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Pentagon Town Hall Meeting
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld,, Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Goodness gracious, look at this!  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Thank you very much.  And thank you all for coming.  Look, they're in the aisles.  Goodness!  My gracious!  It's a -- well, thank you.  I really do appreciate so many of you being here.

On September 10th last year, things were, I guess you'd say, reasonably calm and normal here.  On that day, I elaborated on our goal of transforming our capabilities and discussed the need to shift more resources from the bureaucracy to the battlefield.  I said that a person engaged in an unnecessary or redundant task is one who could be countering terrorism or nuclear proliferation.  That was the day before September 11th.

The future arrived sooner than we expected.  We were attacked the next day.  The Department of Defense responded with power and with skill.  Thanks to the coalition efforts and the remarkable courage of the men and women in uniform, al Qaeda, although still dangerous, is on the run around the world.  The Taliban were driven from power in Afghanistan.  Afghanistan is no longer a base for global terrorist operations or a breeding ground for radical Islamic militancy.  The beatings by religious police and executions in soccer stadiums have stopped.  The humanitarian crisis has been averted.  Aid is once again flowing.  International aid workers and NGO workers are no longer being held hostage.  And the Afghan people have been liberated.

Those are truly remarkable accomplishments, and certainly every man and woman, military and civilian, can be proud of making a contribution to those successes.  But despite the important progress that's been made, it is certainly no time for complacency.

Think back to February 25th, 1993 -- things seemed pretty quiet that day as well, and the next day terrorists ignited a large bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center.  Six people died.  Less than two months after the 1993 attack, The New York Times reported that most tenants in the World Trade Center buildings say that life has returned almost to normal.

That was just what the terrorists wanted.  And they spent time learning from their mistakes in that first attack.  They upgraded their skills, and the next time they finished the job in both towers.

Today, the Pentagon is nearly repaired, and life seems to be returning almost to normal.  But that we must not do.  Our enemies, without question, are sharpening their swords.  They are plotting even greater destruction, let there be no doubt.  To prevent that, we have to be stronger, more alert, quicker on our feet.  If reducing bureaucracy and waste was important on September 10th, and it was, it is all the more important now.

As we did in Afghanistan, we have to take the war to the terrorists.  We have to go after them where they are, capture them, or otherwise disrupt their attacks.  To prevent the next attacks, we need to be vigilant.  We have to hunt down the terrorists and put them out of business.  And to do so, we have to transform our capabilities, the capabilities of our military, as well as the way this Department functions:

  • We need faster, more agile, more balanced, more interoperable joint forces.
  • We don't need services running off in four directions, and then, when the balloon goes up, wondering why they aren't as effective as a joint force as they could be.
  • Or, even worse, why the phone doesn't ring, and they're left behind.

Last week, I visited General Buck Kernan and the Joint Forces Command in Virginia.  Their mission, of course, is transformation.  They are testing, experimenting, innovating and energizing war-fighters for the 21st century.  Buck and his team are doing an excellent job.  The importance of the Joint Forces Command, in my view, is going to grow significantly in the months and years ahead as we focus on joint war-fighting and transportation -- transformation, as we must.

And in the spirit of transformation, we developed a new defense strategy last year:

  • We adopted a new approach to strategic deterrence that increases security while reducing our dependence on strategic nuclear weapons.  The missile defense research and testing program has been reorganized and revitalized, free of the constraints of the ABM Treaty.
  • We're investing in a range of new capabilities that should help us better defend our country in a dangerous and uncertain period that's ahead.
  • We also fashioned a new Unified Command Plan and reorganized our worldwide military command structure and strengthened our focus on homeland security.

Transformation, as I mentioned, means shifting resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield.  Streamlining and modernizing is a matter of life and death -- because our job is defending America as well as is humanly possible.

We've asked Congress to:

  • Let us close excess bases,
  • Upgrade our artillery,
  • Streamline our bomber forces.
  • We've launched a major effort to modernize the Department's business and financial operation and,
  • Get the Department's computers talking to each other for a change.

We need every nickel, we need every innovation, every good idea to strengthen and transform our military.  A new idea overlooked might well be the next threat overlooked.  If we do not fix what is broken and encourage what is good and what works, if we do not transform, our enemies surely will find new ways to attack us, as they did after 1993.

But the most important transformation involves not just dollars or weapons, but people.  Smart bombs are useless without smart people.  We need motivated, highly focused men and women working in this department, military and civilian, and we have them in abundance.  Some are here in this room, and others are listening elsewhere today.  We need your ideas.  We need your suggestions.  What you do is important.  Each of you, I know, is here to help, to help make our country safer and better.  The American people are certainly grateful for your service.  So is the president, and so am I.  I thank you for what you do for our country.

And I would be happy to respond to questions.

 
 
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