United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Release

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

News Release


IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 227-97
May 07, 1997

REMARKS BY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM S. COHEN TO THE BUSINESS EXECUTIVES FOR NATIONAL SECURITY EISENHOWER AWARDS DINNER MARRIOTT HOTEL, WASHINGTON, D.C. MAY 6, 1997

The playwright John Osborne said never believe anything you see in the mirror or read in the papers. To that I would say any accolades paid you by one of your very closest of friends.

It's an honor for me to be here. It's an honor to have Warren Rudman introduce me. As Sid indicated, reading from some portion of his book, he was born with a warrior's heart. He took an oath to defend this country and the constitution against enemies, foreign and domestic. He defended against those foreign enemies on Pork Chop Hill in Korea. He defended against domestic enemies that were eating away at our physical integrity here at home. And so it is a great honor for me to have Warren come up here and say a few very generous words.

He makes it hard to be humble, but, of course, I have my wife Janet here. (Laughter.)

We were in a shop recently, I went in and had one of those weighing machines that you put a coin in, you get a card back, something out of the '40s and '50s, and I stepped on the machine and put a coin in, got a card back, and I looked at the card and it said, "You are one of the earth's anointed people. You are a born leader of men. You are irresistible to the opposite sex. You are bound to succeed in any endeavor." And so I could feel the sort of preening narcissism rushing up. I took the card and I handed it to Janet and she looked at it and said, "Yes, and they've got your weight wrong, too." (Laughter and applause.)

I asked Warren, I said, "How do I play to this group tonight? I mean, I how do I address a group of this awesome power and responsibility? What should I say?"

He said, "Oh, Bill, just give them 10 or 15 minutes of something light and not too intellectual." He said, "Don't worry, I've heard you speak before, I know you can do it." (Laughter.)

I gave a speech one time -- one of my favorite stories -- I gave a speech and a lady came up to me afterwards and she said, "Senator Cohen, that was probably the finest speech that I have ever heard in my life. It was absolutely -- it was just superfluous." (Laughter.)

I couldn't tell whether it was a slip of the tongue or the slip of a knife into my ribs. And I said, "Well, thank you, ma'am. As a matter of fact, I was thinking of having it published posthumously."

She said, "Oh, wonderful, Son. The sooner the better." (Laughter.)

And, of course, my favorite story is that of Henry Ford who after having made all his millions in this country wanted to go back to his fatherland in County Cork, Ireland, and his reputation for wealth had well preceded his arrival. So when he finally got off the plane, there was a group of local town officials who were seeking a contribution for the construction of a local hospital. And Ford was quite accustomed to being touched in that fashion; he pulled out his checkbook and he made a check out for $5000.

The next day in bold print in the local press it said, "Ford contributes $50,000 for the construction of local hospital." Well, the town officials were terribly upset; they were distraught. They came rushing back to Mr. Ford. They said, "Mr. Ford, we're terribly sorry. It wasn't our fault. It must have been a typographical error. We'll be happy to see to it that a retraction is printed in tomorrow's paper."

Ford said, "Wait a minute. I think I have a better idea." That's really where that phrase came from. He said, "If you give me one wish, I'll give you the balance of $45,000."

They said, "That's an offer we can't refuse. Anything you want."

He said, "What I want, when the hospital is finally completed, [is that] they have a quote taken from the source of my choice."

They said "It's done." He made the check out; he gave them the check; they built the hospital; the hospital is there. It has a quotation from the Book of Matthew and it says, "I came unto you as a stranger and you took me in." (Laughter and applause.)

I come unto you a little bit as a stranger tonight, I hope you'll take me in, but not quite in that fashion.

Earlier this evening I spoke about the Vice President's passion and dedication to governmental reform and the same, of course, can be said and was said about our friend Warren Rudman, who in many ways, I think, was the cause of last week's budget agreement.

I haven't checked with Warren just yet, but he might in fact deny parenthood without a blood test, but we've had a chance to talk about that this evening. But in reality, the measure that he took in response to a refusal on the part of our own president to come up with a balanced budget approach to solve our fiscal problems stirred him in one of his moments of not uncommon passion to say we've got to do something to save the country.

And he got together with Senator Gramm and others, and I was part of that little round group, and we got together in the Republican cloakroom and that's where Gramm-Rudman-Hollings was born. And it served a very valuable function. It put us on the road to start to think about the things that Warren is doing now with the Concord Coalition and thanks to this group as well, coming out and supporting the kind of changes that need to be made if we're going to have a sound fiscal policy for this country so we can continue to do the things that we need to do.

