Remarks Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen Council on Foreign Relations New York, New York September 14, 1998
"Security in a Grave New World"
When I leave my office to walk to the National Military Command Center, I pass through a corridor that is decorated with quotations on the walls.
My favorite is one by Robert E. Lee: "I was too weak to defend, so I attacked."
But the most sobering is one from Proverbs: "When there is no vision, the people perish."
Tonight, I want to talk about my vision for maintaining a strong, flexible national defense
in a grave new world characterized by complex threats. These challenges include:
- Transnational terrorism
- Rogue nations rushing to build weapons of mass destruction.
- Ethnic, religious and economic strains that undermine security and stability in key areas
of the world.
We no longer face a single, powerful enemy, as we did during the Cold War.
We don't live with a balance of terror. But we do face terrorists, and we do face the
terrorizing possibility some nation or group will try to use a deadly chemical or biological
weapon against our forces or our homeland.
Because we don't confront a single enemy, we are facing a wider variety of challenges. We are deploying to more places than 10 years ago, and we are doing that with a military that is 36% smaller than at the end of the Cold War.
To deal effectively with these challenges, we must have a national security policy based on
- Bi-partisan support for Defense Policy
- Budgets adequate to maintain the world's best military today and in the future
- International cooperation
- Interagency cooperation within our government
When I became secretary of defense, I announced that my goal was to maintain a bi-partisan consensus for strong national security policies. The security issues we face today transcend partisanship. They aren't Democratic or Republican challenges; they are national challenges.
What happens in Moscow, Baghdad or Pyongyang matters in Minneapolis, Birmingham or Portland.
Any vision for a strong national defense must rest on a foundation of bi-partisan support. We can't lead the world unless we agree on the road to take.
The decision to expand NATO showed the power of a bi-partisan consensus.
Another example is the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, under which we are helping the former Soviet Union diminish its nuclear arsenal. As a result of Nunn-Lugar, Belarus, Kasakhstan, and Ukraine have abolished their nuclear arsenals. After the Soviet Union split up, these countries maintained the third, fourth and fifth largest strategic nuclear forces in the world.
The second key to a strong defense is maintaining budgets that are adequate to meet our challenges, both current and future.
Today our spending on readiness is high. Our forces in Bosnia, Korea and the Gulf -those at the tip of the spear-prove every day that they are well trained, well led and ready to defend U.S. interests.
But we are facing some strains, particularly in the follow-on forces. The Navy and the Air Force are experiencing problems with recruiting and retention, in part because of attractive job offers from the booming private sector. The Army has had to take money out of base operations and infrastructure accounts to pay for readiness.
In any given year, it is tempting to slow development and procurement of future weapons in order to fund today's operations. This is a costly mistake.
Technology now gives the United States an opportunity that no other military has ever had:
the ability to see through the fog of war more clearly and to strike precisely over long
This is what we call the revolution in military affairs. It means fighting with more stealth
and surprise. It means achieving greater effectiveness with less risk.
The Revolution in Military Affairs is NOT just a vision of the future; it is a set of capabilities that we are beginning to use today. Realizing the program's full promise will require new weapons and digital links between intelligence gatherers and warriors. It will also demand that we continue to recruit, train and retain a well-educated force.
Last year I proposed management reforms and base closings designed to produce billions of
dollars of savings that can be channeled into readiness and procurement.
We need to achieve these savings if we hope to maintain the best fighting force in the
world to face future challenges.
The challenges include overcoming the technological difficulties of developing and
deploying effective theater and national missile defense systems.
I am committed to working with the President and with Congress to assure that our armed forces have the resources they need to protect U.S. interests in the 21st century as well as they have in this century.
The third element in my vision for a strong national security policy is international cooperation.
While the United States is the world's undisputed leader, we cannot solve problems alone.
One example is preventing aggression by Iraq. Our policy of containing Iraq is the policy
of the U.N. Security Council. Enforcement of Security Council Resolutions prevents him
from attacking his neighbors and from rebuilding his weapons of mass destruction program.
