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DoD NewsBriefing: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
August 11, 1995 8:30 AM EDT

Friday, August 11, 1995 - 8:30 a.m. CDT

[Dr. Perry addressed the Non-Commissioned Officers Association, in NewOrleans, Louisiana]

Secretary Perry: Thank you.

Good morning. It's great to be here in New Orleans. It's great to be here inthe great state of -- I have to be careful how I pronounce it -- Louisiana.

About five years ago, an eminent scholar wrote a book forecasting the endingof the Cold War would bring about an ending of war. Indeed, he said that thiswould bring about, in a memorable phrase, "the ending of history." But historyis being written every day -- in the mountains of Korea, in the deserts ofKuwait, in the streets of Haiti, and in the hills of Bosnia. Indeed, it hasturned out to be a very dangerous world.

The dangers of military conflicts, which is what concerns me and what concernsyou, falls into three broad categories. The first, and the most dangerous, isthe danger of another worldwide conflict. There have been two world conflictsin this century, with more than 50 million people killed in the last one.Today, with the advent of weapons of mass destruction, a future worldwideconflict is truly unthinkable.

During the Cold War, the great Russian physician Andre Sakharov said,"Reducing the risk of annihilating humanity in a nuclear war carries anabsolute priority over all other considerations. That priority is still truetoday, for there are still more than 40,000 nuclear weapons as a deadly legacyof the Cold War."

The second danger that we all face today is the spread of regional conflictaround the world. Today, medium-sized countries -- North Korea, Iraq, Iran --driven by virulent nationalism and armed with modern weapons, can causeenormous damage to their neighbors.

The third danger which we face is the proliferation of -- what I would call"communal wars" -- civil wars that are fanned by ethnic and religious hatreds.Many of these hatreds were long suppressed by the rigid structure of the ColdWar order. Unleashed, they have erupted into a violence which we thought theworld had outgrown.

A few years ago, Senator Daniel Moynihan wrote, "Ethnicity is the great hiddenforce of this age." Today, this force is no longer hidden. We see itmanifested every day, every week, in wars around the world.

How, then, do we deal with the danger that these tensions will lead tomilitary conflict and lead to military conflict that involves the UnitedStates?

Quite clearly, our best approach is to prevent these conflicts. The next bestapproach is to deter the conflicts by using the threat of military force.Finally, if deterrence fails, we must be prepared to use that military force.

Preventing the conflict involves creating conditions that make conflicts lesslikely. Like a doctor practicing preventive medicine, we want, if possible, tocreate [prevent] those conditions which are the breeding ground of violence.

Some have argued that these efforts are not the business of the DefenseDepartment. I disagree. I call them defense by other means, and we havelaunched major programs in the Defense Department to carry them out. The mostsignificant of these has come to be called the Nunn/Lugar program, named afterthe two innovative senators that first wrote the legislation for thisprogram.

Five years ago, when this legislation was conceived, the United States and theSoviet Union were confronting each other with enough nuclear firepower toeliminate the globe. We no longer aim these weapons at each other. Today,confrontation has given way to cooperation -- cooperation to vastly reduce anddismantle our nuclear stockpile.

Under the Nunn/Lugar program, the United States has helped the former Sovietrepublics to remove more than 3,000 nuclear warheads from deployment, anddestroy more than 600 bombers and launchers.

Under this program, we are also addressing the issues raised by theinfrastructure that created these weapons, by linking American companies andRussian defense enterprises -- to turn their Cold War arms factories intocommercial enterprises. For example, we helped the Russians convert a factorythat made electronic warfare parts into a factory that makes hearing aids.

We are also preventing conditions of conflict by bringing Central and EasternEurope into the security architecture of Europe through the Partnership forPeace, which is managed by NATO. We have invited the former members of theWarsaw Pact to create strong and interactive links to NATO, by joining us injoint training and peacekeeping exercises. After only 18 months of existence,26 Partner nations are now participating at different levels with the NATOnations. This year alone, we will have ten combined exercises, includingCOOPERATIVE NUGGET -- which is underway as we speak, just a few hundred milesfrom here at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

On Tuesday, I attended the opening ceremony of that exercise. It was truly anhistoric experience watching the parade of troops from nations formerly hostileto the United States -- most of them ex-members of the Warsaw Pact. If someonehad told me ten years ago that I would be hosting soldiers from Albania andUzbekistan at Fort Polk, I would have thought they were nuts. But I can assureyou that, as we speak, Bulgarians and Poles, Czechs and Ukrainians are allswatting mosquitoes and eating crayfish and po-boys just a few miles from here.They are also getting a super training experience at the JRTC -- the JointReadiness Training Center -- and they will return home and spread theknowledge, and spread the word, that the U.S. military is the best in theworld. [Applause]

I know that sounds like a chauvinistic statement, but I can tell you, that'stheir opinion -- not just my opinion.

