DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen Loyola Marymount University, Westchester, Calif.
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
U.S. Representative Jane Harmon: Now it's my privilege and pleasure to welcome our friend, the Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, to the aerospace center of the universe.
Secretary Cohen: Jane, thank you very much for extraordinarily glowing words.
She is, by most accounts, at least, extremely understated. When she suggested that on my trip to California to pay tribute to Bob Hope last evening that she might get a couple of her friends together, would I mind stopping by on my way to the airport. I said no problem. Only late last night did I learn there would be several hundred people here this morning to greet me. So I say again, she's at least understated in that regard. She is, of course, exaggerating when it comes to my service in the Pentagon and elsewhere.
I was a little bit surprised, I must say, Father O'Malley, I was going to skip this joke but since you were so irreverent this morning, I thought, I'll tell it.
One of my favorite stories, actually, is generated by my son, my oldest son, who spent nine years in California following his graduation from Bowdoin College where I went to school. I finally persuaded him to go back and go to school, to graduate school, at Dartmouth Business School, to get his MBA and he's now off in the business world. But whenever I look into a group of experts, I think of the story, that when he was a senior, he told me about the most popular professor at Bowdoin College. He was a professor of religion. That's not why he was popular, I might add, but he was popular because he always asked the same question every year on the final exam: Discuss the wanderings of St. Paul.
And the students, of course, loved him because they would wait until the night before the exam, they would gear up and they'd cram and the next day they'd go in and ace that exam -- except my son's senior year.
They all walked into the exam room, within maybe 30 seconds they looked down and they saw a different question. It said, "Discuss the meaning of Christ's Sermon on the Mount." Their hands started to tremble, butterflies in the stomach. Some became nauseous.
All but one left the room almost immediately thereafter, except this one student who kept writing and writing and writing for the full three hours of the exam and finally he clasped his blue books together, he passed them in to his professor who was astonished and he turned around and he walked away with what Mark Twain might call the calm, confidence of a Christian holding four aces. And the professor looked down and it said, "To the experts, I leave the meaning of Christ's Sermon on the Mount. As for me, I should like to discuss the wanderings of St. Paul."
(Laughter and applause.)
And that's more or less the way I feel today. To you, the experts, I will leave the meaning of the future of space and space development in your hands. As for me, I should talk a little bit about the wanderings of my own on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.
I couldn't help but notice when Mike was talking about Congresswoman Harman, he said that she was a hawk, a defense hawk, and it reminded me of one of my favorite people of all time in the Senate, Scoop Jackson. And Scoop Jackson used to be accused of being a hawk. He said, "I'm not a hawk and I'm not a dove, I just don't want America to become a pigeon." Great words to live by as far as those who are concerned about national security in this country.
Let me begin and talk a little bit about the QDR that was mentioned by Jane. It's important that we try to examine exactly who we are and where we are, especially in the defense business as such. There is so much, I think, misinformation that is presented to the public that we're living in the Cold War era as far as the Pentagon is concerned, that we still have a Cold War mentality, that nothing has changed, that we're still struggling to maintain a structure that is obsolete, outmoded, and simply a relic of the past.
And, of course, if you look at the facts of what has taken place within the Defense Department itself and our military, and I want to say very kind words about our military. I was addressing the graduates of the Air Force Academy just two days ago, and really truly outstanding young men and women who are eager to become the best and the brightest that we have to offer in the Air Force. And they were impressive and inspirational, even as the rains opened and came down and washed out the last 150 or so of the graduates. They stood there still cheering, relieved to be graduating, but enthusiastic to be going into the service.
And then I went on to visit NORAD, SPACECOM and STRATCOM, so I've been going between Colorado and Nebraska, and then last night to Bob Hope to pay tribute to another great American who did an extraordinary amount on behalf of our military over the years to inspire them and to bring comfort to them at a time when they were far away from home carrying out the nation's defense. And it was a pleasure being there last night and to watch a tribute being paid by former president Ronald Reagan. And Mrs. Reagan was there and she did an outstanding job, of course, and there was a film narration by President Reagan himself.
And I was sitting there thinking last night about government, that we're in government, and what the service is like and I'm always hesitant to pluck this out of the pages of history, but Warren G. Harding once said that government is, after all, a very simple thing. And this prompted Felix Frankfurter, one of our great Supreme Court justices, to say there never was a more prophetic misapprehension of responsibility than Harding's superficial conclusion because we all know that government isn't a very simple thing, it's a pretty complicated thing, and it requires the dedication and the hard work of our most gifted people.
