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Secretary Cohen's Year-End Interview with Pentagon Print Media, Jan 31, 1998

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
January 31, 1998

Secretary Cohen: We've allotted about an hour, I guess, for this ordeal. I thought I'd begin with just a brief recount of my first year in the position.

It's been just about 53 weeks since I accepted this position and was confirmed, and I thought I'd spend just a couple of minutes talking to you about some of the major issues that I believe were important for the Department.

One that, no doubt, will come as a surprise to you was the QDR, which I became deeply involved in although it had been underway for several months, and was happy to make a contribution in terms of reaching our stated objective at the appointed time and developing our strategy which is, as you've heard me say on many occasions before, of being able to shape, respond and prepare.

The shaping part -- we have seen evidence of it most recently, certainly in the Asia Pacific region where some of you were able to accompany me on that trip. We have been able to shape the environment there in ways that are very friendly to our interests -- dealings with Singapore, offering to extend its pier and allow U.S. carriers to make port calls. That was certainly part of a very positive development. The Philippines, reaching an agreement [on visiting] forces; in China itself, some real breakthroughs as far as our ability to work with them and to sign a maritime safety consultative agreement; all of that part of shaping the environment, I think, has been very important.

The responding part: We are still capable of responding to the full range of crises that we will be required to address.

The most important part for me to try to address in terms of reallocation of resources, has to do with the preparing part. There, as you know, we have been deficient in recent years, not measuring up to that mark of approximately $60 billion that General Shali had talked about for so many years. We will have the budget roll-out on Monday, but I think you will see significant progress in what we are planning to spend for procurement in FY99 and beyond.

So the QDR, I think, is a strategy that will serve us well not only for the next three years, but in the year 2010, 2020, we're still going to have to shape, respond and prepare. One of my goals, obviously, is to help accelerate that transformation into the 21st Century as far as our military capability with the Revolution in Military Affairs.

The second part that was very important to me was the Defense Reform Initiative -- the so-called DRI where we are going to institute solid business practices, reengineer our processes here. I don't have a CD ROM to hold up to you today, but you all know the story about the pages of regulations that we have compressed onto the CD ROM, and we'll go to a paperless society very soon as far as regulations are concerned. By June we'll go strictly to the Internet as far as the regulations, and then hopefully by the year 2000, by June of 2000, we will do our major contracting through the Internet as well.

But the other elements of that, of consolidating agencies; you know that I've recommended that we cut down the size of OSD along with some of the defense-wide agencies. We'll have a 33 percent reduction in the size of the OSD staff, roughly 1,000 people over the next 18 months. There will be comparable cuts in the Joint Staff, and Headquarters will be reducing. So we're going to reengineer and to consolidate, and then we're going to have more competition through all of the, many of the positions now that are performed by the public employees. We will now compete them. We have done them almost on an increase of about ten-fold over what it's been in the past, and we will maintain that substantial competition so we can save dollars for the taxpayer and invest those in future technologies.

The other part of it, of course, in addition to competing, will be the elimination part. That has to do with BRAC, and the fact remains that we will not be able to achieve our objective as far as procurement increases unless we're able in the future to count on the kind of savings from reductions and overhead and business efficiencies.

So the DRI was very important in terms of combining that with the QDR. We're not going to get too much into the alphabet soup, but the two of those in combination, I think, were very important steps forward.

In addition, we are trying to address quality of life in the budget itself and, of course, there are some serious issues in terms of health care, housing, daycare facilities, all of the elements involved in making sure that our men and women in the military receive a high quality of life, and that pertains to readiness, which many of you have been focusing on. We've had some problems as far as readiness is concerned, which we are addressing. I would say, this is not simply to throw any bones here today, but the fact is that the reporting that has been done has helped to bring this up to the attention, certainly my level, and through the Joint Chiefs, through the JROC, to focus more intensely and develop procedures which allow us to address those issues more quickly.

Many times in the past you heard general statements that things are okay, that we have some problems here but generally they're okay, and that's been fine. But when we start to see more systematic reporting that there are, in fact, some edges that are getting frayed, and we want to address them sooner rather than later, and we have now implemented some new procedures into JROC to try to accelerate that information up through the chain so we can address it.

For example, we know that some of the units, high demand, low density, have been over-utilized. We are trying to manage that better now. We know that the OPTEMPO, the PERSTEMPO has been very high, and we've got to cut back, and we will recommend reductions of some 15 percent in the joint exercises. We'll call upon the CINCs to reduce it another ten percent by the year 2000. We will add about a billion dollars to the readiness account in the next year to address some of the shortfalls and backlogs in the Navy Depot, Air Force Depot as well -- engine parts and improvements.

So these issues that have been coming up by virtue of certainly your reporting, but also my own travels throughout, visiting the troops, have been very important to me. We'll try to address those in the coming years.

