Department of Defense Town Hall Meeting with Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace
SEC. RUMSFELD: Be seated, please. Nice to see you all.
General Pete Pace, why don't you start, just for the fun of it?
GEN. PACE: All right, sir.
How many of you are retiring or transferring this summertime?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Are you looking to see if my hand's up?
GEN. PACE: (Laughs.) I should stop right there! (Laughter.) I love it!
Thank you. Thank you for all you've done here. Our country is at war. We need every single one of you to do what you're doing. To all of you in this room and to all of you watching on TV, God bless you for what you do. We're going to be at this for a while, but as long as we stay at it and do whatever it is we're asked to do, we're going to be okay.
Thanks a lot. (Applause.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, General Pace.
Thank all of you for being here, and for those folks across the country and around the world watching on the Pentagon channel. Thank you all for doing what you're doing to support our country and to support the troops.
They're doing a superb job, and we are deeply in their debt.
A few days ago I spoke at the -- at VMI, Virginia Military Institute's graduation ceremony, and I went to the museum next door. They had two museums, the VMI Museum and the George Catlett Marshall -- General George Catlett Marshall Museum -- a lot of items from World War II. And it was a chance to reflect on that period, how difficult it was.
We think now -- look back on these things like World War II and the Cold War and think: Well, it was inevitable that we'd win, it was inevitable that everything would work out well, and that it was a relatively smooth path from the beginning to the end of those. And it wasn't. World War II, there were so many difficulties, so many losses, so many lives lost.
And certainly in the Cold War, throughout that 50-year period, there were people who said, on the one hand, we can't win it, we can't sustain this level of investment, so we ought to toss in the towel. There were people who said we don't need to worry about winning, because -- Euro-communism came in vogue, and everyone said, "Gee, it's really not so bad." There were people offering in the Senate amendments to withdraw all of our forces from Europe just as the Soviets were building up and building up their military capability and putting more and more pressure on Western Europe and on -- in Africa and even in Latin America.
So at the time, it was tough, and it took staying power and perseverance. It took people of both political parties, successive administrations, in our country and in other countries, in Western Europe, to have the perseverance to see that through. And we did.
And now, unfortunately, people look at it and think: Well, it written that it would end that way, that there was never any doubt. Well, there was doubt. And it was expensive. And it was hard, just as World War II was.
The -- General Pace just talked a bit about the tasks we're facing today. And they're important, they're serious, and they're difficult.
And as always in our history, there are different views about things. People argue and debate and discuss and second-guess and critique and opine on this and opine on that. And that's fair enough in a democracy.
But the important thing is to remember that it is sticking with something and prevailing that's important. I guess these posters being put around the building in various places, reminding us all that we are at war, as General Pace said -- and indeed we are.
I'll never forget just after 9/11 thinking about the next 9/11 and what might be done to avoid another 9/11, and what might be done, in the event that there is one, to mitigate its adverse effects against our society and our people and the deaths.
The -- it's been a long time since September 11th. There's a tendency for people -- the longer the time passes, that it kind of slips from people's minds. And one way to think about it is this: imagine another 9/11 in this country six months from now of a size or twice that size or three times that size, which is perfectly possible in this day and age. It just took a few hundred thousand dollars, 19 people with box cutters and visas and tickets, boarding passes, that's all. Terrorists can attack at any time at anyplace using any technique, and it's not possible to defend in every location against every conceivable technique at every moment of the day and night.
It is possible to put pressure on terrorists, and that's what we're doing. And it -- you can't just play defense. We have to play offense, and we have to go after them and weaken them and capture and kill them. We have to go after them and put pressure on them and make everything they do more difficult.
But if, in one's mind -- if you project out six months and assume another September 11th of some size, the question we have to ask ourselves every day is, "What ought we to be doing now to avoid that, to prevent that, to mitigate that, were it to actually occur?" And it's that incentive, that impetus, that sense of urgency that comes from that that I think motivates this institution, all of you here. And if we keep reminding ourselves that we have been very fortunate as a country to have not experienced another September 11th in the intervening years -- other countries, friends and allies, have -- on a number of countries on a number of occasions.