And, actually, I think it was Ronald Reagan when he was Governor Reagan who had the best definition of government. He said, "Government is much like a baby's alimentary canal. It has a healthy appetite at one end and very little sense of responsibility at the other."
And that brings me to the subject of the QDR. I was trying to think how am I going to work myself into the subject matter here, but a sense of responsibility. We have an obligation to examine where we are in today's world.
When I spoke a moment ago about the Cold War mentality and structure, we have reduced our structure by nearly a third as far as the force structure itself. We have come down in our procurement by 67 percent. We have reduced the budget by over 40 percent since 1985. And so we have been slimming down dramatically and changing the way in which we operate over the years. And so this notion of somehow this is a Cold War structure and a Cold War mentality doesn't hold.
And we have to take that issue head on because now we are looking at ourselves and saying where do we go from here? We have won. We won the Cold War. The Berlin Wall no longer exists. The Soviet Union is a matter of history now.
Where do we go from here and what do we think the world is going to look like in the future? That's essentially what the QDR requires us to do, to examine ourselves. Who are we? Where do we hope to be and how do we hope to get there?
And it requires us to look at the nature of the threats that we're required to think about, near-term, mid-term, long-term, and to develop a strategy to confront those threats. And that's precisely what the QDR was designed to do.
It also had to take into account fiscal realities. You hear the criticism directed toward the QDR saying it was a budget driven device as such. It was not. It was strategy driven. But we had to be conscious of budget constraints, budget constraints imposed by Congress, because there is also a parallel move to have responsibility in government, namely a balanced budget by the year 2002. We want to bring fiscal integrity back to our system. And so we have to have that in the back of our minds in terms of how do we operate.
So I gave the direction to those responsible for putting together the QDR saying I want you to assume that we will continue to have roughly $250 billion for the foreseeable future in constant dollars. Hopefully there will be increases for inflation, but let's plan on that because the Defense Department is the one agency and institution in government that has to plan for programs five and six years in advance and make commitments that far in advance to programs, so we need to have some sort of baseline that we can operate under. And so I asked the members of the Pentagon who were responsible for developing this QDR to keep that in mind.
So what did we look at? We looked at near-term, mid-term and long-term threats and made our assessment. We need a strategy. What's the strategy? The strategy is summed up in three little words: to shape, respond, prepare. That is the essence of the strategy that we have developed for this country.
And by shaping, I mean we need to have forward deployed forces. President Clinton, to his credit, in asking me to serve in his cabinet, I say that in a very humble fashion because it took a great deal of courage on his part to ask me to serve in his cabinet. That's a very major position, he could have asked any number of prominent Democrats to serve in that capacity and I give him a great deal of credit for crossing over the party lines and saying I'm offering you the opportunity to serve your country in this capacity. And I thank him every day for the opportunity to do that.
It is a tremendous job, a great responsibility, but also great rewards involved in just being with the men and women who are serving in our military and knowing that I have an opportunity to help them carry out their mission as well.
And so we wanted to shape the environment by being forward deployed and President Clinton said we're going to have 100,000 people roughly forward deployed in the Asia-Pacific region. We will have 100,000 roughly in the European theater. In that way, we are able to influence other people's judgments about us. Our allies can take comfort that we are in fact there to help protect their defense, their national security interests as well. And in protecting theirs, we're protecting our own.
We're promoting stability in the Asia-Pacific region, not only for Asian prosperity, but for American prosperity. We share in that prosperity. We share in that prosperity. And by shaping the judgments of our friends, we also shape the calculations of our adversaries, or would-be adversaries. That's critically important. And that is going to be true not only for 1997, it will be true in 2010, 2015, and into the future. We want to be able to shape the environment.
Because the other alternative is to come home, and we have heard those calls in the past. We hear them now from both sides, Republicans and Democrats at the -- at the ends of the political spectrum -- come home America. But if you come home, America, what you do is you allow forces to go unchecked and unchallenged, unpersuaded. And you then have to deal with those forces at a later time in a much more adverse climate.
So shaping the environment is critically important to our national security: respond. We have to have the capacity to respond to the full spectrum of crises that we may need to confront, all the way from humanitarian missions, from what we call NEOs -- Noncombatant evacuations.
