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Remarks to the Boston Chamber of Commerce
Remarks as prepared Secretary of Defense Willaim S. Cohen, Boston Marriot Copley Place, Boston, Mass., Monday, November 09, 1998

Thank you, Tom. A special thank you for delaying your tee time. That really is quite a sacrifice for any avid (inaudible). Paul Hollister (phonetic), the members of the chambers, (inaudible) Phillips, who was instrumental in calling Janet to twist my arm to get here today, it didn't take much twisting at all. But I am sorry she couldn't make it this morning. We both had a very long evening at the White House last night with the Czech president, Vaclav Havel, and we have Steven Spielberg in Washington for a showing today of his magnificent movie, Saving Private Ryan, which he is going to be hosting as well.

Charles (inaudible), wherever you are, I hope you will continue to spread all of those great stories about our athletic exploits which, in my mind, grow larger and larger every year at Bowdoin College. But Charlie was a great football player at Bowdoin college, which is not known for its great football teams, but he was a great football player. (Inaudible), and (inaudible) is sitting (inaudible). Good to see you.

It is always a special pleasure for me to come back to Boston. As Tom mentioned, I have spent some time here in law school. And I remember how at the start of the year the faces and the city seem to change and all through the seasons. And if you're a student, in those days you had to wrestle for hours and hours with those timeless types of questions. Will I pass? Will I fail? Do the Red Sox have a chance?

The very first day of law school, I had a man named Paul Fishkin (phonetic), who was one of my professors. And he gave an admonition that day. He said, look to your left and look to your right, because one of you will not be here at the end of the year. And he was simply expressing the probabilities that because of the pressures of law school some would quit and some would fail. But, inevitably, at least a third of the class would be missing by the end of the year, perhaps up to 40 percent. But Boston had a reputation and maintained that reputation of being a tough city, of beans and cod and brilliance. Oliver Wendell Holmes called it, "the thinking center of the continent and therefore the planet."

A little bit of hyperbole, perhaps, but in those days at the time of issue, it certainly was accurate and, even today, if you consider the number of patents that are granted, the number of colleges and universities in the region, the number of businesses that are created by technology transfers and research and development, I would tell you around this country there are mayors and governors all trying to recreate the kind of synergy between industry and education and government that Boston has had for many, many decades.

And we at the Defense Department, we know the value of technology based on research being performed at universities and all the businesses in the area. Lincoln Laboratories, for example, was instrumental in developing the cruise missile, which, as you know, is a vital part of our weaponry. We have students and faculty at Harvard, and Tufts, and M.I.T. who are working with our researchers at Hanscom Air Force Base to advance the field of photo-optics. And I can give you example after example. The point I would like to make is that we really can't afford to allow this rare combination of talent and innovation and infrastructure in this area to suffer.

As our defense needs become more and more dependent upon information technology, we need Boston more than ever. And so I want to commend you, Paul, and the Greater Boston Chamber for getting out in front of this issue to protect R&D funding through the efforts that you mentioned, the National Business Coalition (inaudible) Research. With the speed of the world economy today and the rapid changes in the nature of the threats we face, universities and industries in this area simply can't afford to miss a step and fall behind. And of course, what happens here, will have repercussions throughout our entire continent.

We've talked a lot in Washington about a balanced budget, and that is important. And spending on national security is a vital part of that equation. [But] there is always room for progress. And, in the absence of any kind of substantial budgetary increases, we're going to be taking a number of steps to preserve that R&D funding.

We're going to eliminate excess overhead and duplication by combining some of our research labs and information with university centers. We're going to tighten up the management criteria so that research funding is not going out to other projects. We're going to integrate the R&D of various services. For example, the Navy and the Air Force are going to be integrated so they can draw upon the Army research for chemical and biological weaponry. We're encouraging and facilitating technology transfer agreements. We're compressing the time needed to go from research to prototyping. All of these things are being done now because we understand how important it is going to be to stay at least a generation or two ahead of those who would mean us harm. And that means that all of those activities out on Route 128 are going to continue to be very important to the United States.

