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DoD News Briefing - Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
May 31, 2000 4:45 PM EDT

Wednesday, May 31, 2000 - 4:45 p.m. EDT

Also participating in this briefing was Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) Bernard Rostker, Mrs. Janet Langhart Cohen, Mrs. Kelli Kirwan and Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Berryhill

Mr. Bacon: We've assembled this panel. You all know Mrs. Cohen, who was really the sparkplug for this. Kelli Kirwan is the wife of a Marine from Camp Pendleton, and she was the summarizer in the final panel. Bernie Rostker you all know. This is his first week as the under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and he gets to claim credit for this great conference in his first week. And we have Staff Sergeant Joseph Berryhill, from Offutt Air Force Base, also a participant, one of the family participants here.

And Bernie will start off with a description of what happened, and then each panelist will speak and take your questions.

Dr. Rostker: Well, this was a wonderful, wonderful day. It was the first of what I'm sure will be many Family Forums.

The purpose of the forum was for the leadership of the department to hear firsthand in a forum that cut across all of our military services, and active and reserves -- to hear a critique of what is going well and what may need improvement in our quality-of-life programs.

This morning the secretary made a welcoming and an opening remark. Mrs. Cohen had a few words.

And then we had three panels, in which we could focus the discussion. We had a panel that dealt with, if you will, military personnel issues, compensation; another panel that dealt with commissaries and exchanges; and finally, a third panel that dealt with housing and health care.

The panels had experts from the Pentagon, and there were short statements and then a very lively discussion.

Then we had an afternoon session, a working lunch and an afternoon session, in which we broke into 10-people, 11-people tables. And we took on a number of quality-of-life issues. Our focus in the afternoon session were best practices. What could we share with each other that worked in our individual installations across the services, across components?

Then those best practices from each of the panels were consolidated into a smaller number of four best practices, and those were briefed to the secretary and the senior leadership of the department.

I should mention that General Shelton addressed the group before lunch and will be doing that again at the dinner tonight. And General Ralston was here from Europe and also addressed the group.

This Family Forum day comes out of a commitment and the experience of Mrs. Cohen and the secretary in a visit to Camp Pendleton. And I'll ask Mrs. Cohen to describe that.

Mrs. Cohen: Thank you, Doctor.

I want to thank all of you for coming today because this is a very important day for the military and it's a very important day for America. The military families are really the heart of our armed forces, and when I travel with Bill around the world I get a chance to talk to our service members and their families. And I didn't realize how critical the support of the families were to the readiness and morale of our troops, and I never realized that more than when I met this lady to my left, Kelli Kirwan. She is the mother of four, the wife of a gunnery sergeant. They live at Camp Pendleton. Kelli has a paper route. She gets up early in the morning. And I think you have about -- what? -- 1,700 clients. And before daybreak, she's delivered all of those papers because she wants to pay for ballet lessons and probably karate lessons and a few other things.

But Kelli really impressed the secretary. She impressed all of us there. And she really was the inspiration to this Family Forum. I thought if we could share and dialogue the way Kelli presented herself, and the others there at Camp Pendleton, with the whole DoD family, do it jointly so all the services could benefit from their programs and what they're doing and their dedication, that it would benefit, again, all of us in this country.

And it is my great pleasure to present to you a great American, a patriot, a mother, a wife, Kelli Kirwan.

Mrs. Kirwan: Thank you. I am very honored for the opportunity to be here in Washington, D.C. You know, at the grassroots level, our force, even though we have paid members in uniform, there's a great deal that is done by a volunteer force, and a lot of that is the spouses of our active duty, and we are called upon to do things in the arena of family support and family readiness. And at the grassroots level, I see the families, I see the faces, and I know the personal stories. So to come here today, after 11-1/2 years of being a Marine Corps spouse, and having had my friends, our fellow Marine wives in our units and seeing their stories, to see the culmination of today's events has been very exciting.

