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ASD PA Clarke Interview with Mr. Slen, C-SPAN Washington Journal

Presenters: Victoria Clarke, ASD PA
January 30, 2002 8:00 AM EDT

(Interview with Mr. Slen, C-SPAN Washington Journal)

Slen: Torie Clarke, over at the Pentagon, what is the price tag on whatever it takes?

Clarke: Well, the price tag for the defense budget for 2003 will be $48 billion. As the president said, the war on terrorism is very broad, it's global, it's about far more than just Afghanistan and going after Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, for instance. So we have to make sure we make the right investments in our people, and we have to make sure we make the right investments in the kind of people and kind of organization that we need to get the job done.

Slen: And what specifically is the president asking for? What kind of equipment or personnel is he asking for in the increase?

Clarke: Well, it's actually more than asking for things. It's more about taking a hard look at the context of the world in which we find ourselves, and this is a process that the president and the Secretary of Defense started before September 11th. The context of the world in which we find ourselves is very different than it was for 10, 20, 30 years cold war. We find ourselves not facing World War II big common enemies. We find ourselves facing a wide array of asymmetrical threats. So, once you understand that context, then you have to look at organizing yourself differently. You have to look at equipping yourself differently. You have to look at different ways of training your people and putting those together so you have the best, most mobile, flexible and lethal way to go after the challenges and threats to the American people.

Slen: Torie Clarke, if this were September 10th, would we be talking about this kind of increase in defense spending?

Clarke: I don't know if you would be talking about this kind of increase in defense spending, but you would be talking about exactly these sorts of circumstances, the fact that it's no longer the Soviet Union that's the big, bad enemy. It's no longer about having as much about from whom the threats might come as it is about the different kinds of threats that we're facing. So, we certainly would be talking about the same issues, we would certainly be talking about the need for the same kinds of changes. We would also be talking about something that is getting focus in our budget, and will get a lot of focus around here going forward. And that is, how do you bring this building, the Pentagon, into the 21st Century in terms of how it's managed, in terms of how we use the taxpayer's hard earned dollars. We've got to do a better job of that, and that's part of the package as well.

So in the 2003 budget, you'll not only see the very important investments in people; in their pay, in their benefits, in their training, and the kinds of things we're doing for them; you'll not only see investments in the kinds of new and different equipment we need, whether it's unmanned aerial vehicles, which have gotten a real spotlight, a real focus, as they should have, in the last couple of months in Afghanistan; but it will also be about, what are those systems, what are those things that we're going to no longer have, or we're going to slow down, or we're going to change because they're not as effective.

Slen: If you'd like to join our conversation with Torie Clarke, you've seen her at the briefings, she's the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, 202 is the area code, if you're a Democrat 737-0001, Republicans 202-737-0002, and all others 202-628-0205.

Torie Clarke, there's also been talk about a Commander-in-Chief for homeland security. Can you expand on that a bit?

Clarke: Sure. It goes back to the same things I was talking about before, Peter, which is if you accept that we face a very different world, and different kinds of threats, and you accept that you need to organize yourself differently, that goes as well to the unified command plan, how the combatant commanders, as they're called, are organized, how they're structured, how they work with one another. And, again, well before September 11th, we were putting a focus not only on the threats that we see and face abroad, but those threats to the United States, to the continental United States to the homeland. And so, focusing on a CINC combatant commander towards those efforts is what we're trying to accomplish.

Slen: When did you first meet Don Rumsfeld?

Clarke: Boy, you know, in the last 20-or-so years I've lived around here, I've probably met him once or twice. But it was actually, funny you asked that, it was probably at the end of January last year, the first part of February, actually, and my husband had taken our kids off to Florida, as he does the first part of every spring, and there were some rumors that I might be going back to the government. And I said, absolutely not, I'm not going back in the government. I've done that. I'm the head of the Friends Don't Let Friends Go Back into Government Committee. And he said, okay, whatever you want to do, it's your decision. I'll back you up whatever you want to do. He goes to Florida for a week or so, and I have a couple meetings with Secretary Rumsfeld, and he comes back from Florida and I have a new job.

