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Nontraditional Programs Are Critical to Future Defense
Prepared remarks of Secretary of Defense William J. Perry , The U.S. Conference of Mayors, Washington, Thursday, January 26, 1995

Thank you very much. The British writer Graham Greene once wrote, "There always comes a moment in time when a door opens and lets the future in." The ending of the Cold War has opened such a door for the United States. The future is out there waiting to come in. And by our actions -- not just my actions, but your actions as well -- we can determine the shape of that future so that we can make this world a better and a safer place for our children and our grandchildren.

That responsibility to make the world a safer place I bear in mind every day as the secretary of defense. Specifically, I kept that in mind when we prepared the department's 1996 budget, ... . Like the budget you prepare, next year's defense budget doesn't just deal with 1996. It looks ahead into the next century to ensure that we have the military forces and the initiatives that we need to prepare for, to deter or, if necessary, to fight a war.

Interestingly, some of the items in that budget that are critical to our future defense are coming under criticism for being nontraditional or nondefense. And indeed, a wide range of programs have been painted with this brush. But I plan to vigorously defend these programs when I go before the Congress. I think of these programs as defense by other means, ways of getting potentially very large payoffs for defense by making relatively small investments in nondefense activities.

Today I'd like to talk with you about a few of these programs, first because it's you and the citizens in your towns and cities that we defend with them and secondly because some of these programs have a direct impact on your communities. I'd like to explain how these programs contribute to our security and why I believe they're good investments for the country.

Let me start with what I will call Exhibit A of defense by other means, the Nunn-Lugar program, a program that does not directly affect your communities but does affect the safety of America as a whole. For the past two years the Defense Department, under this Nunn-Lugar program for which we get funds of about $400 million a year, has been helping Russia and three other former Soviet states -- Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus -- to dismantle and destroy the Soviet nuclear weapon arsenal that was left over from the Cold War. This includes about 25,000 nuclear weapons and a vast complex of facilities and people. This is a grim legacy of the Cold War.

We are dismantling this complex through this Nunn-Lugar program. However, the program is being challenged in the Congress today, and I expect to have to vigorously defend it during the course of the '96 budget. In Congress some critics say that the Nunn-Lugar program will help sustain the Russian military complex. It's interesting because in Russia the critics of the program say it is a U.S. conspiracy to help dismantle the Russian military complex. Obviously both of these critics cannot be right, and indeed neither of them is right. This is one of these fortunate incidents where we can construct a win-win program; that is, a program which is good for both countries.

Last year I went to Pervomaysk in the Ukraine, which is the site of one of the largest and most modern ICBM complexes in the world. And I was invited by the strategic rocket force officer to go down into the control center, down 12 stories and then into this highly secure control center. And there they had the two officers go through the countdown step by step for a missile launch, right up until the last step where they were to launch the missiles. Those two officers had under their control 800 warheads, all of them aimed at the United States. And I can tell you, that was a chilling experience to stand there and watch that countdown proceeding.

We then left the control room and went out to the silos where the missiles were, and they had silos opened up so I could look down. And we walked over to the lip of them and looked down, and there was what we call the SS-24 ICBM in the silo. But missing from the SS-24 were the eight warheads. They were missing because the previous week they had been removed and sent to the factory for dismantlement as a part of this program. In all, over the last two years this program has led to the dismantlement of 2,000 of these warheads which previously had been on ICBMs pointed at the United States. This is the Nunn-Lugar program in action. This is defense by other means.

Another area which I will have to defend in our defense program is what we call dual-use spending -- dual use. These programs are under attack precisely because they are dual use -- that is, because they benefit nondefense institutions, not just defense. But, in fact, this is an old policy in principle. The department pays for a lot of well-established activities with the dual use, many of them benefiting the people of your communities. The National Guard is dual use. It can be called into federal service as a key part of our nation's armed forces. But it also has a domestic mission to respond to local emergencies under the authority of your state governments.

Another example is the 80 joint Air Force-civilian airports spread across the country, serving both the Air Force and civilian needs. And the Department of Defense helps civilian air travel by providing about 20 percent of the nation's air traffic control systems. Of course, this is a great help to the Department of Defense. Without this we would have to have our own separate, independent, costly air traffic control system. But it also helps the communities by defraying some of the expense that they would otherwise have to bear. So dual use is not a new idea. Programs cannot be condemned as nondefense just because they happen to also benefit a civil society.

These initiatives really are critical to defense. And indeed, our victory in Desert Storm was a striking demonstration of the advantage in warfare of a technological edge. And our technological edge today in defense comes from our commercial technology base. The technologies most critical to our defense edge -- computers, semiconductors, software, telecommunications systems -- the United States has the world leadership. But the world leadership does not come from defense. It comes from our commercial industries located in communities all over this country. So we depend, we depend very much, on the commercial base for keeping the technological edge ahead.