I'd like move on a little bit. I know you want to ask some questions this morning. I'd like to talk a little bit about national security (inaudible). I mentioned that earlier this week Janet and I were in New York. I had to address the Council on Foreign Relations. That morning, Secretary Henry Kissinger addressed the group followed by the President at noon. And I had the occasion to speak that evening. I told them the situation is somewhat reversed today with the President and the Vice President coming in tonight. But we're spreading a similar message.

When I got to New York City early, I went down to Wall Street; they were building an ark. I heard a number of them refer to the Big Board as the Wailing Wall. And then I went to see one top CEO of a company. I walked into his office, and there on the back of his wall was one of those surreal types of paintings, a Dali-esque type painting. It was a giant watch that was melting in the sun and bones of cattle were bleached white from the sun. And over the top of that painting it said:" ... And Merrill Lynch is still bullish in the market." (Laughter.) I got a little bit of inspiration from that.

I'd like to begin with a couple of quotes that I keep pasted to my desk. "Our earth is degenerate these later days. Bribery and corruption are common. Children no longer obey their parents. Every man wants to write a book. And the end of the world is evidently approaching." Sound familiar? It was written on the Assyrian tablets some 4,700 years ago.

The second quote. "It's a gloomy moment in the history of our country. Not in the lifetime of most men has there been so much grave and deep apprehension Never has the future seemed so uncertain as it does at this time. The domestic situation is in chaos. The dollar is weak throughout the world. Prices are so high as to be utterly impossible, the political cualdron seethes and bubbles with uncertainty. Russia hangs, as usual like a cloud, dark and silent upon the horizon. It's a solemn moment for our troubles and no man can see the end."

With the exception of the dollar being weak, and (inaudible) strong it sound pretty relevant today. It sounds like it might have been in the op-ed page or maybe even a lead editorial in the Boston Globe or in the Wall Street Journal. In fact, it appeared in Harper's weekly magazine, 1897.

And so I mention these two quotes to try to put into context any of the troubles we can see spreading across the globe today. There have always been difficulties and we've always had dangers. And we've always had to cope with them, and we will today, in a somewhat different dimension today, but nonetheless. If you look back historically you will find that all of our forefathers and mothers had to contend with similar types of challenges.

Whenever I walk from my office in the Pentagon down to the National Military Command Center, I pass along the corridors filled with quotes. And there are a couple favorites of mine. One is from Robert E. Lee. He said, "I was too weak to defend, so I attacked."

Those are the words you might have put them in the mouth of Joshua Chamberlain, a great man from Maine who won the battle of Little Roundtop. You may recall that story that (inaudible) the 20th Maine. He was defending Little Roundtop and was told to defend it all costs. And as the Confederate forces were approaching, the men ran out of ammunition, they had nothing. So he said he had only one thing he could do, and that was order his men to fix bayonets and to charge. And that is precisely what they did.

They routed the Confederacy at that time, turned the Civil War around, and he became a great civil war hero. I mention him because Charles (inaudible) and the others will appreciate this, he also was -- prior to the Civil War -- a professor of oratory and he went back after his success from the war, became governor for three terms, and then retired as a professor, once again (inaudible). Those were his words as well, "I was too weak to defend so I attacked."

There is another quote, which all of you are familiar with from Proverbs, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." What I would like to talk about just for a moment today is the vision I have for a strong, flexible national defense in a world that is increasingly complex and dangerous.

The threats I divide into three major categories.

  • Transnational terrorism, which you're reading a lot about these days.
  • The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. By that, I mean, of course, nuclear weapons. What comes to mind quickly is Pakistan and Indian. Both biological and chemical, we're seeing a tremendous proliferation of that capability. With the kind of science and technology that is available on the Internet even, that is going to continue to expand.
  • The third category would be ethnic, religious, economic strains that undermine the security and stability throughout the world. We're all aware that we no longer face a balance of terror. We don't have the Soviet Union that we had to contend with. We see a disturbing situation in Russia. We're not quite sure how that will unfold in terms of the political realignment and what course of action Russia may take. We may see a return to Gorbachev (inaudible) without Gorbachev, but that is a matter we can discuss perhaps at a later time.

