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Secretary Perry Media Availability, Camp Lejeune, N.C., August 29, 1996

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
August 29, 1996 10:00 AM EDT

Thursday, August 29, 1996, 10 a.m.

Camp Lejeune, N.C.)

Secretary Perry: Good morning. Today, after four decades of the Cold War a new Europe is being built. A Europe in which all people from the Alantics to the Urals can be free, prosperous, and secure. A key to this rebuilding of Europe is the Partnership for Peace. An enormously successful component of the Partnership for Peace are the peacekeeping exercises conducted by the partner nations.

I have seen the success myself, last year at Ft. Polk, Louisiana, a Cooperative Nugget. The first major Partnership for Peace exercise on U.S. soil. I have seen it this spring at L'viv, Ukraine, at Peace Shield ‘96, which is the first major Partnership for Peace exercise on the soil of the former Soviet Union. And I see it here today at Camp Lejeune, in Cooperative Osprey.

Cooperative Osprey is the most sophisticated Partnership for Peace exercise we have ever tried to conduct. And it is the most successful ever. I want to salute the efforts of General Sheehan, General Wilhem, General Howard, Colonel Dunford and all of the Marines who have put this together. And I also like to salute the efforts of military leaders of the 16 partner nations who have come together to make this such a successful operation. I cannot over estimate the importance of what has developed here in North Carolina these past three weeks. Platoons from 16 partner nations, have joined the Dutch, and the Canadian, and American platoons. All have engaged in a series of humanitarian and peacekeeping operational scenarios.

In each case the troops have been presented a series of tasks aimed at developing and teaching specific skills. The aim of having them learn how to work together. But it means much more than that. Because these exercises are the brick and the mortar that will draw the countries together with a common, strong, and mutually supported security structure for the future. For these countries, this is a vital process. It builds confidence, cooperation, and trust among nations. It develops a more professional military forces under civilian control and it helps these countries progress towards democracy.

We see the payoff. We see a big time payoff. And these Partnership for Peace exercises as the same nations now, contribute their troops to the IFOR operation in Bosnia. Bosnia is not an exercise. It is the real thing. And in Bosnia the partner nations have contributed to peace and stability of all the Europe. Indeed, of all the world. With those opening comments I will be happy to take some of your questions.

Yes?

Q: Are you concerned that the stability in Bosnia now that it is moving towards the elections?

A: The peacekeeping operation in Bosnia has gone I believe remarkably well. All of the specific tasks which were set up in the Dayton Agreement, all of those specific military tasks have been accomplished and accomplished quite successfully. I have said for the last few months, however, that I thought the most difficult part of IFOR was to be this summer and this early fall and then up to the elections. So far it has gone, continues to go peacefully, but we still have three more weeks until we get to the elections. And all of our troops there have been alerted, all of them have to be prepared for any contingencies that may develop.

Yes, I am concerned about the difficult task they have ahead of them. But I do believe that our troops are up to this difficult task. They are well-trained, well-motivated. And I am confident that they are going to be successful.

Yes?

Q: [inaudible].

A: Let me comment first of all that before I came to this press conference, I received a detailed briefing on the Cooperative Osprey activities to this date, including the activities of each of the partner nations. I might say that the Austrian troops have demonstrated a very high level of expertise and professionalism. The emphasis here has been on peacekeeping operations. I believe we had to be prepared for peace enforcement operations as well. And the level of skills and the level of professionalism that have been demonstrated by the soldiers here today, I believe will be up to that more demanding task.

Yes?

Q: As [inaudible] the nations applying for [inaudible] will they be viewed [inaudible].

A: Let me give you a careful answer to that question. The first point is that the process within NATO of considering and accepting new members is on track, is on schedule. At the December foreign ministers' meeting, I believe that you will find the ministers will affirm that and will call for a summit meeting in the first half of next year to select the candidate nations for membership.

So I believe this process is on track. Now, what are the selection criteria? They are progress made by the candidate nations in achieving democracy, progress made in achieving market economies, progress made in fostering good relations with their neighboring countries, progress made in interoperability with NATO military forces. What is being demonstrated here in these exercises is just that, the interoperability.