Slen: I'm looking at your background here, and I've got your bio. You were with the Cable Association, you were press secretary during the 1992 Bush Reelection Campaign. You've worked with Hill & Knowlton. I don't see military or defense, or lieutenant here on your background.

Clarke: You know, my father used to tell great stories about being in the Army in the Philippines during World War II. That's probably as close as I got to it personally. I also worked for John McCain for several years on the House and Senate side, a man who obviously has always been at the forefront in defense matters, so I feel as though I've always had a very, very good context, a very good sense of military matters. I have always had huge, huge appreciation for the men and women in the military.

And with all due respect to Secretary Rumsfeld, and who is so busy this morning I know he's not watching this, he was not as big a part of the draw for this job. It was a great honor, obviously, to be asked to work for President Bush, to be asked to work for him, but the biggest draw for me was the opportunity to work with the men and women in uniform. They're just incredible. And I wish everybody could see what I get to see day-in and day-out, which is that kind of commitment. So, it was a huge draw to come and work for them, and try to find ways to build and maintain support for the U.S. military.

Slen: First call up for Torie Clarke is for Pittsburgh on our Republican line. Good morning.

Caller: Good morning. I'm Geri Janney, I grew up in the same town that you did, Torie. I had the most wonderful thing that ever happened in my life was getting to know your father when I was a young woman, and having him become my physician. When I see you speak, the first time he ever examined me, you had come over from school, and you had a small problem, and he told me about you and your love of horses. And when I see you today, I now have the great opportunity of watching C-SPAN every day, and the luxury of being home now, I see so much of your father in you. And I'm not surprised that you have this position in our country, and you are doing such a marvelous job, and I'm not surprised because I see so much of your father and his ideas.

Slen: Caller --

Caller: I would like to comment about how we could individually become more a part of helping with homeland security, and maybe through our representatives in government, really let us know on an individual, you know, citizen basis how we really could become involved, and if we can do that through our Congressmen, and being involved, and seeing how much you represent your father, and the wonderful, wonderful person that he is.

Slen: Torie Clarke.

Clarke: Great. It is a very, very small world, isn't it. My father, who is a practicing physician of some 50 years now, still working, is just an amazing person. I laughed when Geri said, I came into his office with a small problem. I used to come into his office weekly with small and large problems, and he put up with most of them. He is a fabulous guy, and a great role model.

And I'm glad you asked that question, because we do travel a lot, we travel around the country, we travel overseas, and every single day when we travel, or just the mail, the emails, the calls and letters we get to the Pentagon are people just like you saying, how can we help, how can we participate. This is so important, I want to be a part of it. We have everything from small school children who want to find ways to participate and show their support to people who are in their 60s and 70s who are saying, I would like to sign up, tell me what I can do. And I think there are lots of different things you can do.

One, stay involved. The best way to have a strong U.S. defense, to have the right kind of U.S. defense, is for the American people to stay involved, to watch C-SPAN. I will shamelessly promote C-SPAN, which is a wonderful thing, to watch the news, to read the newspapers, so you know what's going on, and ask the questions and demand the answers from us about how we're doing this. Because the more the American people are involved, the more they're engaged, the more they know about what we're trying to accomplish with the U.S. military, the better off we'll all be.

And then, I think there are ways, and you'll hear more off the president's speech last night, actual ways people can get involved in their home towns in terms of homeland security. Until recently, this country has been very blessed by having great neighbors to the north and south, and a very fortunate geography. We haven't had to worry about too many real threats to us. We certainly do now. So finding ways to be more alert, finding ways to be more aware of the kinds of things that might happen in our own backyards could be very important. That's in a broader sense.

