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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Fox News

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 17, 2001 6:00 PM EDT

Monday, September 10, 2001 - 6:00 p.m. EDT

(Interview with Brit Hume and Brian Wilson of Fox News. Also participating: Michele Flournoy from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.)

Hume: Next on Special Report: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says that a new threat to the Pentagon is the enemy within, the Pentagon itself. And we'll talk to him about that. Republican worries deepen over the economy and the budget and Social Security -- first, though, the other headlines.

Hume: Welcome to Washington. I'm Brit Hume. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has issued a dire warning about a security threat to America, but it's not from the sources you might think. He says the danger is not a foreign government or a terrorist, but, as the comic strip character Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

Fox news correspondent Brian Wilson has the story.

Wilson: There is an enemy lurking within the Pentagon, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, an insidious adversary that quietly diminishes military readiness and siphons money from vital programs.

Rumsfeld: It's the Pentagon bureaucracy, not the people, but the processes, not the civilians, but the systems, not the men and women in uniform, but the uniformity of thought and action that we too often impose on them.

Wilson: In a speech that was broadcast throughout the Pentagon and to uniformed men and women around the world, Rumsfeld came out with all guns blazing. He believes there is too much fat and too much waste in the military.

Rumsfeld: An average American family works an entire year to generate $6,000 in income taxes. Here we spill many times that amount every hour by duplication and by inattention. That's why we're here today, challenging us all to wage an all-out campaign to shift Pentagon's resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield, from tail to the tooth.

Wilson: Even as he continues to ask Congress for more money for programs like the national missile defense system, Rumsfeld is calling on military managers to be efficient and thrifty.

Because the Pentagon budget is so big, he believes even small savings amount to serious money.

Rumsfeld: If we can save just 5 percent of one year's budget -- and I have never seen an organization that couldn't save 5 percent of its budget -- we would free up some $15-$18 billion to be transferred from bureaucracy to the battlefield.

Wilson: But those who have gone before say it won't not be easy, that when you start talking about cutting people, consolidation, outsourcing, you start stepping on political toes.

Flournoy: The easy things have been done. And most of the additional changes that would result in substantial savings are very difficult politically.

And so they will require enormous political will. And it's not clear this administration is willing to spend its capital.

Wilson: And there is one other question: Is Rumsfeld to be taken seriously? After all, there are rumors swirling in Washington that he might soon quit or be asked to quit.

For the record, this past weekend, he said:

Rumsfeld: Not likely.

Wilson: Rumsfeld compares the Pentagon to a big battleship. And just as it takes a lot of time to turn around a battleship at sea, Rumsfeld believes it will take some time to turn around the Pentagon, with its entrenched systems and its entrenched attitudes -- Brit.

Hume: Brian, give me an example of the kind of thing that I heard Michele Flournoy, who is a respected analyst, talking about to you about where you run into trouble trying to do this kind of thing.

Wilson: Well, you don't have to look any further than the concept of base closings. Secretary Rumsfeld believes that we have 20-25 percent more bases than we need. That costs us about $3-$4 billion annually.

Yet when you start talking about which bases you would like to close, the screaming begins on Capitol Hill.

Hume: All right, Brian, thank you very much.

We'll have more on this later in the broadcast, when we talk to Donald Rumsfeld himself.

(Later in the same broadcast.)

Hume: Earlier, as we went into Brian Wilson's report, we noted that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was saying, in effect, what the cartoon character Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy, and it is us."

The secretary said that military modernization, something he is very strongly in favor of, requires a leaner and meaner work force and to channel those savings to the battlefield. To discuss his plans to shake up the bureaucracy at the Pentagon, Secretary Rumsfeld joins me now from the Pentagon.

Welcome, sir.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

Hume: I suspect you are aware that, because you announced this initiative at least as forcefully as you announced it at a time when all the news has been lately has been about how difficult the budgetary situation is and how often you've had to say that you are going to need every nickel, the widespread feeling is, it's going to be: Poor old Rumsfeld, he couldn't get any new money out of Congress or even out of the OMB, the president's budget office, so he is trying to scratch it out of the bureaucracy in savings.

Is that a fair characterization?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's not.

In fact, President Bush's budget represents the largest increase in the defense budget since the mid-Reagan term and the big build-up of the Reagan years. So we have before the Congress an increase of some $28-$30 billion that the president has proposed over the 2001 budget.

And I think we're going to get the bulk of that. And, as you pointed out, we need every nickel of it.

Hume: Where does that figure $18 billion come from that we keep hearing?

Rumsfeld: Well, that's the amendment to the 2000 budget that is currently pending.

Hume: In order to get to 28, you had to add 18?

Rumsfeld: Exactly.

And we think that, quite apart from that increase, which we need badly -- you can't go through five or seven or eight years of starving the department and not funding infrastructure and not funding the force properly and not modernizing and not transforming to the extent that this institution needs it and then expect you are going to fix it one year.

It takes some time.

