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Fletcher Conference on Strategic Responsiveness
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon, Crystal Gateway Marriott, Arlington, VA, Friday, November 17, 2000

Thank you very much. One of the things I've learned in 25 years [of public service] is that if you're the last speaker in a conference, the last thing that you should come with is a prepared text. [Laughter.] Everything that can be said has probably been said. So I would simply like to make a few brief remarks—and I'll take off my watch to keep them truly brief [laughter]—and then try to do as much of a Q&A with the audience as is possible.

Here we are. I thought we'd be in the middle of a transition right now. I'm not going to tell any election jokes. [Laughter.] Chuck Blanchard [General Counsel, U.S. Army] said it's amazing what life is like if you don't have the TV on all day. [Laughter.] This is true. I think it was Thursday of last week when we essentially turned the TV off and went back to work. As Secretary Cohen said at a morning staff meeting, "It looks like we'll be on the job a little while longer." And, in fact, that's what we've been doing.

So here we are, still waiting. But however the vote count comes out, I am reminded of the quote by John F. Kennedy the morning after the election of 1960, when he said that "the margin is thin, but the responsibility is clear." And as we work through this process, as we go through what law and good sense require to ultimately count every vote, the next President of the United States will be able to make that same statement—the margin will be thin, but the responsibility will be clear.

Now, I've had the advantage of working both on Capitol Hill as staff director of the House Armed Services Committee, as well as in the Air Force, and as the Department’s personnel chief, which was a great job, and now as Deputy Secretary of Defense. So I've been able to see the system respond [to transitions] in a number of ways and in a number of areas.

But I think that coming together and actually discussing strategy is not only extremely important, it is also unique. It is the ultimate foundation of budgets we put together, of deployments, of foreign policies and of deputies, as well as the principals, who meet at the NSC [National Security Council]. So [this is] the critical discussion of what the military strategy of the United States should be, but also what our foreign policy and our diplomatic strategy should be. Indeed, they are intertwined and clearly critical.

We've been through a decade of tremendous change and four revolutions. First, [there was] the end of the Soviet Union, with Germany uniting, new members of NATO from the Eastern bloc and new obligations for the United States to move forward in a critical leadership role.

Second, there has been the economic revolution. We started the 1990s with a world dominated by "Japan, Inc." Today, we see the United States [with a balanced] budget and our economy the strongest in the world. We see the remarkable accomplishment of balancing the federal budget. In the early '90s, [when I was] staff director of the committee, we put together markups that had to deal with the Gramm-Rudman amendments of the late '80s, which really started the decline in defense spending. Some [reductions were] driven by the need for deficit reduction, some was driven by the change in the world situation.

Then two years ago, Secretary Cohen and the president came together and we started a period of real growth. The budget was balanced; there was a surplus. The president was clear about his priorities on Social Security, but he was equally clear that reinvesting in defense was a higher priority for him than were additional tax cuts, and he made this clear to the Joint Chiefs.

Now, in the two years since that session at the NDU [National Defense University] between the president, Secretary Cohen, the Joint Chiefs and the CINCs [Combatant Commanders], there have been increases in the defense top line of $180 billion, most of that with the increases in the FY '99 budget, but also in '00 and '01. Twenty-five billion dollars of that $180 billion come from congressional adds. So indeed, that is new investment coming in to the department because the budget is balanced.

Now, in addition to that $180 billion, there are the [presidential] candidates, [who propose] somewhere between $50 billion and $100 billion in addition[al funds] coming into the defense FYDP [Future Years Defense Program]. So if you take those totals – along with $180 billion over the last two years -- there is [substantial] new budget authority coming into the Department of Defense.

Now, there has been a lot of discussion—including by Michele Flournoy [Distinguished Research Professor, Institute for National Strategic Studies and Director of Quadrennial Defense Review 2001 Working Group] and her presentation and work at the National Defense University, and by the Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs, General Hugh Shelton]—about the need to look at requirements in an unconstrained environment. That's important and that's true. But I think it's also extremely significant that we also focus that quarter of a trillion dollars in potential new investment—$180 billion already in the FYDP, and then with the additional dollars to come, plus working as hard as we are to get the new medical [initiatives] scored outside of these numbers—into the Department of Defense.