There was definitely a spirit of cooperative information exchanging, between the services, from our level down there out there doing the day-to-day work of the Marine Corps, both at home and at the battalion, and the senior leadership level. Information was just flowing everywhere. And it was wonderful. And very sincere, very earnest listening happened. And I am real excited about the potential for future family forums because it's keeping our senior leadership in touch with what's happening with their troops. And if their troops and the senior leadership are in line with what's happening, we've got a straight shot at mission success.

Dr. Rostker: Thank you. Sergeant?

Staff Sgt. Berryhill: Well, with the press here, I would just like to say I know more than once I heard, over the last two weeks when I found out I was coming here, that it being an election year, president, everything else, that there might be a lot of lip service, that this is just for the press. And I would like to say that all we have seen today is the sincere opportunity to bring forth all issues, from all services, that will make the quality of life for all DoD employees better. And it's comforting to see the top DoD civilian and brass willing to listen and contribute and one-on-one speak to all of us to get our ideas on how to make the military a better place to be and to live.

Dr. Rostker: Well, I think with that, we'd be happy to take your questions. Yes, sir?

Q: Mrs. Cohen, today you and Secretary Cohen made kind of a plea during the opening remarks for all of the members to be candid, to be open and honest and speak freely. Did you feel you achieved that?

Mrs. Cohen: Oh, absolutely. We were overwhelmed at their candor because, not necessarily being military, uniformed military myself, I was amazed coming into this experience how respectful everybody is to rank. And I was concerned that some of our junior people might be intimidated or just might be adhering to culture and not speak up and speak candidly. We know the good news. We know some of the bad news. We want to hear their news. And we wanted them to feel free to do that. And unfortunately -- being a press person myself, I know you would have loved to have been there and seen it, but we wanted them to have the comfort zone to be able to speak openly for that reason as well. And I think we achieved it.

Q: Mrs. Cohen, you mentioned the bad news. I want to ask you about a topic that may or may not have come up and I think has to do -- in the health field in terms of support for military members, and that is suicide prevention programs that have gotten more attention in recent years. The Army has recently pointed out that it's a problem that has worsened and they're trying to take some new steps to prevent it. What do you think needs to be done in this area? And do you have any ideas for improving that problem?

Mrs. Cohen: Well, first of all, that's an unfortunate situation. It did not come up on the open session. However, we did break down into round-table workshops, and it may have come up at one those sessions. But I'd like to turn to Dr. Rostker and let him address that.

Dr. Rostker: The -- (inaudible) -- what Mrs. Cohen said, suicides are very unfortunate. I know in my own tenure as the assistant secretary of the Navy, we lived through Mike Boorda's suicide, and that it's still very painful.

We have brought together, in each of the military departments, the best experts across the nation on suicide prevention. We focused on mentoring, on identifying the signs of depression and to try to improve those situations. We try to learn from each of the suicides, if there has been a systemic failure and how we can correct those. And we have had some unfortunate lessons that have resulted in changes in our policy. In general, the statistics are that we have lower suicide rates than the general population. But even one suicide is too many.

Q: So do you think that there is room for more improvement, or have you done everything that can be --

Dr. Rostker: No, not at all. Of course, there is room for more improvement. And mentoring programs, programs of counseling, are important. Trying to eliminate, as best we can, any irritants that could push us in that direction are important. So we are not satisfied until there are no suicides.

Q: Could I ask a question of Sgt. Berryhill and Mrs. Cohen? What was the one issue that stands out in your mind as the biggest concern among the folks that you were talking with today or talking for, and what was the solution? And the same with you, if you could mention one topic -- (inaudible)?

Staff Sgt. Berryhill: Probably housing came up a good bit among the families, more than anything else. The military is doing a good job of replacing housing, reconditioning current existing housing. But an overall consensus was that more needs to be done, that the overall quality of life ultimately depends on how you live and where you live. The military can do any number of things to improve quality of life, but if you're not happy with where you're living, you're not going to be happy. And I think we saw some good programs that are being run at other places as far as helping individuals find off-base housing when there's not suitable housing on base or if the on-base housing is currently being renovated, how decreasing the time that it's going to take to get those families into quality housing. Raising BAH [basic allowance for housing] rates, of course, is one of those; the basic allowance for housing, but ultimately, it's got to be that the families have to be happy where they live regardless of whether you raise BAH or not. So --

Q: And the solution -- did you see from this forum any additional ideas that you thought might be implemented that would solve the problem?

