Secretary Rumsfeld Radio Interview with Bob Guthrie, WOAI-AM Radio, San Antonio, Texas
To listen to this interview visit: http://mfile.akamai.com/8769/wma/www.defenselink.mil/multimedia/news/rumsfeld.wma
SEC. RUMSFELD: Greetings, WOAI. Don Rumsfeld here.
Q: We are joined this morning by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who’s taken the time to talk with us here in military city, USA, San Antonio. Mr. Secretary, Gen. Sanchez said he had complained back in February of this year about shoddy equipment being issued to our troops in Iraq and last week we all know that Quartermaster company claimed that it refused to deliver fuel because the trucks weren’t fully prepared for that mission. And a lance corporal in the Marines is saying in The New York Times today that he had to buy his own scope for an M-16. Also other complaints have been heard about the shortages of radios and body armor.
Are equipment problems in the field in Iraq today that serious and if they’re not all up to snuff, what’s being done to resolve them?
RUMSFELD: Well, I read Gen. Sanchez’s letter and I’m not sure I would characterize it quite the way you did, but the reality is that when the United States was hit on September 11th and 3,000 people were killed, we had an armed forces that we had and we went to war with what we had. We didn’t have a leisurely time to decide that, my goodness, it’s a new period. It’s the 21st century and we now are suddenly faced with a global war on terror. We had the Army we had and we went about our business. And, in my view, the men and women in the Armed Services have done a superb job.
Now as you go along, obviously you find that you have things you need to do and when you have things you need to do, you find that there are things you need to do them with and you begin arranging yourself to have those kinds of capabilities. And when a combatant commander on the ground writes a letter like that to the vice chief of staff of the Army, he says here are the things I need, I need this and that – people, equipment, what have you, given the facts on the ground. Now a month later, he might write another letter and say, the facts on the ground have changed and I need X, Y and Z, instead of A, B and C. And instead of this number of them, I need more of them or fewer of them and more of something else. And that is a process. It’s an iterative process that it goes on every month throughout the entire conflict in Afghanistan throughout the entire conflict in Iraq and it is nothing new or nothing different, really, at all.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the Bush administration has repeatedly stated it does not want a draft, but there are repeated claims that there are plans in the works to draft certain specialties like doctors, language specialists and computer experts. Do you need and, sir, would you support some sort of selective military draft?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely not. This is a mischievous political effort that’s being made to frighten young men and women. The truth is we do not need a draft. We’re not going to have a draft. There is a law that exists on the books passed by Congress that requires that there be a selective service system and that it requires that they make assessments from time to time about various skill sets. But there is not a draft. There will not be a draft. I was one of the first people that opposed the draft back in the 1960s when I recommended we move to an all-volunteer service when I was a congressman from the state of Illinois and introduced legislation to achieve what we finally achieved in 1969 and 1970. We’ve got 295 million people in this country. We have 1.4 million on active duty and another 865,000 in the Guard and Reserve. And it is not a problem at all attracting and retaining the people we need to serve in the armed forces. Every one of them is a volunteer.
I just looked at the recruiting numbers here. The Army and the Navy are at 100 percent of their targets in goal; the Marine Corps is at 100 percent and the Air Force is at 101 percent. So the idea that we need a draft is false and mischievous and, in my view, nothing better than a scare technique.
Q: So, sir, you would not even support a selective draft of, say, doctors, which is what came up today in The New York Times?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Look, go back and read that article carefully and then check it for facts. You’ll find we do not have a draft. We do not intend to have a draft. There is no intention to draft doctors or dentists or veterinarians or anything else I can think of…
Q: Mr. Secretary…
SEC. RUMSFELD: … not withstanding what The New York Times may have written.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there are plans for another round of base closings next year, even with our military commitments being expanded. Does the administration still support closing up to 25 percent of domestic military facilities?
SEC. RUMSFELD: First of all, the number of facilities is – that’s an old estimate. As I recall, in the ‘90s and I think it may have been recently re-evaluated, but people estimate that we may have something between 20 and 23 or 4 percent excess base capacity in the United States. That is an estimate. The Congress passed a law called the BRAC law and it is going to be implemented next year. And we are in the process of bringing home about 70,000 troops from overseas and close to 100,000 dependents and the BRAC Commission will look at this arrangement in the United States and we will then make recommendations to the Congress as to what they believe is appropriate and my guess, it’ll save the taxpayers billions of dollars over a period of time and that’s a good thing for the country.
You say isn’t is strange to be reducing the number of bases at a time that you’re increasing your activities, it seems to me the juxtaposition of those two thoughts really doesn’t work perfectly for this reason. If you have a base structure that is pretty much left over from the Cold War, and you have not adjusted it to fit your force structure, then the taxpayers are wasting billions of dollars and that is not a good thing. So we’re in the process of reviewing that. This would, I believe, be the third or fourth time there’s been a BRAC process. Each time it saved the taxpayers money and in no instance has anything, to my knowledge, been closed, that was needed by the men and women in the Armed Forces.
Q: Back to Iraq, sir, there have been estimates, as you know, the U.S. troops will be required to remain in-country for up to 10 years before that country is able to stand on its own. What’s your best guess of the length of time our active duty component will need to remain in Iraq?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, you say “there have been estimates.” Who in the world estimated 10 years? I don’t remember hearing that myself, but do you know, offhand?
Q: It’s been bandied about. It’s been one of the numbers that’s been floated on the campaign trail and by others like that, saying up to 10 years may be a possibility. I take it, by your response, that you’re saying far less than that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s probably the same people who were talking about a draft.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Look, if I knew how long it would be, I would tell you. I don’t think anyone knows how long it will be. Certainly, the president has stated very precisely how long it will be. He said it will be as long as is needed to put that country on a path to being a single nation, at peace with its neighbors, and respectful of the people within the country of various religious and ethnic groups and not one day longer. And the United States doesn’t go into occupy a country or to stay there, they go in to assist and then leave.
We had at a high about 150,000 troops in the country and today we have about 130,000 troops. And we have been increasing the number of Iraqi security forces from zero up to today about 102,000. There will be close to 145 or 50,000 by the end of the year. And as elections approach in January of next year in Iraq, one would think that – and as the Iraqi security forces increased, one would think that the security situation on the ground would improve and the coalition forces, U.S. and our 30 nations that are partners with us in that country would begin at some point thereafter to pare down the number of forces. Now, is that a prediction or a promise, no, because it’ll depend on the security situation on the ground. But certainly, if you’re going from 0 to 102,000 Iraqi security forces, the total number of security forces are going up. And as they keep going up to 145,000 in January of next year and 200,000 later that year, one would think that that increased capability, assuming the security situation stays roughly what it is, would permit the coalition forces to begin to pare down.
Q: We’ve been listening to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He has taken the time to visit with WOAI this morning. And we thank you, sir, for your time.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you so much. I must say, you’re in a wonderful military town there and I want to extend my very strong and warm appreciation to the men and women in uniform and to their families that are there. These folks are doing a wonderful job in the global war on terror and we’re deeply in their debt.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.