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Ten Things I Never Imagined Doing Five Years Ago
Remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry at the Business Week Forum, Washington, D.C, Thursday, January 18, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 2-- Ten Things I Never Imagined Doing Five Years Ago From eating toad fat in China to blowing up Soviet missile silos in Ukraine to watching Russian troops train in Kansas, the secretary has seen monumental changes -- and there's no end in sight.


Volume 11, Number 2

Ten Things I Never Imagined Doing Five Years Ago

Remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry at the Business Week Forum, followed by questions and answers, Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 1996.

How appropriate it is to speak to a forum on change by way of advanced interactive satellite technology. Indeed, thanks to modern telecommunications, I do not have to come to Palm Springs this January -- I'm able to stay in Washington with the snow and the ice and the fog. This is one case where technology makes life easier, but not necessarily better.

The question before this forum is whether America can really change. I can tell you that when it comes to protecting our national security interests, America not only can change, it has changed, and has changed dramatically.

We face challenges and opportunities we never could have imagined five years ago. These challenges require us to pursue new and creative approaches to the way we protect our nation and advance our interests.

To illustrate just how much our security world has changed, and our security strategies, I want to share with you a list of 10 unique events that have occurred over the past year. I call this the list of 10 things that I never imagined an American secretary of defense would do. Let me start off with the least important and work my way up.

No. 10. I never imagined that I would cut off the ear of a pig in Kazakstan or listen to an Uzbeki colonel sing a Frank Sinatra song or eat rendered Manchurian toad fat in China. All of these incidents which happened in the last year tend to illustrate how different today the job of secretary of defense is from any of my predecessors. All of my predecessors, when they traveled, would visit our conventional allies -- the British, the French, the Germans, the Japanese, Koreans and perhaps a few others.

Last year, I visited 40 different countries. Many of them had not even existed 10 years ago. This year, the first week of this year already, I have visited eight different countries -- Italy, Bosnia, Hungary, Ukraine, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, just to reflect the diversity and the scope of the interests today of the secretary of defense.

The opportunity today to forge new security relationships with these nations is there, and the challenge is to try to build these new relationships where none ever existed before.

No. 9. I never imagined that I would host the defense leaders from 33 democratic nations in the Western hemisphere at a conference to discuss mutual security problems.

First of all, I never thought there would be 33 democratic nations in the hemisphere; and a few years ago it would have been unthinkable that our hemispheric colleagues would be interested in such discussions with their imperialist neighbor to the north. But now that democracy, peace and market reform are ascendant in our neighborhood, we have an opportunity to promote regional trust, cooperation and security, and we seized that opportunity last summer at Williamsburg, Va., when I hosted the 33 defense leaders of these nations at the first Defense Ministerial of the Americas. By the way, the Argentine defense minister picked up on this, and this year he will be hosting the second such meeting.

No. 8. I never imagined that I would actually dismantle the system of military spec[ification]s, and yet we are now in the process of doing that.

A few years ago if a defense program manager wanted to use a commercial or industrial specification, he'd have to get a waiver. Today, if he wants to use a defense specification, a milspec, he has to get a waiver. The whole system has been turned on its head so that we're forcing compliance with industrial and business specifications because we want to make a much greater use of the technology, the components, the parts that exist in the U.S. commercial sector today.

No. 7. I never imagined that as secretary of defense I would be worrying about day care, but I am. It's turned out to be a critical part of quality of life for our military forces, and I've come to believe that enhancing the quality of life is a key to maintaining the high readiness of our forces.

Therefore, I have focused our energy and resources not only to building up readiness, but specifically to taking every action that I can take as secretary to improve the quality of life for our military personnel. Because of the enormous amount we invest in our training, a key, then, is that we are able to retain them. The key to retaining our military personnel today is maintaining a reasonable and an adequate quality of life.

