Coalition to Advance Sustainable Technology (CAST)

As a result of spending over a year just looking at best business practices, we are now reforming the way in which we do business by working with business. Every day we interact with top CEOs saying tell us how you would do this.

Remarks by William S. Cohen, U.S. Secretary of Defense Denver International Airport, Denver, Colo. June 26, 1998 — DoD —

I think I should just take your questions because Ralph [Peterson, CAST Chair] stole my remarks. (Laughter) I was going to give you a long essay on the reforms that we’re pursuing at the Defense Department, but you just heard a better articulation of it than I can possibly give.


Ralph, thank you very much. Senator [Ben Nighthorse] Campbell could not be here. Senator [Wayne] Allard, also, I guess they are voting. They do not enjoy the same privileges as our two Representatives from the House. Representative [Bob] Schaffer, we appreciate you being here and making the effort. Bob apparently arrived at 2:00 in the morning, or quarter to 2:00 in the morning, and [Representative ] Diana [DeGette], I think you showed up a little bit earlier than that, 10:00 o’clock. But I appreciate your being here as well. And of course you’ve been introduced to [Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environmental Security] Sherri Goodman and I think you have not met Bob Tyrer of my staff, and others.

William S. Cohen — Photo: US DoD

But let me say that I had a wonderful opportunity this morning to visit Rocky Mountain Arsenal. I say wonderful because of what it was and what it is. It was wonderful in several respects. I originally was greeted by an American eagle and had an opportunity to stand beside the eagle without being attacked. I say that not solely in jest, because some years ago I also met Andre the seal. Now you may not be aware of Andre the seal, but Andre used to make that trek from Boston all the way up to Maine every year, at the same time every year. It was a remarkable thing to watch his journey. I went down to meet Andre, and he proceeded to take a bite in an inappropriate place, and I had to leap out of the way just in time to save myself, but it didn’t end up the press. I was conscious of that today as I kept a very wary eye on that eagle to make

Mentioning the word Republican also brings to mind exactly where I am today and where the Department is with respect to industry itself. One of the reasons that the President asked me to serve in this capacity is that he wanted to send a signal to the country that it was important that we have a non-partisan approach to national security policy. I believe I am the first elected official from a different party to serve in the opposite party’s Administration. There have been examples in the past where certainly some Republicans have served in Democratic Administrations, and I suspect the opposite is true as well, but I don’t believe there’s ever been a case where an elected public official has served in the opposite party’s Administration.

This was a very courageous step on his part because there were a lot of qualified people who could have served in this capacity. I was certainly honored and humbled by the offer. It was one of those, the proverbial « you couldn’t really turn this one down, » and I have been enormously rewarded by having the opportunity to be with some of the most dedicated, professional, hard working, patriotic people that one can find anywhere in the world.

We are fond of saying that we are the best in the world. We do not say that with a good deal of braggadocio. We say it because we see it and we also believe it. And it has benefited the world community by virtue of the kind of professionalism, dedication, the education, the training and the discipline that’s being imposed on our servicemen and women. They are not only great warriors but also great diplomats on behalf of this country.

So to have the opportunity to work with them day in and day out, to see the kind of excellence that they bring to their responsibilities is inspiring. I go to work very early, I come home very late, but I always think that the day has been an exciting, exhilarating and slightly exhausting day, but I go back every morning looking forward to it.

I say all of that because I had a chance to meet these young students today. The first student who spoke was from Russia, a young man probably about 13 years old. He was speaking in very clear and coherent sentences about what he saw during this period of time, about going to this camp to see exactly what wildlife was really all about.

It brought to mind my experience in dealing with my counterparts in Russia, that the two of us were locked in a Cold War, and going back to the ’40s and all the way up through the ’70s and into the ’80s and even now, we found that we were developing systems — and now trying to get rid of systems — that were designed to inflict horrific damage should we ever come to blows.