Beyond that, I think I should stop. I could carry on for the next half hour and give you a report of my Asia trip, which was very successful. Some of you, again, were on that trip, but it was a very important trip and it tended to be quite fortuitous that I went at that time. I was scheduled to go in November. That got postponed by virtue of the situation in the Gulf. When I went there this time, we had the case of the Asian economic flu, and it was very important that I be there to send a message that we, number one, are with them in good times and bad; that we have a long term commitment; that we are reliable, we're concerned, we're going to work with them to get through their economic stresses and strains right now, trying to work with contractors and others to deal with their purchases, if necessary. That was an issue that was raised in Thailand by way of example.

But each country that I visited, I must tell you, it's a dramatic, I would say a significant change in attitude from what we might have seen five or ten years ago, when the United States might not have been as welcome in terms of the visibility of its presence. When the Singaporians said we've got a new pier that will be on-line by 1999, we'd like to have your aircraft carriers come and visit -- that was a very strong signal. The Philippines, again, reaching an agreement, working with the Indonesians to encourage them to take part in the IMET program, the expanded IMET program; working with the new Thai government to say we'll find ways in which we can ease the burden of the purchase of the F-18s as best we can.

Going to China, really, to do a couple of things for the first time. The maritime agreement was a very significant achievement. I was the first Western official, certainly the first Secretary of Defense, to be admitted to their Air Defense Command Center in Beijing. I don't know if I was the first, but I believe I was probably the first to address the PLA's Academy of Sciences, which was an interesting group to talk to. This really was their intellectual elite, listening to me give a speech about our strategy for presence in the Asia Pacific region. Pointing out that we had a very close relationship with Japan, we're going to maintain that relationship. That we were going to have port visits in Singapore with our carriers. We were going to have an agreement with the Philippines in terms of visiting forces. And we were going to have a good relationship with them. I think by laying it out in that fashion they could understand the defense guidelines with Japan, which has been of concern to them; all of that to be laid out in a strategic sense I think was an important statement for me to make.

I also got a commitment from the Chinese while I was there that they would not be sending more missiles or providing the technology to the Iranians as far as the anti-ship cruise missiles. That was an important commitment on their part.

So I found the nature of the relationship that we have established and are now building upon to be very positive.

As you know, we also provided a C-17 full of medical supplies to the people who were affected by this in Beijing -- they had a major earthquake. I would tell you that a few years ago they probably would not have accepted that. We not only provided one planeload, I offered to provide a second for tents and blankets, because the temperatures were probably in the neighborhood of 20-25 below zero, and they didn't have any housing for people who had been wiped out of their houses. I went to General Chi and I offered a second plane of supplies. He said he would take it up with President Jiang Zemin. He did, and the next day I met with the President and asked him if he would be interested, and he said, yes. They not only said yes, but they filmed the plane arriving and they had footage of the U.S. air crews unloading the equipment and providing it and taking it up to the victims who were stricken from the earthquake. A pretty positive development.

But I also wanted to make clear, as did the President, that we want to take this step by step in our relationship. We don't want to build unrealistic expectations about where we're going in our relationship. There are bound to be areas of controversy and debate on issues, and we want to make sure we can sit down at the table and discuss them in a very open and candid fashion. I must tell you, based on my experience in that brief period of time, they, I think, went out of their way to say we want a better relationship, we don't want to rush it, we're prepared to take it step by step. We know from a conceptual point of view that you want to discuss ways in which we can cooperate on a humanitarian basis, but I want to move beyond the conceptual stage and let's talk about a tabletop exercise, and then beyond the tabletop exercise. Let's see if there are ways in which we can in fact work together as once we did back during World War II. I thought it was a very impressive response on their part to my presence there.

So all in all, it was a great trip. I had an opportunity to meet all of the leadership in Malaysia, in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan, and South Korea.

I went over to South Korea to visit our troops up on the DMZ and talk about the landmine issue. Although some report it as being a staged event, Charlie, it was an important statement to make in terms of why we are concerned about that region and why the President couldn't sign the Ottawa Treaty. But all in all, it was a great meeting there, as well. I met the President-elect, and he is committed to the IMF reforms, restructuring his economy and the way in which they do business in South Korea. That's all very important as well, in terms of the security. And our sending a signal to the South Koreans that we're concerned about their economic situation right now was very important, and also sending a signal to the North not to construe or misconstrue any lack of commitment on the part of the United States as some kind of weakness on the part of the South or the U.S. So it's very important to reinforce that we not only have a military commitment to the security of the region, but we're also concerned about their economics, and are prepared to be supportive. So all of that was extremely important for our security interests.

And I will cease and desist and open myself to your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said that any raids on Iraq would be tough and extensive and would not be pinpricks. I wonder if you could characterize that a little more, on whether they would be repeated raids over a period of days. Also, one of the most expensive weapons during the Gulf War was the F-117. You only have six of them there now. While you said that you have adequate forces there, will you send some extra F-117s and perhaps B-52s?