In a more day-to-day sense, if you know somebody in the military, thank them. Call them up, send them a letter. If you know their parents, call them up and say, we really appreciate what your son or daughter is doing. If you're an employer, you can be supportive of the people who work for you who signed up for the guard or reserve. There are over 70,000 people right now who have been activated in the guard and reserve across the United States who play an incredibly important role in the war on terrorism. It is difficult for families, it is difficult for the employers, so give them the kind of support they need to keep doing such an important job.

And thanks very much for your question, and for your willingness to pitch in.

Slen: And was the hometown Pittsburgh?

Clarke: No. The hometown is a small town outside of Pittsburgh, about 13 miles northwest of Pittsburgh called Sewickley.

Slen: Next call for Torie Clarke, Harker Heights, Texas, Democrat.

Caller: Hi, Victoria, I have a dilemma. I do believe that we should be supportive of our military and provide the necessary means for our government to keep us safe. On the other hand, you know, most of the time if somebody gets excessive power, you know how abusive people can become. And that is one of the biggest things that bugs me, because, you know, we are creating all these bureaucracies for security, and it just seems like it's going to spin out. If nobody oversees that properly, it's going to cause a lot of problems in the future.

Clarke: I don't disagree with you. And obviously providing for the common defense is the number one requirement and responsibility of the government, it's in the Preamble of the Constitution. With that responsibility comes a lot of strength and power. The best way to keep the government straight, the Department of Defense, or any other agency, is to watch them, is to be engaged, is to be involved. If you like what you see is happening, let people know. Let your elected representatives know. If you don't like it, same thing, let them know. The best way to keep the agencies doing what you want them to do, the best way to keep them responsible is to stay engaged.

Slen: Torie Clarke, the Daily News this morning has the front page: Bush Calls North Korea, Iran and Iraq an Axis of Evil. How much input did your department have in writing the speech last night?

Clarke: In terms of writing the actual speech, very little. But the thing that struck me about the speech last night is, it really was not the culmination, but it was the natural result of what we have heard the president and the secretary of defense talk about for quite some time, and I'm focused now on the national security matters, and that is, the president does an extraordinary job of explaining what the threats out there, what are the challenges, and then in a very clear, concise manner, how are we going to go about addressing them.

And, as you know, he is very plain spoken, he doesn't try to couch things, he doesn't try to soft pedal things. He says what he says, and he does it in a very direct fashion. The fact of the matter is, we have known for quite some time that there are a lot of bad people out there who would like to do harm to us, they would like to do harm to our friends and allies. There are quite a few people out there, and countries, such as North Korea and Iran and Iraq, who have made it a top priority to acquire and find ways to deliver chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The threat is very real. We've known for quite some time that the threat is real, and it is growing. We've heard the president talk about it before. We've heard the secretary talk about it before. And I, for one, really appreciate the president chose last night to put such a spotlight on it.

Slen: What the president said last night, was that a warning to Iraq?

Clarke: Oh, I'm not very good at putting the labels on those sorts of things. Again, the president tends to speak very directly. He tends to make it very clear to friend and foe alike what he thinks about their actions, makes it very clear to them what the United States' intent is.

Slen: Next call for Torie Clarke comes from Anchorage, Alaska, on our Republican line. Good morning.

Caller: Good morning. And thank you so much for C-SPAN. I watch it almost every week. And, Peter, I have a question for you, and for Victoria. I understand that the cable television industry funds C-SPAN, and I was just wondering if that was done on a voluntary basis by individual cable owners, or if it's a blanket group, percentage of the subscription fee, whatever? If that can't be answered now, I would just like to somehow get that answer.

And then, also, Torie, I herald you for becoming involved again. This is the first time I've heard you speak, and I have to say I'm looking forward to the results of your involvement. My question to you is, do you feel that it's possible with the speed of technological advancements that in defending our country and our lives, it makes sense to put more money and more time in the space-based initiative or defense program, that it would be a missile based global program that might be obsolete before it gets off the ground?

