A Period Of Consequences

The Citadel, South Carolina
Thursday, September 23, 1999

George W. Bush

It is good to finally be with you. The Citadel is a place of pride and tradition. A place where standards are high and discipline is strong and leaders are born. The men, and now women, of this institution represent a spirit of honor and accomplishment. And I am proud to be with you. This is a special place to talk about the future of our military, because many of you will shape it. These are times of change and challenge. But you will always return to the values you learned here.

Three months ago, in Providence, Rhode Island, a man rose to take the oath of American citizenship. He was one of many – but his case was different. His name is Sergei Khruschev, a former weapons scientist – and son of the Soviet leader. Sometimes history’s great epochs are summed up in small events. The threat of the Cold War was captured in Nikita Khruschev’s vow to America, "We will bury you." The story closes, in this final footnote to that age, with America saying to his own son, "We welcome you."

It is a reminder of what this country and its allies have accomplished in a century of struggle. Young Americans in uniform – today’s veterans – wrote history with the bold strokes of their courage. Their character was tested in death marches and jungle firefights and desert battles. They left long rows of crosses and Stars of David, fighting for people they did not know, and a future they would not see. And, in the end, they won an epic struggle to save liberty itself.

Those who want to lead America accept two obligations. One is to use our military power wisely, remembering the costs of war. The other is to honor our commitments to veterans who have paid those costs.

Our world, shaped by American courage, power and wisdom, now echoes with American ideals. We won a victory, not just for a nation, but for a vision. A vision of freedom and individual dignity – defended by democracy, nurtured by free markets, spread by information technology, carried to the world by free trade. The advance of freedom – from Asia to Latin America to East and Central Europe – is creating the conditions for peace.

For America, this is a time of unrivaled military power, economic promise, and cultural influence. It is, in Franklin Roosevelt’s phrase, "the peace of overwhelming victory."

Now a new generation of American leaders will determine how that power and influence are used – a generation after the hard but clear struggle against an evil empire. Our challenge is not as obvious, but just as noble: To turn these years of influence into decades of peace.

But peace is not ordained, it is earned. It is not a harbor where we rest, it is a voyage we must chart. Even in this time of hope and confidence, we can see the signs of uncertainty.

We see the contagious spread of missile technology and weapons of mass destruction. We know that this era of American preeminence is also an era of car bombers and plutonium merchants and cyber terrorists and drug cartels and unbalanced dictators – all the unconventional and invisible threats of new technologies and old hatreds. These challenges can be overcome, but they can not be ignored.

Building a durable peace will require strong alliances, expanding trade and confident diplomacy. It will require tough realism in our dealings with China and Russia. It will require firmness with regimes like North Korea and Iraq – regimes that hate our values and resent our success. I will address all these priorities in the future. But I want to begin with the foundation of our peace – a strong, capable and modern military.

The American armed forces have an irreplaceable role in the world. They give confidence to our allies; deter the aggression of our enemies; and allow our nation to shape a stable peace. The common defense is the sworn duty and chief responsibility of a president. And, if elected, I will set three goals: I will renew the bond of trust between the American president and the American military. I will defend the American people against missiles and terror. And I will begin creating the military of the next century.
Our military is without peer, but it is not without problems.

The men and women of our armed forces stand in the best tradition of the citizen soldier, who for two centuries has kept our country safe and free. All are volunteers – active, Reserve and Guard – who willingly accept the burdens and dangers of service.

Volunteers who demonstrate the highest form of citizenship.

I have great faith in those who serve our nation – in the temper of their will and the quality of their spirit. These are men and women who love their country more than their comfort. Men and women who have never failed us, wherever there is honor to be earned, or interests defended. But even the highest morale is eventually undermined by back-to-back deployments, poor pay, shortages of spare parts and equipment, and rapidly declining readiness.

Not since the years before Pearl Harbor has our investment in national defense been so low as a percentage of GNP. Yet rarely has our military been so freely used – an average of one deployment every nine weeks in the last few years. Since the end of the Cold War, our ground forces have been deployed more frequently, while our defense budget has fallen by nearly 40 percent.

Something has to give, and it’s giving. Resources are over-stretched. Frustration is up, as families are separated and strained. Morale is down. Recruitment is more difficult. And many of our best people in the military are headed for civilian life. In 1998, the Air Force missed its reenlistment goals for the first time since 1981. Army recruiting is at a 20 year low.

Consider a few facts: Thousands of members of the armed forces are on food stamps. Last year, more than $21 million worth of WIC vouchers – the Women, Infants and Children program – were redeemed at military commissaries. Many others in uniform get Army Emergency Relief or depend on their parents.

This is not the way that a great nation should reward courage and idealism. It is ungrateful, it is unwise and it is unacceptable.

This Administration wants things both ways: To command great forces, without supporting them. To launch today’s new causes, with little thought of tomorrow’s consequences.