Staff Sgt. Berryhill: Well, there were a couple good programs on where local communities are setting aside local areas that are nicer for military communities to move in and making sure that the rental rates or the cost of the houses are kept low for military people, which, of course, increases the military community moving out into the civilian community, which is always good for both, to have that kind of intermingling going on. There was also another program out at Camp Pendleton where certain homebuilders are setting aside blocks of homes specifically to be purchased by military people at lower rates, lower interest rates, increasing the amount of people moving off base into those houses.

Mrs. Kirwan: Well, Tricare is always a popular subject and it was today. Some of the concerns about Tricare is that they take too long to pay, that there are providers out there who do not want to accept Tricare members because of the concerns about being paid, and therefore, you're getting supposedly the lower quality of care. I will say that military health care at our military facilities is top-notch. At Balboa, they were rated, out of a score of 100, they received a 99. Camp Pendleton was second, behind that, for that area. So there were no concerns expressed today about our actual military health care when we go in and see our Naval or Air Force or Army doctors.

The concern is, is when we have to have emergencies and we have to go and be seen at a civilian facility, the miscommunications about our beneficiary program, how it works. All of these things are addressed and they are already under consideration for how we can fix this. I think the solution is that they are reworking the program as we speak. It's not going to happen tonight, but it is going to happen, and they are already aware that it's kind of falling apart in a sense, that we're pulling it back together.

But this was something that was really great for us to be told that so that we can take it back to our installations and share, "Hey, they've got the message."

Dr. Rostker: Yes, sir?

Q: Dr. Rostker, could you talk a little bit about the four best practices that you said were briefed out? And also, I'd like to ask you, how much of what you heard today represented information that the Pentagon leadership didn't already know?

Dr. Rostker: Well, I'm going to ask -- in the best practices -- Kelli to talk to those because she was the one who briefed them out.

Let me talk to the -- on the problem side, in a sense the morning session, we gained detail, we gained texture. There were no really new problems. I think a characteristic of this conference was the afternoon session, which was best practices, and we'll ask Kelli to talk about, quickly, the four that were briefed out. I know that the top one from my table didn't make the four, so we got a lot more in the bank to look at, and we have the vehicle to do that in terms of our Quality of Life Council.

I am particularly enthusiastic about the best practices because those represent things that we know exist; they exist within our resources, they exist within our rules and regulations. It's a matter of spreading those words and bringing to each part of the -- of each of our services and each of our components, things we know we can do. And so that is something we usually don't get out of our visits, that cross-fertilization, and really is a hallmark of this conference.

Mrs. Kirwan: Okay, please keep in mind that it's been a very long day, and I so I will try to briefly tell you, and if I miss one, please prompt me.

One was financial management. That is an issue, especially at our junior levels. And what has been suggested is that there is financial management training that is done at your first duty station when you first come into the service. After that, it would be nice if we had a financial management specialist at each of our commands. It would be a collateral duty in addition to their other duties, and they would be able to address issues such as if we have a young Marine that is going to be moving out into town, that they can then sit down with their financial management individual that's part of their unit, can do a budget analysis; can look, is it really feasible? You know, kind of put a reality check in there. Is this something you really think you can do? Buying a car -- talk about best car purchasing practices. Also, debt management, credit management, how to read your credit report. All those things go into the financial management, and have it as an ongoing thing.

They might feel more comfortable talking to some of their senior enlisted about that than they might going down to some other things that might be offered already. That's one.