Be they conducted in Zaire, Albania, the Congo -- as it is called now -- Sierra Leone, where we are conducting NEOs at this moment, we have to have that capacity -- small-scale contingencies of conflicts -- Bosnia would fall into that category -- or even major regional conflicts. And there we, of course, can point to Korea, one of the most dangerous flashpoints that still exists into this time. Hopefully it will resolve itself in a peaceful way. But we can't plan on that. We have to be prepared to deal with Korea, should that ever erupt into a conflict.
And then, of course, there is Saddam Hussein in Southwest Asia, who continues to pose a threat to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Iran remains at the top of the terrorist list, as far as our assessment is concerned. Perhaps there will be some changes. Recent elections suggest that maybe there is a moderate element coming into Iranian politics. We'll see. But we nonetheless have to be prepared to deal with that region. And that is the so- called 2 MRCs. 2 MRC capability, we have to retain that capability. And for those who say, no, we can't afford to do that, I ask them, which one do you want to give up?
Do you want to pull the 37,000 troops out of South Korea and say to South Korea it's up to you to defend yourself and all that that entails? Do you want to give up the defense we provide for the Persian Gulf itself, the region, where we are heavily dependent, the Western world is, upon having access to oil coming out of that region? Do we say, just forget it, let Saddam Hussein go on his way? So we have to make choices. If you say we don't want to defend those 2 MRCs, which one do you want to give up? And so we have to have this response capability.
The third part of it is prepare. And that is where we have been somewhat deficient. We need to prepare for the future. We need to come off our procurement holiday. We have been on a holiday.
Thanks to President Reagan during the early '80s, we spent a good deal of money building up our forces. That allowed us to go on a holiday at the conclusion of the Cold War. And we have been living on that holiday by drawing down upon the enormous capability we developed during that period of time. But that time for a holiday now is over.
We have got to start re-investing in new systems, new technologies, to keep us well ahead of any potential adversary. And we have been falling short. Anywhere from $12 billion to $15 billion on an annual basis, we see those funds migrating out of procurement or modernization back into operations and support.
And so that is the challenge we have with the QDR. How do we deal with this problem? We are unlikely to get much more in the way of additional funding because in the absence of any kind of conflict, Congress -- in view of the fact that it is trying to have a balanced budget -- is not likely to provide much more money.
And as I pointed out when I testified before the House last week, when I was challenged about -- why are you even concerned about talking about budget, when you should be just presenting strategy and resources necessary to carry it out? I could not refrain from pointing out the night before -- the morning before -- 3:30 in the morning, Congresswoman Harman and others had to vote on an amendment to take almost $6 billion out of the Defense budget. And it narrowly was defeated by two votes.
And so what we need to do is to somehow operate within this constrained budgetary environment and yet squeeze between $12 billion and $15 billion and put it into modernization, which is going to help us get from here to where we have to be.
Now, there are three paths that we looked at. How do we achieve this goal? We could continue doing precisely what we're doing today. We can carry out -- we are shaping the environment. We are forward-deployed. We are capable of responding across the board to every type of conflict that we might come into contact with, or have to deal with, I should say.
We can do that today, but what happens? We really never get to the preparing part. We keep pushing that off into the future. We made marginal improvements, but we don't have that $12 billion to $15 billion to put into the new systems that we need to develop to keep us at one or two generations ahead of any potential challenger.
So we could follow that path, which is the status quo. Or we could do something more bold. The QDR has been attacked by some saying it really wasn't visionary enough. It wasn't bold enough. And what I find is that when someone says it's not bold enough, it means that we didn't cut somebody else's programs.
But, nonetheless, we could be bold. And some have suggested that, that we cut as many as half a million people out of our active forces, just reduce the size of our active forces by half a million, take that money that we now spend on personnel and put it into research and development.
There is some merit to that particular approach. But you have to look across the -- again, the total strategy. If you were to cut our forces by a half a million, or more, what does that do in your ability to shape the environment, in your forward presence? What does it do in terms of your capacity to respond in the short term?
It puts those at great risk. If you're willing to accept that risk, then we can do that. I looked at it along with top advisors, General Shalikashvili, the Vice Chair, General Joe Ralston and others. We looked at it, and we said that's a risk perhaps we're not to bear right now.
