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Business Leaders Salute Troops, Defense Secretary

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2003 – More than 750 of the nation's top business leaders turned out in black-tie June 19 to pay tribute to the nation's men and women in uniform and the man who leads them, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"There's a class of people who, when all else fails and the nation must resort to armed force, come forth to execute the nation's policies," retired Air Force Gen. Charles G. Boyd said at the Eisenhower Awards Dinner, sponsored by Business Executives for National Security.

"This special breed - they're the only group of people in our society that sign up for unlimited liability," said Boyd, BENS president and executive officer. When military members are called to duty, he noted, they are willing to forfeit everything, "including life itself."

"It's been my observation for a long time that this group of people do what we ask them to do willingly, even cheerfully," he concluded. "I think we owe them a vote of thanks."

Boyd then called on five active duty service members in the audience, veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq and representing the five service branches, to stand. Marine Corps Sgt. Orion Steele, a platoon leader and Purple Heart recipient with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, stood, as did Army Chief Warrant Officer William C. Miller, an Apache helicopter pilot with the 227th Cavalry Regiment.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James Gram, a Special Warfare Group SEAL; Air Force Staff Sgt. Sean Kasperek, a helicopter crew chief with the 16th Helicopter Maintenance Squadron; and Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Tom Evans, an anti-terrorism and force protection specialist with the Tactical Law Enforcement Team, also stood to receive the group's standing ovation on behalf of their comrades in arms.

BENS, a national, nonpartisan organization, works to make America safe and secure. BENS members are senior executives who help the Pentagon, Congress and the White House develop new solutions to national security challenges.

Each year, the group honors one American with the Eisenhower Award. BENS founder Stanley A. Weiss presented this year's award to Rumsfeld.

First presented in 1986 on the 25th anniversary of President Eisenhower's farewell address, the award recognizes those Americans whose contributions to the country best reflect Eisenhower's definition of security as "the total product of our economic, intellectual, moral and military strength."

Past award recipients include former Defense Secretaries William Perry and William Cohen, and Army Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Last year's recipient was National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

BENS' Sidney Harmon, master of ceremonies, read a letter from President Bush applauding Rumsfeld "for his commitment to continuing to transform our military into a more agile, flexible, responsive fighting force." In the letter, Bush hailed the defense secretary for his "integrity and vision," and for being a "true patriot and a valued adviser." Bush also praised BENS for the group's efforts to help improve national security.

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, one of several guest speakers, noted that ensuring national security is more difficult than ever before because the "only constant in the world today is rapid, profound change."

"Where less than a generation ago," Bayh said, "the foremost risk to our national security was the prospect of a large ground war in Western Europe, or perhaps a nuclear exchange with another super power state, today we face an entirely different array of emerging challenges that are our honoree tonight must plan to meet."

Bayh said the nation must think and act anew to defend the United States. "We are being much more proactive in the cause of defending America," he said, "because we know that pre-emption is sometimes necessary." Waiting until an attack is truly imminent may result in "consequences even graver than the losses we suffered on 9-11."

The senator drew applause when he noted that Rumsfeld is transforming the military to emphasize America's information superiority, technological advantages, mobility and "the skills and talents and training of some of the finest young men and women that any nation is proud to field in its defense."

In a humorous address, Marine Gen. James L. Jones, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO's supreme allied commander Europe, illustrated Rumsfeld's brief, direct management style. Noting that European Command includes 93 countries, Jones recalled the orders he got from Rumsfeld before he went to Europe.

"My guidance from the secretary was as follows," Jones said. "'I want you to go over there and make them like us. I want you to go over there and stamp out terrorism. I want you to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from all 93 of the countries.

"'I want you to reduce criminality. I want you to stop narco-trafficking. It is unconscionable that it goes on in this day and age. I want you to change the U.S. basing strategy. I want you to support both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. And I want you to get back to me in 90 days on how you're going to do that. And don't be timid.'"

Jones said he did report back in 90 days with what he thought was a wonderful briefing. "Before I even gave the brief before the senior leadership of the Department of Defense," he said, "the secretary came in, sat down and said, 'Good to see you. I can tell this is going to be too timid.'"

On a more serious note, Jones said the military admires Rumsfeld's ability to communicate to the American public "why certain things are important" and the tenacity, efficiency and effectiveness with which he does that. He also thanked Rumsfeld for reminding the nation that doing significant things involves risk.

"Lastly, Mr. Secretary, I thank you for your role in reminding us that we live in a great nation and that periodically in history, from time to time, a great nation must do great things. In doing those things, ... we talk to our people, solicit their approval, we measure the risk to determine whether it's acceptable, and then we get on with the business of doing great things."

Before thanking BENS for the Eisenhower Award, Rumsfeld acknowledged that some of what Jones said was true. "When he came back to brief me, before the briefing started," he noted, "I did in fact look him in the eye and say 'I can tell this briefing is going to be too timid.' That's true, but I said it in good humor."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses national business leaders at the June 19 Eisenhower Award dinner in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Business Executives for National Security. Photo courtesy of BENS by Max Taylor  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (left) accepts the Eisenhower Award from Stanley A. Weiss, founder of Business Executives for National Security, at a June 19 awards dinner in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of BENS by Max Taylor  
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