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DoD News Briefing: Remarks to Business Executives for National Defense Tail to Tooth Commission

Presenter: Remarks to Business Executives for National Defense Tail to Tooth Commission
October 28, 1997

I go to work every morning in a building that has some 23,000 people that go in and out every day. They are highly motivated. I have a young man who greets me at the door, who has been up since three o'clock in the morning ... running eight miles before he comes to the office, and he is there, ready to perform every single day; and he is working on his, I think, third master's degree in his spare time and will soon have his doctorate as well. And these are the kind of people that we have in our military today.

So it's not an overstatement to say that we have the best military force in the world today, without peer, and we want to keep it that way.

As I was thinking about what I might say to this distinguished group, I was flipping through some of Walter Lipmann's essays, a favorite reading source of mine, and I came across a piece he wrote back in 1938, and it talked about a Russian czar ... who came out one day, and he saw a sentry standing next to a patch of weeds, and he asked the sentry why he was there, and the sentry said, "Well, I don't know. I've just been ordered to stand here from the captain of the guards."

So the czar went over to the captain of the guards, and he said, "Why is this sentry posted at this patch of weeds?" And the guard said, "The regulations require it." He then set about to try to find out why the regulations required that that sentry be standing next to that patch of weeds. He could find no living person on earth who could explain it. Finally, he went back to the archives, and there he discovered the reason, that Catherine the Great had planted a rose bush in that spot and had ordered a sentry to guard it so no one would trample upon the rose bush.

So, lo and behold, 100 years later, long after Catherine had died, long after the rose bush had died, the sentry was still standing guard in that spot. So you had men who were ordered to stand guard over a spot for a reason they knew not why for a rose bush that had long since died, planted by a woman who had long since died.

And that is a metaphor, I think, for where we are today. While this is called the "Tail-to-Tooth Commission," perhaps we ought to have a Rose Bush Committee that will examine why we still are standing guard over rose bushes that no longer exist.

I wanted to talk a little bit about what has happened in the Pentagon in terms of what Secretary Perry was able to accomplish in terms of initiating the Revolution in Military Affairs. He and Deputy Secretary John White, along with Dr. Paul Kaminski and others, instituted a Revolution in Military Affairs. We are seeing that take place

today. We are seeing technology revolutionizing the way in which we conceive of our war-fighting capabilities and we are seeking to implement those capabilities. What we do have today is a Pentagon that looks quite different, a military structure, I should say, that looks quite different than it did some years ago.

People tend to look at the military [and say], "So you're still fighting the Cold War." In fact, we will have reduced since 1989 our force structure by almost 36 percent. By the time the Quadrennial Defense Review's recommendations are fully implemented, we will have reduced our force structure by 36 percent. We will have reduced our budget by roughly 40 percent. We have, in fact, reduced our procurement budget by 66-67 percent. We need to start investing in the future, and the reason we are not investing much in the future is that we are still holding onto old ways of doing business.

There is a wonderful "Peanuts" cartoon that asks, "How do I do new math with an old-math mind?" And what we have to do is to do new math with a new-math mind, and what we need is a Revolution in Business Affairs, and that's where we are lacking today. We have, in fact, too much tail and not enough tooth, and so we have the Tail-to-Tooth Commission, which is being chaired by Senator Rudman and Josh Weston.

What we need to do is to focus upon the fact that we have too much infrastructure for our force structure. We have a purchasing apparatus that is larger than our purchasing power. We have too many in-house functions that can better be performed out-of-house. We have an Office of the Secretary of Defense, OSD, which is too big, it's too bureaucratic, it is slow, and it's cumbersome, and it has to be redesigned, or to use a common phrase, it has to be "reengineered." What we have to do is to draw upon the expertise of those in the business community who have, in fact, reengineered their companies.

I just came back from Europe a few days ago, and about 10 years ago -- and Secretary Perry can probably touch upon this himself -- we were being criticized ... that our system was in decline, we were spending too much, our budget was way out of balance, we were simply not performing as efficiently as we needed to perform. Today, the criticism is quite the opposite. Today, we are too efficient. We are leaping well ahead of our European counterparts, and that's a problem. It's a problem for our national security interests. But corporate America has made the kind of changes [and] has achieved the kind of efficiencies that we need to achieve in the Pentagon itself.

We have formed a Defense Reform Task Force. It is being chaired by Dr. John Hamre, Deputy Secretary of Defense. They will have a recommendation, a report that will be submitted to me sometime in the next two weeks. It will call for a fundamental change in the way in which the Office of the Secretary of Defense is organized. It will, in fact, propose some revolutionary concepts of how we can become more efficient, things that we need to do to eliminate duplication, redundancy [and] overlap.

What we really need from you [is] your help in changing public opinion. We need to have this Commission not simply file another report. We've got enough reports; we know what the problem is. What we need to do is to build public support and congressional support for the kind of changes that are necessary in order to make our military a 21st-century military and not encumbered by either a 20th-century or, indeed, 19th-century infrastructure. So what we need from the Commission is really ways in which we can break down bureaucratic barriers, ways in which we can find common ground where there are conflicting opinions, ways in which we can influence editorial support, [and] basically solid citizenry support and congressional support for the kind of changes that are necessary.