We don't have a Soviet Union, but we do have a different type of terror, and that is terrorism. And terrorism is likely to be with us for some time to come. We know that they could strike at any time, at home as well as abroad. They struck at home in the World Trade Center, they tried to set off a chemical weapon in that bombing attack. They were unsuccessful at it. They nonetheles caused great damage. We have seen attacks take place in Tokyo subways with sarin gas. All those kinds of threats are going to continue to be with us for some time to come.

And so we have this proliferation of threats compared to where we were just about a decade or two ago. Our national security policy rests on four essential pillars. We need to have bipartisan support or consensus for our national policy. We have to have budgets that are adequate to support the objectives we set for ourselves. We need to have international cooperation [for] the third pillar, and also inter-agency cooperation, oddly enough, for the fourth pillar.

Let me just say a few words about bipartisanship. President Clinton, when he turned to me and asked me to serve in this capacity, was taking a chance. I don't think there has ever been a case in my memory where the head of one party has invited an [elected] political figure of another to join his cabinet. If it has been done -- perhaps it was done during the Kennedy administration, John Kennedy asked a Republican, who was then the head of the Ford Motor Company, Bob McNamara to serve in his administration but I think that is the only other occasion. But there has never been a case where an elected official from one party has been invited to serve in the cabinet of an another.

And what the President wanted at that time was to send a signal that we had to put aside any kind of partisan consideration when it comes to national security. It transcends any kind of political calculation, because we know that what happens in Moscow, Baghdad, and Pynong Yang will have a direct impact in Minneapolis, Boston, or Portland. You can see the benefits of this kind of cooperation when you look at NATO enlargement.

Last night at the White House there was a moving testimonial. Vaclav Havel was one of the great heroes throughout the world for his stand for freedom. I pointed out when I met with Havel yesterday that I recalled when I first heard him speak at a joint session of Congress back in the early 90's and his words still stayed with me. He said at that time, "Things are happening so rapidly, we have little time to be astonished." And if you think about what has taken place just over the last couple of years globally, we still have those tigers. The little tigers grow up to be big tigers in Southeast Asia, they're wounded tigers and their economies are really pretty rocky right now. But [look at] what has taken place in Russia itself, [it has gone] from a strong Boris Yeltsin standing on top of a tank shaking his fist at those who would try to overthrow the government at that time to where we are today. So the world is changing very, very quickly.

But when we come together on an issue like NATO enlargement, it passed overwhelmingly in the United States Senate (inaudible) for ratification and (inaudible). So we are spreading the kind of security and stability that Western Europe has enjoyed since after World War II to Central and Eastern Europe. And with that spread of stability, there is a prospect to attract investment. You, as businessmen and women, understand this better than anyone. You are not about to make investments in the areas that are not stable nor profitable. So if there is stability, there is a chance to attract investments and to attract investors and [there is] the chance of prosperity. If you have prosperity, you can help spread democracy. So you have what we call a virtuous circle that we promote. So that came about through NATO enlargement.

Secondly, we have something called the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act -- that is a fancy name -- otherwise known as the Nunn-Lugar Act. And what we have there is two prominent senators, Richard Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn, who came together to sponsor legislation that would provide money to the former Soviet Union to eliminate nuclear weapons and chemical weapons. As a result of the Nunn-Lugar funding program we have three countries now, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine, that no longer have any nuclear weapons.

And prior to the fall of the Soviet empire, those three countries were the third, fourth, and fifth largest countries [with respect to the size of their nuclear arsenals]. They no longer have any. These are the kinds of programs that we have to continue to promote and reach across the aisle to support a strong foreign and national security policy. To do that, we need adequate budgets.

