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Taking Stock of Ourselves
Prepared Remarks of Deputy Secretary of Defense John White , Defense Science Board Dinner, Washington, Wednesday, October 09, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 91-- Taking Stock of Ourselves The coming Quadrennial Defense Review will reassess America's defense strategy, force structure and military modernization programs. It will examine every aspect of what DoD does and why, and how DoD gets the job done and pays for it.


Volume 11, Number 91

Taking Stock of Ourselves

Prepared remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense John White at the Defense Science Board Dinner, Washington, Oct. 9, 1996.

The Defense Science Board's 40th anniversary is a special milestone. In human terms, the board has reached middle age. That's usually the time when you start lying about your age. But the board should be proud of its age. You're not getting older, you're getting better. Each new year, the Defense Science Board builds on its illustrious history of service to America's security.

But even after 40 years of work, your job is certainly not done. The next 40 years promise to pose many very tough questions about how to harness science and technology to protect our nation's security.

The world is changing rapidly and at a pace we could not have predicted even five years ago. We have a global economy, competition across continents, high rates of innovation, high rates of technological change, shifting national priorities. And each day there are immediate crises to deal with from Korea to Bosnia, Haiti or Iraq. The very number of issues that we need to deal with at any one time can be a major challenge.

In focusing on the immediate crises, we risk forgetting about the long-term, big picture. But we cannot afford to do that, because in the big picture, the Defense Department needs to change -- and the DSB is a key catalyst.

First, we've got to keep our eye on the ball -- and the ball for DoD is joint military operations. That's what we deliver and provide. And the military forces are changing to stay ahead of the threats.

Second, DoD needs institutional change. It is not easy, but it is necessary. This means continuing our implementation of Goldwater-Nichols [DoD Reorganization Act of 1986]. But more broadly, DoD as a whole is not doing as well as the forces are at living in the new world. We must do better.

Fortunately, we have outside pressure to be more efficient, to do more with less. There is emphasis on a balanced budget. There is emphasis on making sure that we are delivering more for the taxpayer dollar than we did in the past. All this pressure is absolutely appropriate.

The bottom line is: We must dramatically change the way we do business, and to do that, we need to go outside the institution and into the marketplace for the best practices, products, services and ideas. And when it comes to the marketplace of ideas out there, no source has been more reliable and more effective than the Defense Science Board.

We have heard a lot today about the DSB's breakthroughs. Once these capabilities arrive, however, we may be guilty of taking them for granted. More importantly, I think we are guilty of not aggressively pursuing their broader implications.

All of this leads me to my main topic for this evening. The Defense Department is embarking on a major undertaking that will shape the course of American security well into the new millennium. It is called the Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR. If this administration is returned to office on Election Day, we will launch this undertaking in mid-November. And if not, others will face the same task later.

What is the QDR? It will be nothing less than a reassessment of America's defense strategy, force structure, military modernization programs and defense infrastructure.

What does the QDR need to be? It needs to be a fundamental stock taking. It must examine every aspect of our defense program: what we do, why we do it, how we do it and how we pay for it. It must first assess enduring U.S. goals and interests, then forecast the security environment, assess the potential threats to American interests and identify opportunities to advance them. We must understand how the world has changed and the implications of these changes for in the future. It must also encourage new ideas. The QDR will not just go through the motions. The goal is not to rationalize and protect what we have now. The goal is to visualize and pursue what we will need tomorrow.

We're already getting ready to begin the QDR. We're now gathering information, identifying how to conduct analyses and developing the intellectual capital. DSB has already contributed to this intellectual capital.

The QDR will be a highly collaborative effort. It will involve all key elements of DoD -- the offices of the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as the CinCs [commanders in chief] and the military services. As a result, it will tap expertise and ideas throughout DoD. But we can't leave it at that. Secretary [of Defense William J.] Perry and I must give clear guidance on what needs to be examined and accomplished. If we don't give clear guidance, we may only get changes at the margins -- status quo-plus -- rather [than] the fundamental rethinking we need. The challenge will be to do this rethinking in a timely way and to provide clear guidance.

My overarching concern is to ensure that the results of the QDR are imaginative, innovative and responsive to the fundamental needs of U.S. security in the future. Consequently, we need to identify constraints, examine contingencies and explore options.

More specifically, without prejudging any aspects of the QDR, I would like to touch on four themes that are important in the course of this review and raise questions of how we shape that review.

First, we must take a fresh look at the full spectrum of plausible military operations and associated capabilities given posited world conditions. We need to include a wider set of potential scenarios. One of the criticisms of the Bottom-up Review was that it placed too much emphasis on maintaining the forces necessary to fight two major regional conflicts nearly simultaneously and too little emphasis on the day-to-day demands of overseas presence and smaller-scale contingencies.

I agree with that view. In some ways, we are the source of that view. So we are committed to evaluating and testing force structure alternatives against the full range of plausible contingencies. The world today is more complex. Each crisis we face tends to be separate and unique. Events are desegregated. This makes incremental decisions even more dangerous and puts incredible strain on the decision-making process. We live in what feels like an ad hoc world. But we cannot make decisions ad hoc.

To develop a way to deal with crises today and tomorrow, the QDR must put every kind of crisis in an operational context. How do we capture the realistic -- and most likely -- operational requirements that we will face? Since our forecasts cannot envision all that will occur, how do we hedge?

The second theme of the QDR -- the one that underlies everything -- is resources. What resources will be available to pay for the forces that will execute our strategy? DoD's plans call for a 40 percent increase in funding to modernize our forces over the next five years. Is that enough? And how can our funding goals for modernization be assured, particularly in light of our continued emphasis on readiness and quality of life? Should we change our priorities? How much savings can we really get from efficiencies?

A third theme of the QDR relates to the revolution in military affairs. We're already doing a lot, but we need to do more to incorporate technological changes into doctrine, tactics and force structure. How do we address the implications of changed capabilities? Can we do more meaningful experiments? Can we get at the systemic changes which are intimated but not specified? If so, how and when?

Finally, the fourth theme of the QDR relates to making fundamental institutional changes to the Department of Defense. The QDR will be about a lot more than strategy, force structure and modernization programs. It must examine major changes in the way we do business. Like other institutions in society, DoD has already begun to change. We have reduced our work force and cut our overhead by closing bases. We are overhauling the defense acquisition system so we can buy more commercial products. And we have begun to outsource to the private sector and privatize portions of our support activities. But we need to do a great deal more.

Outsourcing is a good idea for two reasons. First, it will allow us to focus on our core competencies to conduct joint military operations. Second, there is a large, diverse commercial industrial base out there that can perform many of our support activities better, cheaper and more quickly. For the DSB, this is a penetrating glimpse into the obvious. Your summer study this year made a powerful case for outsourcing.

What we have done so far is only the beginning of the changes needed in DoD. We need to expand the scope and breadth of outsourcing and change many logistics practices while protecting our essential core. We need to look at all opportunities, including the less obvious.

More generally, we must structure the Quadrennial Defense Review to ensure that it really deals with these broader, more fundamental goals. We are determined to get the department moving in new directions. That means not only making changes but reinforcing the incentives for change.

The challenges associated with the QDR are ones that the DSB is uniquely equipped to tackle. So expect us to ask for help with many aspects of this important effort. Nobody has been a better source of creative and synergistic thinking than the DSB. That is exactly the kind of thinking we'll need as we chart the course of America's defense into the next century. We look forward to working with you, as we have in the past. ...


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant 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