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DoD News Briefing: Presentation of Vice President Al Gore Hammer Award

Presenter: Presentation of Vice President Al Gore Hammer Award
November 06, 1997

Secretary Cohen: Admiral, thank you very much. And ladies and gentlemen.

I'm here to recognize today the good work that a Department of Defense team has done to cut the cost and improve the effectiveness of the NATO Sea Sparrow surface missile program and system.

Before I get to the award, I'd like to say a word about Iraq. We have an unusual array of television journalists who are here today, and print journalists, and I'm sure that they are deeply interested in ways in which the Department of Defense is saving money, but I suspect they also have an interest in one or two current events. So, let me just begin by saying that the United Nations has charged that Iraq is tampering with surveillance systems installed to monitor compliance with UN mandates, and we have no reason to question that assessment on the part of the United Nations.

The evidence cited by Richard Butler who is the head of the United Nations Special Commission suggests that Iraq may be continuing programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Butler's letter underscores what this crisis really is about.

Iraq is violating UN Security Council resolutions by blocking efforts to monitor whether it is continuing work on weapons of mass destruction. A UN team is now in Baghdad to insist on full compliance with the Security Council resolutions. They are not there to negotiate with Iraq under any circumstances. This is not a negotiable item. So it's imperative that Iraq comply with UN mandates.

I'd like to turn now to talk about why we are here, and then at the conclusion... Well, I could entertain one or two questions initially, and then move on to the important matter that we have here today.

Q: Iraq has been warned repeatedly not to continue making weapons of mass destruction. If it's found that they are doing that, will any further warning be given, or might a surprise military strike be launched?

A: I think sufficient warnings have been given to Iraq over the years that they must comply with UN sanctions. It's not a question of not having adequate warning. The task right now, however, is to persuade them to cease and desist from their obstruction. That is the reason for the United Nations having sent this team to sit down and persuade, hopefully diplomatically, that Iraq must comply, that they cannot be successful in asking the U.S. team members to depart or not be part of the inspection team.

This is a United Nations effort, it is not a U.S. endeavor. It is a United Nations endeavor. So they are there to convey that message. Hopefully the message will be very loud and clear and Saddam Hussein will abide by it. In the event that that does not take place, then obviously the United Nations has a series of things it could recommend. We have to wait for the return of the team that's currently in Baghdad to return and issue its report. There is sufficient time to consider a whole panoply of responses that could be considered by the United Nations.

Q: Might those include military responses?

A: They could include further economic measures. They could include military as well. But I think that it's important that we not speculate what those reactions might be. I think the important thing is to point out that we are united -- the United Nations is united on this. They are not going to be able to divide the United States from the United Nations. We are there as one team, as part of the UN team, and that team cannot be divided successfully by Iraq. We're not going to negotiate. The UN is very clear on that. They are there to convey a message and not to engage in any kind of a dialogue or negotiating strategy that Saddam Hussein might have in mind.

Q: Mr. Secretary, does this delaying tactic by Saddam put the United States in a quandary given the absence of the surveillance flights? Would you like to see the surveillance flights begin? And also, on another issue, could you say that you agree with Secretary Albright that there is a consensus building that U.S. troops not remain in Bosnia in '98? Are you part of that consensus?

A: First of all, with respect to Iraq. We are not in any quandary. There's no quandary about the fact that Saddam Hussein has to comply with the UN mandates; that any removal of equipment, any effort to seek to hide and place devices of facilities in other areas will be unsuccessful; that it will only redouble the efforts on the part of the United Nations to complete those inspections because, after all, weapons of mass destruction are not in the interest of anyone in this world, and that's the reason why we're seeking to make sure that they are not being produced and in any way accelerated by Saddam Hussein. So there is no quandary for the United States. We would expect and anticipate the UN would simply redouble its efforts to make sure that those activities are not taking place.

With respect to Bosnia itself, I think it's fair to say that there is a consensus that the SFOR mission will end in June; that we continue to consult with Congress and our allies about what is needed to continue the progress that we've made to date and to keep the process on track. I think as a result of this process and these consultations there seems to be a developing consensus that some form of international military presence will be needed past June of next year, but there's been no decision made, no consensus established in terms of what form that international presence would take -- whether the United States would participate and in what form, be it intelligence, logistics, support, or military. That has yet to be decided or defined, so no such consensus exists.

There is a consensus, however, I think that is shared, that some form of international presence will be required beyond June of '98. But the President is trying to reach out and find out whether he can develop such a consensus, whether one exists in the United States Congress, which of course has imposed congressional limitations and budgetary limitations upon our presence in Bosnia; that all funding will terminate as of June of next year unless the President is able to submit a plan that would define the national security interests involved for the United States, our national interests.

What that plan would entail, whether it would involve troops or other types of support; and if troops, what the size might be, what the length of stay might be, what the costs would be, what the impact on morale would be, what the impact upon readiness; and also submit a request for a supplemental appropriation. All of those conditions have been imposed by Congress.