Through activities like COOPERATIVE NUGGET, the Partnership for Peace not onlydraws these nations closer to the West, it also brings them closer to eachother, thereby preventing the likelihood of conflict.

Another form of prevention is through controlling the proliferation of weaponsof mass destruction -- particularly nuclear weapons. Last year, we signed whatwas called the framework agreement with North Korea. This program stopped theNorth Korean nuclear weapon program dead in its tracks. The sanctions on Iraqand Iran, and the extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, are all a part ofthe extensive effort to keep nuclear weapons out of the global conflictcalculation.

We can also prevent a conflict by sustaining and building upon our strongalliances with Japan, Korea, NATO, and by developing new security relationswith China and India -- ASEAN nations -- and with nations in our ownhemisphere.

Two weeks ago, at Williamsburg, Virginia, I hosted the first ever conferenceof defense ministers of the hemisphere -- 34 democratic nations of thehemisphere all joined us to discuss mutual security issues. The climax of thatconference was when the delegate from Brazil announced that he had achieved anagreement between Peru and Ecuador to demilitarize the zone in the borderconflict which has been going on between those two countries in the lastyear.

These preventive measures have been largely successful. But they're not wellknown -- and they're not well understood -- by the public because their verysuccess is measured by the absence of conflict; and, therefore, the absence ofCNN coverage. This is the classic story of the dog that didn't bark. Becauseit doesn't bark, we don't think about it or know it's there, but this has beena real success story in the last few years.

But there's no reason to be complacent. For when we are unable to preventconflict, we are forced to use the threat of military force to try to deterit.

During the Cold War, deterrence was the primary security objective of theUnited States. We pointed virtually our entire security effort at the SovietUnion, and paid particular attention to the threat of a nuclear attack. Today,we need to establish comparable objectives to deter major regional conflicts.

As we try to do this, we must remember that deterrence stems from militarycapability coupled to political will. That political will must be both realand perceived.

For example, deterrence failed in Korea in 1950 when North Korea doubted ourpolitical will. Since then, there can be no doubt about our deterrentcapability and political will to defend South Korea if it ever is attacked.But North Korean leaders could again miscalculate if they had a nucleararsenal. That is why the framework agreement, which I mentioned -- which haltsthe nuclear weapon program in North Korea -- is so important.

Deterrence failed, again, in Iraq in 1990, because Iraq doubted our politicalwill to defend Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. By contrast, deterrence succeeded lastyear, in October 1994, when Iraq again threatened Kuwait, because our politicalwill, this time, was manifested by rapid deployments of U.S. military forces tothe Gulf. Within days -- after the Iraqi forces had moved to the Kuwaitiborder -- we had deployed to the Gulf 200 fighter aircraft, an armored brigade,a Marine Expeditionary Unit, and a carrier battle group. These forces created,in a few days, the presence that it took many weeks to achieve in 1990. Facedwith that presence, Saddam Hussein sent his brigades back to their barracks.

This was a good example of the value of ready forces. By demonstrating ourcapability to fight a war on short notice; and, by demonstrating our politicalwill, we were able to deter that conflict.

How do we decide when to use military force? The answer is determined bywhether our vital interests are concerned; whether survivability of the UnitedStates, or U.S. allies, is threatened by military force; by economicstrangulation; or by the threat of nuclear weapons.

The situations with Iraq and North Korea all fell into that category, so wewere prepared to use -- and did use -- military force.

But there are other situations where we have national interests at stake, butthey're limited national interests, and not of the level that might be called"vital." In these situations, we must weigh the risks, on the one hand, andcompare that with the interests that we have at stake. The answers are notalways so clear, so easy.