I know the history of BENS. About your commitment to national security particularly your support for the chemical weapons convention treaty. Without your help, we probably couldn't have secured the ratification of that.

I've spent the past 18 years in Congress, in the Senate, six in the House, trying to achieve essentially a Defense Department that was leaner, that was more competitive, more efficient in its business practices and I find it somewhat ironic that I'm up here now.

I, after pushing for all of those years for governmental reform on Capitol Hill, now sit on the largest bureaucracy in government and I feel something like Captain Ahab. I have finally come face to face with the white whale that I've been chasing all these years and I'm lashed to it.

In telling the story of Moby Dick, Ishmael said, "Give me a condor's quill, give me Vesuvius' crater for an ink stand because to produce a mighty book you must choose a mighty thing."

Well, the Pentagon reinvention is a mighty thing and I will need mighty tools, and I will need mighty help, and I have been blessed so far in my work in the Pentagon to have quite a group of heavy lifters, weighty thinkers. I am thinking of General Shalikashvili and his wife Joan who are here. I'm thinking of others who are in the audience this evening -- General Ralston and his wife who are here. There are so many others that I can barely see. I know you're out there, that I've been blessed to have your support and cooperation as we have endeavored to try to redefine exactly who we are as a country.

And I've used this expression before, but I think it fits even now, when I use the quote from Jim Stockdale, Admiral Stockdale. When he was running for the vice presidency, he asked those existential questions, "Who am I? Why am I here?" And it was met with some laughter, some derision, but those were very important questions for him to ask. They're important questions for us to ask ourselves. As a country, who are we? Why are we here? Where is it we want to go or to be?

And we see this phrase constantly: We are the world's only superpower. What does it mean? What does it mean to be a superpower? What are the benefits of being a superpower? What are the burdens that one must carry to be a superpower? Should we just relegate ourselves to being one power among many? And what are the risks involved in simply witnessing the multiplication of power centers in a world that is not truly stable? So we have to ask questions of exactly who it is we are and what is it we want to do with our country.

Technology has succeeded in miniaturizing the globe. It's reduced vast oceans to mere ponds. Distant countries are now almost neighboring counties in terms of travel. The world is not much bigger than a ball, a basketball to Abe Polin, spinning off the finger of science. And so with the fall of the Soviet Union, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a lot of people were seized with a sense of euphoria.

I recall Francis Fukyama wrote an interesting piece called "The End of History" in which he, at least as part of the thesis, said that we now will witness the spread of economic capitalism and democratic institutions across the globe. And that prompted one South African academician, Peter Val, to say , "Rejoice, my friends, or weep with sorrow. What California is today the world will be tomorrow." (Laughter.)

I say that with trepidation. And, of course, people criticize that particular view, saying it's terribly naive. After all, have you failed to take into account that we might have different cultures and a clash of cultures, as Samuel Huntington has, at least has put forward, first in an article, now in a book, and that all western values may in fact come into conflict with those of Confucian or Islamic and other societies?

It's not the end of history, it's simply the beginning of a new era and that's really what the QDR process that you've heard so much about is trying to determine: Who are we? Where are we going? Why are we here?

We have devised a strategy, I'm not going to let any secrets out this evening, we've been talking about many different types of forums. We first have to say what are the threats that we face today, what are they likely to be tomorrow and into the indefinite future, to make an assessment of exactly what we have to do to defend this country's national security, our interests here at home and abroad. And so we look and we say that we think it's important that we try to shape the environment.

If I had to sum it up in three words, it's "shape, respond and prepare." Those are the three essential elements of our strategy. And the strategy involving shape means to be engaged. We have to be engaged in world affairs. We can't simply swing back to a continental cocoon and zip ourselves in and watch the world unfold on CNN. We can't shape events if we're simply sitting in CONUS America, which is the continental United States. We have to be engaged, we have to be forward deployed.

You've heard President Clinton, Vice President Gore, Secretary Albright, myself and others say, yes, we intend to continue to have roughly 100,000 people forward deployed in the Asia-Pacific region. We intend to maintain roughly 100,000 people forward deployed in Europe. And we think we're in a better position to influence events, rather than becoming a captive of events, if we're out there.

So we intend to try to shape people's opinions, influence their judgment, their opinion of us, their sense of who we are, that we are a reliable, strong, flexible ally, that we can be counted upon in times of crisis. So shaping the environment is very much a part of our strategy.