Clarke: Okay. Well, it's not really an either/or situation, we don't think, if that's what you meant. And one of the things you'll start to hear us talking about a lot more is the need for transformation. And we're going to try to do a better job of explaining what we mean when we say that because some people think transformation is just having one piece of technology that is much better than the next. And it's really about much more than that. It's about a different way of thinking, it's about a different way of organizing, it's about a different way of integrating things so you can be more effective. The end result of all of it is, you have a much more flexible, mobile, adaptable defense that can respond and react and address aggressively a variety of circumstances, a variety of threats. And so, it's not just missile defense, missile defense is just one part of a broader deterrent strategy. It's how you organize and how you integrate all the various things to have a deterrent strategy. And then when the bad things happen, to try to protect against them and go after those threats that we're facing.

And I'll try out here one example of transformation, a very real-life example from Afghanistan, which many people may be aware. Many people saw the photos of some of our special forces on horseback in a charge, the charge of the light brigade, if you will, with some of the Northern Alliance tribes in Afghanistan. Our special forces were on horseback using high tech satellite phones to call in bombers. So there you have a combination of some of the oldest technologies with some of the newest, and integration of several different forces, if you will, several different resources. That's one small but kind of telling example of what we mean when we say transformation is as much about how you integrate as it is about individual pieces.

Slen: Torie Clarke, is there a budget figure for next year on missile defense?

Clarke: There are budget figures for a lot of things, and one of the things you learn quickly in this job is not to get out ahead of your principals. It's really for the president to rollout his overall budget, and the secretary and our comptroller start talking about specific pieces.

Slen: If I could ask you about that process. For the last couple of weeks, some stories have been in the papers about the budget for defense, and some of the different programs. How do those figures get out?

Clarke: Oh, leaks. I think this town is getting better. This administration has been very good about lessening the number of leaks of inappropriate classified information. But the fact of the matter is, it still happens, and it's unfortunate. It happens for different reasons, sometimes people are advancing their own agenda, sometimes people are trying to ingratiate themselves with a reporter, lots of different reasons, but it does happen. And we're as guilty as anybody in the Pentagon. We have 23,000 people here. We have a couple million people in the military. Lots of opportunities for that information to get out.

Slen: Another call from Alaska, this time from Fairbanks, on our Democrat line.

Caller: Hello. How are you?

Clarke: Good, thanks.

Caller: First of all, I want to say that I think that the Pentagon and our own soldiers have been doing an amazing job.

Clarke: Thank you.

Caller: Yes. There are three things I want to mention. One is, are there any specific actions being taken to enhance accountability in the Pentagon? The trillion dollar thing.

Slen: What's the trillion dollar thing?

Caller: It's $2 trillion they're missing, they don't know where it goes.

The second is, the batteries that have been on the news recently, you know, that they've been sending out and putting into the helicopters and everything, the bad batteries. Is any action being taken on that?

And, third, I know that these are before September 11th, we were negotiating with the Taliban for a pipeline for the Caspian oil. Does that have any bearing on our direction in Afghanistan in a military way?

Clarke: Interesting questions. I can probably do okay on one or two, and not on the other. But in terms of accountability, you are absolutely right. We are probably the largest, we are the largest organization, company if you will, in the world, by three or four times, and a lot of money goes in and out of this place. And, as I was trying to say earlier, we need to do a much better job of taking care of the taxpayer's hard earned dollars. There are many, many instances which, because the accounting procedures are so outdated, because the financial systems are so outdated, it is very hard to track any number of transactions.

So one of the things we are trying to do in terms of how we organize ourselves internally in terms of how we use the taxpayer's dollars, is bring 21st Century accounting principles, et cetera, into how we run the business here. The secretary, as you may know, chose three service secretaries, the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, for very different reasons and purposes than you normally do. He hired people with a lot of business experience, people who are good at taking large organizations from outdated, antiquated procedures into modern day techniques that do a far better job of tracking how the money is used, do a far better of job of being much more efficient.

