Cohen: Kosovo peace deal the result of business reforms, IT

WASHINGTON, D.C.—As reports indicated that Serb forces were withdrawing from Kosovo, Defense Secretary William Cohen today applauded the role of technology and the Defense Department's business practice reforms in what he called one of the most "extraordinary achievements in the history of air warfare."

Speaking at the second annual DOD Electronic Commerce Day here, Cohen said the unprecedented success of the United States-led NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia would not have been possible without the contribution of cutting-edge technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles and satellite-guided weapons, and without the changes made in the last year in the way DOD purchases and maintains equipment.

The success of Operation Allied Force is "a great testament to the kind of technology we have developed over the past few years," Cohen said.

Cohen also credited the success of the Defense Reform Initiative in transforming the way DOD does business. The DRI is an effort designed to reform DOD's business processes by focusing on commercial best practices and information technology to automate and streamline DOD's acquisitions and logistics operations.

Cohen said DOD wore a "Cold War boot when in fact we needed a much more nimble piece of footwear," referring to DOD's old way of doing business with private industry.

However, in addition to the changes made possible by the DRI and the first sustained DOD budget increase in 15 years, Cohen said DOD should not lose its focus on reform. These changes "should not in any way derail our commitment to reform," Cohen said. "We have to continue to harness the power of the microchip [and] we have to change the way we think."

In what may be one of the most poignant examples of how DOD's investment in IT has made a direct impact on the military's success in Kosovo, Army Col. Steve Frasier, chief of operations for DOD's Joint Total Asset Visibility Office, said Gen. Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander, recently placed a direct phone call to President Clinton informing him that information systems had allowed him—for the first time—to tell how many Kosher meals were available in the European theater to help feed Kosovo's refugees.

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