Now what we're seeing today in our military is that we have downsized. We have reduced the size of our forces about 36 percent. But even as we reduce the size of the force, we are deployed in more and more areas. So you've got a smaller force being deployed in more areas and operating at a much higher tempo than perhaps any time in our recent history. And that is having an impact.

On the one hand, we want to have those forces forward-deployed. That is part of our strategy. We have a strategy that is called shape, respond, prepare. We want to be forward-deployed when we have our people, we have Colonel Robeson here who is a special assistant to me, and he is one of the fine young officers that we have in the Marine Corps. We have 100,000, not all just like him but close. There are 100,000 throughout the Asia-Pacific region. We have 100,000 in Europe. We had some 20,000 in the Gulf. We have 37,000 in Korea. What we are doing is we are shaping the environment in ways that are advantageous to us. We want to continue that. We also have to be able to respond to any other contingency, whether it is a humanitarian rescue mission or a peacekeeping in Bosnia, whether it's going to war, if we had to, with Iraq, Korea, or any other area.

We have to have the flexibility to do all of that. And then we have to cover the tough part as well, and we can do that, but what about the future, how we do we take the (inaudible) research and development (inaudible)? How do we save enough money out of our budget to put into investing, into the procurement of new technology. And that is where we've (inaudible).

And we now are finding ourselves taking money out of procurement, putting it into current readiness. So something has got to give under these circumstances when you've got a fixed budget and you're trying to balance a need to have readiness, quality of life for troops, and at the same time have enough money left over for the new, sophisticated systems, which will keep us one or two generations ahead of any other country.

We're seeing some fraying at the edges. The danger is that that fraying will start to spread and turn into a tear, so we're trying to address that right now. We're doing it through adopting the Revolution of Military Affairs. We have remarkable technology. (Inaudible) can probably tell you about some of the things that Raytheon is doing, but we have so many high tech firms now who are contributing so much to our national security policy. We have the ability to see through the fog of war. If you go out to our experimental stations in such areas as Fort Irwin, California, you will see that we are experimenting with UAV's, unmanned aerial vehicles.

They send a picture of the entire battlefield directly down to the war fighters on the ground so the (inaudible) troops who are in their HUMVs or tanks. They have a computer bolted right to the dashboard, can look out and see everything on the battlefield, everything. They can see where their enemy is. They can see where their colleagues are and have total dominance over that one. That will reduce chances of accidentally hitting our own people by knowing exactly where the enemy is. That is remarkable technology.

It is going to require the best and brightest people to operate it. And then, as Colonel Robeson and I were talking this morning on the way in, it's not only having the technology, but having the quality people who can make the kind of judgment that is necessary to take advantage of that technology. If you have great technology but not great people, it doesn't do you very much good. And that is one of the challenges we have.

I must tell you that you all are part of the problem we're having in the military today. You're part of the problem, because you are drawing from the same pool that we want. We try to look out and get the best and the brightest people to come into the military. We need them. All of this high technology requires the best and brightest minds that we can attract. But you're doing so well out there, the economy is doing so well that we are having a little difficulty today attracting that young person into the military in the first instance.

We're still hitting our goals for the most part. The Navy is going to be about 7,000 people short this year as far as their recruitment goes. We go through the recruitment and training and the leading, but how about the retention? And that is where we're having the biggest trouble because they can look out at the private sector and say, "You know, I can do twice or three times the amount as far as income is concerned, be at home virtually every night, and not have this kind of stress on my family."

So those are the kinds of pressures that we're having when you have a smaller force, being more rapidly deployed more often. And there are families that (inaudible). You're away for six months. You come back. You're gone again. It puts tremendous strain upon that family structure. So these are things that we're trying to cope with now to try to reduce that operational tempo, to try to manage people better so they will feel that they've got a government and a country that cares about their quality of life. And that is something we're trying to manage very directly now.

