Q: We’re going to start out this hour with a special guest coming to us from Washington, D.C. The special guest is the secretary of defense. His name is Don Rumsfeld. And how are you doing, sir, today?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Just fine, thank you. And I see you went to Pensacola High School. I used to live down there myself.
Q: Oh, boy.
SEC. RUMSFELD: You’ve been checking up on me now?
Q: I have. Yeah, Pensacola High School. My father was on the CNATRA staff down there.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Aha.
Q: What is that, Chief of Naval Air Training? So -- whatever it is. You know, the Defense Department comes up with some of the wackiest acronyms every once in a while. But you knew what CNATRA was as soon as I said it, didn’t you?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I did and I knew it wasn’t Frank (Sinatra).
Q: Well, it wasn’t. So, pleasure to have you on the air today, sir. I appreciate your time. If I could just get right to it and ask you a couple of questions. One of them that has been on my mind. I seem to remember a couple of months ago – maybe eight, 12 weeks ago, some reports that recruitment, Armed Forces recruitment, was running very, very high. The various branches were having no trouble at all attracting the recruits that they needed. Then in more recent weeks, I hear the opposite, that recruitment is not running that high and, in fact, some of the branches may be having a little bit of a problem fulfilling their manpower requirements. What is the status there?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the facts are these, that the Navy and the Air Force are having no issues whatsoever. With respect to the Army, recruiting in the active component is doing quite well. It’s 101 percent of their target for fiscal year ’04. The Reserve recruiting is at 102 percent, so that’s going well also. And then the National Guard is somewhat below their target. They’re at 88 percent, but seem confident that they’re going to eventually make the numbers they need. That’s recruiting. On retention, things are going well, also. The retention in the active component’s over 100 percent of target, and Reserve retention’s about 99 percent. And in the National Guard, interestingly, it’s almost 101 percent. So across the board, it’s going very well. And we’ve got a terrific group of people in men and women in the service and they’re doing a great job. And the Army, of course, has an awful lot of people around the world, something like 12 percent of their forces is deployed. They’ve got 123,000 possibly in Iraq and Afghanistan together and maybe 270,000 deployed all over. So needless to say, that does pose some stress on the force. On the other hand, when you think they’re drawing off a million people, and we’re only using 270,000 deployed, it’s pretty clear that the problem is not a shortage of people; the problem is that they’re malorganized. And so Pete Schoomaker and his team -- General Schoomaker -- are doing a terrific job in rebalancing the active with the Guard and Reserve Force.
Q: Well, that responds to my next question then was that -- is, in fact, our United States Army right now too small to do the job that it has to do?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we’ve been increasing it fairly steadily since the war in Afghanistan, and it’s been running anywhere from 15 to 20,000 over its authorized end strength. We can do that because we have the emergency authorities that the president signed. In addition, General Schoomaker has decided that we should go from 33 brigades up to 43 and possibly 48 brigades so that we have a greater modularity and greater ability to deploy the forces and is in a – what’ll probably be, oh, a 3.5 to four-year process of rearranging the Army so we have that greater ease of deployability.
Q: I have to share this with you. Hartsfield Airport (Atlanta), of course, the busiest in the world, now one of the airports where our troops from the Middle East are coming back for R&R and for leave. I was at the airport recently and everybody coming into that airport comes up the same set of escalators. And there’s a couple of hundred people that wait there for their family members and friends to arrive. Every time a soldier or an airman or a sailor stepped off that escalator in uniform, that whole crowd would break into applause. And I’m seeing -- these soldiers are blushing, they’re almost embarrassed at the reaction of the crowd.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That’s true all over the country. It’s just wonderful to see the response for these fabulous young men and women who are doing such a terrific job in Afghanistan and in Iraq both.
Q: Now, help me with an argument here. As I’m arguing support for the war in Iraq, I often get callers call up and say, “We should be fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan, not worrying about deposing Saddam Hussein.” My argument is that we are fighting the war on terror in Iraq. Back me up a little bit on that, Mr. Secretary.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you’re absolutely right. I mean, what we’re engaged in here is a global struggle, and Afghanistan and Iraq and the activities that we’ve been engaged in in the Philippines and in other countries are part of that global struggle. I mean, if one looks at it, we see that there have been terrorist attacks by extremists – radicals – in Bali, in Indonesia, in Spain and Turkey, as well as the United States and Western Europe. So it is a global struggle. It is a struggle between extremists and moderates. It’s a struggle between people who want to tell everyone else in the world how they should live and people who want to live and let live. And it’s important that we recognize that.
Q: But people seem to think that the only battlefront in the war on terror is those people that are still searching for Osama bin Laden. What sort of forces do we have deployed right now that are pretty much dedicated to the search for Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, Afghanistan, wherever he may be?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we have thousands of troops in Afghanistan that are working along that Afghan-Pakistan border in close cooperation with the Pakistan government, and the belief continues to be that Osama bin Laden and some of his senior operatives are possibly in Pakistan or in parts of Afghanistan from time to time. We don’t know that. It’s very hard to find a single human being. And the wonderful thing we have going for us is it’s not just U.S. forces, it’s also coalition forces and Afghan forces that are participating in this, as well as Pakistan forces on the other side of the border.
We’ve been training and equipping Afghan forces. And I think the number is now in the 20,000’s of them that are participating in assisting in this global war on terror.
Q: In Iraq, are the military forces in Iraq, the Iraqi soldiers, their defense forces, are they developing into a viable fighting force that will soon be capable of defending that country against the terrorist elements?
SEC. RUMSFELD: They certainly are. We’ve gone from zero up to some 206,000 of these Iraqi security forces. They’re the National Guard, the Army, the border patrol, the police and the site protection people. They are doing a good deal of patrolling in joint patrols with coalition forces -- the United States, the United Kingdom and the 26 other countries that we have in helping us in Iraq. In addition, they’re doing a lot of patrolling on their own. And in addition, there’s some counterterrorism units that had been out and have been quite successful. So our task with the coalition is to continue to train them, continue to equip them and to increase the numbers so that over time we can pass over the responsibility for the security in Iraq to the Iraqis. In the last analysis, we want our forces out of there and they want foreign forces out of there, and they want that to happen as soon as possible, as do we. But they want it to happen at a pace that they’ll be able to and capable of fulfilling that security responsibility.
Q: Well, someday in the future, I hope that you’ll have the opportunity to share with the American people some of the stories of things that are happening right now that just cannot be publicly discussed. It would make a hell of a book someday.
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughs.]
Q: And you know what I’m talking – it’s got to be some great war stories being written along the way by our men and women over there. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for a few minutes with us this morning. We really appreciate it.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, thank you. It’s always a pleasure.
Q: We’ll see you in Pensacola sometime.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Terrific.
Q: Be good. Bye-bye. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.