Another one is a family support group that doesn't extend just to wives -- because, as we know, we no longer have just wives as a spouse; we have a lot of men that are the dependent spouses now -- and have a family support group that addresses their issues, their concerns, but also our children. Oftentimes our children have a real hard time with dislocation, deployments, the high tempo of training. Have something that is set there for them, that maybe they can get together and relate. There are some things -- some installations are already doing things like this, and they are seeing some success.

And we don't want to forget our single service member. There is a mama and a daddy somewhere back home that want to know what's going on and what they're doing, and there needs to be a way to address that, especially on a deployment. I know at one installation or one unit they've set up a 1-800 number that they can call in, so if their service member is stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, they can call that number, and they can talk to who -- whatever their program wants to be called -- in our case, it's called Key Volunteers -- and find out where they are in the deployment, receive some of the same information that the wives and husbands receive.

One more.

Mr. Bacon: Symposium.

Mrs. Kirwan: Thank you. Oh, and one of my favorites, the family symposium, which is not unlike something that we did today -- have it on an annual basis. One installation -- I believe it's Fort Meade -- has it five days annually. About two to three months prior to this, they send out information sheets, and they have a deadline of when those need to be turned in. And these are accessible at all the community service places, the commissary. And then there's a -- and it's also accessible to turn those in, so they can be retrieved.

Then they sit down and they have very much like what we did today. They have an open forum discussion. What is working at our installation? What is not? What are the needs of our soldiers and their families?

And then it was successful at Fort Meade in the sense that they went back, and there were some changes made at that installation as a result of that.

So we're real excited to see a lot of positive things that are working elsewhere, that have been shared across the board.

Mr. Bacon: -- regionalization.

Mrs. Kirwan: Oh, one more. Thank you. (Chuckles.) I told y'all it's been a long day!

Shore program regionalization. What -- in effect, what that means is to split the -- what the Navy's done is they've split up fleet-concentrated areas that are onshore into regions, and they've got their quality-of-life programs, issues underneath one individual. It's very cost-effective. It's also -- you have a standardization of things that are happening in several areas, so that you don't have this cross- -- what am I looking for?

Mrs. Cohen: Redundancy.

Mrs. Kirwan: A redundancy or you're more effective, because you're sharing what's happening at all these locations.

It also helps, when we tend to move and relocate, that you have a standardization that you're going right into something you're already familiar with.

Dr. Rostker: Yes, sir?

Q: Dr. Rostker, how is the department going to promulgate what you've learned today, and how are you going to follow it up to see that commanders implement these best practices? I mean, the department sends out memos, directives all the time, which get implemented with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Dr. Rostker: First of all, as you well understand by your question, we run largely a decentralized system, and it's important that we continue to do that. I once worked with a person who talked about the 3,000-mile screwdriver making those fine adjustments. We trust our base commanders. We need to provide them with the resources and we need to provide them with the policies that allow us -- allow them to do the best thing for our people.

Having said that, we have vehicles in which we can bring these best practices forward. We have the ability to work through our assistant secretaries and the personnel chiefs, the logistics chiefs of the military departments and the services to see that the programs go forward. Those have to be resourced. But again, the exciting thing about the best practices are that there are places in the department where these are going forward, and it represents a goal that we know is achievable.

Q: Well, just to follow that up, you mentioned resources, which is always a question in the department. Is there going to be an attempt at your level to resource these programs and let people know where they can be paid for, how they can be paid for, or is that going to be up to the base commander to juggle his or her budget to make it happen?

Dr. Rostker: Well, the office of the secretary always looks at the resources that are being programmed for each of the areas. And coming in now as the undersecretary, I've put the mark down for each of my shops that I'm going to hold them responsible for analyzing and assessing the adequacies of the programs in their areas. We do this through a process in which a POM, or a program objective memorandum, is submitted to the secretary. Those POMs will be submitted within weeks. We do that through the summer and the budget. So this is very timely as we review the quality-of-life programs submitted by the services, as we make those judgments and, if necessary, make adjustments as we build towards next year's budget.

Yes, sir?