So the President is reaching out to find out whether such a consensus exists within the Congress, and that was the first step that the President took this week. I must say it was a very positive meeting, it was one of the most extraordinary exchanges of viewpoints that I have witnessed during my years in politics. I think that the country would have been very proud of the way in which the various and, I would say, sometimes conflicting viewpoints were presented to the President. It was truly an extraordinary meeting, and I think it was the first step to see whether a consensus can be developed that would allow some form of participation by the United States, but there was no consensus reached that evening, and I expect it will take some time to develop such a consensus, if it can be developed.

Q: Are you going to have to eat crow on this eventually? And do you have all your consensus developed within the top brass of the military?

A: I have not found it in my habit of eating crow, so I don't anticipate eating crow. What I would anticipate is working with the President to find out whether or not it's in the United States' interest to continue to participate as we are today or in some form. That is not eating crow -- that is promoting U.S. interests as defined by the President and the Administration.

Now, can I move on? One more question, then we get to the real substance of the meeting over here today.

Q: Do you believe that U.S. troops will have to stay in Bosnia beyond June? You personally.

A: I think that's a question that is yet to be decided, and I would reserve my own judgment, my own recommendation to the President as we carry forward this process.

Q: One more about Iraq. Has the United States ruled out unilateral military action? Will you wait for the approval of the UN before any military strike is...

A: I think the United States... It's not in our interests to discuss what actions the United States might or might not take. This is, again, not action directed against the United States on the part of Iraq, it's action on the part of Iraq to seek to divide the United Nations. It is the United Nations which has imposed the sanctions. So we are a part of that United Nations, and we would expect the United Nations to insist upon full compliance.

What takes place following the delivery of that message remains to be seen. I think it is not helpful to speculate what actions may or may not occur.

Thank you.

Please don't leave, because we have an important message to deliver here this morning. (Laughter)

Such is the life of your Secretary of Defense. (Laughter)

Ladies and gentlemen, over the past year NATO has been reinventing itself with prospective new members, new missions, and a new mindset for a new Europe. I would like to thank all of the representatives from our NATO allies who are here today helping to remake the alliance.

Today we are paying tribute and honoring a defense team that is helping NATO to reinvent itself by helping the Vice President to reinvent government.

On behalf of Vice President Gore, I'd like to present our NATO Sea Sparrow modernization team with a Hammer Award for doing its job faster, better, and cheaper.

But in presenting the Hammer Award I also want to recognize the hundreds of DoD organizations that have earned the Hammer Awards over the past four years. We should be proud and the country should be aware that the Defense Department has won more Hammer Awards than anyone else in government -- in fact more than all of the other departments combined. We should be number one. After all, the Hammer Award was named after a defense program that came to represent what was wrong with government procurement -- the $400 hammer.

Today our Hammer Awards have come to represent what is right about government procurement. This year as DoD celebrates its Golden Anniversary, our halls are ringing with the sound of countless hammers beating down the old system and building up the new one. I know that for many of you in the building you probably thought it was really part of Doc Cook's renovations taking place in the building. (Laughter) Especially outside of my office, I might add. But in fact, we are building a new procurement system.

I want to applaud the NATO Sea Sparrow modernization team for their success. The Sea Sparrow is the Navy's premier surface-to-air missile system, and a classic example of how NATO cost sharing and technology sharing can make defense both less expensive and also more effective.

Now thanks to this team, the Sea Sparrow modernization program is a living example of the National Performance Review's mantra of faster, better, cheaper.

You cut the design phase by two-thirds; you made the Sparrow more reliable, more accurate; and along the way you happened to save the taxpayers millions of dollars.

The work of this team and the work of all DoD Hammer Award winners pose a challenge for everyone at the Department of Defense. It's not enough to celebrate our singular deeds. We need to accelerate our efforts to overhaul the way the Department does business across the board.

Our success cannot be measured out with Hammer Awards each year like J. Alfred Prufa measuring out his life with coffee spoons. On the eve of World War II, Walter Lipman issued a warning to his classmates. They had a class reunion at Harvard -- I believe it was the 30th reunion. His warning has, I think, resonance today. He said, "For every right that you cherish, you have a duty you must fulfill; for every hope that you entertain, you have a task you must perform; for every good that you wish to preserve, you must sacrifice your comfort and your ease. There is nothing for nothing any longer."

The same is true for national security, national defense today. There is nothing for nothing any longer.

If you want to face a world of unlimited security threats with limited resources; if we want to invest in the future force; if we want to create a 21st Century Pentagon -- a model of action and efficiency -- then we need to apply every day what have made these winners so exceptional. We need their dedication, their innovation and their tenacity, and their recognition that better performance is more often the result of working smarter than simply working harder.

So today I am saying congratulates to Captain Taggett and his team -- a talented group of people who are helping us to transform this Department into the 21st Century.

Thank you very much.