I mention that as a way of encouraging all of you to reflect on that in your lives, in what you do here in the department. And the entire government is engaged in what's going on, to be sure, in varying degrees in varying ways. A lot of it we don't see. People tend to see more what this department does. But it does take all elements of national power to prevail against an enemy that is not a nation-state, to prevail in this struggle that's taking place within the Muslim religion between violent extremists -- a very small number percentage-wise -- and the overwhelming majority of Muslims who do not adhere to the extremists' views of the few.
We have a big task ahead of us. We are -- I am very grateful to what all of you do. Every one of you here is -- are here because you want to be here in uniform or out of uniform. Every one of you volunteered to be a part of this department, and we're grateful to you for that. And we appreciate what you do. I would -- the only thing I would add would be to remind yourself of what could happen six months from now, and every day give a thought to what view in whatever you're doing, what you might do different or better or faster or harder to prevent that from happening.
Now, we'll answer some questions, but no more of those hand- raising things. (Laughter, laughs.)
All right. Who's got -- do you have microphones here today? And someone's going to tell me if someone behind me has their hand up? I've got a wrestler's neck, and I can't turn my head; I have to turn my whole body. (Laughter.)
Good. Yes, sir, right over there.
Q What I wanted to know was there's a lot of activity in the media in advance of this Baghdad ER production that's coming out this weekend, which apparently is going to be very --
SEC. RUMSFELD: What production?
Q It's called Baghdad ER, Mr. Secretary. It's about -- it's an HBO documentary about chronicling the efforts of a combat hospital in Baghdad.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Okay.
Q It's been getting a lot of play in the press, and apparently, a lot of the injuries, which are being treated in this documentary, were caused by IEDs.
And what I kind of wanted to know -- what you would tell -- either of you would tell viewers of this production the next day when they're wondering, you know, what are we doing to stop IEDs. People who say that production or don't see that production, what do we want them to take away as to what the Department of Defense is doing about the IED problem?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure. Let me start, and then, General Pace will -- has been working very hard on this as well, and he'll have a comment, I'm sure.
The first thing I'd want to say about that -- I haven't seen the film or whatever it is, video or -- but all of us -- many of us go out to Bethesda and Walter Reed frequently. And the medical attention, the care that the troops are receiving, the wounded troops, is just unbelievably fine. It is -- there's never been anything like it in history in any country in any war. They are doing things that nobody ever thought could be done to assist these wounded people with respect to their wounds, and with respect to their rehabilitation, and with respect to the path they then take from there, whether it's back in the service or off to some other position. And when you visit with the troops, you see the gratitude they feel for that. They recognize the compassion and the concern, the care, the quality of it. And as a result of that, there are an awful lot of people who are living who in any previous war would not have been alive. And we need to recognize the superb job they're doing.
The explosive device problem is a serious one. It is the one that concerns the troops the most. It's the one that concerns the commanders the most. It's the one that we are focused on back here. It is a matter that requires a variety of things. There's been a big focus on money, and billions of dollars have been and are being invested to develop the right kinds of technologies. There's a focus on technologies and innovation and creativity; how do you develop things that might enable us to find these things, to detonate them in a manner that they're not going to injure anyone.
But there's a totally different piece of it that's critically important, and I would say as important if not more important, and that is the battlefield commanders have to constantly be adjusting their tactics, their techniques, their procedures to take account of the fact that these things do exist. They're not expensive to make. It doesn't take a genius to plant one. They can hire some fellow, a criminal to go out and plant one for 500 bucks. And they can pick up technology right off the street to detonate them -- a variety of different things.
And to the extent you develop the ability to counter one technique of detonation, they can move it -- migrate it over five degrees and then you have to chase that one. So it's not static, it's dynamic. It's something that's changing all the time. It has the full attention of this department. And it is -- good progress is being made.
GEN. PACE: Thank you, sir. That was a great rundown. All I would add to that is we are up against a thinking enemy. All of us need to be very careful what we say publicly about what we're doing in this realm. The secretary ran down the areas in which we're working. But we need to be careful not to expose to our enemies how we are working inside those areas. So the whole chain, from the types of weapons that are being used, to the individuals who are employing them, to tactics, techniques and procedures, as the secretary mentioned, to many other things we're looking at, are being looked at. But let's be careful what we say in public.
The Army, back in 2004, started out this project here in Washington to help. It grew into a Joint Task Force during 2005. And in December this past year, retired Army General Monty Miggs volunteered to come out of retirement to be able to assist us, and he's been working this very hard.