Responding. We intend to respond across the full spectrum of operations. We can respond all the way from a humanitarian rescue mission, what our Joint Chiefs will tell you are NEOs, non- combatant evacuations, that we might have and had in Albania, possibly in Zaire, all the way up to small contingencies, conflicts, to major types of conflicts. We have to have that kind of flexibility, otherwise we really are pretty limited in our capability of responding to these types of threats.

Now, I know that some of the cynics already have ridiculed the "shape, respond, prepare," saying, well, there's really not much new there and I think of H.L. Menkin, who said a cynic is someone who sells flowers and always looks for a coffin.

But this strategy is right for us. This strategy is the right one for the future. If it's valid today, it will be valid tomorrow. We simply cannot afford to become disengaged. We have to be out there. We have to be influencing people. We have to be shaping their judgment and their calculations and their calibrations, so that they are shaping them in ways that are not adverse to us, that are in our interests.

So the response capability, it seems to me, is a valuable one. Again, the issue of, well, do you intend to have two MRCs, major regional contingencies? Well, let me ask you the question. Should we only have one? And which one should it be? If it's only one, why don't we just say to General Tilelli , bring those 37,000 men and women home, we don't have to be in Korea any more.

Why don't we tell those who are responsible -- over in, General Peay, over in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait -- don't worry about Saddam, he won't move again. And don't worry about Iran; there's still some martyrs that we're looking for today.

You may recall Warren Rudman and I had a discussion about that. I shouldn't say this -- I guess I won't say it. I have learned about the big difference between being a United States senator and being Secretary of Defense. (Laughter and applause.)

Warren can tell you, say anything as a United States senator and the folks back home may listen, the national press might listen, but it won't make too many ripples overseas, but if you're Secretary of Defense, if you utter a single word, if you lift an eyebrow, there is all sorts of Teutonic types of implications that can be drawn from that, so I will try to curb my normal sense of humor.

The problem we have is in the preparation. If we're trying to shape the environment, if we're trying to be able to respond across a full spectrum of threats, how do we prepare for the future? And what we really need to do is to re-capitalize our force, to capture and exploit that revolution in military affairs, things you've been reading about in Force XXI, the kind of experimental techniques that are being developed at Fort Irwin in California that have total domination of the battlefield, the full awareness.

We are doing some exciting things as far as developing these technologies. They're not here just yet, they're not that far away, but the question is how do we acquire them, how do we purchase them? Because right now, what we know, and General Shalikashvili will tell you, General Ralston will back him up as his vice chair, that we're losing roughly $15 billion a year that is migrating out of our modernization accounts into operations.

So how do we deal with that? We've got to have a revolution of military affairs, we've got to have a revolution in business affairs, something that the Vice President talked about early this evening, and I won't repeat it. We certainly have an infrastructure that's too large. We need to continue to draw upon the legacy of Tom McInerney when he was the Vice President's reinvention ambassador to the Pentagon. A lot of people were inspired by his example and the Pentagon has earned more Hammer Awards than any other federal agency, but a great deal more needs to be done.

As the Vice President said, I'm sure when he started talking about that telephone, he didn't tell you that it was actually on a submarine, so -- (inaudible). (Laughter.)

What I used to do up on Capitol Hill, I used to wave the 14 pages of regulations that were required before you could actually compete to sell the Pentagon chocolate chip cookies. Not too long ago, we had 236 pages of regulations involving travel reimbursement. Thanks to Dr. John Hamre, we now have -- we're down to about 20 or so -- 13 pages in the private sector. When you have those 236 pages of regulations and all the other regulations that we have for the Pentagon, it usually costs about 13,000 Maine spruce trees in order to produce them. Seventy-five percent of the purchases under $2,500 are still negotiated out in contract form.

It's amazing. Think about this. Seventy-five percent of all the purchases we make that are under $2,500, we still have yet to make maximum use of the impact credit card. And Dr. Hamre is working on that.

We had a situation last year where a day care center in Europe had ordered probably $1,200 in supplies for a party, a birthday party. They had to fill out an 11-page contract with 50 different account lines. It cost roughly $24 to process each one of those account lines, so it cost $1,200 to process the accounting to purchase $1,200 worth of goods.

Four years ago -- just a few years ago -- it took us roughly four years to acquire computers in the Defense Department. It takes on an average in the private sector roughly 18 months. And yet we found that the computers were out-of-date before they were out of the box.

We passed legislation last year that's changing that. DoD contract payments were all paper just two years ago; now 50 percent are conducted through electronic means. Fifteen months ago all the commercial invoices were paper; today 25 percent are electronic. Twelve months ago one out of every ten travel reimbursements was done electronically; now it's six out of ten. [In] the last 12 months all the services have terminated their office supply operations at military bases and have contracted out the work.

