Thursday, June 28, 2001 - 6:30 p.m. EDT
(Interview with Lou Dobbs for CNN Moneyline.)
Dobbs: In Congress today, a hint of the obstacles facing Mr. Bush and his administration in the drive to boost domestic fuel production. The House voted to block new drilling for oil and natural gas in the Great Lakes. Also halted, a gas pipeline to Florida.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today on Capitol Hill, fighting for his new Pentagon budget, taking his case to the House Armed Services Committee. Rumsfeld says the military is worse off than he expected. One result: he wants to spend nearly all of the new budget's almost-$19 billion increase on fixing old problems, not modernization. Joining us now from the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, good to have you with us.
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much, Lou.
Dobbs: Striking in your testimony today was the fact that 14 percent of the budget actually focused on combat missions. That's an extraordinary, extraordinarily low number, is it not?
Rumsfeld: Well, it is. The important thing about it, of course, is it's very difficult to calculate because you have to include logistics and you can't have a combat capability without that. So it's undoubtedly a higher number. But the important thing is that the department is not well run, and I say that because there are so many restrictions and prohibitions and requirements that have been imposed over the years that we simply have to make this institution work better for the taxpayer.
Dobbs: Well, one of your proposals and one of the elements you put forward for consideration was raising the level for Davis-Bacon to a million dollars. That represents staggering savings. A number of the elements that you suggested would have significant savings. But surely, this has been tried before in the Defense Department, and it is, as you well know, notorious for overspending and inefficiency.
Are you really confident that you can bring to bear Rumsfeld rules and discipline?
Rumsfeld: Well, you never know until you get at it and try it. The department has got to do a better job itself. It also has to fix its relationship with Congress. We, today, have to file over 905 reports to the Congress every year. We have something like 3,100 contacts with the Congress every week. We have over 400 legislative liaison people. We have six or seven inspector generals, we have four or five surgeon generals. We have duplication.
We're doing a host of things inside the department that are not core military (inaudible), and that could unquestionably be done much better in the private sector. So we've got a lot to work to do here.
Dobbs: A lot of work, and the president promising to improve the lot of America's men and women in uniform, calling for, in your budget, pay increasing of 5 to 10 percent. Under this budget, even though it's a revised and higher number from the original budget of this year by the Bush administration, are we still, in your judgment, doing enough for men and women in uniform?
Rumsfeld: Well, of course, central to the success of the armed forces of the United States are the men and women. And it is the United States military and our capability across the globe that contribute to the peace and prosperity that we all enjoy. So it's the underpinning of that prosperity. We have to treat those people right. We have to be able to attract and retain the people we need to see that we can function in this increasingly high-tech environment. Dobbs: And in this $329 billion budget, a significant increase, whether one starts with the baseline at the beginning of the year or going back to the original budget as put forward. The fact is, you're calling for base closings, and that is always the most difficult political issue with the Congress you're trying to change relationships with -- shutting down the peacekeeper missile program, and cutting back and curtailing the B1B bomber, or taking third of those aircraft out of commission.
What do you think will be the congressional reaction when it's all said and done?
Rumsfeld: Well, it's hard to know. There's no question anytime anyone changes anything, or asks a tough question, someone's going to be concerned about it. And there's a great deal of pressure in this town to keep things exactly as they are. The pressure in the building, the pressure in the Congress, the pressure in the contractor community.
But everyone who looks at the base structure for the Department of Defense comes up with the conclusion that somewhere between 20 and 25 percent base structure is excess, that we simply don't need it. Well, no organization can say that they're doing a good job with the taxpayers' dollars if they're maintaining some 20 to 25 percent excess capacity.
We simply have to recognize that this department has been underfunded and overworked for the past five or six years. The result of that is that we have an operations tempo that is hard on the people, we've been overusing the equipment, it's aging. The ship- building budget is declining. And if those are very real problems, and they are, then the question is: Where do we get the money to deal with them?
Well, we're gotten the biggest increase since 1986 that the president's recommending to the Congress, but that isn't good enough. We're going to have to get more money and we're going to have to get more money by managing this place an awful lot better than it's been managed.
Dobbs: Well, let me, if I may, go to a management by objective. We know what you want to do. How many months are you giving yourself to get it done?
Rumsfeld: Oh, it's years. It's years. This department didn't get like this in five minutes, and it's not going to get out of this in five minutes. It is an enormous task. It's like turning a battleship. It doesn't turn on a dime. And we'll have to work with the Congress and find a way inside this institution to fix our acquisition system, which is broken.
It takes 20 years to produce a weapon system, at a time where technology is turning over every 24 months. Our financial management systems can't account for $2.6 trillion worth of transactions, simply because the way they're arranged and organized
Dobbs: Mr. Secretary, thank you. As you talk about improving relations and working with Congress, I was thinking of one of those favorite Rumsfeld rules: Don't try to please everybody. If you do, somebody won't like it.
Rumsfeld: Thank you, Lou.
Dobbs: Donald Rumsfeld, good to have you with us.