So money, equipment, personnel, tactics, techniques and procedures are all being looked at very hard by this department.
Q Thank you, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: No hands back here.
GEN. PACE: Right here, sir, here's one.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good.
Q Thank you, Mr. Secretary. In the last year to 18 months, we've seen in CENTCOM and in PACOM large humanitarian responses to natural disasters. With NORTHCOM we saw a large response to a natural disaster here in the Unite States. And now we're seeing NORTHCOM potentially further tasked with at least what's traditionally not been a DOD mission in border defense.
And even -- I just wanted to get your thoughts, sir. Do you see -- I don't want to use the word "interfering" -- but do you see the Department of Defense still being able to maintain its center of excellence on war fighting with a lot of these non-warfighting missions now becoming DOD missions?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I do. The focus of our forces has to be on war fighting. It has to be on conventional war fighting, but also irregular and asymmetric war fighting because those are the kinds of threats we face, because people are not likely to take on in the immediate future are big armies, navies or air forces. The deterrent value of them is real and healthy. They are likely to keep coming at us with asymmetrical-type threats.
The American taxpayers invest some plus or minus $500 billion a year in the Defense establishment. We have standing capability that has the purpose of deterring people from attacking us and defending our country to the extent it's required. On the other hand, it's there, and there isn't any reason it ought not to be used from time to time for things that no rational person would have invested in and just have on standby in case there's a Hurricane Katrina come along.
So we were able with 450,000 -- 45,000 Guard and Reserve we were able to put -- I believe it was 50,000 Guard and Reserve and 20,000 active -- into Katrina support for the Department of Homeland Security in a matter of days. No other institution could have done that. When 9/11 hit and the president determined that there had to be protection and a different way of managing airports, we were faced with either shutting down our airports or putting people in those airports who could do that. Well, there wasn't any department or agency, federal, state or local, that could instantaneously put in those airports some folks who could, on an interim basis, provide that kind of security and assistance and then transfer it over to the Department of Transportation, which we did.
The minute we put those people in there I said, "Okay. That's not their job, that's not why they were recruited or trained. I want them out of there." So we established a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Transportation. They had to undertake a training program to attract and recruit people and put them in the airports and replace our people, and our people were out. Perfectly rational use of the taxpayers' assets.
The same thing's going to happen on the borders. You know, we've got 445,000 Guard and Reserve. Only 19 percent of the force in Iraq is Guard and Reserve at the present time, a very small percentage. What is wrong -- and I can't find anything wrong -- with agreeing that on an interim basis, temporarily, we would provide 6,000 out of 450,000 people who will be doing it on their active duty for training, for two weeks. They'll go down there, do exactly what they do in their training -- they'll be flying UAVs or they'll be doing construction projects, they'll be doing -- they're not going to be out with guns standing on the border shooting at people who are trying to come across the border. That's not -- they're not in law enforcement; they're not going to be doing that type of thing.
They're going to be backing up the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol simultaneously will be doubling the numbers of people that they recruit and train to be Border Patrol people, and in addition, our people backing up the Border Patrol, the Border Patrol that are in the tail, as opposed to the teeth end of the Border Patrol, will be freed up to move into the teeth portion.
So for a period of, you know, a year, up to 6,000 and for a period of a second year up to 3,000 is the current idea.
They may be helping with some fencing. We may be doing some fencing in the Yuma Range or the Barry Goldwater Range down there, where a number of people trying to get into our country have died because of difficulties they've had getting in, where we've had to discontinue something like 15 percent of the training days because of the risks that the immigrants -- the illegal immigrants cause when they move into that range.
So it is -- there's a lot of misinformation flying around about this. A lot of people are engaging their mouths before their brains. (Laughter.) And it's unfortunate, because then you have to play catch-up ball and try to disabuse people and -- but people imagine that we're going to go down there, stay there forever; that that's a new role for the Department of Defense. It isn't. We're simply doing it on an interim basis, and just like we do with firefighting.
I mean, right now, if there's a fire, there are fires in our West, Western part of the United States, the people weren't recruited into the military to go fight fires, but by golly, the Guard and Reserve does that every year. And they do it because someone has to go do it on a short period of time. And they are people who have those skill sets.
So I feel good about it. I think it's the right thing to do, and I think people fussing about it will relax and get over it. (Laughter.)