Today, we see what has taken place in this country, how we have dedicated the resources that we have, how industry and the private sector has brought their energies to this problem-solving crisis. We see what is taking place in Russia — a country that we are still trying to work out a partnership relationship with, recognizing that they are trying desperately to get on the road to a more open, democratic, capitalistic system, going through a real struggle right now. And you see the environmental problems that they are trying to contend with. We want to share our technology with them to help them.

This is not only in the field of environmental science, obviously, but in a variety of ways. I can talk about the Y2K problem — the year 2000 computer problem — in a moment, but just in terms of the damage that’s been done to their environment, we can help them understand ways in which they have to deal with it and how we can be helpful.

So that also transcends our partisanship. There is no party label about trying to help other countries contend with toxic waste areas and the damage that’s been done to entire communities and how they can possibly have these remediation efforts underway as well.

So I took just a few moments to talk to that young boy. I told him that I come from a state named Maine, which prompted another young man to say, « Where? » I said up in the northeast, near Canada. It’s known as vacationland. We take a great deal of pride in Maine in terms of the quality of the environment. I suspect that we have probably the most stringent environmental rules in the country. The people are not large in number, 1.2 million. You have about double that right here in Denver. I like to say I was, I used to be in my youth, the Mayor of the third largest city in Maine. It sounds impressive. Then I have to add quickly, population — 38,000. That gives you some idea of how large the state is, but also how densely populated it is with trees, rivers and lakes and the reason why people try to gather from Massachusetts and New York and Pennsylvania and make their way up to a spectacular but unfortunately too short period of time to share in the environment.

So the people of Maine, in many cases, have opted to endure the adversity of the weather and some of the adversity inflicted by the fact that they haven’t promoted enough industry because they treasure the quality of the environment. So we have a great deal of environmental scientists, as well, in our state, and we try to share them.

So these were questions that were brought up this morning, and one of the young students said he expected to be bored, but he saw wildlife which has intrigued him. He said it was the best time he could possibly have had. He’ll be a great advocate for more camp visits by students next year.

The remarkable cleanup that I saw is really a story of innovation. Think about the U.S. Army, the State of Colorado, Shell Oil Company, the EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service all working together to come up with something that would really deal with the environment, make it cleaner, faster, and better, and cheaper. My understanding is you’ve managed to shave something that was approaching about $6 billion and cut that back to something in the neighborhood of $2 billion. So it’s a great story of innovation, it’s a great story about stewardship, of how the military takes seriously our obligation to tread lightly on some 25 million acres of land that it owns and manages. And, I think, most of all, this story of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal is really a story about partnership. It’s a story about a national model; how this environmental cleanup can be brought about by close cooperation between the private sector and the public sector.

I never understood the notion that somehow business would see the government as the enemy or the government looking at business as somehow being the enemy. We’re, after all, in this together, and we have to find ways in which we cannot only save money, but also save things that are precious to us. That was the reason why — Ralph, you talked about this – the Department of Defense is going through an examination right now. How do we contend with a world that’s still unstable, that still requires us to be engaged, that requires us to be forward deployed? We have roughly 100,000 troops that are deployed throughout the Asia-Pacific region, 100,000 in Europe, not to mention we’ve had as many as 37,000 in the Gulf. We have our people in the Mediterranean, etc. You’ve got this forward deployment where we’re trying to influence people’s judgments. If they see us out there, how good we are, how professional we are, it sends a signal. It sends a signal to all of those countries saying, « This is a country we want to be with. » It sends another signal to other countries saying, « That’s a country we don’t want to mess with. » So it’s important that we be out there.

It’s also important, as Ralph talked about, that we be able to respond. How do we respond to a different type of challenge today? It’s no longer the Soviet Union that we are up against in a Cold War type of antagonism, but you’ve got a whole series of contentious issues and areas of conflict that could spill over and cause enormous hardship in vast areas.