We're looking at things, there are lots of roles and missions that the Pentagon does that may or may not be appropriate for us to be doing. We've gotten away from the core mission, if you will, so we're taking a hard look at those and saying, should we get rid of some of those, should we siphon some of those off. So, we're taking a hard scrub from top to bottom. And when the budget does start to get rolled out, you'll see some of those things in there. It is a long, hard struggle turning the bureaucracy of this place is turning the largest cruise ship there is, only 10 times harder.

In terms of the batteries, I'm not sure, but I think you might be talking about the B-22 --

Slen: The caller is gone, Torie.

Clarke: I think she may be talking about the B-22, and I just don't have much information on that one.

And then in terms of the Taliban, I think what she's talking about there, one of the reasons so many different countries, and so many different players have had an interest in Afghanistan is because of the potential of a pipeline going across the country. And, again, I don't have any real connection to what we're doing right now. I think those are more things that are going on in Central Asia.

Slen: In the Washington Times this morning, Torie Clarke: Time Tests U.S.-Saudi Relations, Rumors of a Pullout Persist. Are we going to be pulling our military troops out of Saudi Arabia?

Clarke: You know, I think this is one of those interesting examples of the ripple effect that can take place in this town. I think now it's been probably ten days, two weeks, there was a story in the Washington Post in which they referenced some Saudi officials on background, which means they weren't named, we didn't have their names or titles, saying that they were asking -- the story said that they were asking that the U.S. considering pulling out of some of its bases. It is not true. The Secretary of Defense has been asked about it, and he has said on the record, he has not been asked by anybody to do so. Tommy Franks, who is the central commander, was briefing last week, he was asked about it, he says nobody has contacted me and wants us pulling out of there.

We have a very long, good relationship with Saudi Arabia. They have been very helpful in the war on terrorism. We always are in a country, working in cooperation with that country. We're there only because we've decided together that there is mutual benefit. So there are a lot of copycat stories, if you will, off of that original one, but you've yet to find anybody really of any level on the record, giving it any validity. Next call for Torie Clark over at the Pentagon. West Palm Beach, Florida, Republican.

Caller: Good morning.

Clarke: Morning.

Caller: I just wanted to comment, I'm a Vietnam veteran. And my son is presently -- he's been in the military for seven years. He is a paratrooper at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. And he loves the military, he thinks he died and went to heaven. At any rate, I agreed with the president, I believe in the military, I think that a lot of these bleeding heart liberals who want to be so politically correct is why we didn't do better in Vietnam. I don't know how many people that are in Congress or out there that have actually been in the military. I personally think it should be made a prerequisite, if you want to run for Congress, or if you want to be president, join the military, see what it's like. The last president didn't even know how to salute. But, what I'm saying is, I just believe in the military, and a lot of these people should go live someplace else, to see how good this country is.

I know when I came home from Vietnam and I used to see the peace signs it drove me crazy. And I used to call it the footprint of the American chicken. And it's things like that, the people who were in Vietnam and died, the war was over for them, but the people who went there and came back wounded, missing limbs, and missing sight, they live that war everyday.

Slen: Okay. Thanks, caller.

Clarke: Well, first of all, thank you for your service. Belatedly, but thank you for your service, and for you son's. It is, as you know, a huge, huge commitment. But, you raise a pretty interesting point. Prior to September 11th, one of our biggest challenges were trying to enact very real, meaningful reforms in the Department of Defense. And it was hard to get people to understand what we were talking about, it was hard for them to appreciate that the context of the world in which we found ourselves had changed, or really think about the U.S. military too much, for some of the reasons you suggest. Fewer and fewer people today have real life military experience. Fewer and fewer people know somebody who is in the military, so there wasn't that much of a connection. And because we had been fortunate and lived in relative peace for some time, it had not been on the front of their radar screens.