GEN. PACE: I would argue one more thing, and that is that when our nation sends its armed forces to tsunami relief, to earth -- in Indonesia, to earthquake relief in Pakistan, we are showing the very best qualities of this nation: our compassion, our concern for others, our willingness to reach out and help others. That's a great thing for our armed forces to do.
And oh, by the way, arguably, what those forces did to help others understand this country, they did in a way that any number of divisions fighting on a battlefield could never do. So it is well worth our time and energy to do the good works of our nation.
SEC. RUMSFELD: It's a good point.
Yes, sir? Ma'am.
Q Thank you, sir, for acknowledging me as a "ma'am." (Laughter.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: I said "ma'am." (Laughter.)
Q Yes, sir, you did. Sir, I'm an active-duty lieutenant colonel. I've been in service for 23 years. And other than having three boys under the age of 11, it's the greatest honor of my life to serve here in the Pentagon with you and with the Army Staff.
That said, sir, I am a victim of domestic violence, have been so for seven years; have worked with my spouse to try to work through this. We're still working. I'm hopeful. But it's possible that I may have to separate my family to protect my boys.
My concern for you, sir, is the Former Spouse Protection Act is being tested in Richmond on Monday. And at this point, your counsel is characterizing spouses like me as "shortsighted" and "self- serving." And I would like you to please revisit with your counsel to see that this act is -- may be from a bygone era and maybe needs to be revisited for the current family situations that we have now in active service.
Thank you, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much for raising that. It's an important issue. I've been asked that once before, and I indicated that I do think it's something that ought to be revisited. The Congress was disinclined to revisit it. It is a statute, it is not department policy, other than we have an obligation to implement federal statutes.
But I doubt that my counsel is doing what you said. The reason I say that is normally the Department of Justice is the one -- the people who handle lawsuits, and the lawyers in the Department of Defense do not file lawsuits or defend or prosecute or do anything other than handle legal matters here. You agree with me?
Q Yes, sir -- (off mike). But I do have some papers that say that the counsel that will be -- (off mike) -- I'm sorry.
SEC. RUMSFELD: The Department of Justice --
Q Sir, I misspoke, I'm certain. There is legal opinion being offered in Richmond that calls spouses such as myself as "shortsighted" and "self-serving." And I just beg to differ, sir. So any influence that you can exert in that regard --
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I don't --
Q -- I would appreciate.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah, I don't blame you.
I will have someone look into it.
Q Thank you, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you. I don't want to pick on the Attorney General, he's a good friend of mine! (Laughter.)
GEN. PACE: Here in front, sir?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, yes.
Q Sir, General Pace said that we are at war, we need to continue doing what we're doing. And I'd like to know how you see the proposed cut of 40,000 Air Force personnel affecting the way we fight as a joint force this long war.
SEC. RUMSFELD: The Navy and the Air Force -- the Navy a year or two or three in advance, the Air Force currently, unlike the Army and the Marines, which are increasing, the Air Force and the Navy, the Navy very successfully, has been investing a lot of money in things that are less manpower intensive and has been successful in manning increasingly capable and more lethal and more versatile ships with fewer and fewer people. The Air Force has to look at the balance and the tension between having airplanes that require a great deal of maintenance and attention versus investing in newer airplanes which require less investment and are more capable and can hit more targets than the larger numbers of aircraft that require higher numbers of people.
So they are constantly managing that balance between investment in technologies and capabilities and, in many cases, things that are less manpower-intensive, against -- which, of course, is going on in our entire society. Corporations are doing this.
The other part of that is, of course, the personnel cost in the Department of Defense has gone up just enormously. This country is now -- taxpayers are paying about $84 billion for health care alone for active and retired military. Is that -- ?
GEN. PACE/STAFF (?): (Off mike) -- the VA.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That includes the Veterans Administration, includes some the Treasury has to pay, and includes what we're currently paying. And I think it went up -- our portion, I think, went up from something like 19 (billion dollars) to 38 billion (dollars); double in five years.
Now, to the extent we can't manage those things because they are mandated by Congress, what we see is the costs going up and up and up on the personnel side, which is accelerating the incentive to find things we can do that are less manpower intensive.
It is a complicated set of issues and balances, but I can assure you that the Air Force is not just off on a strange mission to do that.