Those are real dollars, particularly compared to the other critical needs that are involved in the budget debate. So I think that as we sit down and prepare for a QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review] and a new administration, [we should remember that] significant budget resources are moving into the Department of Defense.

So if the first two revolutions were the end of the Soviet Union and this great economic revolution, the third was the revolution in information technologies, of which the Department of Defense is still grasping to absorb the full ramifications. We live in a digital environment. But keeping up with the marketplace and keeping the DOD acquisition cycles up with commercial marketplaces means that we are always struggling to stay current and also stay connected.

The fourth revolution— the revolution in demographics—has had a significant impact on recruiting and retention. As we moved into the late 1980s, and especially in the 1990s, from what's called Generation X—the cohort group that was born between 1965 and 1979—and transitioned to Generation Y—really the offspring or the echo of the baby boomers, which is much larger and with a much different attitude [than Generation X]—we really found ourselves rethinking how we recruit in an information-based economy and in an information-based environment.

In fact, with Fiscal Year '00 just completed, the service that faced the most challenges, the United States Army, was able to meet its recruiting goals when Secretary Lou Caldera swore in his 80,000th recruit. It was hard work. It was roll-up-the-sleeves kind of work. [That success] reflected some of the pay and other benefit initiatives, but it also came from a fundamental understanding of what the demographics of this generation were and how we reach out to them.

So in the '90s, we've been through this period of four revolutions: the change in the threat; the change in global economics; the introduction of information-based systems; and then, finally, dramatic changes in demographics. As Generation Y becomes more dominant -- not only in the economic marketplace, but also in terms of its numbers -- we will by the year 2003 have a comparable recruiting pool as we had in the early 1980s, during the Reagan buildup.

So if the '90s were a time of revolution, I think this first decade of the new century is going to be a decade of transformation, starting with the new investment that I already mentioned. So back to that new president, whose responsibilities will be very clear as commander-in-chief, as the leader of the free world, and as a significant partner in NATO and in the Pacific. How will those responsibilities be manifested with a margin as thin as it will be and with a Senate that may be 50-50 or 51-49 [split between Republicans and Democrats], and a House which will be equally close and just as contentious? How will he lead?

I think that comes to a mixture of policy and strategy. Four years ago President Clinton stepped across the political aisle and selected Senator Bill Cohen of Maine to be Secretary of Defense. It was a bipartisan move. And I think it should serve as a model, not that a Republican has to have a Democratic Secretary of Defense or vice versa, but rather how critical bipartisanship is in the foreign policy area, particularly with limited margins in the House and the Senate.

So I think it will be challenging not only to engage the administration, the executive branch and the Congress in participating in not just simply the QDR discussion of capabilities versus platforms, but to engage the Congress, the president and the military departments in a discussion on the foreign policy of the United States. It is absolutely essential, given the track that we're on.

As a young staffer on the Armed Services Committee in 1985, I was involved in the presentation in the House of Representatives of [the] Goldwater-Nichols [Act]. Goldwater-Nichols has fundamentally changed the way the Department of Defense works. I've spoken with Senator [John] Warner, as well as the secretary and Professor Ernest May at Harvard, about the impact of Goldwater-Nichols. At the time that it was enacted—in addition to creating the "acquisition czar," the undersecretary for acquisition—most of us thought that there were going to be three critical pieces of Goldwater-Nichols that would serve as a long legacy.

One was the Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs] being the chief military adviser to the president. Indeed, that has been realized more dramatically than we ever thought.

The second was an acquisition chain of command, from service acquisition executives going up to the undersecretary of defense of acquisition, ultimately up to the secretary of defense. I think that for the most part, that has been tremendously important and has had a very significant impact on the Department of Defense.

The third piece was the joint requirements examination, now the JROC [Joint Requirements Oversight Council]. Admiral [William] Owens [then-Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff] was the godfather of the JROC, but each of his successors—General [Joseph] Ralston, General [Richard] Myers—have taken the JROC on. I think the JROC is still an organization within the Department of Defense that has much more to do in terms of reconciling the new demands of the CINCs, who want more capabilities for theaters, versus the service chiefs, who look at the unique platforms that are critical to their modernization.