That, yes, we don't have a Soviet Union to contend with, but we still have other potential adversaries who could cause us great harm. And we are unwilling to bear that risk of being unable to shape that environment, being unable to respond as effectively as we can today. So we followed the third path.
And the third path essentially said, let's reduce our force structure modestly, making sure that whatever reductions we have in personnel comes out of the combat support and combat service, as opposed to the teeth. We want to make sure we keep the teeth as sharp as we can by reducing the tail as much as we can. We make modest reductions in personnel.
We make modest reductions in the programs of the future. And here I am talking about the F-22, as far as the Air Force is concerned. Instead for wings, we'll have three wings of F-22s. We made a recommendation to cut nearly in half the F-18 E and F models. And to keep that in competition with the Joint Strike Fighter, which will be the fighter of the future.
So then we'll have the two of them working in tandem, at least. If we have the Joint Strike Fighter, which comes on-line sooner at a reasonable cost, then we'll have fewer F-18 E and Fs. If the Joint Strike Fighter starts go out of line and becomes unaffordable for whatever reason, we'll continue to build the F- 18 E and F. And that will give us the capacity to have a well rounded tactical air capability.
And we make other types of modifications in terms of J-STARS and other types of systems. But we are putting them on a very -- I think -- sustainable growth rate and we will get to that modernization -- not as quickly as we would if we simply cut the personnel more dramatically. But it will get there in a much, I think, efficient and effective way.
So that's what we chose, the third path -- taking some out of personnel, slowing down somewhat the modernization programs, and calling for what Congresswoman Harman touched upon, and that is infrastructure, the most painful for any Congress person to deal with -- BRAC, the closure of facilities.
California knows all about it. You've been through four rounds. Maine knows about it. We have been through the same four rounds. And some occasions we have been successful, on others we lost a major facility. And it hurts.
But as Jane has pointed out, in many of those cases where we have had closures, the recovery of those facilities has far exceeded what was closed down. And so you have to keep that in mind, as well. The short term can be very dark. But if you look at some of the success stories, point those success stories out, you find that we can, in fact, replace a number of those facilities with private enterprise producing more jobs and better results for the taxpayer and better results for the community.
We have to have more of that. That is the toughest part coming up because the members of Congress said, enough, no more. We can't close any more facilities. Not now. And what I have to do is try to persuade them can't have an attitude of not now, not here, not mine. That has to change if we're going to be successful in the future.
And I have drawn upon a sports metaphor. And we're competing in the Olympics, and I use the analogy of not just being a 100-yard dash person. We can run the 100-yard dash faster than anybody else. We have got to compete in 10 events. We have got to compete in the pole vault, the long jump, the high jump, the 10K, every other -- the shot put, the hammer throw. We have got to compete in all of those.
And suddenly your coaches show up and say, you know something, you are carrying about 15 percent excess capacity here. You've got too much weight. You got to slim down. You are overweight and you will compete effectively in some of the categories, but you will not become the decathlon champ. And that's what we have to be if we're going to have that capacity to do all the things that I think that we have to do in order to be a super power.
And, of course, that's the question we have to always ask ourselves. Do we want to remain a super power? And if not, are we prepared to live in a world of a number of powers, and we're only one? And what does that means for us? What are the benefits of being a superpower? And what are the burdens?
We have to constantly ask ourselves these questions because there is always pressure coming from any democratic society from within. It's too much for Defense, put it into the social side of the agenda. We have a lot of difficult problems to contend with -- and we do -- so the pressure will always be on, take it out of Defense. And every time you take it out of Defense, you inevitably just simply defer problems that will magnify themselves years later to your great detriment.
And so this is what we have to do. And I believe it's the reason why President Clinton asked me to serve in this capacity. He said he wanted me to help without -- using the metaphor or overusing it -- being a bridge, a bridge to Congress, to be a consensus builder. And its going to take some time. This not a one shop proposition.
This QDR that we submitted to the Hill is only the first step. There's something called the National Defense Panel, a group of experts who are giving a second opinion to Congress, and we'll be working with them between now and next December.
They'll say perhaps you haven't gone far enough, maybe you should have done a little more cutting here, a little more trimming there, a little more investment on this side. And that will serve us well.
This is not a document that was carved in stone, it didn't come from Mt. Sinai. It's simply a judgment based upon our analysis of where we have to get to and we have to look into the future and say by the year 2015 what's the world likely to be, how is it likely to be shaped.
