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Acquisition and Logistics Reform Week Kick-off Ceremony
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon , The Pentagon, Monday, May 22, 2000

General [Hugh] Shelton [Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff], thank you for your kind words this morning. Let me, on behalf of the Secretary [of Defense], welcome this distinguished group to the Pentagon Auditorium.

Thinking of the Goldwater-Nichols Act and looking at this front row is reminiscent of the 1927 Yankees. You have the Army; the Navy; the Commandant of the Marine Corps; [Director of the National Reconnaissance Office] Keith Hall, a key person of that organization whose three letters are now public, the National Reconnaissance Office; [Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology] Dave Oliver, the Deputy Acquisition Czar; the Czar, Jacques Gansler [Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology]; [Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, Paul] Hoeper.

I see [Assistant Secretary of the Navy Research, Development and Acquisition, H. Lee] Buchanan, the Navy Acquisition Czar; [Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Dr. Lawrence J.] Delaney, the Air Force Acquisition Czar; [Commander, Air Force Materiel Command General] Les Lyles, the chief rocket scientist of the Department of Defense, making a guest appearance from Dayton, Ohio; and peering through the bright television lights, it looks also like Kent Kresa up there, the CEO of Northrup Grumman, welcome; [Lt.] General [John] McDuffie, [Director for Logistics, Joint Staff]; and as I peer several rows behind, I see Eleanor Spector [Vice President, Contract Policy, Lockheed-Martin; former Director of Defense Procurement].

Welcome to all of you who are here. I also see Lt. Gen. [Robert] Raggio [Commander, Aeronautical Systems Center], who will testify that in the 1980s I did work acquisition issues long before I came to work other issues like pay raises and medical benefits. So, I welcome all of you here this morning. We’ve moved from the courtyard into the auditorium, but it really doesn’t change our focus. We’re here to talk about the criticality of Acquisition Reform.

Each of you in this audience in one form or another is associated with the leading edge technology that our country can produce today. Whether it’s the engines that power the F-22, the latest in information operations and the systems that are so critical there, or our ability to search the skies with some of the acquisition radars that are on our Navy ships. Each of these are critical elements of how technology is changing, and how the battlefield is changing. So I thank all of you for being integral to this effort of acquisition reform, and welcome you here today, along with the Packard Award winners, and the other distinguished guests.

Winston Churchill once offered this sage advice. "Never try to walk up a wall that’s leaning toward you. Never try to kiss a person that’s leaning away from you. And never speak to a group that knows more about a subject than you do."

In addressing you, the experts on Acquisition and Logistics Reform, I realize I may be violating that last caution. However, I think everyone knows that those of you here are fundamentally changing how we do business in this Department of Defense. So I wanted to take this opportunity to join you today and underscore the importance of the work you do.

A year ago, this ceremony was held during the final days of the largest military operation in Europe since the end of the Second World War. A year later, we can look back on the revolutionary warfare we waged. In the skies over Kosovo, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles hunted for Serbian forces. In space, satellites focused on Serbian targets no matter what the weather or the time of day. In their first combat missions, B-2s stunningly defined the term "global strike," flying non-stop to hit targets halfway around the world. We can look back on 38,000 sorties, not a single combat casualty, and the most precise campaign in the history of warfare.

Today, we see humanitarian missions whose sustenance and support are equally amazing, from the heroics of our peacekeepers in Kosovo to the Herculean logistics of transporting foreign forces to Sierra Leone.

Credit for these remarkable achievements, of course, belongs to many: the men and women who carry out these missions, their commanders who guide them, and you, those of you who ensure that our warriors have the weapons and equipment they need today and the tools and technologies that they will demand tomorrow. Indeed, without you, these amazing feats of troops and technology would simply have been impossible.

This year’s Packard Award winners embody this spirit like few others. They have blazed new trails with bold, innovative and imaginative thinking: for example, applying commercial practices to lower the cost of the Army’s latest all-purpose truck; lowering the cost of maintaining the gun on the Marines’ amphibious assault vehicle; and applying new technologies to boost the capability of the NRO’s Relay Satellite.

These award winners, indeed the entire acquisition and logistics community, remind us that the Department of Defense is on a new track, and it’s also the right track, with savings where it matters, on the bottom line. But, as Will Rodgers famously remarked, "Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there."

I dare say that there is not a single person in this audience, or across this department, who would dispute that we need to continue this work, consolidating and streamlining, cutting excess infrastructure, competing more functions with the private sector and adopting proven, cutting-edge business practices.

Yet, some talk of the cost of reform. Today, however, we should ask, "What is the cost of not reforming?" I would suggest that if we fail to keep pace with the best industry innovations, our forces will fail to keep pace with technology and go into battle without the best weapons. If we fail to make cuts in inefficient and expensive bureaucracies, new acquisitions could be delayed and our airmen will have to make do with ever-aging aircraft. And if we fail to adopt practices that maximize our resources, our forces will find themselves with systems that do not maximize their firepower. Indeed, the acquisition choices we make today will directly affect the military choices we make tomorrow and for decades to come.

Some talk about the risk of reform. Today, these award winners remind us that the real risk is that of standing still. Technology races forward at a blinding speed. Our industry partners know this, so they are seizing the promise of this technology to help enhance our national security. Our adversaries know this, so they are rushing to find new ways to employ technology to undermine our security. Whether we, as a Department, seize that promise and avoid those perils rests in no small measure on whether we too take risks to reform. And so as Secretary Cohen observed last year, "At every level in every area, rather than punish well-meaning errors we need to pursue worthwhile experiments."

Just last week, we marked Armed Forces Day on the parade ground by heralding the unsung heroes of this department, the often unrecognized men and women who are indispensable to every mission we do, the force behind the force. Ladies and gentlemen, you are that force. Indeed, if we are to have the most efficient, most flexible, and most effective military in the world, then we need—and we look to you to provide—the most efficient, most flexible, and most effective support team in the world.

I would close by recalling the words of a president who, perhaps more than any other, embodied an exuberant willingness to embrace progress and look beyond the next hill. Teddy Roosevelt once said, "We Americans have many grave problems to solve and many deeds to do [but only] if we have the wisdom, the strength, the courage, and the virtue to do them." And he added that, "Our nation is that one among all nations of the earth which holds in its hands the fate of the coming years." Those words were said a century ago, and they’re applicable as this new 21st Century dawns.

So on behalf of Secretary Cohen, on behalf of our men and women serving on the front lines, thank you. Thank you for your deeds behind those lines to help solve some of the most pressing challenges in this department, and to help ensure this nation’s peace and prosperity in the coming years.

So as we commemorate this Acquisition Week, on behalf of the Secretary of Defense, I express my thanks. Our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen around the world are the best-equipped force in the world, and that is because of the effort that you bring every day. Whether you’re at the Pentagon, whether you’re at one of our major regional acquisition centers, the work that you do has an incredible impact on the force that uses that equipment. Without you, we would be unable to maintain the critical edge for the 21st Century.

So on behalf of our Secretary of Defense, Jacques Gansler, his deputy Dave Oliver, senior acquisition executives, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, each of you, know that as we pause and think about your service this week, know that we are committed, that we are on the right path, that the revolution truly is occurring and is unfolding in your hands. Thank you very much. [Applause.]