In Bosnia, for example, the survival of the United States is not at stake, butwe do have interests. We have interests in keeping the war from spreading; wehave interests in reducing and mitigating the effects of the violence; we haveinterests in helping to deliver humanitarian aid; and we have interest insupporting the efforts towards a negotiated settlement. All of those interestshave called for us to use limited force to achieve limited ends. But we havenot and we will not use military force to enter that war as a combatant.

Haiti is another example. We had an interest in seeing democracy restored toa country close to our shores -- an interest in stopping the repression, aninterest in stopping the flow of migrants. We acted on those interests with acredible threat to use military force. How much more credible can you get whenyou have the paratroopers in the plane on their way to Haiti when we finallygot the agreement? As a result, we were able, with low risk, to change thatsituation for the better.

When our interests require us to enter a conflict, we must be prepared to usemilitary force -- that is necessary to prevail as quickly as possible and withminimum casualties -- as quickly as possible.

Let me just emphasize the three points. First of all, to prevail; secondly,to do it quickly; and third, to do it with minimum casualties.

Those objectives drive the size, the structure, and the composition of ourmilitary forces today. Every time we sit down to plan size, force structure,and composition, these are the objectives that are driving our thinking.

These objectives require us to have our forces in a state of high readiness.They require us to have forward positioning of forces -- 100,000 in Europe,100,000 in the East Asia/Pacific area, and 20,000 in Southwest Asia. Theyrequire us to maintain prepositioned equipment in the Gulf, in Korea, and inEurope. They require us to have carrier task forces and Marine ExpeditionaryUnits afloat able to move quickly to any crisis point. Finally, it requiresthat we have forces on high alert in the United States, and that we have thelift capability to rapidly transport them and their equipment.

Today, our military forces meet those requirements, and our forces are capableof defeating any military threat that we can now anticipate.

An important part of that capability -- a critically important part of thatcapability -- is our NCO corps. This corps is unmatched by the corps found inany other military found in the world today. There again, that is not just achauvinistic statement -- that is not just my opinion. Senior officials,senior military leaders from around the world have told me this time and timeagain.

One of the most striking examples occurred last summer when General Nikolayev,Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff, was on a two-week tour of militarybases in the United States. After visiting the first base and seeing our NCOsin action he told one of his aides, "I know that these men and women wearingsergeants' uniforms are really officers in disguise." [Applause] He thoughtwe had created a sort of an American Potemkin Village, just for his benefit.

But as he went from base to base, and from service to service, and talked withthese NCOs at all of these bases, he finally came to realize that they were notofficers. They were real live NCOs, doing the kind of work that they do everyday.

So at the end of the two weeks, when he returned to Washington, he met withme, and he was visibly impressed -- almost stunned. He said no military in theworld has the quality of NCO that he had found in the United States. He wenton to say, "That's what gives America its competitive military advantage."That's why we have the best military in the world. [Applause]

I have believed that for a long time, but it's really impressive to hear itfrom the senior officer of the Russian General Staff.

Incidentally, I've visited his bases and his forces, too, and he's right.[Laughter and applause]

Our forces are being studied and being emulated by countries all over theworld. When those countries are our friends -- our potential allies -- we tryto teach them, we try to show them what we do -- particularly what we do intraining -- to try to maintain this kind of capability in the U.S. Forces.

How do we maintain it? The first step, of course, is recruiting top qualitypeople. But even more important is giving those people the best possibletraining so that they are confident in facing any situation. Conflict isalways unpredictable, and it is only the trained who can make the adjustmentsnecessary when they face the unexpected.

It is the maxim of combat veterans that most mistakes are made in their firstcombat experience. Therefore, it's the quality and the realism of ourtraining, the tough challenges that we throw at our people before they get intoactual combat that sets the American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines somuch apart from their international colleagues.

That translates into experiences like RED FLAG, rotations to the NationalTraining Center at Fort Irwin, the Joint Readiness Training Center at FortPolk, the Air Mobility Rodeo at McChord, and a host of Marine and navalexercises.