A volunteer military has only two paths. It can lower its standards to fill its ranks. Or it can inspire the best and brightest to join and stay.

This starts with better pay, better treatment and better training. Recently, after years of neglect, a significant pay raise was finally passed. My first budget will go further – adding a billion dollars in salary increases. We also will provide targeted bonuses for those with special skills. Two-thirds of military family housing units are now substandard, and they must be renovated. And we must improve the quality of training at our bases and national training centers. Shortfalls on the proving ground become disasters on the battlefield.

But our military requires more than good treatment. It needs the rallying point of a defining mission. And that mission is to deter wars – and win wars when deterrence fails. Sending our military on vague, aimless and endless deployments is the swift solvent of morale.

As president, I will order an immediate review of our overseas deployments – in dozens of countries. The longstanding commitments we have made to our allies are the strong foundation of our current peace. I will keep these pledges to defend friends from aggression. The problem comes with open-ended deployments and unclear military missions. In these cases we will ask, "What is our goal, can it be met, and when do we leave?" As I’ve said before, I will work hard to find political solutions that allow an orderly and timely withdrawal from places like Kosovo and Bosnia. We will encourage our allies to take a broader role. We will not be hasty. But we will not be permanent peacekeepers, dividing warring parties. This is not our strength or our calling.

America will not retreat from the world. On the contrary, I will replace diffuse commitments with focused ones. I will replace uncertain missions with well-defined objectives. This will preserve the resources of American power and public will. The presence of American forces overseas is one of the most profound symbols of our commitment to allies and friends. And our allies know that if America is committed everywhere, our commitments are everywhere suspect. We must be selective in the use of our military, precisely because America has other great responsibilities that cannot be slighted or compromised. And this review of our deployments will also reduce the tension on an overstretched military. Nothing would be better for morale than clarity and focus from the commander-in-chief.

My second goal is to build America’s defenses on the troubled frontiers of technology and terror. The protection of America itself will assume a high priority in a new century. Once a strategic afterthought, homeland defense has become an urgent duty.

For most of our history, America felt safe behind two great oceans. But with the spread of technology, distance no longer means security. North Korea is proving that even a poor and backward country, in the hands of a tyrant, can reach across oceans to threaten us. It has developed missiles capable of hitting Hawaii and Alaska. Iran has made rapid strides in its missile program, and Iraq persists in a race to do the same. In 1996, after some tension over Taiwan, a Chinese general reminded America that China possesses the means to incinerate Los Angeles with nuclear missiles.

Add to this the threat of biological, chemical and nuclear terrorism – barbarism emboldened by technology. These weapons can be delivered, not just by ballistic missiles, but by everything from airplanes to cruise missiles, from shipping containers to suitcases. And consider the prospect of information warfare, in which hacker terrorists may try to disrupt finance, communication, transportation and public health.

Let me be clear. Our first line of defense is a simple message: Every group or nation must know, if they sponsor such attacks, our response will be devastating.

But we must do more. At the earliest possible date, my administration will deploy anti-ballistic missile systems, both theater and national, to guard against attack and blackmail. To make this possible, we will offer Russia the necessary amendments to the anti-ballistic missile treaty – an artifact of Cold War confrontation. Both sides know that we live in a different world from 1972, when that treaty was signed. If Russia refuses the changes we propose, we will give prompt notice, under the provisions of the treaty, that we can no longer be a party to it. I will have a solemn obligation to protect the American people and our allies, not to protect arms control agreements signed almost 30 years ago.

We will defend the American homeland by strengthening our intelligence community – focusing on human intelligence and the early detection of terrorist operations both here and abroad. And when direct threats to America are discovered, I know that the best defense can be a strong and swift offense – including the use of Special Operations Forces and long-range strike capabilities.

And there is more to be done preparing here at home. I will put a high priority on detecting and responding to terrorism on our soil. The federal government must take this threat seriously – working closely with researchers and industry to increase surveillance and develop treatments for chemical and biological agents.

But defending our nation is just the beginning of our challenge. My third goal is to take advantage of a tremendous opportunity – given few nations in history – to extend the current peace into the far realm of the future. A chance to project America’s peaceful influence, not just across the world, but across the years.

This opportunity is created by a revolution in the technology of war. Power is increasingly defined, not by mass or size, but by mobility and swiftness. Influence is measured in information, safety is gained in stealth, and force is projected on the long arc of precision-guided weapons. This revolution perfectly matches the strengths of our country – the skill of our people and the superiority of our technology. The best way to keep the peace is to redefine war on our terms.

Yet today our military is still organized more for Cold War threats than for the challenges of a new century -- for industrial age operations, rather than for information age battles. There is almost no relationship between our budget priorities and a strategic vision. The last seven years have been wasted in inertia and idle talk. Now we must shape the future with new concepts, new strategies, new resolve.

In the late 1930s, as Britain refused to adapt to the new realities of war, Winston Churchill observed, "The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences."

Our military and our nation are entering another period of consequences – a time of rapid change and momentous choices.

As president, I will begin an immediate, comprehensive review of our military – the structure of its forces, the state of its strategy, the priorities of its procurement – conducted by a leadership team under the Secretary of Defense. I will give the Secretary a broad mandate – to challenge the status quo and envision a new architecture of American defense for decades to come. We will modernize some existing weapons and equipment, necessary for current tasks. But our relative peace allows us to do this selectively. The real goal is to move beyond marginal improvements – to replace existing programs with new technologies and strategies. To use this window of opportunity to skip a generation of technology. This will require spending more – and spending more wisely.
We know that power, in the future, will be projected in different ways.

The Gulf War was a stunning victory. But it took six months of planning and transport to summon our fleets and divisions and position them for battle.

In the future, we are unlikely to have that kind of time. Enemy ballistic and cruise missiles and weapons of mass destruction may make such operations difficult. Satellite technology, commercially available, may reveal to potential enemies the location of our ships and troops. We may not have months to transport massive divisions to waiting bases, or to build new infrastructure on site.

Our forces in the next century must be agile, lethal, readily deployable, and require a minimum of logistical support. We must be able to project our power over long distances, in days or weeks rather than months. Our military must be able to identify targets by a variety of means – from a Marine patrol to a satellite. Then be able to destroy those targets almost instantly, with an array of weapons, from a submarine-launched cruise missile, to mobile long-range artillery.

On land, our heavy forces must be lighter. Our light forces must be more lethal. All must be easier to deploy. And these forces must be organized in smaller, more agile formations, rather than cumbersome divisions.

On the seas, we need to pursue promising ideas like the arsenal ship – a stealthy ship packed with long-range missiles to destroy targets from great distances.

In the air, we must be able to strike from across the world with pinpoint accuracy – with long-range aircraft and perhaps with unmanned systems.
In space, we must be able to protect our network of satellites, essential to the flow of our commerce and the defense of our country.

All this will require a new spirit of innovation. Many officers have expressed their impatience with a widespread, bureaucratic mindset that frustrates creativity. I will encourage a culture of command where change is welcomed and rewarded, not dreaded. I will ensure that visionary leaders who take risks are recognized and promoted.

When our comprehensive review is complete, I will expect the military’s budget priorities to match our strategic vision – not the particular visions of the services, but a joint vision for change. I will earmark at least 20 percent of the procurement budget for acquisition programs that propel America generations ahead in military technology. And I will direct the Secretary of Defense to allocate these funds to the services that prove most effective in developing new programs that do so. I intend to force new thinking and hard choices.

The transformation of our military will require a new and greater emphasis on research and development. So I will also commit an additional $20 billion to defense R&D between the time I take office and 2006.

Even if I am elected, I will not command the new military we create. That will be left to a president who comes after me. The results of our effort will not be seen for many years. The outcome of great battles is often determined by decisions on funding and technology made decades before, in the quiet days of peace. But these choices on spending and strategy either support the young men and women who must fight the future’s wars – or betray their lives and squander their valor.

I am under no illusions. I know that transforming our military is a massive undertaking. When President Lincoln was attempting to organize his army, he compared the job to bailing out the Potomac River with a teaspoon. What I propose will be impossible without allies – both in the military and in the Congress.

To the military I say: We intend to change your structure, but we will respect your culture. Our military culture was formed by generations of trial and tradition -- codes and loyalties born of two centuries’ worth of experience.

For the changes I seek, I will count on these codes and loyalties. I will count on a culture that prizes duty, welcomes clear orders, accepts sacrifice, and is devoted above all to the defense of the United States.

I will count on these values, because I will challenge our military to reform itself in fundamental ways.

To the Congress I say: Join me in creating a new strategic vision for our military – a set of goals that will take precedence over the narrow interests of states and regions. I will reach out to reform-minded members of Congress, particularly to overturn laws and regulations that discourage outsourcing and undermine efficiency. Our military must embrace the productivity revolution that has transformed American business. And once a new strategy is clear, I will confront the Congress when it uses the defense budget as a source of pork or patronage.

Moments of national opportunity are either seized or lost, and the consequences reach across decades. Our opportunity is here – to show that a new generation can renew America’s purpose.

I know this is a world of hard choices and new tasks. A world of terror and missiles and madmen. A world requiring, not just might, but wisdom.

But my generation is fortunate. In the world of our fathers, we have seen how America should conduct itself. We have seen leaders who fought a world war and organized the peace. We have seen power exercised without swagger and influence displayed without bluster. We have seen the modesty of true strength, the humility of real greatness. We have seen American power tempered by American character. And I have seen all of this personally and closely and clearly.

Now comes our time of testing. Our measure is taken, not only by what we have and use, but what we build and leave behind. And nothing this generation could ever build will matter more than the means to defend our nation and extend our peace.

Thank you.