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Troops Cheer Rumsfeld at Texas Base

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was a big hit with soldiers and other service members at the Army's Fort Hood when he told them he's all for hiring more civilians to let troops concentrate on warfighting.

Rumsfeld was speaking at a town hall meeting on the Texas base this afternoon when a soldier asked about hiring more civilians "so that soldiers can do our job, training for war."

"I feel very strongly that we ought to move people in uniform out of tasks and responsibilities that don't require people in uniform," Rumsfeld said before he was interrupted by applause. "We organize and train and equip people for warfighting and not for things that can be done every bit as well by civilians or by contract workers."

Another soldier turned the subject to one Rumsfeld has spoken often of lately -- leaking classified information to the media.

"When we have some war plans and they're coming from you and the boss, I hate to think that our health, our security is jeopardized based on media trying to get the story out first," a senior noncommissioned officer said.

Rumsfeld didn't pull any punches in his response. "The unprofessionalism today is as bad as I have ever seen it in terms of the handling of classified information," he said.

He said it's easy for service members to blame the media, but "they didn't get the information from nowhere."

The secretary said it is beyond his comprehension how a person cleared to handle classified information can be so "irresponsible and callous to the lives that can be lost," and added that anyone who leaks such information to the media ought to be in jail.

The meeting wasn't without its lighthearted moments. One family member asked if 2004 would see a Rumsfeld-Colin Powell bid for the White House. Powell is the secretary of state.

"Thank you very much for that nice thought, but I've taken myself out of active competition," Rumsfeld said after chuckling. "I would think at age 70 I've served pretty long."

Rumsfeld thanked the troops for their continued service to America. He said the troops of Fort Hood had earned a reputation as "America's hammer."

"When the president sends you off, the enemy knows that our country is serious about a mission," the secretary told the assembled troops.

He also stressed the importance of transforming the military even as the country fights a war on terrorism. "We are in a new security environment, and unless we transform this institution, ... we will not be able to provide the security for the American people that it's our job to do," he said.

Before traveling to Fort Hood, Rumsfeld met with Bush and other national leaders at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Talking to reporters after the meeting, Bush said discussions included such national security topics as missile defense, contingency plans and transformation.

"Secretary Rumsfeld and his team have done a really good job of beginning to shape the philosophy, a new philosophy in the Pentagon," Bush said.

Rumsfeld noted the discussion touched on the defense budgets for 2004 through 2009 "even though the 2003 budget is still pending before the Congress."

"The cold, hard fact is that the United States lives in a very different security environment today ... than we did prior to Sept. 11," he said in Crawford. "We have the task in the Department of Defense of seeing that we're able to provide the kind of defense capabilities and deterrence that will enable our country to contribute to peace and stability and to protect the American people."

Bush also said Iraq did not come up in discussions. "We will continue to talk with ... the people concerned about peace and how to secure the peace," he added. Parties to be consulted include Congress, friends and allies, he noted.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld drives home a point to soldiers and family members at a town hall meeting during his visit to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 21, 2002. Photo by Spc. Greg Heath, USA.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld addresses soldiers and family members at a town hall meeting during his visit to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 21, 2002. Photo by Spc. Greg Heath, USA.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld answers a soldier's question at a town hall meeting during his visit to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 21, 2002. Photo by Spc. Greg Heath, USA.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shakes hands with Rep. Chet Edwards at a town hall meeting during his visit to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 21, 2002. Photo by Spc. Greg Heath, USA.   
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