No. 6. I never imagined that I would be running a school to teach Soviet military officers about democracy, budgeting and testifying to a parliament, and yet that's exactly what we do at the Marshall Center in Garmisch [Germany] and have been doing it the last two years. Every six months a new class -- 60 to 70 officers from the former Warsaw Pact countries -- convene there to learn about those subjects.

I have met with each of these classes, spoken to them, met with them in small groups. This is the most successful experiment we have today in actually introducing the emerging military leaders in these countries to the practices of a democracy.

No. 5. I never imagined that I would be in Louisiana, welcoming troops from the Warsaw Pact. But there they were -- Albanians, Bulgarians, Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, Rumanians -- 14 nations in all. Each of them had sent a platoon, and each of these 14 platoons was carrying their flag and marching by the reviewing stand.

After the greeting, I went down and met with each of these individual platoons from the 14 nations. They were there to participate in a joint exercise, the first ever such exercise held on American soil, in peacekeeping under the NATO's Partnership for Peace institution.

No. 4. I never thought I would be in Kansas watching United States and Russian troops training together, but there they were last October, training, again, for joint peacekeeping operations. It is the new U.S.-Russia security relationship at work. I was there, the Russian defense minister was there, meeting with, speaking with the Russian and American forces who were training together.

As Minister [Pavel] Grachev and I gathered the Russian and American troops around us and I heard him telling them how important their activity was to our children and our grandchildren there on the plains of Kansas, I thought to myself, "Toto, we're not in Kansas any more."

No. 3. I never imagined that I would be helping the Russian defense minister blow up a U.S. missile silo in Missouri. Last October I did that, too. He and I stood together in the cornfield in Missouri. Both of us pressed the detonator button that blew up a Minuteman silo. This was part of the START -- Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty -- program to reduce those missiles. I might mention that just last week I went to Ukraine, and there he and I and the Ukrainian defense minister pressed a three-pronged detonator and blew up a former ICBM silo. That was a[t] Pervomaysk. At Pervomaysk just a year ago, there were 700 nuclear warheads at that one site -- all aimed at targets in the United States. This coming June, that missile field will be transformed into a wheat field, and those 700 warheads will no longer be any threat to the United States.

No. 2, I never imagined that Dayton, Ohio, would become synonymous with peace in the Balkans. Frankly, I wasn't sure that the warring parties in Bosnia would ever be able to reach a peace agreement, but in Dayton, that was the hardest thing for me to understand. There they were, finally ready to stop the killings and atrocities in Bosnia. They signed the peace accord. We're now one month, almost, into the implementation of that peace accord. So far, so good.

The No. 1 thing that I never imagined that an American secretary of defense would ever do, the No. 1 thing, was to witness the participation of a Russian brigade in an American division in a peacekeeping operation in Bosnia. This past week, based on an agreement we made last year, this past week the advance elements of that Russian brigade arrived at Tuzla, were met by [Maj.] Gen. [William L.] Nash, who is our division commander, and are beginning to be integrated into that force.

These 10 things -- none of which I could have imagined a few years ago -- demonstrate just how much the world has changed, just how much our security has changed, just how much the Department of Defense has changed and, of course, just how much my job has changed.

Samuel Johnson once said, "Change is inconvenient, even when it is for the better."

These changes, indeed, have been inconvenient, but I believe they have definitely been for the better. History will be the ultimate judge, of course, as to whether the dramatic changes we have seen last year will cause 1995 to be regarded as the pivotal year in the transition from the Cold War to a post Cold War new security order.

Thank you very much.

Q. You have 1,450,000 people under arms or in the armed forces, and you have said that Republican plans to balance the budget in seven years, as opposed to the Democratic plan to do that, would force you to reduce these numbers.

Many of the C[hief] E[xecutive] Officer]s here have gone through this kind of downsizing of staff, and in many cases they have realized tremendous improvements in the productivity of their activities. Why would this not occur in the armed forces?