So if you can say there are any benefits post-September 11th, to that terrible tragedy, one is more and more people have a very real and growing appreciation of what the U.S. military does. More and more people have a growing appreciation for understanding what the military needs are, and why we have to constantly be looking at how do we adjust, how do we adapt, how do we make sure we adjust to the changing circumstances out there. So that's one benefit going forward. But, it's something we're going to have to stay very focused on. The war on terrorism will be long, it is about much more than Afghanistan, but the military activity will ebb and flow, there will be times when you see activity, there will be times when you don't see activity. So we're going to have to do very hard -- work very hard to keep that connection going.

Slen: How many troops are currently in Afghanistan?

Clarke: It's roughly 4,000 in Afghanistan.

Slen: And is Osama bin Laden still alive?

Clarke: You know, we get -- as the Secretary likes to say, you get dozens and dozens of reports every day, every week, some say he's alive, some say he's dead, some say he's in Afghanistan, some say he is elsewhere. So we take it all, we filter through it, we decide what we think is most relevant, and we proceed on what we call actionable information.

Slen: North Port, Florida, a Democrat, good morning.

Caller: Good morning. Thank you for C-SPAN. Good morning, Ms. Clarke. You know, that last caller set me back a little bit, so I've got to rethink my statement. But, my uncle served in Vietnam, my father was in the Cuban missile crisis, and I briefly served in the National Guard, so to know about defense is one thing on our side. But, I believe that we do already have the most powerful defense in the world. We do not need, in my opinion, just my opinion, to spend any more money on defense. It's pretty embarrassing to have a 767 come flying down the road and go right into the face of our national defense, the Pentagon. And I think that we should have had some kind of radar system, some kind of SWAT team, whatever it took to have already been implemented to try to cut this off. We saw it in '93. And about the president that was in before, we did go into the Balkans and end that situation, and that person is serving for war crimes. So we left something out in '91, and this gentleman here dodging the bullet, I believe we are going to find him, and hopefully it won't take a lot of time and a lot of money. But, it's just my opinion that we are spending way too much money on defense, and that we need to center our attention here at home, and on the economy.

Slen: Torie Clark.

Clarke: Well, I agree with you about the size and scope of the money. It is a whole lot of money. And we should be very, very careful and very attentive, as we are, to how we spend every dollar of it. Every dollar of those billions and billions represents somebody's hard work. So we are very careful about how we use that, and we try to put it to the best use. The fact of the matter is, though, that the world changes. We've got the greatest armies, navies, and air forces in the world. And that is one of the reasons there aren't too many people out there challenging our armies, navies, and air forces, because they are the best in the world. So people, especially the bad guys, adapt. They can't go after that, so they start coming up with these asymmetrical threats. They start coming up with the terrorist attacks. They are finding ways to acquire, and develop, and disseminate weapons of mass destruction. So it would be absolutely irresponsible of us not to respond appropriately, and find ways to go after those exact sorts of threats. So I agree, it is a whole lot of money, and we want to make sure we're using it in the best possible fashion.

Slen: How many men and women in uniform?

Clarke: Well, we count -- I'll throw in the guard and reserve, so you get upwards of 2 million or more.

Slen: And the current Defense budget is?

Clarke: The current Defense budget is $379, I'm fixated on the $48 billion number over 2002.

Slen: Next call for Torie Clark over at the Pentagon. Nashville, Tennessee, a Republican.

Caller: Yes, to get a perspective on the cost of waging this war, it would be interesting to know what the bottom line cost of maintaining our military for the six months or perhaps a year prior to 9-11, so we get some perspective of what the additional cost is.

Clarke: Getting perspective on the money is probably one of the most challenging things. It has been fairly widely reported that the war on terrorism currently is costing us about a billion dollars a month, which is a lot of money, again. I am not a budget expert, starting next week you'll see a lot of our budget experts out on the road talking about these things. Some of that is accounted for in the costs of keeping the Armies and Navies, Air Forces, out there and operating as is. But, it's a lot of money

Slen: Next call. Columbus, Maryland, Democrat. Good morning. It helps if I push the button. Columbus, Maryland, Democrat.

