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Secretary Rumsfeld Stakeout following Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
May 14, 2003

(Media stakeout following U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing.)

Rumsfeld: I have to hear the questions before I know whether I’ll be able to answer them.

Q: Do you expect test results soon from the mobile bio-lab?

Rumsfeld: I’ve not asked that question. Generally it takes time, it take time because we want to be very careful in examining something like that so you don’t destroy the evidence. They now have found two of these things and I know they have moved them, some of them to a secure location and they are now thinking about what they’re going to do with all or a portion of them. It could take a long time for some of the tests, other tests, it might take a relatively short period of time.

Q: Tankers was the first thing out of Senator Stevens mouth when he asked you a question, what’s the status of the Pentagon’s review and is the weight of the evidence approve it but?

Rumsfeld: There’s not question the United States needs tankers.  So, the question is do you lease and buy them and what you do at what price and what’s the deal going to be and that I can’t answer how close it until something's over, it’s not over.

Q: But you have to make a final decision though right?

Rumsfeld: I don’t know.

Q: Do you want to do that before Pete Aldridge leaves May 23rd?

Rumsfeld: Well Pete’s been deeply involved in it and enormously helpful, I would have liked to done it before now but it will get done when it’s done. It’s like a pie its got to cook.

(Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, in your opening statement you said the budget accepts some near term risks because of long term importance. What are some of the near term risks specifically that are acceptable now and what was the thinking behind those tradeoffs sir?

Rumsfeld: Well there’s risks and things that we did not do that we would have liked to done in every category, they’re in, we have not gotten the family housing to an acceptable level in all services at the pace we would like to have. So that’s a risk, why? Because it affects the force and suddenly or maybe you are not going to be able to attract and retain the people you want.

We had to balance and target some of the pay raises and that’s a risk. You target the ones that you think you might find to be in shortest supply. There were risks in judgments about replacement of munitions expended, do you want to refill every single bin that you emptied or do you want to look forward and say what are the trend lines as to what we used that might enable us to not refill some of those bins up to the levels they’ve been? Because judgment says that you have to make a call on that and every time you have experience you learn something different that it’s different than you plan for. There are judgments being made in the Navy in terms of retiring some ships.  There are judgments being made in the Army, a lot of judgment there with respect to some helicopters - retirements. And, to me this is a very complicated business and it requires judgment, and thanks, fortunately, we have some terrific people in the services and in the department who will make those judgments.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the House Armed Services Committee whittled away again at BRAC last night, I just wonder how much tinkering can you tolerate?

Rumsfeld: If BRAC is changed in any notable way that’s disadvantageous to the process, I will certain recommend that the President veto it, the bill.

Q: Things like they’re prescribing for -- (Laughter.)

The House Armed Services Committee is doing things like scribing force structure, they are saying you have to be prepared for a minimum of 12 active Army divisions, well they only got 10 now, is that going to far?

Rumsfeld: I don’t want to start opining on what the subcommittees or committees are doing it’s a long process, this legislative process and people make recommendations and they do things at interim stages and then we have an opportunity to comment and suggest different things and before it’s all done, we will end up with a product I hope that’s acceptable.

Q: Secretary --

Rumsfeld: I’m going to have to go.

Q: Senator Leahy asked quickly about the benefits for reservist and guardsmen and so forth, is there a particular area you think ought to be focused on so much with the tempo of the reservist at this point as far as being activated and so forth?

Rumsfeld: Sure. (Laughter.)

Yes, there is a particular area.  I think that it’s unfortunate when we do not have on active duty certain skill sets and the result of not having those skill sets on active duty is that we have to keep calling up the same people who have those skill sets in the Guard and in the Reserve and I think that’s a bit much to ask and what we ought to do is to try to see that we bring on to active duty on a permanent basis the kind of skill sets that the 21st century suggest we are going to be needing going forward and that we have Reserves for Reserves, that is to say they are people who are brought on when there’s a demand for a peak force for some event like Afghanistan or Iraq.

Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you.