Q: Dr. Rostker, you said earlier that as a result of looking into suicide, there have been some policy changes. Could you please tell me what those are?

Dr. Rostker: Well, I remember one very disturbing case in the Navy in which a young man should have been removed from a ship, from a submarine, and we did not remove him from the pressure and he ended up taking his life. That was one that was very heartfelt and resulted in an immediate change in policy in the Navy.

Q: Being that commanding officers should be more attentive to --

Dr. Rostker: More attentive. And when we put people in a pressure situation, that it would be important to remove the individual from that situation. We were not sensitive enough. No one expected what happened to happen, but in retrospect, we learned a lesson and we changed our policy as a result. These things come very difficulty, but when they occur, we do look and see: Was there anything we could have done to prevent this? In that case, we believe there was something that could have been done.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: I know that you mentioned some best practices that you brought up today. Were there any actions that the families have asked of the Defense Department in response to certain concerns that you might have had?

Mrs. Kirwan: Actually, individually there were -- they used individual examples for some issues that are kind of ongoing right now, and I can tell you that they're being resolved as we speak; there was action taken looking in. So on an individual basis that was done and that was very heartwarming.

Overall, I don't think there's any actions that are going to be taken today. A lot of these problems were created a long time ago, so it's not going to be an overnight fix. I don't think that any of us, as participants, came asking for something to be done; we came wanting to share our ideas and our thoughts. And like Mrs. Cohen allowed us, this is our life. Take a peek at it. What do you see?

Dr. Rostker: Having said that, and one would hope that we could solve these problems systemically, when we have conferences like this or we have town hall meetings, we always need to be sensitive to the individual cases. We care, and where we can intercede, we're happy to do that, and we were able to do that in several cases already today.

Q: To follow that up, the cases that she mentioned that were individual -- individuals brought personal problems, had those people tried to resolve those problems through the chain of command and they had to come all the way here to get them taken care of?

Dr. Rostker: Sometimes that happens, yes.

Q: Is that a common experience in your experience, Mrs. Kirwan?

I mean, that people that you know can't get problems resolved through chain of command, that it takes somebody coming to Washington to --

Mrs. Kirwan: Now, I'm speaking as a wife in the United States Marine Corps, and as in any corporation, there are individuals who are more sensitive at commanding levels than others, so sometimes that probably does happen. I also know that, as a wife in the United States Marine Corps, that some of our wives don't allow the system to work for them. There are some things that don't happen overnight.

So it's yes and no, to answer your question. I have seen that happen, but I have also seen, in last two years that we have been at Camp Pendleton specifically, I've seen an incredible sincere desire by the senior leadership, whether it be at the base commanding general's level or at our battalion levels, of a real concern for their families, and ready to listen to the issues to see what they can do.

Dr. Rostker: Let me just make a point here. We have a system of a lot of checks and balances. It's not just the complaint about, in this case, Tricare payment or a housing issue. Sometimes we have complaints about military records or the judicial system and the like. I spent four years as the Navy assistant secretary, and there were times when I overruled on a case that had come to me.

That's our commitment, that when cases, situations, are brought to the senior level, we are willing to look at them systemically. We're also willing to look at them individually. If we couldn't do that, then frankly, why are we here? So we're concerned with the system, and we're also concerned with the individuals who make up that system.

Mr. Bacon: Yes --

Q: The Navy has a great quality of life website which it ballyhoos with some justification. Does DoD have that, and if not, why not? And do you plan on establishing, perhaps, some kind of website in connection with this forum?

Dr. Rostker: Well, it's an excellent question, and bless you on the Navy; it was created under my tenureship as the assistant secretary -- (laughter) -- and your payment will be in the envelope when you leave. (Laughter.) We need to better use the Internet. As you know, we do it, I think, very effectively in the Gulf War program through Gulflink.

Yes, one of the things we try to set up with this conference, as we speak, there is a linkage announcing the conference on DefenseLINK. Within the next day or so there will be review articles that will talk about the conference. We've provided the opportunity through a feedback mechanism -- in effect, e-mail, but it's not technically e- mail -- to enter into a dialogue.

