Player Profile: William Cohen
Report: Defense Readiness Depends On Quick Reforms
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Dec.1) -- The Defense Department is not moving quickly enough to prepare for the security challenges of the 21st century, a panel of experts says in a congressionally chartered report it released today.
In a 94-page report entitled "Transforming Defense," the National Defense Panel urges Defense Secretary William Cohen to speed up scheduled military base closings and to place more emphasis on experimentation in order to keep the U.S. armed forces effective.
"Unless we are willing to pursue a new course, we are likely to have forces that are ill-suited to protect our security 20 years in the future," the report warned.
The report offered one key recommendation that would represent a major departure from current military operations, concluding that the Pentagon should move away from its current working assumption that it must be prepared to fight on two different regional fronts at the same time.
Though the two-war strategy may still be relevant in the 1990s, the panel said, this by-product of the Cold War will become an obstacle to long-term change.
The report supported Cohen's plans to further reduce U.S. military base numbers, but urged that they be implemented sooner than the proposed 2001 and 2005 timetable in order to realize the financial benefits currently projected by the Pentagon.
In another move intended to cut down on the operational expenses of military bases, the report recommended that the traditional concept of bases be reconsidered. Two such suggestions include the sharing of bases by different military branches and the elimination of on-base housing, commissaries and other support services in favor of extra pay for service men and women.
Experimentation with new weapons and war-fighting strategies is also needed, according to the panel. The Pentagon should devote $5 to $10 billion a year on such developments in order to be prepared for unpredicted changes in global security.
Congress initiated the National Defense Panel last year with the goal of providing an alternative view to the Pentagon's internal study and to take a longer-range look at defense needs.
The panel is led by Philip A. Odeen, president and chief executive officer of the defense consulting firm BDM International, and includes four members who are retired generals and admirals. The other five are civilians with defense expertise.
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Monday Dec. 1, 1997
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