We don't see a peer competitor before year 2010. It could happen. You might see other countries gain access to technology which would put them in a peer competitive status. Russia could recover its footing and once again become a peer competitor. China could accelerate its growth, both militarily and economically, and become a peer competitor by that time. We don't see it, but it could happen.
So we have to take some reasonable risks, some calculations, and this is essentially what we believe we are doing here with the QDR. And it will take several years. You cannot build a bipartisan consensus in one year. We have to go through this process. If the members of Congress say no more closures, we'll say fine, but what are you willing to give up?
If you look at the budget next year, I submit a budget and they say, "Well, Secretary Cohen, you're still down at 42 or 45 billion in terms of your procurement, you said you had to get to 60." And I say, "That's right. I can't get it there unless you help me."
So it's part of a process of building this consensus between the congressional branch and the executive branch. It's going to take some time. It will take your input as well, by your lobbying members of Congress and having your input into the debate on national security. Exactly where do we have to be in the year 2015? What kind of technologies should we be developing? What sort of strategies should we have in terms of trying to contend with those who would mean us harm?
We have tried to look into the future and I think that we have a pretty good assessment of the way the world is going to look. We're looking at countries who will try to exploit asymmetrical advantages that they might have. They'll look at this Colossus called the United States and say, yes, but they've got an Achilles' heel. Maybe we can use chemical and biological weapons, maybe we can use information warfare, maybe we can use other types of terrorist techniques to undermine and bring down that Colossus. We have to be concerned about that and that's why we're putting roughly a billion dollars additional into chemical and biological threat reduction.
And I could go on and give you the examples of where we're trying to anticipate those in the world who would mean us harm are likely to go. But ultimately it's up to us to formulate the strategy, provide the resources and hopefully sustain them on a long-term basis. The worst thing we can do is have an on again/off again policy. That's what really aggravates your budget.
Mike, you would know that better than anyone. We had Dr. Kaminski, who is a great loss to the Pentagon, leave just recently.
Program stability, if you cut back a program today you're going to increase your costs by about a four-to-one ratio tomorrow, so we want to have program stability and that means arriving at some kind of a consensus on what we need in the way of technology, in the way of resources and the way of personnel.
Let me conclude here because I promised that I wouldn't give you a senatorial speech, but allow plenty of time for your questions, but to simply point out, Allistaire Cooke was one of my favorite authors and he wrote a book back in -- I think it was the bicentennial year, in '76. And there's a chapter in there and it always caught my attention because it made the inevitable comparison between America and Rome.
And he said that we, like Rome, were in danger of losing that which we profess to cherish most. Liberty is a luxury of self-discipline. Liberty is a luxury of self-discipline. That those nations who have failed to impose discipline upon themselves historically have had it imposed by others. And then he said America is a country in which I see the most persistent idealism and the blandest of cynicism. The most persistent idealism and the blandest of cynicism. And the race is on between its vitality and its decadence.
And then he paraphrased Benjamin Franklin. He said we have a great country and we can keep it, but only if we care to keep it. And that's exactly, I think, where we are today. When I look into the eyes of those graduates at the Academy, I can see that persistent idealism. And then I can read all of the accounts of people who point to all of our failures and deficiencies and I see that persistent cynicism as well.
And the race is on between that vitality and that decadence and what we have to do is to focus upon the idealism, focus upon what we're doing right, correct what we're doing wrong, not yield to the pessimism or the cynicism that would find fault with virtually everything that we're doing, but rather allow those bright young people who are serving in our country to be able to fly and to flourish and to serve our country as they have over the years.
So let me thank you for inviting me. I am prepared to answer whatever questions you have and the ones I can't answer, Congresswoman Harman will take care of.
CONGRESSWOMAN HARMAN: Thank you, Secretary Cohen, for challenging us and for inspiring us. It's a big issue, it's a big picture, and you incorporate in one body the memories of the U.S. Congress, your expertise which you got there but elsewhere, too, the bipartisan spirit in which you've joined this administration, the courage of a Mainer who speaks faster than any I've ever heard, and a dazzling intellect, so it's a lot and it's wonderful and we're all very honored that you came here today.
I have been reading some very good questions from many of you and I can't ask them all but I will assure you that we'll try to get them all answered and let me just put a few out here and ask Secretary Cohen to respond.
Q: To what extent do you envision the DOD encouraging utilization of commercial space systems to meet national security requirements?