They thought it through very carefully. They came to senior-level regroup. They went through the chiefs -- Joint Chiefs of Staff and General Pace and General Giambastiani's process. They brought it to the SLRG, the Senior Level Review Group. All senior civilians and military looked at it and came to the judgment that their view of what they ought to do seemed to make sense.
GEN. PACE: That's a fair analysis, and our military advice is based fundamentally on what missions do the secretary and the president expect us to be able to perform for them, and what assets do we need to do that. But when you take a look at just -- like an aircraft carrier, for example, 10 years ago, an aircraft carrier could service 200 targets a day. Today, the same aircraft carrier can service 700 targets a day. In about two years, it'll be a thousand targets a day because of the weapons that are being produced and their accuracy. It used to take 10 Air Force planes to take out one bridge on one strike; now one Air Force plane can take out 80 bridges on one strike. When you look at those kinds of numbers and the capacity to perform, then you can see where it is reasonable to say to yourself: Can we do that with a smaller overall force and still provide to the nation the force that's needed.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes, sir. Mike?
Q Sir, a separate but related question.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Here's a mike coming right down to you.
Q Sir, a separate but related question. The Army is currently implementing a Lean Six Sigma program to improve efficiency and efficacy in its operations. Have you given thought to applying such an approach DOD-wide?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The private industry, of course, has been doing that for a number of years. I'm pleased the Army is doing it. It does make sense for other elements of the department to do it, and I know that there have been discussions along that line, but I just don't happen to know off the top of my head where they stand. But I -- we can certainly check on it.
What else? Question?
Q Mr. Secretary, my question is from Hurricane Katrina and even if you look back to 9/11, it seems obvious that there are at least some problems in interagency coordination and cooperation, especially when unexpected events occur.
So my question to you is -- well, first of all, I see a lot of similarities in these problems between what the different departments of the -- like the Navy, Air Force, Army had back -- prior to Goldwater-Nichols.
So my question to you is, do you think it's necessary or that we should have Congress legislate interagency coordination? Or do you see things coming along, where we can achieve the same objectives that we got out of Goldwater-Nichols or the same efficiencies, without a law that mandates it?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. Well, there's question but that Goldwater- Nichols has been a good thing for this department, and that we've moved away from each service thinking they can go out and fight a war and win a war to a point where they then moved over to try to at least deconflict so they didn't get in each other's way, to a point where they then began to actually function in a more joint method, and to the point where today they're moving towards something that I would characterize as interdependence, where the person who has a problem doesn't really care at all whether it's the Army, the Navy, the Air Force or Marines that put some power on that problem for them. He just wants to know that it's going to happen, and it will be precise, and it will be when he needs it.
So that's been very helpful.
The problems we're facing -- I mean General Pace mentioned this -- the advantages that come to our country by what we did in the tsunami in terms of the people in that part of the world, what we did in Pakistan, we've got troops -- I read something where one soldier says that down in Djibouti they're working and what they're doing is they're not going out and shooting people, what they're doing is they're helping build things, and they're helping with wells, and they're helping with medical assistance to those people. And it's better than bullets.
So -- but the tasks we face in the world are not going to be addressed in the period immediately ahead by big conventional actions. It's going to require that countries have a rule of law, and that means people in the Department of Justice are going to have to help them develop the kinds of court systems and procedures. And they're going to have to have decent medical assistance, and they're going to have to have governance models that they can look to. And that means that all elements of our government have to work together closely. And it's very difficult to do. I mean the reality is that our executive branch is a mirror image of the Congress and the subcommittee structure; I mean it's just a reality. And they do not like one element of the executive branch that reports to their subcommittee to be doing something that some other element of the government -- another subcommittee has jurisdiction over. And you're constantly -- here's a former congressman right here nodding his head -- Paul McHale. He knows. (Laughter.) I'm guilty as well; I used to be one. But that is a problem. And it may very well take something like a Goldwater-Nichols.
I know General Pace -- and it comes -- this comes up in every one of our meetings with the combatant commanders, where they just wish there was some way to bring those threads up through the needle head in a more orderly way so that there was a coherence to what we're doing. And it's hard work. I mean the interagency process just pulls the life out of you -- week after week after week you're constantly in meetings and meetings and meetings. (Laughter.) If you like meetings, you'll love interagency work. (Laughter.)
