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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability at Conclusion of House Armed Services Committee Hearing

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 16, 2005

            Duncan HUNTER: Hi folks, Duncan Hunter here, and we had a good Armed Services hearing with the Secretary and with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. We covered, once again, the gamut of military issues, from pay issues to equipment issues to obviously the war in the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters. I can tell you after these several years in watching the Secretary and his team right down the to last rifle man in the last infantry squad working on difficult areas of operation in Iraq and Afghanistan. After watching them perform and watching the elections a couple weeks ago, my opinion is that the Secretary and his team have done yeomen’s work for our country and the Secretary in particular has had a very challenging time in office. And he’s had to preside over not only an ongoing war against terror, including these shooting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but at the same time he’s been reforming the military, changing the army from 33 to 43 fighting brigades with very small increase in end strength, transforming the way we do business, transforming the 650,000 plus member civil service personnel system and all the time preparing the way, the roadmap for this election that just took place. There’s a lot of work yet to do, but I think part of my message this morning was that we are often very critical in Congress and yet I think it’s time for us to say that we also do a lot of things right. The Secretary has done a lot of things right and that turnout in that election that a lot of folks said would never take place was a manifestation of that success. Second, I just want to say that General Myers has been a real Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And he’s followed his obligation, his statutory obligation, to tell it like it is and he just did that with respect to the intel bill even though my colleagues on the Senate side were irritated and upset that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, upon request, gave his position which is his obligation under our constitution, but he’s been a wonderful advisor and military leader from my perspective as a Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. We had a good robust discussion today a lot of issues and at this point let me offer the Secretary of Defense an opportunity to say a word or two and take your questions.

 

            RUMSFELD: We’re heading over to the Senate to meet with the appropriations committee on the supplemental and we have about 5 minutes to answer some questions.

 

            HUNTER: Let’s go from left to right and we’ll try and get everybody.

 

            QUESTION: Inaudible

 

            RUMSFELD: I don’t think I’ve scheduled a trip to China yet but I hope to be able to get to the People’s Republic of China and I’m sure we’ll be discussing a full length of issues.

 

            QUESTION: Inaudible

 

            RUMSFELD: I think the people who follow the intelligence closely have seen a series, since September 11th, seen a series of very real intelligence that reflected Al-Qaeda planning for further attacks on the United States. I think that just because we’ve had a very successful election in Iraq and just because Afghanistan was able to get through their elections and just because we’ve been fortunate in this country and not seen another attack since September 11th that does not mean it’s over. It isn’t over. It’s going to take a while. There’s a lot, we’ve been fortunate in the worldwide 90-nation coalition in squeezing down the money in the terrorist networks. We’ve been successful in the law enforcement area, in the intelligence area, in the military in capturing or killing something like 2/3rds of the senior Al-Qaeda leadership at one moment but I think just because all those things have occurred there ought not to be a relaxation. It is a very serious business we’re in and they still have money and they still are determined to do the kinds of things we’ve seen done in 4 or 5 or 6 countries around the world in the last 2 and half years and we still have a big job to do.

 

            QUESTION: You mentioned in there that you don’t have much faith in the numbers from CIA and DIA (Inaudible)

 

            RUMSFELD: Let’s do one at a time. I have not seen the paper that you’re referring to with respect to the memorandum. It hasn’t come to me yet. It’s at the staff level and until I’ve had a chance to read it and think about it and discuss it with him. You haven’t seen it either, have you?

 

            General MYERS: No, sir.

 

            RUMSFELD: So it’s very much an open question. The intelligence, I don’t mean to be dismissive of it. People are doing the best that can be done. The fact is that people disagree. You heard the discussion in the committee. Iraqis they quoted had a number. Others have numbers. And we’ve seen the DIA and the CIA and other people in our intelligence community analyze it. It’s not fair to me that the number is the overriding important thing. For one thing it changes from time to time, the size of these various groups former regime elements may change from time to time to the extent, certainly the Zarqawi forces, the jihadists change from time to time and frankly to the extent we can put pressure on their money they’re less able to hire criminals to participate with them in these various activities. So the problem, the size of the problem is one thing, the lethality of it is quite a different thing, the nature of it, the quality of it. The Zarqawi group within that problem group of the insurgency, clearly is the smallest and it’s clearly the most lethal. So going on numbers. . . I don’t think the issue is being cast quite right.

 

            QUESTION: (Inaudible)

 

            HUNTER: Actually, let me just say we’ve got a series of shadowy networks that don’t take roll call and have no permanent cohesive records. It’s not usual at all if you’ve got different estimates of the size of those forces.

 

            RUMSFELD: And that’s been true of probably most insurgencies in history where the numbers have moved around and people have had different opinions on them and they’ve grown and shrunk depending on circumstances.

 

            QUESTION: General Myers, I’d like to follow up on a question (inaudible)

 

            MYERS: The only thing I would say is and the question was US military has other responsibilities in the world and there’s a whole defense strategy we have to fulfill. My comment was we can do that.

 

            QUESTION: (inaudible)

 

            MYERS: Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s no question on our ability to fulfill the defense strategy as articulated in last year’s (inaudible)

 

            RUMSFELD: Okay, thanks folks.

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