Saddam Hussein wants to remove U.N. economic sanctions, recover control of his oil revenues
and rebuild his military, including large stock piles of chemical and biological
For years Iraq has been trying to divide the Security Council by pretending that the
dispute is between Washington and Baghdad. It is not. This is a dispute between Iraq and
the U.N. over whether Iraq is going to comply with U.N. mandates requiring it to disclose
and dismantle its program to build nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the
missiles to deliver them.
Last week's Security Council decision to suspend the bi-monthly review of sanctions until
Iraq lives up to its commitments is a set back for Saddam. Despite his efforts, the
Security Council remains unified behind full compliance.
The complex security challenges the United States faces today can't be resolved by the
military alone. Soldiers and diplomats have always worked side by side. Now we are
learning in Asia that economists and soldiers share the same interests in stability.
Months ago, I appeared on Capitol Hill with Treasury Secretary Rubin and Federal Reserve
Board Chairman Greenspan to argue for economic support for South Korea. I pointed out
that economic and military security were linked there and in other parts of Asia.
Earlier today, the President noted that security rests on economic growth and development.
One area that illustrates the need for a bi-partisan approach, adequate funding,
international cooperation and close inter-agency coordination is the battle against
terrorism. We can no longer think of terrorists as malefactors who attack American
interests abroad. The World Trade Center Bombing and Oklahoma City have destroyed that
The challenge of terrorism demands that we think the unthinkable--attacks with weapons of
mass destruction on American soil.
The Defense Department is actively engaged with other federal agencies and with State and
local authorities to prepare for such attacks. Two years ago, at the direction of
Congress, the Department of Defense started a program to train city and state authorities
responsible for emergency medical, fire fighting, hazardous material, police, and other
services. State and local officials are the first respondents--the people who will be
first on the scene if an attack occurs.
So far, we have already trained nearly 10,000 first responders in 30 cities, and another
25 cities will receive training in the coming year. Our program is specifically designed
so that the people we train become trainers themselves. This approach will greatly
magnify our efforts to produce a core of qualified first responders across the nation.
The Department of Defense is providing other support services, such as establishing 10
Rapid Assessment, Identification and Detection Teams in the National Guard. These new
RAID teams will quickly reach the scene of an incident in order to help local first
responders figure out what kind of attack occurred, its extent, and the steps needed to
minimize and manage the consequences.
Getting prepared for such a potential attack is extremely complicated, given the wide
range of possible threats and the many players at the local, state and federal levels.
Earlier this summer the President acted to expand and improve coordination of federal
efforts. We have made significant progress already and expect more in the coming months.
We hope, for example, to consolidate all support to state and local officials into one
lead federal agency. Other agencies, such as the Department of Defense, will play an
active support role.
So far we have had several false alarms, such as the anthrax hoaxes in Wichita, Washington
and Las Vegas. We had one close call here in New York. The World Trade Center bombers
attempted, fortunately without success, to develop a chemical weapon capability to
supplement their truck bomb.
And we know that Usama bin Laden wants chemical weapons and has worked to acquire them.
These facts, combined with the multiple chemical weapons attacks in Japan by the Aum
Shinrikyo cult, should make clear that the threat is real. We must be prepared.
Terrorism demands a coordinated, resolute response, but there is one response we should
never indulge. We must never allow messengers of hate to alter the course of America's
role in the world.
We must be mindful that those who engage in terror will exploit any display of fear or weakness. We have a choice: fight or fold in pathetic cowardice.
America cannot retreat behind concrete bunkers and barriers and expect to be a force for good in the world--or even to remain secure in our own homes.
And no government can permit others to attack its citizens with impunity, if it hopes to retain the loyalty and confidence of those it is charged to protect.
We can remain free only as long we remain strong and brave. We intend to do precisely that. All should know that we will not simply play passive defense.
Those who sponsor or support acts of terrorism are not beyond the reach of America's military might. We demonstrated this after the attacks against our embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
Those who attack American citizens will find no safe harbor, no haven in which to hide.
A successful fight against terrorism will require discipline, patience and strength. There is no doubt that terrorists will test our resolve. There is no doubt that we will meet the test.