So those three pieces of Goldwater-Nichols were well understood at the time. I think the piece that has been the surprise, and which led to my own comments with Senator Warner, is the fact that the CINCs have become such dominant spokespersons for the foreign policy interests of the United States. CINCCENT [Commander-in-Chief, Central Command], with his enormous AOR [Area of Responsibility], is not just simply the senior military official responsible for military operations such as the no-fly zones and force protection. He is one of the most significant representatives of the United States in Pakistan, in parts of Africa, and certainly in the Middle East. CINCPAC [Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Command] has become a critical regional spokesperson for the interests of the United Sates in terms of our relationships with China, Japan, Korea, Australia, Singapore and the other nations of the Pacific Rim.

So it's very critical that as the CINCs, under this empowerment of Goldwater-Nichols, be examined so that we can more formally incorporate it into the expressions of U.S. foreign policy. I think it's a critical issue, one that the framers of Goldwater-Nichols didn't envision, one that has had a more significant impact than was ever envisioned, and one which I think is critical to the continued and next steps in terms of both a foreign policy and a military strategy.

The QDR is coming. As Deputy Secretary of Defense, I sit and meet with the vice chairman every morning, and then later with the secretary and the chairman. Right now the QDR is dominated by one camp, the CINCs, who really focus on the capabilities that they believe are critical to the two-MTW [Major Theater War] strategy, but also the strategy of other military operations. On the other hand, the Joint Chiefs are really focused on what they believe are the platforms that are critical for the modernization effort and critical, from their service perspective, for military operations in the future.

Now, [there has been] a lot of talk about an unconstrained discussion on capabilities after you've had the discussion on policy and strategy. But when I met with the NDU students about two weeks ago, they said, "Well, you know, these investment dollars that you've talked about, what if they're not enough? What if this unconstrained discussion produces more than that potentially quarter of a trillion dollars that is sort of out there on the table right now?"

Well, in addition to the new requirements, the new capabilities and the new platforms that have to go into procurement as part of the modernization effort, I would say that there are three other critical pieces.

The first is that we have to continue the investment in the men and women of our armed forces, including pay, medical, and housing. In a strategy conference, it's unusual to talk about those three, but you can't really get away from the central fact that the men and women that wear the uniform [constitute our greatest] capability. They are highly professional, and we have to maintain them.

Second, there are new dollars on the table, but we still have to look at the infrastructure. Over the last eight years BRAC {Base Realignment and Closure] was probably the most painful budget issue I had to deal with. In each of the services, the bases that we have have been part of the military community for years. Working with Dr. [John] White [then-Deputy Secretary of Defense] we closed two depots in the Air Force. That was hard. The politics was hard, the substance was hard, the finances were hard. But at the end of the day, it moved the Air Force in the right direction. So at some point, as a way to make the dollars go further, we've got to look and be serious about another BRAC. Whether we have the right size force structure or whether we need more force structure, there is complete agreement that we have too much infrastructure. So we've got to invest in our people, and we've got to make sure that we continue to balance the infrastructure against the capabilities that are so critical.

The third piece is that we have to continue is business reform in the Department of Defense. Secretary Cohen and Dr. [John] Hamre [former Deputy Secretary of Defense] launched the Defense Reform Initiative, [which built on] Dr. White’s preceding work. When John Podesta [White House Chief of Staff] and I met recently with a group of computer CEOs, we [observed that we] don't have the capability in the Department of Defense to stay current from an information systems point of view. They are changing their systems in the private sector every six months. They're moving forward. We are bogged down in two-year cycles, so even with taking software off the shelf we are still behind. And so some of our leading-edge equipment has legacy software in it. That is not a direction that we want to continue in.

But back to the new administration that will be coming in. Their margin will be thin, the thinnest in history. Even if you look at the four contested elections in the 19th Century, we have never had one like this. So, as JFK said, the margin of that new president will be thin, but his responsibility will be clear. And one of the first issues that he will be dealing with will be the criticality of a well-maintained armed forces. And so with that, I'm happy to take questions. Thank you. [Applause.]