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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with CNN Moneyline

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 23, 2001 6:00 PM EDT

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

(Interview with Lou Dobbs for CNN Moneyline.)

Dobbs: Also in Washington, the defense secretary today declared war on Pentagon bureaucracy. Donald Rumsfeld is in the midst of a sweeping and controversial review of the military and his speech today made clear that reform will include Defense Department job cuts. Secretary Rumsfeld joins us now from Washington. Mr. Secretary, good to have you with us.

Rumsfeld: Thank you, Lou. Good to be here.

Dobbs: Walter Wriston once said to me that bureaucracy is a state of mind. And that state of mind has, as you well know, better than, I suspect, anyone, gripped the Pentagon for a very long time. Will you be able to -- do you believe -- to change the culture there?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I think we will. You know, if you think about it, in the private sector, a company that fails to adapt to new circumstance fails and dies. In government, it can't die. So it goes on. So the incentive to adapt is much less. We need to fashion the incentives and disincentives that will enable us to be much more innovative and much less bureaucratic. And we've got wonderful people here who want this place to work well for the taxpayer and we have to be respectful of the taxpayers' dollars. So I think we'll be successful.

Dobbs: Successful. You pointed out today in your speech, as you have previously, that if you achieve savings of only five percent, the Pentagon budget is so vast that that would save some 18 billion dollars. How quickly could you save that five percent? Because you have about two million employees. No company in the world has anything approaching that.

Rumsfeld: Well, it takes some time. And, indeed, as you know, sometimes you need to invest some money upfront to make savings. For example, we're going to have to revamp our financial system so that we can actually understand what's taking place. At the present time, the financial systems aren't capable of tracking some 2.6 trillion dollars worth of transactions.

Dobbs: Not capable? How soon could they be made capable?

Rumsfeld: Well, it looks like we've got a good chunk in the budget to get after it and it looks to me like it could take two or three or four years. So during that period of time, it could cost us some money.

On the other hand, we can increase our so-called "tooth-to-tail" ratio rather smartly, I think. We can take what I believe to be a very reasonable 15 percent cut in the tail, in the headquarters staffs, as opposed to our forces. And we've got a lot of people who want to do that. They recognize that these layers of bureaucracy here slow us down, make us less innovative. We're not as capable of dealing with problems in the timeframe that's necessary. So I think we'll get a lot of good support.

Dobbs: A lot of good support. You pointed out that the president has, indeed, mandated these changes. Nonetheless, also, as you're pointing out, it is a difficult mission by any stretch of the imagination. What is the first guidepost here, the first benchmark that we'll see the date and the point to say, "Donald Rumsfeld is succeeding or not succeeding as he revamps the bureaucracy in the Pentagon?"

Rumsfeld: Well, there are going to be so many pieces to what we're doing. But one of the first things that will happen is the -- we brought in three service secretaries who all have proven track records in the private sector. They are determined, they're experienced, they're talented and I have every confidence that they'll be successful. They are going to be announcing significant changes in how the secretariats function with the military staffs in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force in the period immediately ahead.

Second, we will be seeing the effects of a 15 percent cut of headquarters over a period immediately ahead. And in addition, we're going to establish some ways to measure. You know, what you measure improves, it gets better. And once you establish those metrics and announce them and track them, good things happen.

Dobbs: As you know, Mr. Secretary, Time magazine, other publications, have basically pronounced your efforts to overhaul the Pentagon and to eliminate the bureaucracy as already defeated.

Rumsfeld: [Laughs]

Dobbs: Do you want to comment on those early forecasts?

Rumsfeld: Well, you know, if you're not -- if you're doing something, somebody's not going to like it. And there's no question but that when you set out to take an enormous bureaucracy like this and to try to bring it into the 21st century, there are going to be a lot of people who are not going to like it because it's going to affect their circumstances. But you know, that's the way it is in life. We're just going to plow ahead. If there's a struggle, so be it. We're ready for it.

Dobbs: Mr. Secretary, good to have you with us. Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Thank you, Lou.

Dobbs: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

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