A: Before I go on, can I just clarify one thing I said before. I said stationing of forces agreement with the Philippines. It's visiting forces. We're not stationing forces there. So the agreement basically provides for the legal protection of our forces who visit there, but we're not planning on stationing any forces -- just for clarification purposes.

With respect to Iraq, I think it would not be either helpful or productive from my perspective to comment extensively on what sort of plans have been prepared. I've tried to indicate on each and every occasion that I can that the President has not made a decision as to whether or not all diplomatic avenues have been pursued and exhausted, and until such time as he does, I think it's not helpful to discuss in any specific way what military options are available.

What I would like to do is to say that the military options, if they become necessary to exercise, that we shouldn't overestimate what they can achieve. They will be significant should they ever be carried out. This is something more than a pinprick, as we have discussed in the past. But I believe, and I think I can speak for others in the Administration, including obviously the President of the United States, that the best solution would be to have inspectors on the ground carrying out their jobs without hindrance from Saddam Hussein. There is no military option that I'm aware of that would be an adequate substitute for having human inspectors on the ground with an opportunity to detect and discourage any reconstituting of weapons of mass destruction.

So if one has to resort to military options, we should not overestimate what they would in fact achieve. They will be substantial, they are something that Saddam Hussein should understand, and something a great deal more than any pinprick that might have been delivered in the past. But what we hope to do is to curtail his ability to manufacture or reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction, and curtail his ability to threaten his neighbors. But I don't want to suggest that a military option is in any way preferable to having unfettered access by UNSCOM inspectors.

If you can't have inspectors on the ground, if they cannot carry out their mandate to determine whether or not he is continuing developing these either missiles or volumes of chemical and biological weapons, then a military option may be necessary but we haven't reached that point yet.

Q: Does that mean you don't know where these chemical weapons and biological weapons, all of them are? That's why it wouldn't be effective?

A: No, it doesn't mean we don't know where they are or where they are suspected of being. It has to do with the fact that you can reconstitute those fairly quickly in terms of putting some chemicals together, something that might have a dual use capability, for example. A factory that might be used to manufacture insecticide can also be used to produce chemicals. So that's not the issue, [that] we don't know where they are. But rather, you can never have a complete elimination of weapons of mass destruction simply by attacking them from air. So it has to do with, let's not raise unreasonable expectations. This would be a very significant effort if it's ever undertaken, and obviously sanctions would have to continue and other activities to make sure that he is not allowed to get the kind of revenues that would be necessary to allow him to rebuild his military capability.

Q: What's the answer to this operational tempo problem that you're concerned about? It seems to me...

Q: Can we stay on Iraq for a minute? UNSCOM has identified 70-odd places where there are facilities that might be used for a dual purpose. As you pointed out, there are dual purpose plants, dairies, breweries and so on which have equipment that might be used, if necessary, for biological warfare. There's no evidence they are now, but they might be, and those are being monitored. Inspected.

The French government keeps on pointing that if you bomb, he throws out the monitors. Is that a good bargain, if you... You can't flatten all 70 dual purpose plants.

A: Monitors in and of themselves will not be sufficient to preclude him from developing weapons of mass destruction. What has been very helpful is having inspectors on the ground. As the President pointed out during his State of the Union message, inspectors have been responsible for at least overseeing the destruction of more weapons since the bombing took place in the Persian Gulf. We want to see them continue. To simply have remote sensors or monitors in various buildings would not be sufficient.

The French, I believe, have also said they want unrestricted access. We want the same thing. The question is, and I've tried to make this point as clearly as I can, I believe that to the extent that Saddam is convinced that there is a division amongst the Security Council members, he will seek to exploit that. That the best way of preventing any resort to military action is to have solidarity in terms of the Security Council itself, and we are still seeking to get that kind of solidarity.

I find it interesting, for example, that there seems to be reluctance on the part of some to indicate that Saddam is, in fact, in breach of his obligations. I really have difficulty comprehending why there is such a lack of willingness to declare that which they know to be true.

So I think if there is a solid support within the Security Council, that makes it less likely that you have to resort to force because Saddam would have a very clear message. There is no hope for relief from the sanctions as long as he continues to bar them from access. So the notion that he's looking for some light at the end of the tunnel, that light at the end of the tunnel is likely to be the searchlights of the inspectors as long as he remains unwilling to abide by his obligations.

So I think there is no disagreement with the French. The Russians are getting, apparently, frustrated. The French have been frustrated in dealing with Saddam. So I don't think anyone believes the military option is the best option, but it may be the only one in the event that diplomacy is not able to resolve this.

Q: What does it achieve? We bomb them, say there, take that. He's still there and the inspectors are gone.

