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Rumsfeld, Myers Thank Troops, Employees for Their Service

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2003 – As America approaches the Thanksgiving holiday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he is grateful for the voluntary service of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines worldwide as they protect America and take the fight to the terrorists.

Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers held a Pentagon Town Hall Meeting today. The men thanked service members and civilian employees for their service and answered questions about the global war on terrorism and the newly passed National Security Personnel System.

Myers said that the threat posed by global terror networks "is the greatest threat this nation has ever faced." He said terrorists want to impose fear on America. "It doesn't take much," he said. "I bet every time you schedule an airline flight, or you have a loved one fly to where you are, you think about it differently after 9/11 than you did before 9/11.

"It's an element of fear back there that maybe 'Gee, maybe the world has changed,'" Myers continued. "And what it takes is great public service civilian and military to work through this period. There's not a more important time to have ever served."

In response to another question, Rumsfeld said that success in the global war of terror is when Americans don't alter their behavior because of the threat of terror. Rumsfeld said the United States must go after the terrorist cells where they breed, and go after countries that harbor terrorists.

"We have no choice but to go out and find the terrorists and find them where they are," he said. "Particularly we have to deal with them before they have the opportunities to kill another 3,000 innocent men, women and children in this country and thousands across the world."

Rumsfeld said the United States has to win the "battle of ideas." The United States has to help rid the world of the conditions that lead people to terrorist groups, he said.

The secretary discussed the National Security Personnel System that makes changes in the civilian personnel arena in the department. The system is part of the fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress and awaiting the president's signature.

"The studies and experiments done in places like China Lake and elsewhere indicated that with greater flexibility people would be much more likely to reach for a civilian employee if they had the ability to manage them," he said. "At the present time, in some offices you may have 100 employees and you're trying to manage four, five or six different personnel systems. That's just a nightmare."

He said there are 300,000 military personnel in jobs that could be done by civilians or contractors. Managers reach for a military person today, because it is easier than going through the civilian personnel system. He said in the future there will be things that make sense for a civilian employee to do, contractors to do and service members to do. Managers will be much more likely to reach for a civilian now that a system with agility is available.

Rumsfeld said the United States is engaged in a great cause in the war on terror. "This Thanksgiving I am thankful for all of you and what you are doing to serve our country and for the men and women of the U.S. military who defend our freedom every day," he said. "Needless to say, we'll all keep the men and women on the frontlines those who will not be with their families on Thanksgiving in our thoughts and prayers, and their families as well."

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