Remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
To the Naval Senior Enlisted Academy, Newport, R.I.
Wednesday, July 10, 1996
It's great to be with you this morning. I just returned a
few days ago from an overseas trip, a very sad day in Dhahran,
where I met with the survivors of the bomb blast over there and
discussed with our leadership and with the Saudi government
actions that we can take to catch and punish the bombers and to
enhance the security of our forces.
Then, I also spent three days with our forces in Bosnia and
Hungary, and I spent a day with the fleet in the Mediterranean
and visited three of the ships there in the GEORGE WASHINGTON
battle group. This trip was organized by Master Chief Petty
Officer of the Navy, John Hagan. We spent most of our time on
the ships meeting and talking with the enlisted personnel and
with the NCOs.
This is one of seven or eight such trips that I've taken
since I've become the Secretary of Defense by having the senior
enlisted of each of the services organize a trip. [The trips
are] service specific except that all the senior enlisted come
with us to give them a chance to see what kind of problems [each
service has] and how they're dealing with those problems.
It also gives them a chance to exchange views on issues and
problems facing our military personnel. It's not just show and
tell. It's focused around action. And as the senior enlisted
learn about the problems, we then have a hot-wash on the plane
ride home. We try to decide what the hell to do about [the
problems]. Out of those visits, out of those discussions, have
come plans for action, have come action, have come new
legislation, have come changes in the budget -- all of which are
[designed] to try to make the services a better place to work and
[We do] this not simply because we are soft-hearted.
Nothing like that. It's because we believe that to have a high
quality, ready, highly effective military force, we simply have
to pay attention to these issues. The reason we have such a high
quality military force today, is, first of all, because we
attract the right people. Secondly, because we train them
properly. And, third, because we retain them. In order to
retain them, we have to have interesting jobs. That's where we
have an edge on almost any alternative job you can find.
Military service has the most interesting jobs, the most
challenging jobs in the world.
But along with [interesting work] is the quality of life; we
have to pay attention to that too. If we really want to get the
benefit of our training, we have to retain the people that we've
trained. And therefore, we have to have a decent quality of
life. So, in my assessment of the quality of [our] military
forces, the attention to quality of life is the key to retaining
[people], and therefore, the key to getting the full benefit of
our training so that we will have a high quality force on into
When I visited the carrier battle group GEORGE WASHINGTON ,
[one of our stops was on] an oiler ship, the MERRIMACK. As we
were leaving the MERRIMACK, putting on our life preservers before
we got on the helicopter, I stopped and talked with Yeoman Second
Class Riley. I was deeply impressed with her knowledge, not just
of her job on the ship, but what the whole battle group was all
about. She gave me a very professional briefing on what the
GEORGE WASHINGTON was doing on this mission, why it was
important, why it made a difference to our national security.
This is a sign of real leadership [aboard that ship and] in
that battle group; and of a strong chain of command from the
captain to the seamen. They know the mission, they know the
purpose. All of that builds unit cohesion, a sense of ownership,
and a belief that each sailor makes a difference. [To
paraphrase] Oliver Cromwell: Sailors fight better when they know
what they are fighting for.
The GEORGE WASHINGTON battle group is making a difference.
I was very impressed to see what they had done in their six month
deployment. We were visiting them just as they were concluding
their deployment. They deterred an aggressor in the Gulf as part
of what we call Southern Watch [operations]. They conducted
naval exercises with NATO allies. They had swung over to the
Arabian Gulf in a crisis earlier this year.
We had determined that we had a crisis near Taiwan [with the
Chinese conducting threatening military exercises], and that we
needed to have two carrier battle groups near Taiwan and quickly.
One of [the carriers] was nearby which was the one we ordinarily
station in Japan. There wasn't any other carrier battle group
near. The closest one was the NIMITZ which was in the Arabian
Gulf. So, we redeployed the NIMITZ to come over to Taiwan. The
GEORGE WASHINGTON, in the meantime, was patrolling in the Med.
