Exploit Civilian Technologies, Says No. 2 US Military Leader as They Downsize the US Armed Forces Must Innovate to Stay on Top, Using Techniques Such as Applying Off-the-Shelf Systems to Military Use

Article excerpt

AS vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. William A. Owens is the second-highest-ranking officer in the United States military. In a recent interview with Monitor editors in Boston, he talked about the future of the American armed forces in an era of cutbacks. Excerpts follow:

On the defense budget

We are faced with a defense budget that is significantly lower than it has been for a long, long time. The defense budget goes down by about 40 to 45 percent from the end of the 1980s to the end of the '90s, ... the greatest decline that we have had since World War II. {It can't} be managed like a business would manage its fixed and variable costs because, of course, we are dealing in a democracy with many interests associated with each of the bases; with many interests associated with the industrial base; and with a Congress that is a democratic Congress that we must -- and like to -- deal with as we undertake these changes. This is a real challenge for us to downsize.

On new technology

It has enormous ramifications as we try to do military operations cheaper and more effectively because you can take advantage of the technology. You can see a large battlefield much clearer in the future because of the sensors and the systems and the communications. So the revolution in military affairs is a very interesting and exciting area for us because it really is the smart front-end of warfare, and it will change many of the theories of war that we have appreciated over the hundreds of years of war fighting.

On military personnel today

They are the best we've ever had.... We are very satisfied with the quality of this military.

It is very important that we continue to prime this pump of good, young people coming into our military because there is a sense in the country that the cold war is over, the military is downsizing, what's in this for me? ... We've seen a significant downturn in the applications for the academies.... It is a trend that we must reverse to ensure that young people are well aware that this is a tremendous career for them -- for both men and women.

On women in the military t has been a big success story. The quality of the young women and their integration into the military has been to our great benefit as America....

In the future, you will see more and more women as the leadership of our military.

On expectations of zero casualties and new threats to American security

We do have to be very frank with the American people when we undertake these operations {and} be very clear about expectation that there will be loss of life. …


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