A: No, what we do, if it becomes necessary, we take out those facilities that we are persuaded, or at least believe he is hiding either materials or is able to manufacture from those sites. That would be a significant impediment to his plans. We would also look to reduce his capacity to pose a threat to his neighbors, either in the way of developing missiles or in building up his military that could possibly invade Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.

So this would be a significant strike. I don't want to minimize it. It would be a significant strike. Would it, in fact, eliminate him from power? Would it eliminate all weapons of mass destruction? I think the answer is probably not. But it would be significant, it would have a very consequential impact upon his ability to do things in the near future and for some time to come. But would it preclude him? The answer is no. There would be other measures that would have to be taken.

Q: Can you mount significant sustained operations if you can't fly offensive operations out of either Turkey or Saudi Arabia?

A: We would expect to be able to have the full cooperation of all the countries in the region.

Q: Can I follow up on your statement about how you would hit those facilities. I presume you're talking about chemical and biological facilities so it would contain his ability to cause mischief in that area.

As a military matter it was looked at during the Gulf War and they couldn't figure out how to bomb those facilities without poisoning the atmosphere. Are you confident that you could bomb a germ warfare plant or a chemical plant without poisoning the atmosphere and hurting surrounding countries?

A: I think great care has been taken in terms of being concerned about collateral damage -- a euphemous word, but what would happen to innocent civilians. That has always been a concern on the part of the Department, and that also would be a concern in this case here.

So I think there would be great caution in terms of whatever measures would be undertaken with concern for collateral damage and that would include taking into account any dispersal of chemicals into the atmosphere.

Q: You think it could be done if you wanted to do it.

A: I wouldn't want to speculate in terms of what can be done.

Q: The world oil market's all jittery because of the talk of war. Can you give us a sense of what capability Iraq actually has to interrupt production and flow of oil through the Gulf? And conversely, if military action is taken, are there contingency plans to protect the oil flow through the region?

A: I think anyone who has a weapon of mass destruction obviously has the potential to do some damage and interrupt activities in the Gulf, but I would anticipate that any kind of planning we have would be designed to negate that capability.

Q: You seem confident of allied cooperation in the Gulf. Can you explain your confidence? They seem to have withheld permission for use of their airfields in the past. What's changed now?

A: I am satisfied, after talking with various members in the Gulf, talking with General Zinni and others, that we would have the support necessary to carry out whatever operation we needed.

Q: Are there any conditions that those Gulf allies placed on...

A: I'm not aware of any conditions at this point.

Q: ...military action to protect shipping throughout the Gulf, either escorts, overflights of airplanes...

A: I think we would do whatever is necessary to make sure that the flow of energy from that region is not interrupted.

Q: Do you have any role for the B-2 as far as (inaudible)?

A: I wouldn't indicate what we would have as far as composition. I think you're all aware of what's there now. If any additions are required, we would make that determination at a later time, but not yet.

Q: You said that we would have the cooperation necessary from those countries. Is it necessary to use their airfields for the kind of action that's being contemplated, or could everything be done from aircraft carriers?

A: We would expect to have the cooperation of land-based facilities as well.

Q: There's been a report that you're reviewing options for sending additional forces into the Gulf, but you've stressed here that even if you did mount a sustained campaign that it may not topple Saddam. Can you address the potential for the use of land forces in this operation? Is there any chance that you might send Army, Marine Corps...

A: We do not have as a goal the toppling of Saddam Hussein. As I indicated before, our goal is to curtail the production and development of his weapons of mass destruction and to preclude him or prevent him from, or reduce his capacity, I should say, to threaten his neighbors. That is our goal. We are seeking to do that through the inspections. Should our inability to carry out the inspections, the United Nations inspections, then serious concern has to be given to a military option. But we are not there yet. I think there has been too much speculation, frankly, in the press that the decisions have been made and they have not been made. We're still pursuing diplomacy, even as I speak to you now.

Q: What I'm asking is, are you ruling out the type of operation that would involve a Desert Storm redo, or even a potential invasion of Iraq, that we would occupy the country?

A: I think what I've indicated is our goal is to curtail his weapons of mass destruction and to prevent him from threatening his neighbors. That is our goal. Beyond that, I wouldn't comment.

Q: We had an earlier guidance from Ken that ground troops were very unlikely. Does that hold, or are we shifting nuances here?

A: I don't know what Ken has said. I'm just telling you what I said.

Q: Is that off the table?

Bacon: He is the Secretary of Defense. Listen to him.

Q: Mr. Secretary, why isn't the goal to topple Saddam Hussein?

A: The purpose behind the UN Resolutions and conditions was to secure his compliance for unfettered inspections. That is the basis of our activity right now. That's why the UN inspectors are there. It has never been the goal of the United Nations to remove him from power. Until such time as there is a change in the declaration of the UN policy, then it won't be ours either.

