Remarks Prepared for Delivery Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen Environmental Protection Agency Awards Ceremony 25 September, 1997
Secretary Cohen: When I was in the Senate, I helped to sponsor legislation to elevate the EPA to a Cabinet-level position. I felt that those who care about the state of the earth should be at the same table as those who are concerned about the state of our health, education, and indeed the security of our nation. So I am grateful that President Clinton has given Carol Browner a seat in the Cabinet, and glad to hear her clear, strong, sensible voice in our meetings. And I am gratified to hear her voice speaking in praise of the military's defense of the environment.
When I think about DoD's environmental efforts, I think about Teddy Roosevelt. As a soldier, Roosevelt was the original Rough Rider. But as the original environmental President, he also knew that we cannot ride roughshod over the land. "To skin and exhaust the land," he said, "will undermine the days of our children."
The spirit of Teddy Roosevelt is present today in the 25 million acres of land that are under US military stewardship. Even as the Armed Forces protect our national security, they are also helping to protect global security in the larger sense -- the health of the planet we pass on to our children.
The proof is here today in the men and women who the EPA has named "Champions of the World" for their work to help to heal the hole in the ozone layer. Thanks to these champions and so many others, it was the Defense Department that led the development of alternatives to halon, a major ozone-depleting substance. And thanks to them, DoD has exceeded the Montreal Protocol targets and timetables for curbing the use of these chemicals.
These Champions of the World are just part of the story of how DoD values the environment every day as we train and operate. For example, over the past 10 years, DoD has drastically cut our energy use, more than any other large federal agency. This not only cuts energy waste and cost, it cuts our greenhouse gas emissions, which are believed to contribute to climate change. In cutting these emissions, DoD has been making its own contribution as the world prepares to gather in Japan in December to consider a treaty to fight global warming.
Some say the only fight DoD should worry about is defending our Nation, not defending the Earth. And, of course, our first and foremost mission is, and will always be, to fight the Nation's wars and – by being prepared to fight them – deter those who would challenge us. This is why the US Armed Forces exist and why the Department of Defense exists. But protecting peace and freedom need not be at odds with protecting the Earth. And our efforts to make the military and those who support it more efficient can make us greener, not just leaner.
America's Armed Forces truly are the Champions of the World in every sense and in the most importance sense -- creating a better world that we will leave as our legacy to the generations that follow us.