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Rumsfeld Says World Needs to Work Harder to Control Nuclear Weapons

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2003 – The world's efforts to counter the proliferation of nuclear weapons have not been successful, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said June 19. If they had, he said, the United States would not have had to go to war in Iraq.

The world is facing a serious problem, Rumsfeld stressed to about 750 business leaders during a question and answer session following an award dinner sponsored by Business Executives for National Security. Iran, and as many as five other countries, the secretary said, could end up with nuclear weapons during the coming decade. The same is true of biological weapons.

"It strikes me that we would not have had to go into Iraq - and would not (have done so) - had the world community, in particular the industrialized nations, come together and developed effective, nonproliferation, counterproliferation regimes and enforced them, he said. "They didn't. We failed in that regard."

Over the next decade, Rumsfeld said, "like-thinking countries" must develop much more effective counterproliferation regimes. "It's not something a single country can do by itself," he added.

U.S. and U.N. intelligence officials have concluded that the Iranians are engaged in a nuclear weapons program, according to the secretary.

"We know they have invested a good deal of their money and time in ballistic missile technology," he said. "So certainly they are on the path of having the ability to deliver such weapons, if in fact they're able to develop them."

There's no evidence that Iran currently has nuclear weapons, Rumsfeld continued, "but we do know that when you're dealing with societies that are somewhat closed, it's very hard to have perfect knowledge about what's taking place. But I think if you dropped a plumb line through the center of thoughtful, knowledgeable people, the answer would be that there is an expectation that they'll have some small number of nuclear weapons during this decade."

Yet, Rumsfeld said he feels there is hope that the young people and women of Iran may be able to bring about dramatic change. "It's at least possible," he said. "I'm an optimist."

In his formal remarks, the secretary addressed the need to transform the Defense Department for the security challenges ahead. He thanked the BENS organization, a national, nonpartisan group that helps develop new solutions to national security challenges, for its interest in transformation and its years of assistance to DoD.

"For two decades," Rumsfeld said, "BENS has brought valuable common sense and experience to the Department of Defense." He also thanked the organization for its support for Operation Tribute to Freedom, which is helping the nation show its appreciation to the men and women who have risked their lives in the global war on terrorism.

Each year, BENS honors one American with its Eisenhower Award. BENS founder Stanley A. Weiss presented this year's award to Rumsfeld. The secretary noted that when he was 29 and running for Congress, he'd met Eisenhower. He said the late president and World War II commander "believed in transformation and jointness."

"During the early period of the Cold War, this country moved from artillery to ICBMs, from diesel submarines to nuclear submarines, from propeller-driven aircraft to jet aircraft, from ground communications to satellites," Rumsfeld said. "We kept the best of what was and we moved to things that became possible because wonderfully talented people had ideas that ultimately worked."

President Bush, Rumsfeld said, wants DoD to transform America's forces for this new century to be able to "deter and defend against the kinds of evolving threats and capabilities that exist in the world." Defense officials, for example, have submitted the proposed Defense Transformation Act to Congress to enable the department to better manage its people.

Today, the secretary said, it takes five months to hire a federal employee and 18 months to let one go. It takes collective bargaining with more than 1,300 union locals to implement a relatively minor reform and negotiations last months and often years to accomplish.

"That may have been fine in the Industrial Age, but it's not fine in the Information Age," Rumsfeld said.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, about 83 percent of the civilians deployed to theater of operation were contractors. Only 17 percent were Defense Department federal civilian workers. "Why? Because a web of regulations prevents us from moving civilians into new tasks quickly," Rumsfeld said. As a result, managers turn to the military or to contractors.

Hiring new civilians is also a difficult task for the department. A private business can hire an applicant on the spot. All defense officials can do, he said, "is offer a stack of paperwork and promise to get back to them in three to five months."

Defense officials have proposed a new system that will protect and ensure employees fundamental rights, but Rumsfeld said there's much reluctance to reform the personnel system and give the department the freedom they need to better manage employees.

"After all, the department has been managing the military side perfectly acceptably for many decades and one would think we'd be able to do the same on the civilian side in a way that would make sense."

Rumsfeld also said the department's transformation effort includes going forward with base closure legislation. Defense officials say the department has 25 percent excess base structure beyond what's needed for the force structure.

"We're in the middle of the global war on terror," Rumsfeld said. "Our resources are scarce. We simply have to put everything we can into warfighting."

The adversaries the nation faces today "aren't burdened by red tape or bureaucracy," he concluded. "They move with the speed of satellites, cell phones, cyberspace and jet airliners. We as a department simply have to be able to make the kinds of changes that will enable us to meet those new challenges."

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