So now to get to the answer to your question, indeed, yes. What we see here, what is being demonstrated here is the capability of these nations to work together with NATO forces in military operations comparable to, like the kind of operation which NATO is performing in Bosnia. They might be called upon to perform at some time in the future. So, this is an important component of that evaluation.

Now, many of the nations here have not applied for NATO membership and have no interest in it. And the Partnership for Peace has value in and of itself. But it is also, it is also a pact towards NATO membership and these exercises are very important, very, very important to all of that.

Yes?

Q: [inaudible]

A: I can only give you my personal impression from the times I have observed the Albanian Army both in Albania and at several different exercises that I have attended where the Albanian troops have been present. And I have been very impressed with them. I went when I was -- the last time I was in Albania for example, I went out to the training range where the Albanian ranger battalion was undergoing its training. And they were very effective and a very competent military organization. I was quite impressed with them. I saw them also, I talked with them and saw them perform in Cooperative Nugget last year. Again, a very impressive operation. And the feedback that I have gotten so far from Cooperative Osprey, they have been very effective here as well.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, [inaudible]

A: That's a -- to answer that question carefully, really involves looking at the balance which I have to make and which the Department has to make every time that we practice together. It is the trade-off between the resources we put into training on the one hand versus the resources we put into modernization.

I made a conscious decision three years ago, that readiness was the first priority of the American military forces and in every budget that I have prepared since then, I have manifested that priority. Consequently, we have -- the consequence of that priority is that we have never skimped on a training. We have had all of the services that put in for full training budgets and we have protected those budgets all through the process. The consequence of that is that I believe that our forces are at the highest readiness level today that they have ever been.

Now, to get to your question, the downside of that is that a bill payer, you might say, for some of that training is the modernization. And I strongly believe that in time, over 5 to 10 years, that the readiness will suffer if we don't get our modernization back up again, because we have to have modern equipment as well as well-trained soldiers. To this point, the readiness has not suffered because of our lower priority on modernization. Because as we were drawing down our forces, we were able to retire the older equipment and so we still have modern and well [inaudible] equipment in the forces. But from here on in, now that the forces are stabilized, then every year that we do not modernize, our equipment will be getting a year older. So it is vital that we get our modernization program accelerated.

The budgets which I have prepared for Fiscal ‘97 and Fiscal ‘98, both reflect this increased emphasis in modernization. But to do that, we have to be successful in our two, fundamental efficiencies in managing our forces. One of them is base closing. We are finally starting to get the payoff from the bases that we have been closing for the last number of years. And by Fiscal ‘99, we will have $10 billion available for modernization relative to what we had in the last fiscal year. So we will be able to swing $10 billion from overhead, from infrastructure to modernization. That is one key to getting a modernization. The other key is the whole set of actions we are taking to reform and improve our acquisition system. And already we are seeing billions of dollars of savings. We are switching over to commercial techniques and commercial components being used in our acquisition of the military systems. So the key to success in getting our modernization program back on the track again and succeeding in those two reforms.

Voice: Thank you very much.

Secretary Perry: One other question.

Q: I would like you to say about the expansion of the PFP program to the [inaudible] about the participation of Central Asian platoon in the [inaudible]. Thank you.

A: The Partnership for Peace includes more than Europe. It also includes the Central Asian nations, very importantly it includes the Central Asian nations. In particular we have in this exercise today the Central Asian peacekeeping battalion. And I worked with the defense ministers of the three nations that formed that battalion well over a year ago in the plan that put this battalion together. I could not be prouder of what they have done in that battalion. And we are seeing the fruits of that today in this peacekeeping battalion that is located here.

What the Partnership for Peace is able to do, is extend a zone of security and stability which formerly was just in Western Europe, extend it to Eastern Europe, Central Eastern Europe as well, and into Central Asia as well. And I am very pleased to see this being extended into Central Asia. And the Central Asian republics, nations that are here today have fully demonstrated not only their interested in participating in this new security architecture but their ability to do that.

Thank you very much. It was great to talk to you today.

Q: Thank you Dr. Perry.

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