We did not want to leave the Arabian Gulf open, so we redeployed
the GEORGE WASHINGTON to the Arabian Gulf. All of that was
crucial in dealing with the security issues which we were facing
at that time. This shows the flexibility and the readiness of our
battle groups. And it also showed me that our leaders and our
sailors on those ships knew what the mission was, knew how
important it was, and felt that what they were doing was making a
After I left the battle group, I went on to visit our troops
in Hungary and in Bosnia. Hungary is where we replenish and
supply our forces from in Bosnia. We have a few thousand troops
there doing that and then we have almost 20,000 in Bosnia. I
spent the 4th of July with our forces in Bosnia. We are at the
halfway point in the NATO's IFOR mission. That mission is there
to carry out the agreement called the Dayton Agreement which
spelled out the terms for having a peace in Bosnia.
It's a very unusual situation in that military forces were
sent there to carry out a mission spelled out in about four or
five pages in a peace agreement. We have accomplished -- and on
schedule -- every task spelled out in that Dayton Agreement. We
have separated the warring parties and created a zone of
separation. We have seen all of the weapons moved out of the
zones of separation and moved back into cantonments. Transfer of
the territory has been done and we have maintained security and
stability of that country the full six months we've been there.
As a result, we have had six months of peace in Bosnia. And
to see how far we've come, just think back one year ago [to] what
was happening in Bosnia. What was happening was something called
Srebrenica -- a massacre was taking place in which we believe
several thousand people were killed. Of the U.N. forces that
were there to keep the peace, 11 of them were shackled to pieces
of equipment of the Serbs so that no air action [could be] taken
[against the Bosnian Serbs]. The U.N. was humiliated. NATO was
helpless. That's where we were a year ago.
We moved from there to something called the London
Conference. [There] the Western powers agreed for the first time
on the action that was being promoted by the United States,
[namely] to move [against the Bosnian Serbs] with robust NATO air
action -- first of all, to stop those atrocities, and then, to
force the situation into a peace conference. That happened in
the latter half of last year and it culminated in the Dayton
So, in six months we went from the massacre of Srebrenica to
a peace agreement. Even when we had the peace agreement, some
[made the] forecast that we would not be able to enforce it. I
testified the month before we went into Bosnia and all during
that testimony I heard criticism over and over again that when we
got into Bosnia, we would meet fierce armed resistance from the
Bosnia Serbs; that we would be in a war when we got there; and
that our troops would be attacked and would find themselves in
the middle of a real shooting war.
That has not happened. One of the reasons it has not
happened is because we went in heavy. We probably sent in more
forces than we needed. We probably had them more heavily armed
than they needed to be and we had very robust rules of
engagement. For six months now we've had peace.
Now people are saying why did you go in so heavy? Why did
you have these robust rules of engagement? You didn't need them
after all. If [going in heavy] was an error, that's the side
that I would like to always err on. My own belief is that [the
reason] that we did not meet armed resistance simply had to do
with the fact that nobody felt like messing with that force --
and they still don't.
After we were there a few months, the critics then said,
Well, in the last four springs, there's been a spring offensive.
Sure, the fighting took a lull in the winter, but this spring,
there will be a spring offensive again, and then you'll see the
fighting. What happened this spring was that for the first time
in four years the Bosnians went out and planted the fields. I
flew over the country on the 3rd and the 4th of July, over some
hundreds of square miles. And everywhere I could see down there,
I could see the spring planting coming up. They will have a
bumper crop in Bosnia this harvest time. That's very
important, because we want the people there to have an equity in
sustaining the peace. The way they get that [equity] is to see a
future for themselves.
We still have six months to go. Many challenges remain. In
fact, in many ways I believe the next few months are going to be
the most difficult we have had since we have gone into Bosnia.
The reason for that is that the civil aspects of the Dayton
Agreement call for actions over the next few months which
inevitably are going to cause turbulence in the country. Whether
it be the resettling of refugees, the arresting of war criminals,
the conducting of elections -- all of those factors are going to
challenge the IFOR to maintain peace in the face of very
The key to success during the second half of this year, the
second half of the IFOR mission, is force protection. During my
visit to Bosnia I spent most of my time focusing on what we are
doing for force protection. All of you are familiar with force
protection in a naval context -- decoys, electronic jamming,
personal protective gear, all the training that you get to deal
with damage control.