So we are making progress. What we need to have is for the revolution in business affairs to continue. We can point to so many people in our department. Paul Kaminski, Dr. Kaminski is here this evening. We'll have a ceremony for him tomorrow. He has truly been a knight in shining armor. I've referred to him in so many different ways, but he has been in the forefront of reforming our acquisition procurement system, and we'll miss him.

He's done an extraordinary job in trying to say we've got to do business differently. We've got to have more competition. We've got to streamline, we've got to downsize, we've got to outsource. We've got to use commercial products off the shelf. And he has been a leader in that, and he's forced that leadership on those who are below him, and the building has responded. But we have a lot further to go.

He wants to have a stable acquisition system. Stability is the key to getting real price reductions. We haven't been able to do that as much as we'd like. But thanks to Paul Kaminski we're a lot better off today than we were before he took over the job.

Walter Lippman said that success makes men richer, and they tend to exalt stability over all other virtues. And that's really what's been taking place. We've been exalting stability within the Department itself, but stability has a way of turning to stagnation.

And we have a classic situation coming up. Classic choices coming up. I can't tell you at this point what our recommendation will be, but we have to ask the Congress, should depots remain in government hands in place of high technology weapons and soldiers' hands? Do we protect facilities instead of protecting our forces? Do we have global defense contracts preserved and solid enlistment contracts pursued?

Let me tell you, in my judgment, the Office of Secretary of Defense is too big, too bureaucratic, and has to be reformed. It, in my judgment, is the one area that we haven't focused on enough in the QDR, and as a result of that, I am going to announce on Friday the formation of a defense reform task force. A group of experts in the field, who will then supplement their own expertise by calling on corporate executives who have had to downsize their operations, streamline them, squeeze savings out.

And we intend to -- will -- work with the national defense panel and produce a recommendation by next December that will squeeze a good deal of the fat from the tail that currently is wagging the teeth. And BENS is going to play an instrumental role. I would need your help in order to persuade a lot of people that that's the direction we have to go.

We've got to have a change in attitude, the attitude of not yet, not here, not now, and not mine. That has to change.

I quoted a moment ago from Walter Lippman, somebody I have studied over the years in terms of the advice he was giving to some of his colleagues years ago. I remember that on the 30th anniversary of his graduation class at Harvard, he stood before his fellow alumni, he looked out at them, and he said, "You know, whenever we have a choice to make, we've always chosen the easy way out. It happened after World War I; it's happening now. We've always yielded to the soft voices of pleasure rather than the hard choices of virtue."

And he said something on the eve of World War II to his Harvard brethren at that time which I think still resonates today. He said, "For every right that you cherish, you have a duty you must fulfill. For every hope that you entertain, you have a task you must perform. For every good wish you wish to preserve, you must sacrifice your comfort and your ease. There is nothing for nothing anymore."

That's the message that we have to bring to all of our colleagues, members of Congress, and general public. We've got to get back to the stern virtues of self-discipline, and austerity in some cases, in order to become the most efficient producers that we can. Not being a consuming society, but a productive society.

So I hope that BENS will continue to play the role that you have played to date -- 15 years of success -- that you'll continue to weigh in on issues on chemical weapons treaties and other issues where the national security of the country is involved.

And there could be no further assistance that I could ask of you than to weigh in, once the QDR process is presented to the Congress -- and, understand, it's only a blueprint, it's a first step -- to say, "Members of Congress, here is the plan that I and the Joint Chiefs and the commanders-in-chief of our regional commands support. We think this is the right way to go. We think this is the balance we need to achieve. We think we need to be engaged, yes, for the immediate term. The world isn't going to change in the short-term, and we still have to start shaping our forces as well for the mid-term and long-term. But this is what we believe is necessary. If you've got better ideas, we're hoping to hear them."

And, ultimately, Congress will decide. Ultimately, it's Congress who has the control of the purse strings, who must make these choices that I've talked about. And in making those choices, they will depend a great deal upon the voices that they hear from their own community, and the voices that they hear on television programs from experts in the business community who are concerned about national security issues.

So you will play an instrumental role in deciding how we form our system in the coming years. Now, please ignore the criticism of the cynics on the right or the left who say, "Well, it's not enough. They cut too much."

I think we've come up with a proposal that protects our short-term security interests, that is developing our sysystems for the future, and is squeezing money out of operations to put them into modernization. If you help us with that, we'll go with a fighting force for the future which is as good as it is today. And every one of you know we have the best fighting force in the world.

Additional Links

Stay Connected