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Release No: 493-96
August 16, 1996

Remarks Prepared For Delivery by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry - International Convention of the Air Force Sergeants Association

Wednesday, August 14, 1996

Houston, Texas

As Secretary of Defense I accept this award with a deep sense of humility. In my job I am constantly being judged -- by the Congress, by the media, by scholars, by the public. But no judgment means more to me than the approval of the men and women of the Armed Forces. And I am particularly honored to receive this award from the Air Force Sergeants Association.

Many years ago, when I was an E-4 in our army of occupation in Japan, I could not have imagined ever being the Secretary of Defense, or receiving this award from you. Nor could I have imagined then the quality of our military forces today.

The reality is that we have today, the highest quality military in the world. One manifestation of that quality is that my counterpart Defense Ministers all over the world send their officers and NCOs to our military schools. They send their combat units to use our training ranges and to exercise with us.

But our quality is not just displayed in exercises or training, it has been amply demonstrated in very demanding real world operations -- in DESERT STORM, in the flawless insertion of forces into Haiti, and in the magnificent performance of our forces in Bosnia. It is demonstrated each month in unglamorous, but technically very difficult, operations -- such as the very recent evacuation of thousands of Americans and other refugees from Liberia -- all done without a single casualty.

How did our forces get this good? And how do we keep them that way? I believe our forces reached this peak of quality by excelling in the three "T's" -- technology, tactics and training.

Let's start with the first T, technology. In DESERT STORM the United States demonstrated a vast array of new technology, some of it used in combat operations for the first time.

When the ground war started our reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities told us exactly where the enemy was. But we shut down his reconnaissance systems, so the Iraqi commanders, knew only what they could see from their foxholes. At the same time our Global Positioning Satellites gave us precise locations of our own forces. So our tactical commanders had total battlefield awareness. With this battlefield awareness we were able to designate precisely the targets to strike and the threat areas to avoid. Then using precision guided munitions we were able to attack those targets with devastating effect. And finally, the new stealth technology allowed us to deliver our weapons with minimal loses to our own forces.

Despite the opinion of some in the General Accounting Office, this combination of technologies gave us a critical battlefield edge in DESERT STORM, which we exploited for decisive victory. Accountants who look purely at the number of weapons fired or dropped, and multiply costs to draw conclusions about effectiveness, miss the multiplier effects of precision, stealth and intelligence.

The real multiplier effect of technology is that it gives our troops an unfair competitive advantage -- it allows them to dominate the battlefield. Now that we have experienced military dominance, we like it, -- and we are going to keep it. That will not be easy since technology is rapidly spreading. So we will have to work hard to sustain our edge in military technology.

To effectively use technology, you also have to develop tactics, the second T. Prior to DESERT STORM, we developed remarkable new technologies, but we also developed the right tactics and doctrine to take advantage of that technology.

For example, we had developed radically different tactics for dealing with air defense systems by exploiting Stealth. Stealth technology allowed us to put F-117s over the critical Iraqi targets with the highest air defense threat and then precisely knock out the key nodes in their air defense system. That effort opened the way for the rest of our air attack force to decimate the Iraqi ability to carry on a coherent battle. Because we had broken down their air defense system as an integrated whole, we were able use conventional platforms to further suppress their air defenses, break up their communications, and cut their logistics routes, again relying on precision weapons delivered from the safer high altitudes. As we further suppressed their defenses we were able to use more platforms to attack tactical targets, using both precision and dumb weapons. Being able to develop decisive tactics to use new technology requires an additional leap beyond the mere acquisition of the devices.

The third T, training, is the key to maintaining our troops at their current high level of readiness. No other nation has developed the kind of training and training facilities that we have -- typified by the dissimilar combat training that we conduct at facilities such as the National Training Center and Nellis Air Force Base. Such training gives our forces the enormous advantage of being able to make their mistakes on a test range, where the mistakes are embarrassing. Not on a battlefield, where they can be fatal.

When the First Armored Division was training to go to Bosnia, General Joulwan made sure they had tough training. He had a mock Bosnia set up in Germany at the Hohenfels training range, complete with all the hazards they would find in Bosnia: snow, mud, opposing forces, paramilitary forces, black marketeers, -- even CNN. George [Joulwan] told me, I want the scrimmage to be tougher than the game. And today that training is paying off. When I was in Bosnia last month, soldiers told me of incidents that occurred in Bosnia that were almost identical to the incidents that occurred in training.

So we do have a competitive advantage in training -- so how can we sustain it? We sustain that edge by directing the services to have fully funded training plans in their five year budget submissions; by protecting those submissions in the budget debate. And by protecting those funds whenever we have to reprogram money for other purposes. As a consequence every armored brigade will make its scheduled rotation to the NTC, every fighter squadron will make its scheduled rotation at Nellis.

We are also creatively using new technology to enhance our training opportunities, by making full use of simulators and simulations. In the simulator, the pilot, or tank driver, or tank gunner, can get the full experience of encountering realistic situations time after time at a fraction of the cost of field training. Nothing completely replaces field experience, but extensive practice in simulators makes that field exercise experience much more effective and productive. Today's simulators also present crews with experiences that are impossible to duplicate safely in the field.