In Bosnia [today], just as people criticize us for going in
too heavy, now they are also criticizing us for being too
careful. I was there with one of our brigades on the 4th of
July, and two-thirds of that brigade were having a picnic, having
a wonderful time. Where was the other one-third? They were on
guard duty. We have one battalion for every brigade, one company
for every battalion always on guard duty. I went out to visit
the guards. They all had on their flak jackets, their helmets,
and all [were] armed, all were ready for anything that might
Anytime they leave the compound, they go [at least] four
vehicles to a convoy. If they are in a dangerous area, they
carry loaded weapons all the time. They are driving over very
difficult and dangerous terrain with mines everywhere they go.
They are not allowed to go into the town to fraternize. That's
too bad. It many ways it would be better for our civilian
objectives if they could. Because our soldiers, sailors and
airmen are the best diplomats the country has. [But] we just
consider this a force protection issue. And, one really serious
[force protection issue] is the no alcohol policy. They have
been there for six months and haven't had a beer. They are
pretty damn unhappy about that. [But again], it is a force
I discussed the [alcohol issue] with General Nash and
General Joulwan, and they said, no alcohol. I saw the
statistics by the way. In that first six months in Bosnia,
somebody compared it with similar statistics of the previous six
months of that force in Germany. And it turns out that they have
been healthier and safer in the six months in Bosnia than they
had been in the previous six months in Germany.
There is also a personal element to force protection. And
when I met with our troops in Bosnia, I tried to convey the
personal dimensions as well. The first dimension is, never be
complacent. In some ways, they are reaching the most dangerous
period. And because they have had six months of security and
stability, [where] they are not meeting resistance [and where
they are] taking care of themselves; because for six months [they
have been] so effective, there is a danger they will become
complacent in the last part of the mission.
And the second personal dimension of force protection is,
take care of each other. This taking care of each other is an
integral part of our military's force protection package. I saw
that very vividly, and very effectively when I was in Dhahran,
Saudi Arabia. I visited the clinic there that treated the people
who were wounded in the bomb blast. I talked to the doctor who
had treated many of them. He himself had been wounded. He got
some glass in the chest. And the head of the clinic told me that
he had seen this doctor bandaging a patient while somebody was
bandaging him. [That is] taking care of each other.
They also told me that of the 200 people that went into that
clinic, not one of them came in alone. Each of them was brought
in by a buddy. And each one of the buddies had already applied
some preliminary treatment before they got in there. The buddy
system works. When you are in a crisis, when you are in a
difficult situation, training which includes training of the
buddy system will pay off. As NCOs you must ensure that the
sailors in your commands internalize all of these facets of force
protection. Let's make sure that everyone takes it seriously.
And you must set your own example of caring.
I have seen the care and the dedication and the pride of our
sailors most recently just a few days ago. I am proud of what I
have seen. I am proud to be their Secretary of Defense. But I
also understand that this quality and this spirit does not come
automatically. It is the result of leadership. Leadership
counts. That is why you are here.
The Navy has always depended on leadership. In some sense
more than the other services, because the Navy is on deployment
three, six, and nine months [out of the year]. Particularly in
the days before there was radio communications, everything
depended on the leadership on the ship. And for centuries, the
way the Navy developed leadership was twofold. First of all,
picking the right people. Leadership is a quality. So you want
to pick the people who have that quality to the highest degree.
And then secondly, get them to experience a leadership [role].
And in the Navy that happens primarily [when a ship is] under
deployment. That's the history of leadership development in the
If you take those two qualities that I talked about, you can
enhance them. And you can enhance them with education and
training. This academy is dedicated to the belief that you can
take people who are leaders to begin with and who have
[leadership] experience in the fleet, and you can develop those
qualities in them. You can make them better leaders.
I have said [before], and I truly believe, that we have the
best damn Navy in the world. There is no question about that.
That is not arm-waving, that is not flag-waving. That's just a
statement of objective fact. We have great ships, great
airplanes, great submarines, great mess halls. All of those are
important. But really, what gives our Navy its competitive edge,
this distinctive advantage, is its leadership. Especially [our
NCOs]. There is nothing like our NCO Corps in any other Navy in
You are the future leaders of the Navy. This course is
intended to bring out those leadership qualities to the maximum.
And you are not only the future leaders of the Navy, you are the
future of this great Navy that we have. God bless you.