In the last few months, I've been to the training exercises at Fort Irwin,Fort Hood, Fort Polk, and seen some of this training in operation andparticipated in some of it. At Fort Irwin, I went out on a night trainingexercise, with real fire, simulated targets -- targets simulating movingtowards us. In the course of this exercise, one of the things happened thatsometimes happens in a real war. The gun that I was firing jammed. Now, thatwas not part of the plan -- in fact, the exercise command was a littleembarrassed by it, but it should have been part of the plan because it exposeda real problem that does happen in combat. I was enormously impressed to seehow the sergeant who was the commander of that tank responded quickly,efficiently, effectively in that situation. If that ever happens to him in areal combat situation, he will have already done it. He'll already knowexactly what he has to do to deal with that situation.

So it is the intensity and the challenges of these experiences that allowedDESERT STORM veterans to joke that actual combat was not as tough astraining.

I should say, that these frequent and realistic training exercises are veryexpensive. They take a big chunk out of our defense budget, but they are worthevery penny of it, and as long as I am Secretary of Defense, we will continueto fund and support all of these training exercises. [Applause]

Top quality forces also need the best equipment we can provide, and mostimportantly, the funds to maintain that equipment at peak performance.Equipment that doesn't work can mean death in combat, and it certainly can meanfrustration in training. The synergy between effective training and qualityequipment translates into what we call readiness.

That is why the budget which we submitted for FY96 -- and the one we arepreparing for FY97 -- has both the training and maintenance accounts fullyfunded to the full requirements stated to me by each of the services.

The final, essential ingredient to a quality force is retention. It takes 14years to make a platoon sergeant out of a private; 16 years to take an airmanand make him into an aircraft maintenance supervisor; and 20 years to develop amaster chief of the command on a Navy ship. If we lose these people halfwaythrough the training, we lose the senior, seasoned, really qualified andexperienced people that make the difference in our force. So retention is key,a key to readiness.

There are two ways of keeping people long enough to develop those skills. Thefirst is to give them interesting and challenging work. The second is to givethem a decent quality of life for them and for their families.

The nature of our military provides the interest and the challenge, butproviding quality of life takes good management and it takes resources.

The number one quality of life issue -- which we face at many of our basestoday -- is housing. It, simply put, is inadequate -- both for our singlepeople and families. We don't have enough, and much of what we have is old andrundown. We cannot overcome this problem through the normal appropriationprocess, through the normal MilCon status. It would take us 30 years at ourpresent rate of spending to fix the problems in our military housing.

So, I have launched a special initiative to find innovative and affordableways to provide new military housing, and fix up and maintain our currenthousing. This initiative looks to leverage our resources -- land and money --to get private investments to help with this project. With private sectorinvestment, we can fix the problem a lot faster than we would through thenormal appropriation and military construction process.

The next big issues in quality of life are compensation and benefits. I haverequested, and the President has approved, the largest pay raise allowable bylaw from now to the end of this decade. I've directed that we do not reducethe commissary benefits in the face of enormous pressures and enormous effortsto try to get those reduced. [Applause]

Every time somebody is looking for a way of knocking another few hundredmillion out of the budget, they say, "Why don't we cut the commissarybenefits?" It is so easy to do it on paper if you don't measure the downside-- the negative effects on the other side. Too often, the people who areproposing the change have no sense at all of what the cost of the change is.

Finally, part of the reason we are able to recruit and retain top qualitypeople, and to keep them thinking about their jobs and not other problems, isthat we make a bargain with them about the future. We tell them, if you giveus your peak physical years, the time of your life when you're most able tolearn skills and take on tough jobs, and we will not only take care of youfinancially and physically, but we will take care of your basic needs inretirement as well. That is a promise that is implicit in everyone'senlistment contract.

You may have read that some of the deficit hawks in Congress want to changethe retirement pay formula in a way that would reduce it, in some cases, by upto as much as eight percent. That would be a broken promise. It is a badidea. It is a bad idea that keeps coming back to life even when we think wehave killed it. I call it the Dracula Proposal.

I'm going to do everything I can to drive a stake through the heart of thisidea once and for all. [Applause] And I'm doing this with the full backing ofthe President.


George Washington told the Congress in 1790, "To be prepared for war is oneof the most effectual means of preserving the peace." But he also wrote, "Thepreservation of the sacred fire of liberty is entrusted to the hands of theAmerican people."

The American people, in turn, trust you -- our non-commissioned officers -- totrain our sons and daughters, to keep them at the ready -- ready to preservethe peace, and to look out for our interests at home and abroad.

In return, we are going to look out for your interests and the interests ofyour families.

Thank you very much.

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