Hume: All right, let me just ask you a further question about that, based on an article in the new issue of "The Weekly Standard," a publication not at all unsympathetic to your cause or the cause of military modernization.

And Gary Schmitt and Tom Donnelly of the Project for the New American Century say -- quote -- "The price tag for any realistic program to rebuild and reform the U.S. military is well beyond the marginal sums the administration and the Congress are now fighting over."

Now, I realize this is the largest -- you note, correctly, I think, sir, that this is the largest increase since the days of the Reagan build- up. But, in fact, we've had a sharp decline, really, in defense spending. Almost any increase would be the largest since then, wouldn't it?

Rumsfeld: Well no, it wouldn't. It is a sizable amount of money.

On the other hand, as you pointed out in your opening statement, if we can save 5 percent by improved efficiencies and better management --

Hume: How much would that be?

Rumsfeld: It's about $15-18 billion.

Hume: On top of anything else you're asking for.

Rumsfeld: Exactly. And that's why we simply have to go after this bureaucracy and see that this institution adapts to the new circumstances that exist.

The men and women in the armed services need the best training and the best equipment. And I'm determined to see that they get it.

Hume: All right, now, you're talking, obviously -- you indicated today in your remarks you were not talking about the people; you were talking about the systems and the process that have been in place at the Pentagon for procurement and everything else for many, many years.

Rumsfeld: Exactly.

Hume: Now, how long, Mr. Secretary, would it take you to put new processes in place -- and not only take you but perhaps to some extent cost you before you begin to feel these savings?

Rumsfeld: Well, you are quite right. When you are going to go after savings, sometimes it costs you some money up front.

For example, we have a base closing proposal before the Congress. And the first year or two of that, it probably costs you more to close the bases than you save. But after that, you begin to save $3 billion or $4 billion.

We're toting around 25 percent more base structure than we need. If we get at this, there is no question but that we can save substantial sums.

Hume: Now, when you talk about doing that, of course, you have got to deal with Capitol Hill. I think you told me not too long ago that, since your first tour of duty as secretary of defense under President Ford, that things have changed to the point where Congress is in everything. That kind of change more difficult than it was back then? And if so, how difficult?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think in this case -- certainly, the Congress has to participate in the base closing process. But with respect to the announcements we made today about a 15 percent cut overall through the Pentagon in terms of headquarters -- not the teeth part of our teeth-to- tail ratio, but in fact the tail portion -- we are going to be cutting about 15 percent.

Those are things we can do unilaterally here in the department that don't require a great deal of congressional cooperation.

Hume: And what do they save?

Rumsfeld: They will save a great deal of money. There's just no question about it. We have layer of layer of bureaucracy.

Hume: Yes, but just the headquarters, that can't be more than, what - - by Pentagon standards, that's a relatively small amount, isn't it?

Rumsfeld: Oh, no, no, no. And you'll hear a lot about it as we try to do it.

(Laughter.)

Hume: Oh, I'm sure. I'm sure. That's the way it is, isn't it?

Rumsfeld: Indeed.

Hume: Nothing is -- everybody has got lines to Capitol Hill. Everybody has got allies on Capitol Hill.

Rumsfeld: That's right.

Hume: This is a formidable undertaking.

Now, let me ask you about that remark that was made that I read to you earlier, about the price tag being beyond the sums you're talking about.

Rumsfeld: That's true. There's just no question. You can't deny -- have a procurement holiday for five years and not end up with a big mortgage that has to be paid.

We're going have to invest to modernize this force and to transform it over a good period of years. It will take time.

Let me give you an example. We're currently recapitalizing our infrastructure not at the 67 years that is done in the private sector as an average overall, but at 192 years.

Hume: What does recapitalize mean?

Rumsfeld: Well, it means that we're renewing and replenishing our infrastructure.

Hume: Replacing?

Rumsfeld: Replacing and recapitalizing it -- replacing it -- at a rate that is well in excess of what any responsible organization would do. So we have to get at that and fix it.

Hume: Well, how much money are we talking about over a period of five to 10 years, then?

Rumsfeld: Well, for infrastructure, you're probably at at least $11 billion right there.

Hume: All right, now, let just turn to some other issue that has arisen in the media recently that kind of fascinates me. And that it is -- we saw it reflected most vividly on the cover of Time magazine last week: that Colin Powell is the odd man out in your group and you and the other hard-liners are being mean to that nice man again.

What do you say to that?

Rumsfeld: Oh, my gosh. I tell you, it's just gossip nonsense. Colin Powell is doing a terrific job. He's an enormously talented person. He's the principal adviser on foreign policy. He does a great job for him. And it's the president's foreign policy.

All of us work closely with Colin. I must talk to him two or three times a day. I meet with him three or four times a week. And I do not know where that nonsense comes from. But that's what it is. It's nonsense.

Hume: Mr. Secretary, you are good to come. Thanks. Nice to have you. I hope to have you back.

Rumsfeld: Thank you. Enjoyed it.