Caller: Good morning, Ms. Clarke. Thanks for taking my call. About a week before Christmas, the Secretary of the Army was on, and he expressed support for full concurrent receipt for disabled veterans receiving their military retired pay. As you probably know, currently, retired military personnel who are also disabled have to fund their own disability. Why is it that the Department of Defense opposes the funding of this? It was passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress in this year. Can you let us know who is making this decision to stop this from going through?

Clarke: Well, there're a lot of people in this building who work hard on the pay and the benefits and the appropriate things that we do for the military and the veterans. On that one, I'll beg off trying to give you a real specific answer because I just don't have it. But I believe it is something we're working closely with the VA on.

Slen: Eric Schmidt writes in The New York Times this morning that the hurdle has been leapt and that the U.S. military will help the Philippines battle rebels. What is our role in the Philippines?

Clarke: Well, we have a long military relationship with the Philippines, which is a good one. We have a long history of working with them on training assistance. And as the president of the Philippines and their Defense Minister and our Secretary have talked about, we are putting some U.S. forces in there. I think the large number's about 600 on training and assistance. They have a very tough problem in the Philippines with a terrorist group named Abu Sayyaf, which has some connections to the Al Qaeda. That's very often the case of these terrorist networks having some overlap. And we have provided -- we have agreed to provide training and assistance to the Filipino army so they can pursue the terrorists more aggressively.

Not surprisingly, we're better at some things than they are. We can help them with intel. We can help them with training and logistics of some of the new equipment that you can use to go after these terrorists. But it is very much a supportive role.

Slen: Next call for Torie Clarke is Charlestown, Rhode Island. Republican.

Caller: Good morning. Thank you for C-SPAN. Everyone's saying that, but I have to say it's interesting listening to the variety of viewpoints. Everyone, certainly -- this is America; we're all entitled to our opinion. And I think, overall, from what I hear, I'm happy with what I've seen happening as far as action in Afghanistan and other action. It's difficult. I wasn't even going to bring this up, but, yes, I'm a vet. I was in during Desert Storm --

Clarke: Yeah. Thank you.

Caller: -- and I have to say it does give you a perspective as far as what's appropriate. And it's a very difficult thing to see it from one side and then to try and just envision it from another. So, overall, the effort from what I've seen has been more satisfactory.

Clarke: Glad to hear it. And thank you, too, for your service. Interesting. Persian Gulf War versus this one, and it's probably an area in which my lack of experience in military affairs really helped. The one thing we could say with certainty about the war on terrorism and our efforts in Afghanistan, it was unlike any other previous military action. People tend to go off a frame of reference. And for some it was the Persian Gulf War. For some it was Vietnam. For some it was World War II, including the media that cover this building, that cover our issues. And the fact of the matter is it's very, very different than anything that's been done before. It's not going after people with armies, navies and air forces. So unlike the Persian Gulf War, you weren't going to see night after night after night of missiles streaming through the air. You weren't going to see thousands of troops coursing across the desert. It is not just about military. We were going after the terrorists economically, diplomatically, financially, legally. So it's a very unconventional war. It was a big part of our challenge in communicating that. So that's one place where my lack of military experience and lack of frame of reference in those previous conflicts probably helped.

Slen: Did you catch that cold in Cuba on Sunday?

Clarke: Actually, I had it on the way down and it got worse by the time I got back.

Slen: And why were you in Cuba on Sunday?

Clarke: The Secretary went down. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld went down on Sunday along with Chairman Myers, primarily to thank the men and women in the U.S. military who work there. They, in a very, very short period of time, have gotten an awful lot of work done. They set up the facilities to hold the detainees. They set up the medical facilities, the facilities for the questioning. They got an extraordinary amount of work done in a very short period. They're working under very difficult conditions with very, very dangerous people. As has been widely reported, some of the detainees since they've been down there have vowed to kill more Americans. One of them bit one of our guards. So the Secretary and the Chairman wanted to go primarily to say thank you for doing such a hard job. This may not be what you expected when you signed up for the military; this may not be what you expected when you were training and you were working, but this is a very, very important job.