When we started this this morning, I talked about the families being the vanguard.

And in my opening remarks -- you may have been there -- I talked about using the Internet to extend this dialogue to military families, to get feedback across the line. So the Internet is a very important, increasingly important, way -- which we can communicate directly with our military families. A good point.

Yes?

Q: Last year, there were significant increases in retirement and pay and, this year, some focus, particularly by Congress, on health-care issues. You had this symposium now and all this feedback from these families that were there. Is there a sense that yet -- also you had the problem of services that were having trouble recruiting and I think some of them to some extent, retaining the people that they need.

What's the sense, Mrs. Kirwan, and Sergeant Berryhill, about whether things are turning around because of all the dollars that are being pumped in? Or is the economy such that it will take a while before things turn around? What's the sense you got from there?

Dr. Rostker: I'll let them answer, and let me come back in.

Mrs. Kirwan: I would like to answer that.

I definitely have a sense that things are turning around, but I also have the sense that it is just the beginning. There was a very large gap for a number of years. And the economy is doing so well on the outside, that that gap continues to need to be closed. We are very appreciative for what has already been done, but we also see the need that it needs to continue in a vein to close the pay differences and the gap.

And you're right; there are retention problems across the board. And that is something that is of a great concern. I personally enjoy a lot of the neighbors that I have, and I would hate to see them leave, but they are leaving.

Staff Sgt. Berryhill: I think addressing the pay is just one part of dealing with retention; also is just -- now that the economy is so good, I think we need to push more of a dedication to service, dedication to country, more. And we have seen that with the Air Force advertising for the first time. Before they didn't have trouble getting young people to come in the Air Force. Now we see that. So we are having to push the pride, come in for the enlistment bonuses that they have, which is a monetary reason. But the economy is always going to fluctuate, which means retention is always going to fluctuate. So focusing just on pay isn't going to be enough.

As far as retention, I think the things that they have taken will help with the 50 percent. They are starting a Thrift Savings Program. People can invest in a 401(k) Program. Many issues are out there. That will turn this around, but to piggyback on Mrs. Kirwan, it's not going to happen overnight.

Dr. Rostker: I think we are on the right track with pay. There were really no discussions of pay at the conference. And I would note that the pay-table reform doesn't kick in until July 1st. And that will mean a lot of dollars in the pockets of particular groups of people who, frankly, have not fared as well over time.

That's why we instituted pay-table reform.

I think all of the services are doing somewhat better this year in recruiting. The sergeant mentions the Air Force is reporting, based upon their initial effects of a revised recruiting program, higher enlistments. The Army is changing its ad agency. And our numbers in the Army were up this year.

I'm particularly sensitive, coming from the Army just a week ago, we had a terrific year in retention last year, I think as you know, Tom. We retained 56 percent of those who were eligible at the end of the first term. That's almost six out of every 10 who knew us best chose to stay with us, a remarkably high number. And we did that because of our care for families.

Mrs. Cohen: If I just might add that not all of our services are having recruiting problems. The Marine Corps is doing just fine.

Dr. Rostker: Just one additional thing. The two parts of the program that we're stressing this year to complement the increases in pay are to start working down on the housing program so that the out- of-pocket dollars that are designed into the current program -- you know that the service member is supposed to pay about 15 percent out of pocket. The secretary has made a commitment to whittle that away till the point it's zero, and those monies are in the program and before the Congress. So we see that as one of the keys to addressing our housing program, along with housing privatization.

And then a series of Tricare reforms, from the elimination of co- pay, which again is dollars into families' pockets, to addressing some of the irritants in Tricare. The good news in Tricare is that we're not getting complaints about the quality of care. The bad news are there are a series of irritants which we believe we can address, like appointment schedules, like payments, and waiting times on making appointments on the telephone. Those are things that are clearly within our grasp to address. We can address them with our Tricare providers, our contractors, by properly incentivizing them. It is not acceptable that people should have to wait, that appointments are not available, and completely unacceptable that our families should in any way be harassed because of non-payments when it is our problem.