What else? Yes. We have a mike up here. Here it comes. One at a time, slowly. There it is. (Laughter.) That's teamwork!
Q Thank you, sir. I heard you speak before about new non- traditional roles for the military in the 21st century in regards to Hurricane Katrina and the Border Patrol. My question for you is another area with private security contractors. You see a real increase in that over the last 10, 15 years. My question for you is, one, do you see this as a staying trend? And then two, if so, what challenges and opportunities does that create both theoretically and, Chairman Pace, on the ground with those contractors?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I'll do it theoretically. (Laughter.) Theoretically it's a good thing. It's a good thing because private corporations have had security activities, you know, forever. And there's nothing wrong with that, it's perfectly rational. And as organizations, corporations have seen a need, they've come up and filled that need.
Now, it does pose a problem on the ground and there have to be rules and procedures that are well understood.
Do you want to --
GEN. PACE: Sir, thank you.
The problem, as you all know as well as I do, is that the battlefield is fluid; there's no front lines, no back lines. You can't presume that where you are on a particular time is behind the lines. Contractors are doing a great job for what they've been hired to do. But if they choose right now -- if they choose to not report in, to not let people know where they're going and they get into trouble, it's very difficult to be able to respond to them. So we need to work through -- and they are, on the ground with General Casey and his folks, are working through how do we ensure that the contractors, who have been hired to do a very legitimate function for those who have hired them, how do we make sure they are kluged together with all the other military power that's there so that we don't get into each other's way, we don't end up shooting at each other, we're able to respond and help when needed. And that's just going to take us some time to work our way through.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Question. Oh, right here. Good.
Q Mr. Secretary, General Pace, I'm Lieutenant Speertu (ph). As a supporter of -- a strong supporter of the war on terror and the war in Iraq, as someone who receives e-mails from friends who have been out in the field showing all the good that we do out there, and a brother proudly serving in Djibouti, I become disheartened when I come in to work and I read all the articles about all the negative press that we get and how, you know, a lot of people want to pull out of the war.
I'm curious what sort of assurances you can provide us that beyond this administration, that the American public will be able to swallow this pill and understand that this is a long war and that we're in it for the long haul.
GEN. PACE: I think I heard the word "administration," sir. (Laughter.)
SEC. RUMSFELD: You can do it, Pete! (Laughter.)
GEN. PACE: (I'll try to keep my back ?) not to everybody here.
I will let the secretary answer the question about beyond the administration. Let me talk about what I think we need to do in uniform. We need to be available to our fellow citizens in as many ways as we can, understand the rules of the game. Don't get frustrated about the fact that there's only five minutes on television per day, and that that five minutes is allocated to the bomb that went off because it's more news than the school that was built or the road that was built. Understand that environment, and then determine to get out to the American people in as many other ways as you can.
Folks like me, other leaders, need to be out and about, talking at our universities, talking to the influence people in various communities. More important, how about if we have a battalion that comes back from Iraq -- when it comes back, they get X days leave? Let's give each of those soldiers and Marines or whoever another five days, and ask them during those five days to just sit and talk with some group in their hometown. They can pick the group. It can be a church group, it could be -- whatever group they're comfortable talking to -- and simply in their own words explain to those people in that group what their personal experience was like. Don't have to go beyond that. Let's just get our folks out there.
We have in the Marine Corps for many years had recruiter assistance. Guys would go home on leave and get 10 extra days' leave so they can help the recruiter find another Marine. Why don't we have public affairs assistants? Let's get our guys and gals home on leave, and let them just go out in their communities and talk. Let's not say, "Woe is me. We're not getting the coverage." Let's figure out how to get the word out to the American people.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I guess I'd suggest two things that may sound, at first blush, somewhat off point, but they're not.
First, I think that we need to do a better job of teaching history in our schools, and to the extent that people have some knowledge of our Revolutionary War and the fact that there were just vicious divisions and arguments about what should be done; the Civil War, World War II. I lived through World War II. My father was on a carrier. And in parts of our country, they were just determined not to be engaged in that war…at all. And the vitriolic comments that were made about President Roosevelt, the -- I mentioned the Cold War and what took place.
I mean, even -- it is -- this is nothing new is my point. And if people understood that, if they'd studied history, if they appreciated the debates and the arguments, they'd have bigger -- greater confidence, it seems to me, in our country.