Therefore, one of the newest programs we have in our Defense Department is called the Technology Reinvestment Program. This is a program with a relatively modest up-front investment -- in fact, it's about the same as the Nunn-Lugar, about $400 million a year -- that encourages companies to find commercial uses for both military and innovative technologies.

Companies compete for funds for this program. Companies all over the country, some of them in your communities, are competing for these funds. To win a program they have to demonstrate that this new technology can be applicable not only to an important defense need, but also to an important commercial product. That way we get more for the whole country out of what we're spending on the defense dollars, and we get more technology for less cost.

Another way we're looking at how we can cut costs and reduce the overhead in the Defense Department many of you are all too familiar with, and that is by our base-closing process. We have reduced the overall size of the defense structure by about 33 percent in the last seven or eight years, and in that same process we're trying to reduce the infrastructure, including the bases that go with it. To this day we have reduced the bases by about 20 percent. And so clearly we have these two out of line. The force structure has gone down farther than the infrastructure which supports it, so we have to make further reductions in the overhead structure, which is a further reduction in bases.

I will be sending to the Congress in just about another month the fourth and last proposal for base closing in the United States. This is called BRAC [base realignment and closure] 95. This program, this set of bases, will not be as large as the last one, not because we don't need to close more bases from the point of view of saving the infrastructure, but simply because in the previous three BRACs we have closed all of the bases that were relatively easy to close. Everything we do from now on is going to be very difficult. So we have that process ahead of us yet. It's going to affect the communities, obviously, in which these bases are closed.

I can tell you two things relative to that base closing. The first is we will not close any bases that we do not think are necessary to close from the defense point of view. This is a painful process in the Defense Department. We do not make it lightly. And secondly, any bases that are closed in your community, I pledge to you that we will provide full and vigorous support to help the community with the redevelopment and the reuse efforts that will be necessary to convert those bases into a useful and viable entity in your community.

I believe we have a special obligation to the people -- the military, Defense Department civilians and the workers in the private sector -- who helped us win the Cold War, and we owe them more than just a thank you. So these investments up front will cut the cost of defense in the future. We will spend about $15 billion to close the 70 bases currently identified for closure. So we think of this as a money-saving operation, but the first step in it is an investment. And the investment is $15 billion for the bases that have been identified for closure. During the course of closing these bases we will recover that $15 billion. And then every year after that we will save in our defense budget about $4 billion a year. That's the impetus of going through this reduction of overhead.

We have undertaken an aggressive effort to assist the communities in helping them get through this reuse process. We've reduced the time it takes to turn closing bases over to communities and to foster the job creation, and we've increased the economic development and planning grant for communities that are affected by base closure. Last year the average grant was just over $400,000. That's more than three times greater than it was three years ago. These grants help the communities plan for reusing the bases and they help jump-start the vital process of economic renewal.

I believe that this new approach has been extremely successful. We have cut in half the time it takes to close a military base. I saw the impact of this new approach firsthand last July out at Fort Ord in California. There I participated in the ceremony marking the transfer of approximately 1,800 acres of land and all of the buildings on it to the California State University and the University of California, and by this fall there will be classes actually under way, activity under way, in that new university. And all of that will be done on the land and on the facilities which were conveyed at no cost to the university for this purpose.

I can tell you, because I had to work long, hard hours on this, it was an enormous task to get through all of the bureaucracy and all the red tape to get that conveyance effected, but we did it. And now the citizens in that community -- indeed, over the whole state of California -- are going to benefit from that. This is just one example of where closing a base can be win-win. It was a win for the department in removing from us the burden of supporting an infrastructure, but it was also a win for the community in helping in their economic revitalization.

Well, the programs that I've discussed with you today -- Nunn-Lugar, dual-use technology, military base reuse assistance -- are all being criticized, but they all have two things in common. First of all they do contribute to America's defense, and secondly at the same time they contribute to America's economic strength. And it would be tragically shortsighted if we scaled back on these programs.

I want to close with a quote from my favorite -- a certainly famous -- my favorite Englishman and maybe even my favorite person all around. It's Winston Churchill. He once said of Americans, "The bigger the idea, the more wholeheartedly and obstinately do they throw themselves into making it a success." And he went on to say, "It's an admirable characteristic, provided the idea is good."

The types of programs I've talked about today are good. They are solid investments in the nation's security. And I can tell you that, like Winston Churchill said of Americans, I am going to pursue them wholeheartedly and obstinately.

Thank you very much.

 Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission