DOD Secretary Cohen Addresses Microsoft Employees

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One of the most noticed aspects of the Clinton Administration's FY 2000 R&D request is the 5 percent decline in the defense R&D budget. While Defense Secretary William Cohen did not address this issue directly in a February 18 speech to Microsoft employees, his remarks offer insight on his thinking regarding defense and technology. Selected portions of his remarks follow; the entire speech can be found at

"The worlds in which you and I operate are, in many ways, two of the most striking examples of American success, areas in which the United States holds unquestioned superiority. The innovation, creativity, and economic dynamism of American information technology are the marvel of the global economy. Your intellectual endeavor has reduced our oceans to mere ponds, transforming the globe into a small ball spinning on the finger of science. Indeed, your contributions to the world's productivity and the changes you have brought to everyday life astound even our modern minds. Because of who you are and what you do, the United States is the unquestioned leader in what may be the most energetic and important industry of the 21st Century.

"Similarly, no nation can match the military power of the United States. We have the mostly highly skilled, well-trained service members in the world. Our weapons and military capability are, today without peer, and our forces execute mission after mission with a precision and professionalism that astounds friend and foe alike.

"So we represent two pre-eminent pillars of American prestige and talent. At the same time, I believe there exists a gap between some in this industry and our military, a gap that is not unique to this industry, but rather indicative of our country. There is a sense that in many places beyond this campus, from Sunnyvale to Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley, that some in the 'digital world' dismiss the importance of the national security world. That some soldiers in the high tech revolution do not fully understand or appreciate the soldiers in camouflage. That tanks and guns are somehow rusty relics of the past, nearly obsolete in the new information-based world that will carry us into the future."

"I am here today because I believe that Microsoft does understand the crucial connection between our national security and our national prosperity...."

"And, as an icon of the Information Age, I believe you are in a unique position to help engender greater understanding of this central role of our armed forces in our national life. Few appreciate more than you the interdependence of our global economy. Your products are sold the world over, and an incident in Jakarta or Dublin affects your business, as surely as events in Jacksonville or Denver. President Eisenhower's observation from over 40 years ago is even more true today: 'What happens in Indonesia affects Indiana.'"

[At this point, Cohen discusses the importance of the military to ensuring stability, and threats in Bosnia, the Korean Peninsula, and Iraq. He then turns to technology.]

"Finally, we must prepare for the future. We must invest in the next generation of weapons and technology if we are to maintain our ability to shape and respond to world events in the 21st Century. And we must recruit and retain the highest quality personnel and provide them with the quality of life and pay they need and deserve, a challenge that only grows more difficult with every month our economy continues its meteoric growth.

"That is why President Clinton has asked Congress for the first sustained increase in military spending since 1985. Just as software that only a few years ago was state-of-the art is now nearly antiquated, so will our military lose its dominant edge without significant investment. The life cycle of your products may be shorter than ours, but the consequences of falling behind, for us, are enormous for the safety of our service members, for the security of our nation and for the stability of our world. "Indeed, our weapons and technology are the finest in the world, but they will not remain so without the next generation of ships, planes, and armor. Our service members are the most highly skilled and best trained in the world, but they will not remain so without significant attention to their quality of life and training. As futurist Alvin Toffler has said, 'The United States has the best, most elegant, most well-trained, best-armed, smartest military in the world. But it would be a mistake to assume that that lead is permanent.' That is why our new budget provides an increase of billions of dollars for weapons modernization and the largest pay increase for our service members in a generation."

[Cohen then addresses various efficiencies DOD is undertaking, and base closure proposals.]

"We are also preparing for the future by addressing dangers you know well -- threats to the integrity of our information infrastructure. The Department of Defense has more than 2.1 million computers, with one hundred long distance and one hundred thousand local area networks. Our reliance on information technology makes us more efficient, but it also makes us vulnerable.

"A year ago, during a tense build-up in the Persian Gulf, a cyber-attack on our systems exposed the extent of our vulnerability. No data was compromised, but it was the most serious and sustained attack ever against our information systems, and it was conducted by teenagers. Today, as you well know, small groups, even single individuals, can wage electronic war against the most powerful nation in the world using off the shelf, existing tools and technologies.

"We are taking this problem very seriously, continuing to build defenses against this threat...."

"We share an abiding belief in the abundant future of a world that is peaceful, open, and free. Your work is ever expanding, ever improving, pushing out to new peoples, new regions and new realms, bringing the dazzling vision of a New Age to billions across the globe. And rushing to meet you is a world that, though at times uncertain and dangerous, has limitless potential potential that depends upon the noble work of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. Together, these two forces can move us toward a better, safer, freer, and more prosperous future. Thank you for listening and thank you for your support of the brave and dedicated men and women of our armed forces."

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