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What is Learned by Just Walking Around

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

NAPLES, Italy, Dec. 4, 1996 – Bill Perry believes in shucking his business suit and tie, donning khakis and heading for the field. The 19th U.S. defense secretary says "management by walking around" is the way he likes to do business.

During a pre-Thanksgiving visit Nov. 27 to the Naval Support Activity Agnano here, Perry told about 200 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines he likes to see and hear firsthand how it's going for people stationed overseas to protect American interests.


"I always feel right at home visiting troops deployed overseas," Perry said. "Everywhere I see troops, I see the same qualities -- intelligence, expertise, dedication and just plain grit. I see these qualities manifested in every real world operation we have undertaken -- deterring aggression in the Persian Gulf, the magnificent performance of our forces in Bosnia and the outstanding support provided these missions," he said.


"I understand it's tough to be away from home during the holidays," Perry said. "When I count my blessings, I count you first."


The defense secretary's stop in Italy marked the start of an eight-day trip around the world to visit forward-deployed U.S. forces. The schedule included spending Thanksgiving with 1st Armored Division soldiers in Bosnia and a visit to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, deployed in the Persian Gulf.


During numerous visits to troop bases in the United States and abroad, Perry said he always asks the same questions. "What is the readiness and the capability of our forces to do the mission they are assigned? What kind of quality of life are they getting? What kind of force protection measures are being taken?"


He said he seeks answers among junior enlisted service members as well as the military's senior leaders. He also gives troops the rare chance to ask him questions. When it's their turn, service members generally ask about pay raises, housing, deployments and the drawdown. Their overall theme is: What's in store for the future?


In Naples, a service member asked about the importance of quality of life. "I believe the readiness of our armed forces depends on maintaining quality of life," Perry replied.  "We invest millions of dollars on training, and that only makes sense if we retain people. Training is the key to our capability, and retaining is the key to getting the benefit of that training. Quality of life is the key to retaining."


Perry said he has used the secretary of defense platform as "a bully pulpit" to get the message out on how important quality of life is to military members and their families. "My strong impression is that the message is understood by military people, by base commanders and by Congress," he said.


Perry assured the audience quality of life concerns are, and will continue to be, a top priority at the Pentagon. "We have written into the budget programs that will sustain us all through this century," he said. "Pay raises are in the budget as far as the eye can see. Many of the housing programs, new child care centers, morale and recreation centers are in the budget now and through the rest of this century.


"The fact that makes me most confident our emphasis on quality of life has become part of our way of doing business is that everywhere I go, base commanders and people who run base housing, have picked up this message with enthusiasm. They're out doing things I never even thought about doing. I am quite confident that the emphasis on quality of life will be sustained for years to come."

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