International cooperation. Let me touch upon that quickly. We are the so-called 911 force: whenever there is a problem in the world, they pick up the phone and they call the United States. They do it because they recognize that we are the best in the world. And we take great pride and satisfaction when we hear people say we're the only superpower in the world today. We are. But what exactly does that mean? What does it mean for you? What are the burdens of being a superpower? And exactly what are the benefits? These are the kinds of existential questions that we have to ask ourselves as a nation. What is it we want to do and to be, and who are we as far as our role in the world? And if we are to be that kind of a positive democracy-leading country that promotes capitalism and free markets, freedom of speech, free institutions, control over the military, [and works] against the human rights abusers. If we're going to maintain that role, are we prepared to pay the price for it? So we need an examination on our part as well. And if we are, what do we get out of it?

If we look at Iraq, once again, Saddam Hussein is attempting to achieve two things. He wants to get rid of the inspectors, and he wants to get rid of the sanctions that are imposed (inaudible). He wants inspectors gone because they are meddlesome, they're troublesome. I've tried to point this out to as many audiences as I can in Washington and elsewhere. It is very unrealistic for us to expect 120 inspectors -- we have a total, I think, of 120 UNSCOM inspectors, and they go out in numbers of 20 and 30 at a time, maybe 40 at the best. Now think about the job that they have. They have to go out looking for evidence of chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons or just the research for it in a country the size of all of New England, plus New York, plus New Jersey, plus Pennsylvania. And you're asking them to go out and look through haystacks to find any computer printouts, any disks, any sort of evidence that they are in fact continuing their efforts to build biological and nuclear weapons. A very tough job.

I've tried to turn it a different way, to say [that] in addition to that, he had the affirmative obligation to go forward, to prove what he had said he has done. Mainly, [he said], "I destroyed everything." We say, "All right. Prove to us what you destroyed, where you destroyed it, (inaudible)." They keep lots of records over there. And of course they've been unwilling to do that. And that is the reason why the sanctions go on. So he is trying to keep inspectors out and then he wants to get rid of the sanctions, believing that most of the countries who now have imposed the sanctions will grow weary. They call it sanctions fatigue, and that is what he is hoping to achieve today.

The United Nations to date has come down very hard. They said, "No, no we're not going to even give you any consideration about reviewing those sanctions until you fully comply." So far, the United Nations and the Security Council have (inaudible), but they are more tests coming in the next few days and the next few weeks because Saddam Hussein is determined to challenge the validity of the inspections, the people who comprise the inspection teams and the entire operation.

I'd like to say a couple of words on Iran. Iran is a country of -- you may have seen this morning's news that we may, the Secretary of State may have an opportunity to meet with some officials in the coming weeks -- but it's a country we have to maintain some hope for and also some caution. On the one hand we've been hopeful that the President Khatami is a moderate, that he represents a new change in Iranian domestic policy at least. He has yet to demonstrate that he can transfer that domestic support of change at the domestic level into a security policy because Iran still has not walked away from supporting terrorism. It still continues to undermine the Middle East peace process and continues to export technology which will be contributing to the weapons of mass destruction, missile technology. So we want to keep an open mind about Iran, but we also are very wary. We want to make sure that any big changes are consistent with our goals.

North Korea, I can't tell you any more about North Korea than what you read in the papers. It's the most closed society in the world today. And we think it is important, however, to try to continue the so-called Agreed Framework. They were developing a nuclear capability. If North Korea were to develop a nuclear capability, that would cause great instabilities throughout the entire Asian-Pacific region. Given their recent missile tests, you can see that Japan might get nervous about that, as well as South Korea and every country in the region. So the administration started a few years ago the so-called Agreed Framework, where we contain their ability to make nuclear weapons in exchange for us supplying heavy fuel oil and the Japanese and the South Koreans helping to build two nuclear reactors.

In recent days we've seen that they may be in violation of that. We don't know. They've been digging and building an underground facility which we're not sure what it is, but we're going to insist that we have access to it to make sure they haven't violated the agreement. In the mean time, they have caused great consternation with their attempt to launch a satellite. Because if you can launch a satellite, they can launch an (inaudible). And that is everybody's concern.