A. It has occurred in the armed forces. We have reduced, in the last five or six years, from 2.1 million down to that 1.45 million -- about a one-third decrease. We have, today, a much smaller force than we had during the '80s. I believe it is a highly ready force, a very efficient force and a very effective force.

We could cut that force further, but if we did, we would not be able to take on all of the missions which we are now scheduled to take. The best measure I have of that is the very high operational tempo rate of the current force. I think it is at a rate about as high as we dare have it.

So if we were to cut the force another 10 or 20 percent, then I would be seeking ways of being relieved of some of the missions which the U.S. armed forces are now carrying out.

Q. Has the first cut you just referred to resulted in any loss of effectiveness ... ?

A. I think we have been very effective in it to this point, but I would like to suggest to you that even though the reduction to 1.45 is essentially reached now, that many other aspects of this drawdown are still ahead of us.

The base closings has been proclaimed, but it's going to take us three or four more years to actually effect the closing of the bases and starting to gain some of the efficiencies of that. Let me just give you one example.

In this year's budget, we have $4 billion cost associated with closing bases. In the FY [fiscal year] 99 budget, we have a $6 billion savings associated with that. So there's a $10 billion swing there, but we haven't reached that point yet, we haven't gotten the benefit.

So far, every year I've been secretary, the base closings have been nothing but a cost; it's been a burden to carry it out. But towards the end of this decade, my successor will get some of the benefits from that cost in the very substantial savings.

We are also making substantial efforts to improve or reform the acquisition system. I mentioned already changing the milspecs. It's also changing over to commercial buying practices. We will be making major efforts in those in this year, last year, next year, but the benefits from them are probably towards the end of the decade.

Q. We've heard about the very high regard that the military has achieved in the minds of the public. What can we as businessmen do to make sure that we reinforce the proper budget allocations so they maintain their military readiness?

A. The first and most important aspect is having an adequate top line for the budget. I think both the Democratic and Republican proposals for budgets over the next five years have an adequate top line to maintain a good defense.

Second is the allocation within that top line. That's where most of our differences are lying. I have placed my primary emphasis on maintaining high-readiness forces -- forces that are well-educated and well-trained -- and I think that has paid off in a very big way. My predecessor did that as well. That's paid off so that we have, I believe, the best trained, the most capable military force in the world today.

We have had a substantial reduction in the amount of funds allocated to modernization of the forces over the last five years. We have been able to get away with that because the force has been drawing down during that period. But now that the drawdown is essentially over, we have to start putting money into modernization again. We must get that money through these savings that I described through base closing, we must get it through the savings we hope to get in the acquisition reform. If we cannot get those savings, I would not be in favor of cutting readiness; I would be in favor of reducing the size of the force and therefore, taking on fewer missions than we now have.

Q. Not too long ago we were all quite concerned about North Korea's possible offensive intentions and their ability to bring some nuclear capability to bear. We've not heard too much about that recently. What's your sense now about the legitimacy of that risk, and what we might expect to see?

A. There are two aspects to the Korean threat. One of them is their conventional military forces. They have more than a million men in their army. Two-thirds of these are based within about 50 miles of the DMZ [demilitarized zone], so they pose a very great threat to South Korea.

The combination of the South Korean military forces, the U.S. forces in country, plus the U.S. forces that could be quickly brought into the country in an emergency, have been sufficient to deter that threat now for more than 40 years, and I think will be sufficient into the future as well.

The second part of the Korean threat, though, is that a few years ago we became greatly concerned at their program to develop nuclear weapons, because if they would add nuclear weapons to this equation it could really upset the deterrence balance, which had been very delicately achieved up to this point.

Therefore, we made a major effort to stop that nuclear weapons program. We were prepared to take actions such as very substantial sanctions, putting more troops over into Korea, to put pressure on the North Koreans to stop that program. Those actions would have risked a war, but we believed it was better to take that risk now than to take the risk after they got nuclear weapons.