Q: ...Security Council (inaudible). You talked earlier about restoring the freedom of Kuwait, but also about restoring stability to the region, which was (inaudible) precisely because it could be used as a blanket authorization to get rid of Saddam.

A: I have never heard anyone argue that we should use that in order to get rid of Saddam.

Q: Is it important that Saddam retain some military strength for a counterweight to Iran?

A: I think that was evident during the course of the Gulf War, as such, that there was a consideration given to not inflicting such damage that you could not preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq itself. That was a factor, I think, during the war, and it's still...

Q: You're planning a trip this week to the Middle East. Can you give us a sense...

A: I'm planning to go to Munich and I'm planning to go to Moscow, and I have enough flexibility that if the President asks me to go to the Gulf, I will go to the Gulf. But he has not asked me to go yet. So I have a contingent plan of being able to fly from Munich to the Gulf States if the President asks me to go.

Q: What are some of the issues you would deal with that Madeleine Albright hasn't dealt with?

A: Secretary Albright is talking about diplomatic initiatives. I would be talking more in terms of military capabilities and requirements.

Q: ...permission from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to allow airstrikes from their bases?

A: If I were to go I think I would be explaining the nature of plans that we would have.

Q: You seem to be saying that seven years after the war, the military still doesn't have the definitive capability to end a WMD program.

A: I don't think I said that.

Q: That doesn't seem to be our goal at the moment. I think you talked about rolling it back or putting a halt to it, but that we had to have realistic expectations.

A: The United States does not want to be in the position, nor do any of our allies to say, let's just devastate Iraq.

Q: ...end the WMD program.

A: But that is more complicated than it would appear. If you have facilities that are located in populous regions and damage that you would do to innocent people then that obviously is a factor. The United States has the power to do great damage. We also have the requirement that we act within certain guidelines and that is not one of them. That we simply "make a desert and call it peace", to quote from Tacitus from another era. But we would try to carry out what we believe is the appropriate response to Saddam Hussein if in fact the diplomacy fails, but it's not one of just leveling wholesale military action upon all of his people.

Q: Actually, that was sort of my question. In the era of asymmetric warfare, how difficult is it now for the U.S. military to find the direct proportional response, not to go for the pinprick or the massive retaliation, but to find a direct response to an asymmetric threat like WMD or IW or something like that.

A: As I indicated before, I think we could do significant, and are prepared to do, significant damage to his capability.

Q: Mr. Secretary on these types of crises, as you talked about the operational tempo of the forces, what's the solution for reliving that? If you have these piled one on top of the other, these folks are wearing out with regard to their family life and so forth. Is it a budget question given the environment we live in today? Do you use any of the surplus of future budgets to relieve this...

A: Surplus? As I heard the President speak, surplus, if there is a surplus, is going first to social security. (Laughter) The President said it as clearly as it could be said.

I think it has to do with the management of our forces more than anything else. I think we have got to cut back, we'll have to cut back in terms of the operating tempo. We've got to be better in terms of following not only the units that are over-utilized, but also the individuals. Sometimes there is a lack of tracking individuals who might get recycled even though they're in a different unit. We've got to get much more discreet in terms of how we are able to track those individuals and those units. But I think there's a genuine concern now on the part of the military leadership to install the kind of management initiatives that would help us to relieve that kind of pressure, to follow the pilots as well as the ground troops who are deployed, and to make sure they're not over-extended. Families, obviously, are a great concern. But it has to do with cutting back somewhat on the joint exercises, and also the operational tempo.

Q: Is that enough, Mr. Secretary, or are you going to get, for example, AWACS, I guess a lot of the field teams are pretty much out all the time. Are you going to have more of them?

A: I think to the extent we need more we will try to attract more, but this is a decision that obviously individual services will have to make in terms of what they need to fill their requirements. I think we're focusing right now on trying to reduce the stress and strain on those units that are most utilized, and to the extent that we need more, we will try to get more in those units.

Q: Some in Congress are arguing that the solution is to be a little more discreet in the number of contingencies that we get involved in.

A: I agree with that.

Q: Are you making any appeal to the White House for that?

A: I agree with that position. In fact I advocated that while a member of the Senate, and believe that now.

Q: Are you making that pitch to the White House, and are you getting any response?

A: I think the White House is aware of the kind of stresses that we've been talking about.

Q: What kinds of things would you recommend not doing? Can you give us any examples of things we've done recently that if it were up to you we would...

A: I think there are always temptations. We have lots of areas that are in distress around the world, many in Africa, for example, with the problem of failing or falling states, as to whether or not we should be engaged in various affairs. I think we have to be, again, very discreet in terms of how many of these we can undertake, how often we will deploy our troops. If there is a case where a nation is failing and they need some temporary help until such time as you can restore electricity and power and supplies of food, that's one thing. But I think in terms of any kind of a long term commitment, we have to be very discriminating in terms of where we're going to make that commitment.