So we are continuing to deal with North Korea. We are going to make a best effort to enforce the Agreed Framework, but it also requires something on our part. We have not paid our share of the heavy fuel oil this year. And it doesn't amount to a lot of money, in terms of what the consequences could be -- I think it's around $36 million that we have yet an appropriation for and Congress is justifiably concerned about this. Congress looks out and says, "Wait a minute, here we are helping to feed the North Korean people. They're continuing to build missiles instead of feeding their people. They continue to cause instability in the region, why should we do anything?" The answer is, if we don't continue to try to enforce that agreement, then they may very well start back on the path of developing nuclear weapons and all that that entails as far as our (inaudible).

Let me conclude here, so we have time for your questions. We are living in an era of transition, and there is a scene that comes to my mind [from] Three Days of the Condor. We saw that movie: it was a Robert Redford movie based on a book, it was called Six Days of the Condor. But in the movie itself, there is a scene between a young intelligence officer and an older man who used to serve in the OSS. And the young intelligence officer turns to the older man and says, "Tell me something." He says, "Do you miss the good ol' days?" And the older man looked at him and said, "No, I don't. But I do miss the clarity of it all." And that is something that we have to consider even today, [it] is the absence of clarity, the persistent opaqueness of a future that makes formulating a national security policy so challenging.

And in the past, we have always had oscillating between over-committing our forces and resources and then turning to the isolation and indifference to events in distant lands. We have to be very selective in our use of military force, and always for the purpose of serving our interests and that of our allies. But we cannot ignore our larger responsibilities of promoting our ideals and influence.

And T.S. Eliot, a favorite poet of mine, said that between the idea and reality, between the motion and the act, lies a shadow. And somewhere in that shadowland, there between romantic globalism and narrowly defined pragmatism, lies the basis for conceptually sound and politically grounded policy that will allow the United States to continue to play this type of role in international affairs.

I want to thank you for inviting me. I know you have some questions. I will try to answer those questions as best I can. (Applause.)

Q: Thank you very, very much. I do get the sense that there is clarity at our Defense Department in our leadership. (Applause.) As we have said, we have, do have pieces of paper on your table. Celeste Knight (phonetic) has been madly writing your questions. We encourage you to write down questions, raise your hands. Members of our staff are circulating right now, but Celeste and I did have a couple of questions.

One is, with reference to the Soviet Union, you referred to them, what are the military risks associated with the meltdown of the Russian economy, and how do we minimize our (inaudible)?

A: It's an excellent question. As a matter of fact, I have to call my counterpart, the Minister of Russian Defense, Mr. Sergeyev (phonetic) tomorrow, there is a great danger to simply watch the meltdown taking place in Russia. That is why we have tried to maintain as much contact as possible.

You recall that President Clinton went to Russia and spent some time with Boris Yeltsin and appeared on the cover of magazines about the respective state of affairs in our country and their country. But he felt it was important to go to indicate that we are committed to helping Russia resolve its problems, Russia can turn one of two ways. They may end up trying to pursue the course that (inaudible). And that is where they try to have one foot in the camp of communism and the other in the camp of capitalism. Gorbachev tried that a few years ago, and it didn't work.

And so they may try to get through this period of time by providing some measure of stability to the people because the people are truly frightened. They're losing their savings. The ruble has been depreciating dramatically. They're closing the banks. They can't get their money. There may be food shortages. All of that could produce a chaotic situation. So what we're hoping is there will be some measure of stability.

We have been always concerned about security of the nuclear forces. They still have about 30,000 nuclear weapons. And while the strategic systems are well under control from what we can see, you also have a situation with the Army. Members of the Army haven't been paid for six months or more, and they're living under conditions that you would not wish on any of our soldiers to live in. So we maintain very close contact with them. We have exchanges at a number of levels, mine and at the military level as well, and we will continue to do that and hope that we can help them get through this period of time. Because it is in our interest to see them reform their society, their economic system, but also reform their conventional forces.