They were successful, however, and we were able to negotiate an agreement with the North Koreans to terminate that nuclear program. That agreement has been in process now for more than a year. North Koreans continue to comply with the agreement. No more nuclear material has been generated. If it continues for another three or four years, then the program will be essentially behind us -- the whole implementation of this program, it's a 10-year program. But the most critical phase of that is the first three or four years.

So as long as the North Koreans continue to comply with this framework agreement to terminate the nuclear weapons program, I think we have then only to deal with the conventional threat, and I think the conventional forces that we and the South Koreans have in place is sufficient to deter that threat from becoming serious.

Q. Mr. Secretary, could you fight two simultaneous regional wars now as you're currently structured and supplied, say something in the Korean Peninsula and something in the Iran/Iraq region?

A. Let me say first of all we do not expect to have to fight two conventional wars. That we size our force structure that way does not mean we expect it. It means that if we ever get in another major regional conflict, we do not want to be so strapped for forces that we might invite or tempt some other country to be optimistic and to attack us at that point.

With that in mind, the answer to your question is yes. We do have adequate forces for dealing with two major regional contingencies. That's not a hypothetical or an academic issue in my mind. Two times in 1994, in June of '94, we were challenged. In June of '94 we had a crisis with the North Koreans over their nuclear weapon program, and in October of '94 we had a crisis with Iraq. In both of these cases, we went through a very detailed review of our war plan, down to the allocation and preparing for deployment of forces, down to the brigade level. We would have been quite prepared to deal with that problem in 1994. We're better prepared to deal with it today.

I might add one thing to that, that the stressing aspect, what our detailed war planning showed us, that where we were stretched in dealing with two major regional conflicts was not in the force structure, per se, it was in having sufficient airlift and sealift to swing from one theater to another if the two of them happened too close together.

Q. Could you tell us the two or three things that you hope will be on your '96 list that was equivalent to your '95 list?

A. The No. 1 that I expect and hope to have on my '96 list is that we will have successfully completed the mission in Bosnia and brought our forces back home again.

I also expect, and we're very near to it now, that we will have completed our mission in Haiti and brought our forces home from there. That I expect to happen in the first quarter of this year.

I expect to also have on this list ... that three nations in the world -- Kazakstan, Belarus and Ukraine -- will become totally nonnuclear. Ukraine, I might mention, is the third largest nuclear power in the world. It has the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. It should become nonnuclear this year.

Those are three things that come immediately to my mind of what I consider to be very major and dramatic events coming up in 1996.

Q. Your involvement of the Eastern European forces in these exercises, the Partnership for Peace, seems to indicate that you feel extremely confident that the changes that have occurred in the East are quite permanent, and yet we see the pendulum of democracy swinging back in a socialistic direction in Poland, and this could happen elsewhere. The problems that these countries face are very daunting. Nobody can cure them in just a five-year term or whatever it might happen to be. What is your view of the stability of these new friends of ours in Eastern Europe?

A. Nobody could be more concerned about the difficulty of the transition that these countries are going through than I am. What is happening in Eastern Europe today is truly unprecedented. It's a revolution, but to date, and hopefully forever, a bloodless revolution. It's a revolution from where these nations are going, from an authoritarian society trying to converge to a democratic society, from a state-run economy to a market economy. This is really unprecedented, that change of that magnitude could occur peacefully. So there have been many problems in many of the countries in Eastern Europe as this change is taking place. The surprising thing is not that there are problems, but that the problems have not been more serious than have already been manifested.

In terms of our working with these countries, we consider that what we are doing with them in the Defense Department, these military-to-military contacts, the exercises we conduct with them, the way we work together in peacekeeping operations, help contribute to that stability. It's not something that's sitting off to the side independent of what happens in the country. It's close involvement of the United States and other Western European countries. The associations that are formed there, the friendships that are formed there, the contacts that are made -- all of that, I believe, makes a positive contribution to stability. It's not a guarantee, it's not an assurance, but a positive contribution to the success of the transition to democracy and free market systems.

Thank you.


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. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at