My understanding is that one of your members, Bill Tremayne, was responsible for helping to [conceive of] the BRAC process. I can speak from both sides of the aisle on this one. I can speak from behind this podium now in calling for more BRACs. You will have the National Defense Panel that will also call for more BRAC proceedings. And [I can speak] as one who was on the other side of the table, namely, the recipient of those BRAC proceedings. They are unpleasant. They are very difficult to adjust to. If you are a Member of Congress or a Senator and you suddenly find you've got a major military installation in your district or your state in which the local economy is not completely, but largely dependent on the infusion of that kind of capital, and suddenly the Pentagon says, "We don't need you anymore," that presents enormous problems for that local community. And in the past, going back to the '70s, the military would make a strict military decision -- "we don't need you anymore" -- and shut the base down and turn it over to the community.

I know. I was serving on the City Council of Bangor, Maine, the third largest city in Maine, home of Senator Rudman's parents. We had the Air Force say, "Here is a Strategic Air Command facility, Dow Air Force Base, and we will give it to you for a dollar."

The problem was, the city couldn't even afford to plow the runways -- it didn't have the revenue base. So we had quite a task ahead of us to deal with that. And that has been the problem in the past, where the Pentagon could simply say, "Well, looking at it from a military point of view, we're going to turn it over to the community." But there were no support systems in place. There was no effort on the part of the federal government at large to help those communities go through that readjustment period, and so there was strong resistance to that, and it's understandable.

But since that time, great changes have been made. Since that time, the government has recognized that, indeed, there needs to be some transitional help, and you have a variety of agencies that now coordinate and cooperate -- the Defense Department as well -- in helping to achieve those transitions.

I was in Orlando recently, and I found that they are making the transition quite well. I was in Alameda recently, and I'm finding it's really a tremendous effort that has been undertaken by the local community. Congressman Dellums has been in the forefront of helping to make that transition successful, and they will be successful. But what we need to do is to point to the successes that we are able to achieve by saying that we can help make what appears to be a disaster a success, a financial success for your community.

What we have to do is break down the mindset that says, "not yet, not here, not mine, under no circumstances." If we continue to hold that view, then we will impose upon our military an excess infrastructure we can no longer afford. We will not be able to invest in the future. We will not be able to bring that technology that Bill Perry was so instrumental in initiating, bring it forward to the present much sooner without the kind of investment dollars that we are currently lacking.

We are roughly $12, 15, possibly $20 billion short each year because the funds keep migrating out of investment into operations. So we've got to find ways in which we can save money. That is what the role of BENS is going to be. It will be helpful in building public support for the kind of changes that are necessary. You've got Josh Weston, who is going to bring a lot of corporate expertise, along with so many others here, Fred Smith and others; Warren Rudman, who has served in the Senate with great distinction, [and also the] attorney general of New Hampshire.

I want to come back to just one point. John Gardner wrote a book some years ago in the late '60s. It's called The Recovery of Confidence, and in it he used some phraseology which has stayed with me for a long time. He said, the problem was that our institutions -- not just the Department of Defense, but all of our institutions -- have become caught in a savage cross-fire between "uncritical lovers" and "unloving critics." And what he meant at that time, and it holds true today, is that at one end of the spectrum we have people -- we will call them "unloving critics" -- who see absolutely no good in the current institutions, will do everything in their power to turn them down, without having any positive, constructive recommendations for what to replace them with. At the other end of the spectrum we have the "uncritical lovers," people who are so enamored with the status quo, they will do everything in their power to nullify and blunt and stultify any hope for change.

And so what Gardner was saying is we have to become "loving critics," willing to embrace change where change is necessary; also willing to defend those institutions which, in fact, work. We all know that in a stagnant pond there is death and decay; in a moving stream there is life and regeneration. So we have to have this moving stream that's open at both ends, open at one end to take in new ideas; open at the other end to slough off those which are obsolete and no longer functional. And that really ought to be the mission of all of us.

It can be aided by BENS, and I hope that we can call upon you to help build that kind of public support, not another report; we've got plenty of reports. What we need to have you do is to go out in your communities and also wage a successful, public-relations campaign to lobby, if I can use that word, to lobby on behalf of fundamental restructuring of the way in which the Pentagon and our military is doing business. We need that Revolution in Business Affairs. We need you to bear the pitchforks out there, pitchforks for change and revolution, because that's what it's going to take in order to keep us the most dominant force in the world.

As I said before, we don't want [our Armed Forces] to walk into a fair fight; we want it to be unfair. We want to be able to win under all circumstances, and to do that we need to have this Revolution in Business Affairs. What we need to do is ... eliminate the sentries who are guarding the patches of weeds, and to bring our fighting force into the 21st century. So I want to commend BENS for the work you've done in the past. I want to enlist your support for the work that we can do in the future and pledge to you that the Pentagon will work very closely with all of you to bring to bear your expertise in favor of our national security. Thank you very much.