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De Leon Sums up Tenure's Issues, Initiatives

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17, 2001 – During the final days of the Clinton administration, American Forces Press Service interviewed Deputy Defense Secretary Rudy de Leon.

During a recent trip to troop bases in Europe, de Leon discussed such current events as the USS Cole bombing and the Army investigation into the killing of Korean civilian refugees near the village of No Gun Ri at the start of the Korean War in 1950. He also spoke of the continuing need to invigorate recruiting, enhance military quality of life and improve pay and compensation.

He also gave his thoughts on DoD's effort to streamline its business practices and the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review. He expressed his views on the quality of today's forces and his plans to stay at the Pentagon through the transition.

A partial transcript of his remarks follows:

USS Cole

"We're still very much in the center of evaluating what happened to the USS Cole in October. There is an effort going on right now. The secretary and the chairman, the deputy secretary and the vice chairman, the general counsel -- we're reviewing not only the Gehman-Crouch report, but also reviewing the Navy Judge Advocate Manual Investigation of the Cole, looking at a series of other issues.

"Indeed, the Gehman-Crouch report offered a series of very detailed intelligence tools in terms of how we protect our assets and our military men and women as they are in transit through high threat areas.

"One of the things that surprises us is that, with all of the emphasis from the CINCs, from company commanders, on force protection, how they could come to not think through all of the aspects of ships when they're in transit is a surprise and a topic we have to answer for ourselves. Secretary (William S.) Cohen is going to personally review this. He wants to have this resolved. It happened on his watch. He will step up to his responsibilities.

"The surprise to us and the issue that we are still very much preoccupied with is why did it take this attack in Yemen to become the catalyst. What we now know is that earlier ships were targeted. And yet we did not develop intelligence. We did not have the right game face going into Aden that day. Solving this in the long term, and understanding the lessons learned, is at the heart of what the secretary is trying to do this last week.

"But we're all responsible for force protection, from the secretary on down on the civilian side; the chairman, the CINCs, the company commanders, as well as the skipper of the ship. It's a shared responsibility. In this final week, that is one of the key topics."

Regarding a proposal to create an assistant defense secretary for force protection:

"I think we're working through that. There's a parallel proposal for there to be an undersecretary of defense to handle intelligence, information systems and the dissemination of critical data to warfighters and also looking at our space assets. There will be some organizational changes coming, but we can't wait for the organizational changes. Force protection is a mindset.

"Force protection has become part of the deployed forces. It's not a zero-casualty mentality. It's a smart mentality. How do we protect people? Protection is equipment. It's communications. It's also training. It's also a mindset to make sure that at any particular moment, our soldiers are ready for anything that might come their way.

"Those steps have already been taken, starting with the video teleconference of all of the CINCs with the secretary and the chairman immediately after the Cole explosion. At the same time, it is a miraculous story of how the crew members and the skipper saved their ship after it was attacked."

No Gun Ri

"In No Gun Ri, the secretary's tasking was to find the truth and to tell it. He asked some very distinguished Americans to come in as outside experts, one of the most respected professors of history at Harvard, former diplomats, former Army officers.

"(No Gun Ri) tells us about obligations of commanders in 1950. One of the issues was that these were very young troops. They had not been well trained. These were troops that didn't have seasoned and senior NCOs that were with them. And that in the fog of battle, absent strong leadership, good intelligence and good support, confusion will reign.

"So I think it tells us many things. It tells us about what young people are forced to do in the very harsh environment of combat. These were young people who were thrown into the breach of the Korean War in the first month. They had been an occupation force in Japan or they had come directly from basic training and suddenly they found themselves in the middle of a major offensive from North Korea.

"So in this environment, there were Korean soldiers that were killed, American soldiers that were killed. And there were Korean civilians that were killed. I think it tells us how harsh the combat environment is and that there is an obligation to make sure that people have opportunities for the training, the equipment and the leadership that will give them the tools to do their job.

"I think we also owe it to everyone who serves to put all the facts on the table. In this case, what the report said was that there was no indication that there were orders given to shoot civilians. Also, (the report said) the record was clear: that with the North Koreans attacking, with civilian refugees moving into areas, and then with American forces in a very quick retreat, that indeed civilians were killed."

Recruiting

"I think any successful recruiting strategy has to really focus on the intangibles and what military service will do for a young person in terms of broadening their life (and) giving them perspectives at a very young age that they won't see elsewhere.

"(The Army's new "Army of One" campaign) is important because what it says is, this is a new generation of young people, a new generation of Americans that is coming of age. We're going to have to reach out to talk to them. We can't expect them to reach out to Baby Boomers or to their seniors. What the Army is saying, after this long study, is that you really do have to reach out to young people, one person at a time."

Regarding DoD's pilot joint recruiting station at Virginia's Potomac Mills shopping mega-mall:

"You go where kids go, and kids go to malls like Potomac Mills. There are malls in just about every other city, big or small, in America. They go there, they hang out, they talk to each other. That's part of their weekend experience. And maybe the first time, they only spend five minutes (at the recruiting station). And maybe they come back. Maybe the next step is they hit the Internet site. The point is that young kids today are smarter than they've ever been. We have to find ways to reach out to them."

Defense Management Review

"We've had some very important steps on defense management reform in the Department of Defense. We are also having success in moving budgets and top lines up. But if we fail to continue on the path of business reform, every dollar that is squandered because we haven't used state-of-the-art business systems has an impact on our military mission.

"We've made some progress, but we have not yet embraced the information age. We have not yet embraced the revolution in business affairs. So there's a road map out there in the Defense Reform Initiative. I read it again New Year's weekend, and I think that is indeed a road map to move us into 21st century business practices if we have the discipline to follow it."

Quadrennial Defense Review

"I think that Secretary Cohen leaves the new administration a program that in fiscal 2002 has all of the building blocks. We're on the right track in terms of quality of life, we just need to continue the program, especially the BAH initiatives on housing that are fully funded. We need to continue the track on medical. We brought $5 billion into the medical program on top of the $16 billion we were already planning to spend for '02.

"We now have to manage that benefit. We need the operators' support to manage the health benefit. So we have a number of things where we're moving in the right direction.

"The critical question for the QDR is to deal with modernization and implementing our vision for 2010 and 2020 in terms of the use of information systems, better situational awareness and systems that will allow us to fight the war and end it quickly.

"Modernization is one of the critical pieces along with how to use the information systems in intelligence, in data processing. Those are critical, as well as some of the other issues like missile defense, dealing with weapons of mass destruction and dealing with the proliferation of technologies that can hurt us."

Quality of Forces

"I've worked with the U.S. military in one form or another professionally for 25 years. I grew up in neighborhoods in California where essentially they were engineers or people developing systems for the armed forces, so I've known military people all my life. I think there's greater professionalism today than there has ever been. There's greater idealism.

"I think it's also been very interesting to watch the transformation on how the greatest role models in our country today are not athletes or actors. They're in the public sector. They're teachers and then military men and women, whether the soccer coach on the weekend at home or walking school kids to class in Bosnia.

"You see that around the world. You see what empowered, responsible 22-, 23-, 24-year-old people are able to accomplish when they're trained, led and given initiative."

Future Plans

"My time is coming to an end here. I've been honored to work with Secretary Cohen and the president. I want to complete the assignment here, which means working through the transition. That will really be my last action -- to work with the new team and help them get through the transition."

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