It does not serve our interest for their conventional forces to collapse and then have them simply rely upon nuclear weapons, saying, "If we get in trouble, we can always use our nuclear weapons." That is not a very viable situation for any of us. So we're working closely with them. We're trying to help them, provide technology, provide information.

We have something called a Y2K problem coming up, I've heard. It's something that I don't think they have focused on yet. But think about the implication of it. If we don't solve our own Y2K problem, as far as all of our computer systems what happens if suddenly there should be a shut down of the Soviet early warning systems on December 31, 1999? Do they think a strike is coming? Do they think this is something manipulated by the United States and the West? It could pose a very dangerous situation.

So, we are working closely with them to help them deal with the problem, the Y2K, as we find that we are able to do so. We're not there yet. We're working very hard. We've got many of our systems now under control at DoD, certainly those that pertain to nuclear systems -- strategic systems. That is the kind of assistance that we're giving to the Russians. We're hoping there will be a period of stability and that they can stabilize the economic situation (inaudible).

Q: My concern that there may not be many questions in the audience has not been fulfilled. So I have a number, and I'm trying to quickly categorize them. There are a set of questions that relate to budget-related issues. Let me summarize one of those questions. Could you comment on the merits of the various burden-sharing proposals that are being discussed in the Congress, and how do we as a country balance our own fiscal resources with that of our partners whom we seek to protect?

A: First of all, there is the notion that somehow we are carrying burdens that are in someone else's interests. For example, when we look at Southwest Asia and the Gulf, questions always arise when you talk about Saddam Hussein. Is it necessary to enforce the sanctions? Is there the possibility of conflict? Why should we do this for the Saudis? What about the Iranis or the Omanis, et cetera? What we have to understand is we are not over in the Gulf to simply protect the Gulf's interests. We are there to protect our interests.

We have a major interest in seeing to it that there continues to be a steady supply of energy for the world. And so the notion that somehow this is something we're carrying for the benefit of someone else is not true. It is not accurate. We are there because of our own self-interest. Now we could reduce that self-interest by saying, "Let's just have more conservation, something that we should do in any event. Let's stop having cars that go 65 and 75 miles an hour highways. Let's limit that down to 55." Or, "Let's open up Alaska to more oil exploration. Let's forget about environmental concerns and just start consuming our own domestic supplies."

If you do all of that, it could reduce the dependence on oil in the Gulf. But there are some other things in store here. If there were a shortage of fuel, for example, coming out of the Gulf, we have treaty obligations with Japan and Western Europe, we would have to share the shortage, so to speak, with our obligations. So it is not simply us taking action, and that is why I mention this. We are there because we are helping to preserve a stable flow of energy at reasonable prices without anyone trying to exploit that advantage, and we are promoting economic stability as a result of that. So keep that in mind.

I just met with the South Koreans. We have an interest in preserving that stability and security in South Korea. We have some 37,000 troops there. We have host nation support. Even though they are having great difficulty, we are insisting that they maintain the same level of (inaudible) support. The same in Japan. I met this week with my Japanese counterpart, former counterpart, they're all (inaudible), and I said, "You must maintain the same level of host nation support," which is very high. So we have burden-sharing with our allies and friends, and right now I think that it is appropriate. And I think that it is a fair allocation of those burdens, but it is something that I know comes up in Congress, it comes up every year saying are we getting a good deal?

And if you look at our ability to maintain stability throughout the world, and you weigh that against what the consequences would be of not having stability, then I think you will find that it's in our interest to continue.

Q: There are a series of questions, for lack of a better word, on our state of military preparedness. Let me read one question. Is it still our view of the standard that we must be prepared to engage in two major regional conflicts simultaneously?

A: Nearly simultaneously. There is a slight gap, about 48 days difference. But the answer is yes. We have -- we still have as our strategy our ability to carry out measures in two major regional conflicts. Some would like to go to one conflict strategy. The question I would have for them is which one do you want to give up?