Q: Going back to when you were a member of Congress. You were very active in promoting safety from whistleblowers.

A: Sure. (Laughter)

Q: How do you encourage whistleblowers here in the building?

A: How have I encouraged that?

Q: What are the guidelines, if somebody wants to speak out...

A: They should be in an absolute position to express whatever opinion they have or whatever report they have without any fear of retribution on the part of DoD officials. That's precisely why we have the Whistleblower Protection laws. I would want to see that continue.

Q: You spoke of protecting innocent, your concern for innocents too in this operation and how you'll take whatever measures, if you do need to launch attacks against Iraq, to protecting them. But what is also the message with regard to Saddam.... Given that's your concern, if he piles a lot of innocent people around his most important sites, will you still strike?

A: I would not get into when and under what circumstances we would strike. The fact is, if he piles innocent people around any facilities, that he ought to be held up for condemnation by the UN and by the world itself. This is an act of a man who... By the way, the New York Times this morning, was pointing out that he continues to build palatial monuments to himself while his people are starving. This is just another example of his complete lack of regard for the welfare of his people. He has constructed some 80-odd presidential palaces. Many, almost half, since the time of the Gulf War, at a time when he is complaining that people are going without sufficient caloric intake, and he yet is building more palaces. I think he should be held up for the contempt and the condemnation that he deserves. But I wouldn't indicate what we would do under what circumstances.

Q: Also on Iraq.

A: Isn't anybody interested in what I had to do my first year? (Laughter)

Q: Given some of the reports, that there's some evidence that Saddam may be loading some of these weapons of mass destruction on missiles, things like that...

A: Can you speak up?

Q: Given some of the reports that Saddam may be loading some of these weapons of mass destruction on missile warheads, things like that, what is your assessment of his capabilities should there be a military strike that he would be able to launch one of those things? Either at Israel, Saudi Arabia, U.S. troops in the region? How concerned about that are you?

A: Obviously we try and track his capabilities as best we can, and we do a very good job of it. He would be making a very serious mistake were he ever to launch a weapon of mass destruction against any neighbor in the region. That would be a grave mistake on his part. But does he have the capability? We would try to counter any capability he has to do that. That would be, obviously, part of our planning and our anticipation.

Q: What would ... response to such an attack. (inaudible)...anthrax on it or...

A: Let me repeat, it would be a grievous mistake on his part. It would be met with a more than substantial response, a very substantial response from the United States.

Q: If you're not going to give us the war plans, can we talk about QDR? (Laughter)

It's not quite two months since the NDP report. Your initial response to that was positive, but appropriately general. It's been a busy two months, I know, but have any of the questions that O'Deen and his people raised about the QDR, do any of them strike you as being particularly apt? Are you beginning personally to focus on any of the points that he made?

A: As I indicated before, I think it was a positive complement to what we did in the QDR. Should we concentrate more on space opportunities? The answer is I think we have to devote more resources, more R&D to the space programs. Should we do more about investing in revolutionary technologies? The answer is yes. How are we able to do that? If we get BRAC savings.

We can't make the kind of investments even that I'm recommending or the NDP is recommending until we get the efficiencies from the overhead.

With respect to specifics, one of the problems with the NDP is there were no specific recommendations. Perhaps that was beyond their mandate as such. But they were very general in nature. When you get down to the specifics, for example, it was quoted very often that the NDP was critical of the so-called two MRC capability.

I didn't find that in reading the report. I found it just the opposite. In fact I found the same paragraph that said we think the United States in conjunction with its allies is fully capable of carrying out its two MRC capability. Somehow that was cited as this is a criticism of the two MRC capability. I have raised this question before. Well, if you don't like that, which one do you want to give up? Of course the NDP didn't recommend that.

They said for the long term we shouldn't be basing our long term structures on the current events in either Korea or Southwest Asia, and we agree with that. But in the short term, intermediate term, we still have to have that capability.

So I didn't find much disagreement between the NDP and the QDR. I saw some stories built on the NDP saying you haven't really focused enough on space, you haven't done quite enough in terms of investing more in these revolutionary technologies. But I didn't hear anybody advocate that we forego either South Korea or the Persian Gulf region at this time.

Q: It's not really a matter of foregoing it, it's a matter of the level of risk you accept on the second MTW...

A: I don't think they recommended that we increase the level of risk to be accepted. At least I didn't see that specific recommendation. If they did, it was fairly subliminal in terms of its articulation.

Q: They did suggest that less might be spent on what they saw as incremental modernization of the existing heavy systems.

A: I didn't see any recommendation about which systems should be eliminated.

Q: (inaudible)

Q: Crusader... And they were amplified in the hearings.

A: Did they say they should be canceled? I don't recall...

Q: They said forego the CV-77 and go into the stealth...

Q: ...basically limit digitization and go directly to Army After Next...

