[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[September 15, 1998]
[Page 1589]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the Military Readiness Conference
September 15, 1998

    I'm pleased to have the second opportunity of this year to meet with 
Secretary Cohen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior operational 
commanders of our Armed Forces. Today we're going to focus on the steps 
necessary to preserve and provide for the readiness of our Armed Forces 
to defend our interests and security.
    Readiness must be our number one priority. It is being monitored and 
addressed every day at every level of command. Our forward deployed and 
first-to-fight units are highly ready, and our overall force is fully 
capable of carrying out our national military strategy. But I'm 
determined that we don't relax our vigilance, to keep our forces ready 
to protect our security today and well into the 21st century.
    In recent months, we've taken some important steps to strengthen our 
military readiness. This fiscal year we were able to protect important 
readiness accounts, such as spare parts and flying hours for our pilots, 
with the help of Congress' support for emergency funding for our 
peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and its approval of the request I made to 
reprogram $1 billion of our defense budget for readiness.
    We struck a prudent balance between short-term readiness and longer 
term modernization, so that our fighting forces will have the cutting 
edge technology they need to avoid long-term readiness problems and to 
dominate the battlefields of the future.
    The service chiefs and the commanders in chief have worked 
tirelessly also to improve the quality of life for our men and women in 
uniform and to recruit and retain a new generation of Americans for our 
all-volunteer forces. I want to thank them for that and say that I am 
well aware that we're going to have to do more in this area as well.
    For example, the services have established standards to reduce the 
burden on our troops of the high tempo of operations and deployments. 
We've reduced the number and the duration of some deployments overseas, 
putting units on standby status in the United States instead.
    Again, I want to call on Congress to support our ongoing engagement 
for peace in Bosnia in a way that does not force us to take money away 
from readiness and training. We will continue to monitor readiness, to 
deal quickly and effectively with any problems that do arise.
    And now I want to hear directly from Secretary Cohen and from our 
senior military leaders on this critical issue to our security. Thank 
you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 2:17 p.m. at the National Defense 
University at Fort McNair.