Cohen Says Strong Military Creates Conditions For High Tech Success
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 19, 1999 The world that innovative high tech firms create and build could not exist without a strong and ready military, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said during a speech to Microsoft employees here Feb. 18.
"It can be easy to forget that this global marketplace was neither created by magic, nor will it be kept by marketing," Cohen said.
Cohen said Microsoft and DoD are "the two most striking examples of American success -- areas in which the United States holds unquestioned superiority."
The creativity and innovation Microsoft displays is the marvel of the global economy, Cohen said. "Your intellectual endeavor has reduced our oceans to mere ponds, transforming the globe into a small ball spinning on the finger of science," he said.
By the same standard, Cohen said, the U.S. military is the best in the world. "Our weapons and military capability are, today, without peer, and our forces execute mission after mission with a precision and professionalism that astounds friends and foes alike," he said.
But even with this in common, there is a gap between the two worlds, Cohen told the audience where GoreTex and Polartec garments were more evident than neckties and other traditional business attire. It is indicative of the gap between the military and civilian life in the rest of the country.
"There is a sense that in many places beyond this campus -- from Sunnyvale to Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley -- that some in the 'digital world' dismiss the importance of the national security world," Cohen said. "That some soldiers in the high-tech revolution do not fully understand or appreciate the soldiers in camouflage."
He said many people in the high-tech industry have the sense that tanks and guns are obsolete in an information- based world. Some feel any money that goes to the Washington and the military is money wasted. Cohen quoted a Silicon Valley executive who said in reference to the Federal government "Why would I care about ... wealth destroyers."
The world has moved "from a Cold War to a Simmering Peace," Cohen said. Instability "flashes from Serbia to Central Africa, fueled by those who would prefer to dig fresh graves than heal old wounds."
He named a number of trouble spots such as Iraq, which is building and hiding chemical and biological weapons, and India and Pakistan, which are developing nuclear weapons. North Korea, he noted, is developing long-range missiles capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction.
Without the protection of the U.S. military, Cohen said the survival of Seoul, South Korea -- the fourth largest city in the world - would be threatened. "The North Koreans have a million-man army 30 miles away from Seoul," he said. The North Koreans could destroy Seoul in a matter of hours. "The economic cost would defy calculation. The human cost would defy imagination."
Nearly 100,000 U.S. service members stationed on the Korean Peninsula help prevent this scenario from becoming a reality, Cohen pointed out.
The U.S. military must be prepared to stand up to these threats as well as the growing threat of terrorist attack and cyberterrorism, Cohen said. But service members on the DMZ, or flying missions in the Persian Gulf or bringing peace to Bosnia cannot do those missions without support from all Americans, he said.
"The military is an extension of the people -- it is your military," Cohen said. "The men and women of our Armed forces are your neighbors and cousins, your sisters and brothers. The security they protect is your security; and the prosperity they enable is your prosperity. It is in your name they fight -- and you who they rely upon for support."
Cohen said service members deserve a higher quality of life. They deserve adequate pay raises and a fair retirement system. That costs money, he said, and that's the reason President Clinton initiated the first sustained increase in defense spending since the end of the Cold War.
The increase will also go to funding modernization. U.S. forces are strong now, Cohen said, but they need equipment to keep them strong in the future. The military needs the money to ensure peace and stability into the 21st century.
"You should be proud of men and women in your military," Cohen said. "They have been called to do many things, and in all cases, our service members responded, and their skills and professionalism made a tremendous difference."