A: Well, thanks to the leadership shown by Congresswoman Harman, we are promoting dual-use technology. One of the great, I think, reforms that was initiated under Secretary Perry was acquisition reform. We are trying as desperately as we can to integrate the commercial sector into the military and the dual-use technology program is something that we're deeply committed to and that would apply to space as well. But what we're trying to do is to leverage the private sector's leap-ahead technologies, to integrate those into our current system and to save the taxpayers hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars.
Most recently, an example, we have an upgraded radar system that's going into our F-18s. I believe Hughes is responsible for that, but nonetheless --
Correct me if I'm wrong on that, Mike --
Participant: Right on.
Secretary Cohen: It's something that will allow us to save about $36 million initially, just by utilization of it and over a period of time to save many millions more. A small matter in terms of giving our F-15s a greater radar capability, but something that we can take with off-the-shelf technology being developed by the private sector, integrate that into existing systems and save the taxpayers millions of dollars. That's an example of what we're hoping to do more and more, so we want to have dual-use technology and capability and to exploit that to our greatest advantage.
Q: Given the ongoing aerospace firm consolidation, what are the implications for the DOD?
A: Well, the consolidation has been brought about by the budget. To the extent that we are continuing to shrink the size of the defense budget, then obviously firms are going to consolidate. The problem that we're looking at in terms of the consolidations is, number one, the horizontal integration, but also the one that's troubling is the vertical integration. That's something that the Justice Department has to be concerned about, as do we.
We want to on the one hand recognize there has to be consolidation if firms are going to survive. By the same token, we want to be very careful that there's not so much consolidation and vertical integration at the same time that you eliminate competition at that mid-level of the supplier level and so the taxpayer once again ends up paying a very high cost for that.
So that's something that the Justice Department is looking at as well as the Department of Defense, but the consolidations have been brought about through sheer necessity. So we will look at each proposed consolidation, to weigh whether or not there is adequate competition, whether or not the vertical integration would in fact put a lot of small businessmen and women out of business and thereby result in much higher prices and less competition.
Q: With additional personnel adjustments per the QDR, more will be expected from the Guard and Reservists. What steps does OSD envision to lessen the stress on both employers and Guard members and the selected Reservists?
A: There will be some reductions in the Guard and Reserves as well. Right now, there are negotiations underway with the Army in particular dealing with the Guard and Reserves, to try to find what the right balance is going to be in terms of reductions.
One thing we hope to do. It is something that has been advocated by Congressman Jack Murtha from Pennsylvania, former Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia. It makes good sense to me, and that is to have the Guard, those units that are the ones who are under the aegis of the Governors to be dedicated specifically to a mission which I think is going to be the top of the list in the coming years, and that is dealing with chemical and biological threats.
It's something that is not a threat of the future. It's a threat that is here now. It's going to grow almost exponentially as more and more countries and more and more groups within countries have access to the techniques to develop chemical and biological weapons.
We have had a couple of scares. About a month or so ago there was a scare in Washington. We don't want to see a repetition of the sarin gas attack that we saw in Tokyo a couple years ago. But that is the likely threat that we are going to see, more and more, either real, or at least empty threats which can cause havoc.
And so we're going to, I hope, really assign that mission to the Guard, as well as their other duties. But that would help focus the resources and the dedication of our Guard units to a threat that I think is very real or one that we have not sufficiently addressed.
We have a program underway right now that will look at about 120 cities. And to try to have DOD work with FEMA, EPA, the local authorities, the governors, all of the local agencies, as to how to coordinate the response of dealing with a chemical or biological attack. We hope to expand upon that program, and I think the Guard is going to serve a vital function in that capacity.
Q: What role will information warfare technology have in our nation's defense over the next decade?
A: Well, information warfare is undoubtedly the warfare of the future as we become more and more dependent on information technology to gain control over the battlefield. Many of you are probably familiar with Force XXI, the experimental maneuvers that are taking place at Fort Irwin, here in California.
I went out to visit the troops during some of those experiments and really was excited about the potentiality that technology really offers, the ability for the ground commanders to know exactly what is going on in the entire battlefield.
That kind of technology that is space-based, that can look down and see the battlefield communicated to the commanders instantaneously so they know exactly where every part of the enemy is, where we are, to make sure that we have complete awareness and battlefield dominance. That is going to give us the edge for the future.