Slen: And how many detainees are currently at Guantanamo?

Clarke: We have 158 in Guantanamo.

Slen: And is room tight? Is there going to be another camp set up at some point?

Clarke: What we're working on is building a more long-term facility for the holding of the detainees. We expect more to come in. We haven't set an upper number yet. We have no desire to have large numbers of these people. But we will have more coming in, and so they are beginning plans for building more long-term facilities.

Slen: Next call for Torie Clarke. Exeter, New Hampshire, Democrat.

Caller: Hello, C-SPAN.

Slen: Go ahead, Exeter.

Caller: Victoria, number one, you look beautiful in red.

Clarke: Thank you.

Caller: You're welcome. I'm a gay youth. This is the first time I've ever called anything like this, okay?

Clarke: Okay.

Caller: I'm a Democrat. But -- yada-yada-yada. As -- oh, gosh --

Slen: Are you asking about don't ask, don't tell, caller?

Caller: No, I'm not. I'm not.

Slen: Okay.

Caller: As each day passes, I'm becoming more Republican, I guess is what I'm saying. I think George Bush is doing an amazing, amazing job. I think the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, is doing an incredible job. And all I'm really calling for is to give you props.

Clarke: Well, thanks for your call and your support.

Slen: He mentioned that he was gay, Torie Clarke. What is the status of gay military personnel?

Clarke: No plans to change the policy.

Slen: And what's the current policy?

Clarke: It's the don't ask, don't tell.

Slen: Last call for Torie Clarke. Indianapolis on our Republican line. Good morning. Again, push the button. Indianapolis, Republican.

Caller: Yeah, good morning. I was calling up to talk about strategic defense. I know that we've positioned ourselves around the world in countries that we've been at war with, like Germany, France at one time we occupied; Saudi Arabia, we were there helping with [sic]. I was just wondering, do we reevaluate in like 10 years, 20 years. I know we still occupy a little bit of Japan. Do we reevaluate those and then eventually pull out? I mean wouldn't it be more strategic to protect our homeland if we were here instead of aboard, overseas?

Clarke: Well, I don't know if "reevaluate" is the right word. You constantly evaluate. It would be irresponsible to do anything but constantly be aware about how the world around you is changing, how the threats are changing and adapting as appropriate, so you can defend the American people, you can defend our friends and allies. And that means being in places around the world, as well as taking care of the homeland defense right here. Working with our friends and allies is one way to protect us.

Having said that, we are taking a hard look at how widespread is the United States board. How deep have we committed our resources, our people around the world? Which ones are appropriate, which ones aren't? In those places where we can appropriately pull back -- and we would always do this with our friends and allies -- so we have less of a U.S. footprint, we will do so. But it's a careful, deliberative process based on what we think is the best approach to protect the American people.

Slen: And again, the homeland commander-in-chief, is that something that will be filled relatively quickly?

Clarke: It'll be filled in an appropriate time frame. As I said, it is part of an ongoing process to make sure we're organized appropriately. But to say that making sure we take care of the protection of the continental United States as a priority is absolutely true.

Slen: And final question, working with Secretary Rumsfeld, has all the attention that he's gotten in the less couple of months and some of the laudatory headlines gone to his head?

Clarke: Not at all. Not at all. We're just glad to see that everybody is seeing what we've known for a long time.

Slen: Torie Clarke is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and the chief Pentagon spokesperson. Thanks for joining us this morning, and thanks for your help.

Clarke: Thank you very much.

Slen: Don Rumsfeld will be briefing at 2:00 PM today. We'll be carrying it live here on C-SPAN.

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