We have, for example, an obligation to defend Southwest Asia, and we also have forces defending the Korean peninsula. Now if you had a one major regional conflict strategy, which one do you want to give up and what signal does that send to the North Koreans? What does that do to the South Koreans? What does that do to the Japanese reaction to that, to have that taken into account? And what would that mean for China as far as filling the gap, the vacuum that we created?

Or you say to give up the Southwest Asian region. And then again, that has consequences, what about the stable supply of energy? So, yes, we still have the strategy -- it's not the strategy, the capability of waging a two major regional conflict capability. But what happens here is, because of the strain on our resources, because we have a smaller force today, it places that second one in a state of being a much higher risk in being able to carry it out. And what I mean by that is, [a] higher risk of a second major regional conflict means that we may not be able to achieve our goals as quickly and [achieving the goals] will come at higher casualties. But we still have the capability of waging two major regional conflicts.

Q: I have a series, Mr. Secretary, of questions dealing with nuclear proliferation. One is: quite simply, how do the recent nuclear tests, particularly those conducted by India and Pakistan, affect our own defense strategy?

A: The tests do not affect our defense strategy. What the tests do is reverse the trend that has been prevalent in the last decade. We have seen, I mentioned before, Kazakhstan, we had South Africa, we had other Latin American countries all give up nuclear weapons.

So the trend has been away from nuclear weapons. What India and Pakistan have done is gone against the trend. And what that means is there is a potential conflict there of nuclear proportions. They've had two or three wars during this century, maybe four, I don't recall. But now if each has nuclear weapons, that raises the stakes quite a bit. So you have great instability in that region. You have an inability of either country to really understand fully what is taking place in the other.

So when you have that kind of lack of intelligence and information, suspicions go up, so the risk goes up. That is one problem. Secondly, there is a problem if they continue to test, they will weaponize their missile systems. That presents a threat that raises it higher. The third type of problem we have is that they may start to transfer some of that nuclear material into other third world countries' hands.

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I was prepared -- I was actually eager -- to leave public service after 24 years on Capital Hill, three or four prior to that time at the local level. I was anxious to become a private citizen. And there aren't too many people, I guess there were more than usual that are willing to give up voluntarily, at least a seat in the United States Senate, which still, if you're looking at it from a legislative point of view is the best job in the world. I was nonetheless eager to simply look at the calendar and say, well, I've got so many years, the years are ticking off pretty rapidly now, if I'm going to have any other career, it is time for me to leave.

And so I had made fairly detailed preparations in another career. I had signed office space in Washington. I had my business cards all printed up. I was negotiating with a law firm. I was finishing up on another novel, and life was going to be sweet. And then I got that call. The President asked me to come down to the White House to meet with him. I was as surprised as anyone that I would be even considered for that position, but I must tell you, once he made the offer to me, that was one of those offers you can't refuse.

The opportunity to serve in this capacity, to be a principle advisor of security matters to the President, to have the opportunity to represent the men and women who are in uniform and protect their interests as they're protecting ours. There is no greater opportunity that any person could have.

I must tell you I take great pride in the fact that I am in this position. I take great pride in the men and women who are in the military. And all of us should be very proud of the job they do for us in protecting us day in and day out. We have the finest military in the world, and everybody in the world also recognizes that.

To be in a position to have some influence on shaping it for the future, of taking us through this transition period and how we're going to reshape our forces to really deal with the challenges of the future, there is no one that could have (inaudible), and I take great pride in the fact that I have this position. And I am grateful to President Clinton for being willing enough, let me say courageous enough, to ask a Republican to serve in his administration. I'm sure it didn't come easy, because there are many Democrats who would like to have this position. And there are many Republicans on the other side of this maybe we don't want to take that position.

But I think everybody understands now, you do not make national security a partisan issue. This is too important for all of us, and I'm grateful I have the job. Thank you. (Applause.)