The problem, of course, is that when you depend upon that technology, your adversaries are going to say, how can I disrupt it? What is the easiest to interfere if you're going to be dependent upon GPS technology, for example, to locate your troops or the enemy? How do I interfere with that? How do we protect against those kinds of vulnerabilities?
And I can assure you that that's something that we're looking at very closely now to be able to exploit the science of the future and to prevent any potential adversary from interrupting that dominance that we will have at that point. I believe we are making extraordinary gains, that we are leaping ahead in our technology. But we have to be very concerned about the fragility of that.
One of the questions I asked when I was at Fort Irwin -- I had a young soldier, and I asked him about is he becoming too reliant upon this wondrous technology. And he said, no, we're using it to give us an added advantage, but we still train with our compasses. We still go out to train, to prepare the good, old-fashioned way in case we lose those UAVs, those unmanned aerial vehicles. If we lose that kind of technology we're now counting on, as far as the computers are concerned. We still have to have the fundamental basic skills.
And so we need that kind of balance, but we are focusing very clearly and heavily upon ways in which we can protect the lead that we are going to maintain the field of information technology.
Q: Consider making base closing a positive move by planning ahead, creating schools for those needing and desiring high school education to become mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, home economists, teachers, and to be in the child-rearing and child-care fields.
That's a question, I assume. Any comment?
A: It's actually an answer.
I think it's a very good suggestion that we have to start looking at it in a positive fashion, that we focus so much upon the negative consequences of the base closure that we fail to exploit the advantages that can bring.
And we have to recognize up front that when you're talking about going through a base closure process, it's expensive. You have to invest the dollars up front before you ever realize the gains. We just started to cross the line from the investments we've made from the past four BRAC rounds. We will have a net savings of about $13 billion.
We will, on an annual basis, by the year, 2001 start saving about $5.6 billion annually from the closures that we've had. So we've got to make investments up front in order to get the savings later. So the sooner we can start, the better.
But I agree with his suggestion that we have got to put it in a more positive light. It takes your involvement. Can I say, how important you really are? Because communities naturally are worried about this.
I saw a based closed in northern Maine, Loring Air Force Base. It's a very remote area. There's not much really in the way of development there. Potatoes -- Maine potatoes in competition with our Canadian friends, always, plus Loring Air Force Base. And when it was shut down, it was devastating to the community, a big loss. And it's much harder to develop -- redevelop a facility in a rural area than it is in an urban area.
And so what we have to do is to show the success stories. I have a whole sheet of success stories in both rural and urban areas, and to take that experience and to show it in a positive way, but to get the community leaders involved in saying, you know, this is essential for our country's security. We have to do this.
So let's look at it in a positive way. Let's go to the Federal Government and say what kind of help can you provide in the interim, if it's day care, if it's educational, if it's vocational technology that we need to develop here, what is it we need to do in order to allow this community to survive and to prosper. And if we approach it in that fashion, we can work our way through this slimming down process that we've got to go through.
We have roughly about 14 to 15 percent excess capacity right now. In order to get rid of that, we've got to make these kinds of investments and we will need your help and that's really what I wanted to come here and talk to you about, this small little group that Jane had organized this morning. And for me to sit around a couple of tables, I thought I was going to have coffee and donuts with a couple of people and here we are. But it's important. I am thrilled to see all of you here because you really are the leaders of the community.
You're the ones who are out there working and producing each and every day. You're providing the jobs, you're providing the leadership. And you will provide the leadership also when it comes time to debating these issues, rather than talk in terms of the prophets of doom, to look at ways in which you can contribute to resolving this in a constructive fashion. And that's what we need from the community leadership and you're the kind of folks who have done that here with great help from your outstanding congresswoman.
I look forward -- frankly, it's a unique experience for me having served 24 years in Congress and I loved being up on this podium looking down my nose at all of the witness who came and got to grill them. And lo and behold, the tables have been turned and they're all sitting up there and looking down their noses at me, and there are quite a few who don't, but this lady here does not. She is always well informed. She is courageous, she's willing to go against the tide and when she thinks something is right, she says it and when she thinks something is wrong, she doesn't hesitate.
And so when I go to the House National Security Committee, I know that I've got a friend, one who will be constructively critical if there's something that we're doing that's wrong, but who will be a strong supporter of the national security of this country. So I didn't hesitate. When she said come meet a couple friends of mine, I said any time and today's the time and I thank all of you for being here.