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Release No: 235-97
May 12, 1997

Remarks by Secretary Cohen to the Brookings Institution Board of Trustees

Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

To The

Brookings Institution Board of Trustees

Washington, D.C.

May 12, 1997

Let me begin by describing a certain pivot point in history:

It is a time of daunting security challenges both at home and abroad. In Europe, the United States proposes a bold plan to advance democracy, free-markets and shared security across a divided continent, and we struggle with how Russia would fit into this plan. In the Pacific, America is the dominant power, but Korea remains dangerously divided, and China is in a period of profound transition, its future uncertain, its intentions unclear. Breathtaking advances in technology are fueling a revolution in military affairs. And a Democratic President and a Republican Congress struggle mightily to balance the federal budget.

Mike Armacost is not the only one in this distinguished group that knows the period I'm talking about is not 1997, but 1947, a half-century ago, when President Truman created the Department of Defense, and charged it with the awesome responsibility to protect and promote American national interests.

But how we defend the country has not been frozen in time. For in the past decade alone, the world has witnessed rapid and dramatic changes. The Soviet Empire has disintegrated. The Berlin Wall has been swept into the dust bin of history. And where dictatorship once prevailed, democratic institutions and free markets now are openly embraced by freedom-loving people.

And so DoD reduced and reshaped the force for the new era. The defense budget -- down 35 percent. Force structure -- down 33 percent. Procurement programs -- down 67 percent. The result was a smaller force, yes, but the right force for the times, and indisputably the most powerful force in the world.

But the post-Cold War era is coming to an end. The term has lost its relevance and meaning in today's world, and it is time we discarded that phrase. For we have come to another pivot point in history. Technology has miniaturized the globe, reducing 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, spinning of the finger of science. We have not witnessed the end of history, but the dawn of a new era. To paraphrase Pasternak's Lieutenant Schmidt: We know that the stake where we will stand will be the border of two different eras of history, and we are glad to be chosen.

The time has come to step into the future. To look at the world ahead. To ask, what will be America's role? Should we seek to influence events, or simply respond to them? Shall we remain the world's only superpower? What are the benefits and burdens? Should we instead reconcile ourselves to becoming just one power among many? If so, what are the risks involved in the multiplication of power centers in a world that is not truly stable? And so we have to ask: What type of military do we need for the 21st Century? That is what the Quadrennial Defense Review has been trying to determine.

We do know how we are not going to reach the future we want. It is not by taking the road well traveled -- that road is gone. For in today's world, the Spanish poet Antonio Machado captured the challenge: Traveler, there is no road. You make the road as you go along. To make our road, we cannot simply project today's defense into the future. Rather, we must choose our destination, and then chart a course that will take us from where we are today.

That is what the QDR has done. Next week, I will issue the final report on the QDR with my decisions. Not surprisingly, I have already heard from Capitol Hill about what I'm not going to do very easily. I heard echoes of the signs from the road of the past: Don't close bases; don't cut troops; don't touch depots; don't even think about touching tac air.

This response demonstrates an all too common phenomenon in defense. The tail too often wags the dog. Defense programs take on a life of their own, disembodied from the defense strategy they were originally created to support -- even if the strategy changes to fit the times. But that can undermine our ability to carry out the strategy by taking up scarce resources.

The QDR faced this problem head-on. First, it determined the challenges we are likely to face. Then it devised a strategy to protect and promote American interests. Finally, it is going to ensure that how we allocate resources supports the strategy. Strategy without resources, or resources without strategy, are equations that are likely to produce failure.

The strategy devised through the QDR can be summed up in three words: shape, respond and prepare.

First, we want to shape the security environment. To encourage a world where there is more democracy in more nations. More stability in more regions. And thus, fewer threats to American interests, and fewer risks to American service men and women. To do that, we must remain engaged in world affairs, to influence the actions of others -- friends and foes -- who can affect our national well-being. We can't simply zip ourselves into a continental cocoon and watch the world unfold on CNN. But to be engaged, we have to be forward deployed, out there so we can influence events, rather than become a prisoner of events. So we intend to maintain a robust presence in key regions of the world, including roughly 100,000 people forward deployed in the Asia-Pacific region and another 100,000 forward deployed in Europe.

But we also need strong, ready forces that can respond quickly and decisively to threats across a full spectrum of crises, from non-combatant evacuations, like the ones we conducted in Albania and Liberia, to small-scale crises, to major conflicts. For that we need forces that are agile, flexible and responsive in a dynamic and uncertain world; forces that can quickly descend on and dominate any situation. We also need forces that can halt and defeat military aggression by major regional powers, even in two places across the globe. Those who question this need must face a difficult choice: Should we ask General Tilleli to send home those 37,000 men and women in Korea, saying we don't need to worry about North Korea? Or should we ask General Peay to send home those forces in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, concluding we don't need to worry about Iraq or Iran?

The military force structure we have today can meet our needs to shape and respond to the world from here to the horizon. But what about over the horizon, beyond the limits of our sight? What kind of Armed Forces will we need then? That leads to the toughest part of our strategy: preparing now for the future.

