to just have a seat for a moment and please you also have a seat because I want to reflect for a moment. Last night, I remarked that down in the hall below we had a celebration of 360 years of history of the National Guard. And then we honored Congressman Skelton with our most distinguished award. I'd like to retract now and use some other history and follow on another distinguished American, Secretary John Marsh related this story to me and I pass it on to because I think it applies.

In the terrible winter at Valley Forge, General Washington was tremendously concerned about the morale of the troops and the ability to carry the war. And as a matter of fact, on that occasion he decided he had to do something to inspire his leadership. And so he took a silver [inaudible] and had it melted down and had these George Washington camp cuts [ph] made and the idea was to give those to the leadership to rebind the unity and re-energize his army. The Continental Army at that time was the militia, the veterans of Concord, and Lexington and Bunker Hill and indeed, on this occasion, he decided to reward those officers after the success following the crossing of the Delaware from Massachusetts militia rode him across the Delaware.

So, I'd like to present you with an exact replica of that camp cut and I would like it to serve on your shelf in some appropriate place and remind you that you are an uncommon American, a real patriot, and we salute you for that. But also, to remind you that you have 54 states adjuntants general. You have 54 militia ready and willing to attempt to come to the aid and we're attempting to build that all American team that you described. Thank you for being with us. You're a great American. [Applause]

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