And we will address that as a priority issue.

Mr. Bacon: Lesley, go ahead.

Q: How were the families selected, and what was the range of the ranks that were in the forum today?

Dr. Rostker: The families were selected by the individual services. We wanted representation of enlisted as well as officers, single parents as well as dual military couples, as well as a service member, male or female. We particularly wanted our Reserve components, and so we had members from each of the services and each of the Reserve components. There were 100 participants in total, and we believe we got a good cross-section of the military.

The one concern we had -- you heard us talk about it time and again this morning -- we didn't have to -- it turns out it was not a concern, and that was speaking out and being candid. (Soft laughter.) It was a lively and quite enjoyable set of discussions.

Mr. Bacon: Last question. Charlie?

Q: Aside from the help that you-all get from on high here, and obviously the appreciation you have for leaders at the Pentagon, was there any sense expressed by the families -- who, after all, meet everyday Americans all over the country -- about the appreciation or lack of appreciation that Americans have in an era of peacetime and a kind of a "me, me, me," "go, go, go" society, on whether or not the sacrifices that you-all make as families are fully appreciated by the average American?

Mrs. Kirwan: There was -- that was not particularly expressed today, because that was -- that really wasn't where our focus was. I'm sure that if you asked that to the individuals there, what kind of reception they receive out in -- my personal opinion, from my experience, from living out there, is that there is a concern that there is not the kind of pride and appreciation that we saw before my time, a while ago.

I think, with some of the base closures, which were necessary to maybe streamline some programs and pour some of the money that we needed into other areas, that we are not in the forefront of the American people's conscious as much, especially in peacetimes, which I'm very grateful for. But my husband is still a Marine, and he is still doing the day-to-day job that will enable him to help defend democracy and our right to do all those things that we choose to do.

So, to answer your question, it wasn't expressed, but I do find that it is a concern. I wish more people would wave the flag a little bit more.

Staff Sgt. Berryhill: Well, I can only speak for Offutt Air Force Base. I know their deployment rate is extremely high as far as humanitarian efforts going out across the world and helping in hot spots and everything else. The community around Offutt is extremely -- it's been there so long; it used to be SAC Headquarters, so in our surrounding neighborhoods, morale is high. They extremely love the contact that we have with the community as far as events that we sponsor and everything else.

But she is right in the fact that people in the military today may not carry themselves as maybe I'd say as prideful as they used to, or bleed red, white and blue like they used to. And to the die-hard civilians, that's what they expect our military members to be; they expect us to be the prototype gung-ho American.

Mrs. Cohen: I just want to remind everybody what you already know, that the United States military is the most highly respected and regarded institution in this country. Everywhere we go in the world, our friends want to be like us, and our enemies fear us.

We were just in Indianapolis where my husband opened up the Indy 500. That's my hometown. And just before he opened the race, we had some Harriers come over. And you've seen the Harriers -- they're magnificent and they're awesome. And while they were just standing there in mid-air and then turning, one of the spectators said, "That is the sound of freedom." And another spectator said, "I'm glad they're ours. God bless America. Thank you to the Medal of Honor recipients for stepping up for us."

So while you may not hear a lot of this, I hear it, I see it, and I feel it in the American people. And on this side of the table, I would like more young Americans to come forward and burden-share with the men and women here who serve in our military. I understand our economy is enticing, but there's a level of patriotism that is out there, and because they don't see any observable threat, they're not likely to step forward. But I do believe if there's a threat, they'll all come, like they came in World War II.

They'll come, and they do respect you. They do love you, and they are grateful.

Dr. Rostker: I can't think of a better way to end a press conference. (Laughter.)

Mr. Bacon: Let me just say, it's Staff Sergeant Joseph Berryhill, and Kelli is spelled K-e-l-l-i. Thank you.

Mrs. Cohen: Thank you all for coming.

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