A: I frankly think more will have to be explored with the members of Congress in terms of how we're able to achieve that, if that's the case.

Q: ...in the NDP report and also a strong congressional interest item is Joint Stars and it talks to the high capability, low density asset problem that you have. You indicated to Congress last year if NATO doesn't follow suit and buy a Joint Stars, a Joint Stars variant, you may reverse course on the QDR cuts.

A: We're trying to examine how we can do that now. We had planned on and hoped that the allies and NATO would take up those, and they haven't, so we've got to go back and see what we can work out in terms of JSTARS. It's very important.

Q: Do you expect to make a decision on that any time in the near future in terms of...

A: During the course of deliberating with the Congress and finding out how we can reallocate resources, that will be one of the issues we have to address.

Q: The NDP is a congressional panel, not a DoD one.

A: Well, I voted for it.

Q: Sure. Are you talking with the members of the panel...

A: Yes.

Q: When do you expect to get any of...

Q: Are you comfortable with the fact that you've had now five post Cold War reviews of the U.S. military establishment, and yet you still have the same cookie cutter in the defense budget of 30 percent to the Air Force, 30 percent to the Navy, and 25 percent to the Army.

A: We still have roughly the same missions that we've had. If you can, or if anyone can in fact say that we don't, shouldn't carry out the missions we're carrying out today, then obviously you can say we'll forego a number of things and just take our chances.

The difficulty with that rationale is that I think we're still in a situation in which we may be called upon to carry out these missions today. So how do you get from here to there is a challenge not only for me but for future Secretaries of Defense as well.

I believe that you look at the globe. I think it was Bismarck who said there are only two things that do not change -- one is history and the other is geography. We still have to be forward deployed. I have made the commitment, I haven't heard anyone including the NDP say we shouldn't have roughly 100,000 forward deployed in the Asia Pacific region, and that means having a fairly vigorous naval presence. We still have roughly 100,000 throughout Europe. We're about to expand NATO itself in terms of our obligations there. We're in the Gulf. Hopefully Korea will be resolved in the next few years. It may take, it could take months, it could take years -- no one can tell you at this point. So it's not a question of are they simply cookie cutting out their forces because they're locked in the past, they are adjusting. We have downsized significantly in terms of the manpower that we have. They're making these adjustments. We're going to lighter, more expeditionary forces. We are using... I'm not persuaded yet, I'm open to it, that we should just skip what the Army 21 is doing right now. I think that's enormously helpful, that we are taking this in stages. It's more evolutionary, perhaps, than revolutionary in some respects, but I think we're pulling that technology forward as fast as we can.

In looking, for example, at theater missile defenses, we've got some very active programs underway. We also have some real technical difficulties. We've had either four or five misses now in terms of our TMD system, so we're trying to advance technology as fast as we can, but we don't want to take unreasonable risks. These are still high risk types of endeavors. So it's balancing what we need in terms of manpower in order to carry out our current missions, and unless we have a change in missions, we're not going to be able to change that commitment just yet.

Now can we develop a different concept for the future? Obviously that's something we have to try to address ourselves, but I don't think that members of Congress when they look at the reality of it, saying are you prepared to forego the commitment to Europe or the commitment to the Asia Pacific, I don't think they'll say yeah, let's take a risk and put all the money in new technology. I don't believe they would do that. I don't think it's wise that we do that.

Q: What makes you think, speaking of reality, that Congress will approve two more rounds of BRAC? Have you heard from the leadership that they are warming to this idea? (Laughter)

A: I'm not sure they're any warmer to the idea today than they were last year, but I've tried to impress upon them that all the easy choices are gone, that they can, in fact, say yeah, you can carry this overhead, but you can't have the investment in the new technology. You won't be able to afford the systems that we currently have on the books unless we get these kinds of savings. So they are a partner in this. They are a co-equal partner with the executive branch, and they have a co-equal responsibility. I am going to put it to them, as I did in the past, that they've got to measure up here. That's why I spoke to the Mayor's Conference just the other day, to say the Mayors have a role here. I want the Mayors to also be engaged in this because there are a lot of success stories that can be told, and the more success stories we can tell and the more active we can become in promoting the kinds of changes that need to be taken as far as closing excess infrastructure, then the better off we're going to be in terms of getting to the future.

I don't know what their reaction's going to be. I think we probably have a better chance this year than last year. I put them into the fiscal 2001 and 2004 cycles. I budgeted for the costs. I haven't put in the benefits of those reductions. But it's something they're going to have to face up to. And frankly, if they don't do it now, they will simply delay the opportunity to accelerate that modernization. So they have a responsibility, and I hope to persuade them that we can work together.

Q: What's your verdict on the defense industry mergers? Have you got any savings you can tell us about, or do you feel you have less room to maneuver on something like this again?