The critical part of this preparation is modernization. But the term modernization implies an evolutionary change. The time has come to take our forces into the future. Twenty years ago, Alvin Toffler warned that, unless you tame technology, you will encounter future shock. We want to harness technology for defense to turn future shock into future security. To do so, we must bring about the Revolution in Military Affairs and begin to build the future force today.

This future force will look a lot like the vision set forth by General Shalikashvili, called, Joint Vision 2010. It will seek the best people our nation can offer. It will give them the best technology our scientists can produce. And this technology will transform the way our forces fight. We want them to be able to dominate any situation we send them into. We don't want a fair fight -- we want a decisive advantage.

The key is an integrated system of systems that gives them battlespace awareness, greatly reducing the risk of war. This system of systems will integrate the laptop, the microchip, the microwave, the videocam, the satellite and the sensor. It will connect the cockpit, the quarterdeck, the control panel and the command post and link the front office to the frontlines to the supply lines.

This system will give the future forces some remarkable capabilities. They will have dominant maneuver -- an ability to out-maneuver and out-position the enemy with greater information, speed, mobility, agility and versatility. They will have precision engagement -- the ability to identify and aim smart weapons at precise targets. They will have focused logistics -- the ability to have the supplies they need, just in time, when and where they need them. And they will have full dimension protection -- to better protect themselves, their assets and their communications against a full spectrum of threats, from ballistic missiles to germ warfare, so they have greater freedom of action.

What these four capabilities mean is that our forces can go in lighter. They will need fewer weapons platforms. They will be able to direct lethal fire to the right targets. There will be less collateral damage, less friendly fire and fewer casualties. And they will be able to surprise and overwhelm the enemy, and end the battle quickly on our terms.

These capabilities are not drawn from the X-Files of the FBI or the Starship Enterprise. Right now, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are conducting research, experiments and exercises to make them a reality. But even as the troops are helping us build the future force, they are still part of the current force, and still ready for today's missions. They can stand on the border of the present and the future, and do both equally well.

We have tried to sustain the current force and prepare the future force under the fixed budget of about $250 billion a year. But to pay for the cost of day-to-day operations and support, DoD has had to push our modernization investments further and further into the future. Balancing our investment in the present versus the future was one of the major challenges of the QDR. And so we examined three different strategic paths.

One path is to focus more on current dangers and opportunities. This option does not ignore the future, but sees today's threats demanding more attention and tomorrow's threats far enough away to give us ample time to respond. This option would maintain the current force structure exactly as is. But it would also result in less investment in modernization, that is, a greater aging in major platforms, few new systems and delay in fully exploiting Revolution in Military Affairs.

Another path is to focus more on future dangers and opportunities. This path does not ignore the present, but sees greater dangers over the horizon, including the emergence of a great regional power. This path would devote more resources to building the future force. But to do so would also require significant reductions in the current force. This would sharply reduce our ability to shape the international environment. And this would undermine our security commitments to our allies while potentially encouraging aggressors. And most importantly, it would erode our military capability, stress the troops and put them at more risk in battle in the near and mid-term.

We chose a third path -- to strike a balance between the present and the future. This balance will largely sustain the current force in order to sustain American global leadership and capability to meet current threats. At the same time, this path will also invest in the future force with a focused modernization plan that introduces new systems and technologies at the right pace. We can afford this plan by making some marginal reductions in the current force, without undermining combat capability. For instance, we can modestly reduce the number of our active, reserve and civilian personnel, get more out of our newer, more capable ships, aircraft and other platforms.

But more importantly, we can reduce our support structure and make it perform better at less cost by harnessing the Revolution in Business Affairs. In other words, we can sustain the shooters and reduce the supporters -- we can keep the tooth, but cut the tail.

Right now there is too much fat in the tail. Our infrastructure is still too large for our force structure today. Our purchasing system is still too cumbersome, slow and expensive. Our logistics system has too many people. We still do too many things in-house that we can do better and cheaper through outsourcing. And yes, the Office of Secretary of Defense is too big and too bureaucratic. Across the board, we've got to streamline, downsize and buy more off the shelf. We've got to consolidate, computerize and commercialize.

We need to cut the fat from defense not just to save money, but also to make the Department every bit as agile, flexible and responsive as the troops we support.

Ultimately, though, cutting the fat from defense depends on Congress. It was Congress that deregulated the defense acquisition system so we can buy our systems, services and supplies better, faster and cheaper. Now we need to deregulate defense across the board, and we need Congress's support and Congress to resist the temptation to respond with, Not yet, not here, not now, and not mine.

We have to ask Congress to make fundamental -- and inescapable -- choices about what is more important: Is it depots in government hands or high tech weapons in soldiers' hands? Protecting facilities or protecting forces? Preserving local defense contracts or promoting solid enlistment contracts?

The choices come down to this: Do we want to build a force structure for the 21st Century? Or do we want to protect the infrastructure of the 20th Century?

On the eve of World War II, Walter Lippman said something about choices then that 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. In defense, there is nothing for nothing anymore.

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