Fifty-two years ago, I was at a speech given by Adlai Stevenson to my senior class in college in 1954. He was between his two defeats to General Eisenhower. He lost in '52; he lost in '56. He gave a speech, and he said something like this, which is directly in answer to your question, that we have, as a society, placed all of our faith, all of our hope in the American people in the idea that, given sufficient information, the American people will be capable of finding reasonably right decisions on big issues over time.
What a gamble, what a risk. It's enormous. We see what happens to public opinion polls -- people go up, they go down. Everyone who tries to chase a public opinion poll just gets seasick.
In the last analysis, the America people have a darn good gyroscope, an inner gyroscope that kind of keeps coming back to center; it may get off tilt for a while, but it will come back. And I've got a lot of confidence in the American people. And in the last analysis, politicians tend to respond to the American people. They can be wrong for a period, but over time, they tend -- the American people tend not to be wrong.
So I have -- I think we're going to be fine over time, but there are some bumpy spots in between.
STAFF: Mr. Secretary?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes.
STAFF: We have time for one more question.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Okay. I think we got someone right here. We may have time for two.
Q Mr. Secretary, a few minutes ago you mentioned the billions of dollars that taxpayers pay just to provide medical attention or health care to active duty members and retired members of the armed services. Being a retired master sergeant from the U.S. Army, and TRICARE is the primary way that I provide for my family, obviously this is being looked at closely, so what should I expect in the future, what worries should I have for the future in providing health care to my family?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you shouldn't worry. I mean the TRICARE is the best program in the world. And the military people are going to receive -- active, retired -- are going to receive excellent assistance.
I hope you'll be able to expect over time that as health care costs go up and inflation occurs, that there'll be some modest increase year to year in the co-pay or in the cost of the portion paid for pharmaceuticals, and the like.
But anyone who says that the proposals that were made to Congress are in any way unfair or excessive, they're not. They're a very modest amount of money, modest increases. And if you want to save what is a terrific health care program for the active forces and for the Guard and Reserve, and for the retired folks, then by golly, we're going to have to put it on a basis that's rational, because it is currently on a basis that is unlike anything other than those companies you've been reading about that are going bankrupt because they didn't manage their costs well enough.
The chiefs have been over this very carefully.
GEN. PACE: First of all, thanks for your service, then and now.
Second, in 1995 when Congress enacted this legislation, it was a great program, and it is today a great program. And the chiefs have sat down collectively and individually and been briefed and briefed and briefed, because we want to ensure that 10, 15, 20 years from now, it remains a great program.
What we have recommended is that we re-norm today's premiums to the level that they were in 1995. In 1995, the individual was paying, on norm, about 27 percent and the government was paying about 73 percent of the bill. Today an individual's paying about 12 percent and the government's paying 88 percent. If we do not get back to a more rational way of sharing the cost, we will kill this golden goose.
SEC. RUMSFELD: And we have one more question. Do you have a question, sir? Yes?
Q Mr. Secretary, the teaching profession is extremely important in the welfare -- to the welfare of our country. For employment purposes, ex-military personnel have a point system to give a well-earned advantage towards employment. Several ex-military are leaving the Troops-To-Teachers Program due to the exam score system depending on the state they reside in. Could a point system be put in place with this exam so we military, after so many years away from the academic world, would have an advantage?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know. I'll ask Dr. Chu about it and try to get smarter than I am.
(To General Pace) Do you know?
GEN. PACE: Sir, I don't, but it's a great idea.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. I mean, one of the wonderful resources in this country are people who've served in the military, who then have an opportunity to go out and, when they leave the military, contribute their terrific backgrounds and knowledge and experience and leadership qualities in an educational environment. And of course one of the problems is, as with most, quote, "professions," there are licenses and rules and regulations as to you had to have punched certain tickets, the kinds of tickets that people who served 20, 30 years in the military haven't punched. And that's true in other disciplines as well.
And there's a natural tendency in many disciplines to try to keep the club at a certain size. (Chuckles.) And so they tend to have barriers to entry into some of these things.
I'll look at it and see what we can find out and have David Chu -- if you give him a little bit of time and then check with his office, maybe we can find out what we might do.
Folks, thank you. We appreciate all you do. God bless you. (Applause.)
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