A: As far as the mergers are concerned, I think it has been a policy on the part of the Department in the past to encourage whatever consolidations could take place to make them more efficient.

We have indicated that as there are fewer and fewer of them. There obviously has to be a continued concern about vertical integration to make sure that we always preserve competition and not establish monopolies, so there is likely to be a focus by the Justice Department and other agencies on that. But I can't point to specific savings right now...

Q: Do you have a verdict on it?

A: I'm saying it is too early.

Q: You said you think there may be more hope for another BRAC round this year. Why would that be? Do you have any tangible indications...

A: I have had... NDP, by way of example, is strongly in support of the QDR. (Laughter) I intend to draw upon the moral suasion of the panel to persuade members of Congress. BENS has been particularly aggressive in this regard -- Business Executives for National Security, a very prominent group of business officials, as such, businessmen and women. It's got Warren Rudman who is chairing one of their groups now, along with other prominent individuals who are going to lobby very heavily on this. So we intend to try to persuade the Mayors, persuade communities, persuade the business community that this is important if we're really serious about moving forward in this Revolution of Military Affairs. We can't do it if we're stuck in the past with old structures that are no longer necessary.

I will point out, for example, during my presentation, that we may have, in the past, X numbers of submarines which have substantially been reduced, but we still have roughly the same pier space. I'll point out that we had X number of aircraft. We have far fewer today. We still have the same ramp space. So I will try to point out that we're carrying a lot of excess overhead. And if congress is going to insist that we carry the overhead, then we can't have the other, the modernization. Or it will impact upon readiness. To the extent that I have to put it in modernization, I can't maintain the same level of readiness. So it all gets pretty compressed because we're living in the era of the balanced budget. So unless there are going to be significant increases in spending in the future, which I don't foresee, then we are in this situation where we've got to make efficiencies and achieve efficiencies to modernize.

So I will make the best case I can, and I would hope that Congress would respond in a positive fashion.

Q: Are you concerned at all about going to combat, major combat, with a scandal involving the White House?

A: The White House, the President has focused intensely on this issue for a long time. There has been no reduction in the President's involvement. He met with the CINCs this past week. He addressed the National Defense University. He is very much involved and there has been no diminution of his participation and leadership on this issue.

Q: A question on your first year. (Laughter)

A: Thank you, George.

Q: Given the fact that you inherited a program, it's hard to turn a carrier around right away. But earlier this week your DIA Director said, "No state has the potential to match the worldwide strength and influence of the United States over the next two decades." So he's talking about a breathing room of say 20 years. A report is coming out by CBO and one's already been described by Andy Propenovich's outfit that in the out years you're going to be $20 million a year short if you proceed with this program which you've inherited and it's now in the books.

The question is whether you have any inclination on the basis of your first year to kind of slow up the procurement cycle, despite the political problems of the totals, and go more for the prototypes? I'm thinking in terms of it's going to cost us $4 billion for the A-12 rush job which got zero, F-22s are expensive, JSF...

A: Did you say the A-12?

Q: Yeah. We spent $3 billion and the court is about to award another $2 billion for the way we canceled it. So it's $5 billion for zero results. That was a (inaudible) program, let's get it out.

My question is whether you have an inclination to go the prototype route? Maybe slow up the F-22, have the prototypes tested thoroughly, same thing with F-18E/F, same thing later with the JCF. Does that appeal to you? That was something Les Aspin wanted to do. I didn't know what your inclination was.

A: I want to proceed as cautiously as possible in terms of risk in new programs. That's one of the things I've been trying to point out with the TMD, for example. There is tremendous pressure for the National Missile Defense program, TMDs. We know there's been a proliferation of weapons. I've talked about it in my press conference. And yet they're high risk programs. So I'm looking to get as much reduction in the concurrency as possible so that we don't have very high risk and moving along on a very fast-paced procurement schedule. That's something I'm concerned about and I'm going to try to rationalize.

Q: (inaudible)

A: Just various systems. I'm fairly cautious in that regard. I needed the first year in order to really deal with the issues that I'm presented with, but I think from this point on we're going to be more scrutinizing in terms of programs that have been underway and what ramp speed they should have. You may recall even in the QDR with the F-18E/F model, I reduced that substantially. I cut it from 1,000 down to 548, with the potential to go higher, to use that as leverage against the Joint Strike Fighter. I don't want to see us rush down procurement ramps unless I'm satisfied that it's the responsible thing to do.

Q: Are there any areas you'd like to ramp up in technology in programs that you're mentioning that would address things like the heavy penetrators and some of the programs that seem pretty critical these days? Do you want to put any more money in things like penetrators or warheads or the kinds of weapons that would address more current threats? Have you looked at that?

A: I think some of that will come out at the budget presentation in terms of where we're putting our resources.

Q: Right, but do you have any you'd like to plus up?

A: This afternoon I can't...

Press: Thank you.

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