Even more cost effective and productive are battlefield simulations for battle commanders and leaders. Whether they are all virtual or a mix of simulated forces with real forces, this dynamic new capability will allow us to keep our fighting edge. The importance of simulation technology has been recognized by the services and they are budgeting for it and pulling it into their training plans in creative new ways.

But all three "T's," technology, tactics and training take quality people. That was one of the big issues in the 1970's when we were developing this new technology and we were debating its value. I was constantly being told by experts -- the troops will never be able to operate this new equipment in the field. What they were implying was that our troops would not be smart enough to handle the new technology. The experts were wrong. Not only can the troops operate it -- they can repair it. And they are always thinking up creative new ways to use the new technology.

So we succeeded because we had quality people. But how are we doing today? Can we sustain that quality? The answer is yes. We continue to recruit quality people. In 1995 and 1996, 95% of all our recruits were high school graduates. And 70% scored in the upper half of the Armed Forces Qualification Test. Once we have the top recruits we must offer them quality training, which I have already discussed. But to get the full benefit of the training, we have to retain those quality people. Training and retaining -- Training and retaining. These are the keys to a quality force. And retaining our force means offering them a decent standard of living and quality of life. Some critics think that I push for better quality of life for our troops because I am soft hearted. Pushing for a better quality of life is not soft-hearted, it is hard-headed.

After all we've done to recruit, train and equip top quality people, we want to keep them long enough to develop the skills of a senior NCO. That means we must give them interesting and challenging work and a decent quality of life. Military service has the most interesting and challenging jobs in the world. But a decent quality of life requires constant attention and it requires commitment of resources.

So, with the full approval of the President, and strong support from the Congress, I have made quality of life issues a high priority. Working together with Congress we have provided for full funding of the highest pay raises allowed by law for the remainder of the decade and increased funding for BAQ and child care facilities. And we are revitalizing military housing using innovative new tools.

Recruiting, training, equipping and retaining high quality people is not the end of our obligations. We must also protect our forces -- to make sure that they can carry out their missions. Force protection is a key component of any mission. It is my top priority whenever I approve a military operation or a training exercise.

That is why our forces in Bosnia are required to wear flak jackets and Kevlar helmets when they are outside secure compounds. It is why one out of every three of them are on guard duty. And it is why we have a no-alcohol policy for our forces in Bosnia. These are burdensome rules, but they save lives. During the first six months of our deployment to Bosnia, we compared the accident and injury rates with the unit's previous six months in Germany. It turns out that on a statistical basis they were healthier and safer the first six months in Bosnia then they had been the previous six months in Germany.

But we cannot be complacent. We have to work at force protection every day. The terrorist bombing attacks on our forces in Saudi Arabia were grim reminders of what we all know -- that there are inherent risks in any military operation. Terrorism is a risk that is particularly hard to deal with. We cannot fully eliminate the risk of terrorist attack and still carry out our missions. Our forces cannot perform their mission if they are hunkered down in bunkers 24 hours a day. But we can minimize that risk by taking every reasonable step to improve force protection.

I recently sent a message to all of our military commands to underscore the threat of terrorist attack and re-emphasize the need to devote resources and attention to force protection. I sent out specific instructions for commanders in the Arabian Gulf region to perform force protection reassessments.

Passive force protection measures such as larger perimeters and improved barriers are being installed everywhere in the Gulf region and these are important. But they must be accompanied by active measures such as improving our intelligence capabilities. We want to seek out the terrorists, identify them, and do what we can to disrupt or pre-empt any planned operation.

All that I have talked about today to implement the three "T's" -- technology, tactics, training -- requires leadership -- especially at the NCO level. The quality of America's Non- Commissioned Officers is one of the defining factors that set the standard of our military forces above all others and make our military forces the envy of the world.

I care a lot about the quality of leadership provided by our NCO corps -- I have to -- since my whole strategy for a quality military depends on your leadership. That is one of the reasons I go out on base visits every couple of months with the senior NCO's of the services. We travel as a team to get a look at the situation on the ground -- the training, the equipment, the quality of life. The information flow goes both ways -- I give them my policy perspectives, and they give me the hard truths about how those policies are really working out.

These trips are truly invaluable to me -- as is any visit to see real troops. They're the best way I spend my time, because I see first-hand how our missions are going. In the course of these visits I have learned that our NCO corps is unmatched anywhere in the world. But that is not just my opinion, it is an opinion shared by senior military officials from around the world.

Two years ago, a high ranking Russian military officer spent two weeks visiting U.S. military bases and meeting U.S. enlisted troops in the field. At the beginning of his visits, he was convinced that the NCOs he saw at work were really officers. He was sure we had constructed a Potemkin Village, of sorts, and it was all a sham to pull the wool over his eyes. And that he was actually being introduced to officers wearing enlisted uniforms. As his visit continued, he came to realize that they were real NCOs, doing the kind of work they do every day. At the end of his visit, he told me that no other military in the world has the quality of NCOs that he found in the United States. He went on to say quite wistfully, That's what gives America its competitive military advantage. That statement from a Russian General Officer only affirmed my own belief.

It is the reason other nations like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Poland have asked us to teach them about the American military NCO system. And why NCOs from other nations line up to attend our senior NCO academies. It is why I say -- with complete objectivity, that The United States has the best damn military in the world.

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