Rumsfeld Holds Town Hall for U.S. Troops in Qatar
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
DOHA, Qatar, Dec. 12, 2002 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today answered questions from service members on everything from Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions to smallpox vaccinations to TRICARE during a town hall meeting here at the headquarters for Exercise Internal Look.
About 1,200 American and British service members are deployed to this Persian Gulf emirate to conduct the command post exercise.
Rumsfeld and U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. Tommy Franks thanked the Americans for their service. "You are what stands between free people all over the world and an evil that cannot be appeased, that cannot be ignored and must not be allowed to win," he said.
Rumsfeld told the men and women that their mission is to prevent an attack that would dwarf the terror attacks of Sept. 11. He said the great danger in the world is the connection between terrorist states, terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction. He said those weapons would not kill thousands, but "tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands."
He said America's tasks are to disrupt the terrorist networks, to deal with states that support and harbor terrorist networks, and to do everything humanly possible to see that the terrorists do not get their hands on chemical, biological, radiation or nuclear weapons.
The secretary said Iraq is responding to one of the stipulations of the resolution -- filing a declaration of its weapons of mass destruction. He said an interagency team in Washington and other countries is translating and examining the declaration.
"As this plays out, very likely what will happen is the United States will begin discussions with other members of the Security Council to determine what they think about it," he said. The council's member nations will determine whether Iraq has complied with the resolution or not. "In fairness to the process, it would be out of line for me to opine what I think (the conclusion) might be. Time will tell."
Rumsfeld said that he approved the use of smallpox vaccine for the military "some days ago." He said under President Bush's plan, first responders -- medics, police and firefighters who are the first on the scene -- would be offered the vaccination. Soon after that first offer, vaccinations will be made available to people "who are in the parts of the world where there is a possible risk of a smallpox epidemic."
The secretary did not know exactly when the vaccinations for military personnel would begin, "but it is on track and will be moving along within the armed forces."
Rumsfeld stated that the goals and missions of the reserve components must change "so we have on active duty people who can perform all the functions that are necessary for our country to be able to perform." Many military skills are only found in the Guard and reserves. Rumsfeld said those skills should be available in the active duty population.
"We ought to call up the Guard and reserves when we have a level of activity that exceeds the norm, rather than because we have decided not to have certain skills and disciplines not in the active force," he said.
Sticking with the reserves, the secretary listened to a suggestion that employers of reserve component personnel receive a "credit" for employing the reservists. He said he hadn't heard that suggestion before and would look into it.
Franks answered a question on TRICARE saying that the military medical system is "evolving." If there are faults in the system they need to be pointed out, and the system will evolve to address those shortcomings, he said.
He addressed tuition assistance ceilings that can cost military members thousands. He said the department must apportion the money correctly. "What we have to do is get it right for the people in the service because it has to be right for you or we're not going to have the folks that we need to get these jobs done and they are darn tough jobs," he said.