So how do we respond to all of this? You’ve got to be fast and agile and flexible, so I can go in and pluck out some people who are living in parts of Africa where you suddenly have a state that collapses and we’ve got American citizens over there, we’ve got to get them out. We have to have our troops be able to go in there and pluck them out, bring them out quickly under very adverse circumstances, and get them to safety. So you need to be pretty flexible.

You’ve got peacekeeping missions, humanitarian missions, Bosnia type missions, but you also have to be able to go after Saddam Hussein should he attack our U-2 aircraft or threaten our allies or our friends in the region. You’ve got to have that kind of robustness, not to mention the ability to defend our country from any kind of attack from nations who would threaten our integrity, our continental integrity.

So you’ve got to have all of that flexibility, which brings me to the third element which Ralph talked about, and that is prepare. How do you prepare for the future by investing monies in the research and technology that will serve us well in the future? Especially when you’re living in a balanced budget environment. The amount of money the Defense Department will have to spend is roughly flat. We’re lucky if we remain flat. It’s not going up. Maybe it has to do that in the future if we can build that kind of domestic support for it. But in order to manage this, we’ve got to find efficiencies.

That’s where the Defense Reform Initiative really came into play. Dr. Hamre, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, really has been riding hard on this. We’ve looked to the private sector. We look to see what business is doing. How can we be more businesslike in our operations?

You take any one of the CEOs who are here today, any one of you take a look at how we do business, and say, « That’s not possible. You can’t sustain that operation. » So we have looked to the private sector to find how they would manage the Department in its complex ways.

As a result of spending over a year just looking at best business practices, we are now reforming the way in which we do business by working with business. Every day we interact with top CEOs saying tell us how you would do this.

I just came from a meeting yesterday, working with top CEOs in terms of their sea and air and land operations, with Fred Smith from FedEx and others, and John Clancy and others, saying, « How can we work together in time of peace in time of war should it come, to use the private sector to help us achieve our goals of transporting people to an area very quickly, equipment very quickly, because we don’t have the assets anymore? » We have to depend upon having a very strong working relationship with the private sector.

I don’t want to use too much of the time talking about everything that I’m engaged in, other than to talk about how we’re looking at the environment itself. We recognize that we have got to find ways to conduct our business and yet do less damage to the environment. So we’re looking at alternative fuels as far as our systems are concerned. Sherri [Goodman]has been instrumental in this. We tasked our military to go out and find creative ways to engage in the activities we have to engage in, but to find ways to save energy, to find ways in which we can reduce pollution. We give awards out once a year and she organizes this and does an outstanding job for the awards that we give to all of the services who actually compete, go out and say, « Here’s how we can save energy, here’s how we can reduce pollution, here’s how we can take advantage of working with business to come up with an innovative idea. » That goes on every day of the year.

So we depend upon you. CAST, I think, is an incredible organization because you really do bring to bear to us in government innovation and creativity that we don’t necessarily have. But by working together you have this synergy. It’s a word that perhaps is overused, but you have this synergistic effect by working together toward a common cause.

Teddy Roosevelt, and I don’t cite him because he was a Republican, but he was in terms of being a Rough Rider, he was also a great environmentalist. He said, « You can’t ride roughshod over the land. If you skin and exhaust the land you will undermine the days of our children. Our natural resources are the final basis of national power and perpetuity. » We believe that.

So what we want to do is to continue to make sure that we don’t ride roughshod and skin the land and work together to find constructive solutions on how we can measure up to our responsibilities.

Let me say it has been a pleasure to be out here in this hot but not humid air. I think that both Bob and Diana would tell you that Washington, it’s about 93, 94 degrees, but the humidity is about 93 or 94 percent. So it was a pleasure to come out here to visit out here and to meet some of you.

If you’ve got some questions, we’re supposed to have a little bit of interaction here. Ralph, thank you very much for inviting me and making the contribution that you make toward helping to clean up the environment and to set an example not only for us in this country, but to export that technology to other countries where they are in desperate need.

Thank you.