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DoD News Briefing: Press Conference at the George C. Marshall Center, Garmisch, Germany

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
December 01, 1999

Press Conference at the George C. Marshall Center, Garmisch, Germany

Question: AFN: There is a retention problem in the military and, as an enlisted service member getting closer to getting out of the military, what could you tell me as a reason not to get out?

Secretary Cohen: Let me ask you, what was the reason you joined?

Question: AFN: I joined because I wanted to serve my country, but my question is more along the lines of: a lot of people who are enlisted, at least in the European region that I've been able to talk to, feel that they've been overworked and undermanned for quite some time and they are getting frustrated with it. I'm not saying that I am getting out because of this or that they are, I am just asking what you would tell a service member who is feeling that way and is coming close to his separation date?

Secretary Cohen: I would tell them to look at what has been taking place in Congress. With Congressional support, we have certainly increased pay, changed the pay table reform so that we have greater compensation for those who are at mid-career level and those who have demonstrated leadership capabilities. We have also changed the retirement package. That's on the compensatory side.

In addition to that, we are trying to lower the op tempo for our forces. Certainly in the Air Force, they now have the air expeditionary force that they are creating. We go through this very carefully now trying to have greater opportunities for people to be with their families and not over-extend them. So, we have realized that we have reached a point where we have cut as deeply as we can go and still carry out our missions. Now we are trying to adjust the operational tempo and provide more quality of life enhancements so that men and women who are now serving will want to stay.

I might say there is some good news and that is that we seem to have turned the corner on the retention issue. We still have a recruitment challenge. Recent statistics seem to indicate that, as the result of the kind of action that we have taken on the pay and other issues, men and women in the military are feeling better about their public service, their service to their country, and the numbers are up somewhat in the last couple of months. So I think there is some good news to tell. May I say that we also want to make them aware that we really appreciate what they are doing and their sacrifice and that message should be loud and clear.

Question: ARD - Bavarian Television: I have a question on the West European Army that you intend to build up. Will NATO still have preference of action and policy whenever this institution is set up? Will NATO still have priority of action when this European Corps, European Army has been set up? This is a question to you both.

Minister Scharping: It is the declared will of the Europeans to build up their defense and security identity with the goal of strengthening NATO and to contribute an equal European pillar within NATO, a project that has existed since President Kennedy's time and that should finally be realized. In that respect, it is a process of cooperation, coordination and full transparency, which will strengthen NATO.

Question: ARD-BR Television: Will NATO have to give up some of its power and decision-making authority? Do you, Secretary Cohen, see problems for you where you would have to say this is the limit where one can go no further and where you would insist on maintaining your superiority?

Secretary Cohen: I don't know that there has been any criticism coming from the United States. What the United States has said is that we support the concept of ESDI, that is that we support Europeans taking measures to increase their military capability and their contributions. Always, the concept for us has been that there should be a separate capability, but not separable. It should be inseparable from NATO itself. There can be separate operations under the basic umbrella of NATO; but NATO should be the overarching institution and thereby a pillar of European security can be a part of the overall NATO security umbrella. So we wanted to have a separate capability, but not be separable from NATO itself. And that is the message that we have sent. We do not want to see a duplicative or redundant military capability created in Europe that would mean that it would be a separate and separable. That could break the Transatlantic link and we very much do not want to see that take place.

Question: Bavarian Radio: A question for Minister Scharping: Minister Sharping, you have announced in Hamburg that the Bundeswehr has to be given a new structure, that there will be no additional money. Here in the area, we have two military bases. To what extent are these bases at risk of closure when this new structure is put in place and will there be loss of employment?

Minister Scharping: None.

Question: Aldinger (Reuters): Minister Scharping, at a time when Germany is going to cut its own defense budget, granted a very small cut, does that make it more difficult for you to ask other members of NATO, especially smaller countries, to fulfill their obligations under DCI?

Minister Scharping: don't think so. It is my view that all NATO members in the last decade cut their defense budgets and everybody understood that this process is coming to an end -- if we want to face the challenges of the new security environment and if we want to increase our capabilities in order to be able to defend our territory, to make common security sure and to be able to prevent crises or manage them if necessary.

Question: Aldinger: Will you be able to increase your capabilities with a reduced defense budget?

Minister Scharping: Well it is not only a question of the budget itself. It is a question of how efficient and how productively you are using public money. That's the one point. The other point is that we will talk about the defense budget of 2001. We have just decided the defense budget of 2000. The budget of 2001 will be discussed in summer next year after the advice of the Commission on Common Security and the Future of the Bundeswehr chaired by Former President Richard von Weizsaecker.

Secretary Cohen: After the brilliant presentation I made today at the Bundeswehr, I am optimistic there will be a substantial increase to the budget. (Laughter)

Question: Reuters (Munich): Do you have any hints that Milosevic really will attack Montenegro --because you elaborated on the Kosovo conflict?

Secretary Cohen: I think that we should always be wary of Milosevic in view of the fact that he has initiated some four wars during the course of this decade and that it would be a mistake for him to cast his eyes on Montenegro with the purpose of either overthrowing the government or undermining it or attacking it. I don't have any information that leads to the conclusion that there is any preparation for him to do so. But I think we should always be very wary about Mr. Milosevic and his capacity to indulge in this kind of behavior.


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