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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Business Week

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 17, 2001

Monday, Dec. 3, 2001

(Interview with Paul Magnusson, Stan Crock and Lee Walczak, Business Week)

Q: It looks like the battle for Kandahar is at a climactic point. There's some confusion about the role of U.S. Marines as to whether they will or will actually be participating in securing the city. What --

Rumsfeld: There is no confusion about the role of U.S. Marines. I think probably what you meant to say was there may be some confusion in the press.

Q: That's what I meant to say.

Rumsfeld: Aha. There is none in this building.

And your question is about the Marines and what their role might or might not be?

Q: Will they basically be needed to capture that city, do you think?

Rumsfeld: The Marines were put in to establish and hold and protect a forward operating base, the base being available for a host of different things. And it is being used for some of the things that it is available to be used for. And the ones that have been visible thus far have been various types of resupply and the interdiction of some of the roads that go towards Iran, and obviously it could be used for lots of other things, and we have made a point of not talking about what we might or might not do, and we don't rule out what might be done. But there is no confusion.

Q: Tell me about the issue of the captured Taliban soldier. Clearly the Northern Alliance or some Northern Alliance folks would like to take custody. My impression is you would like Taliban people turned over to the U.S. so we can make sure they don't try to do this again at some point. Where does that stand?

Rumsfeld: If you look at the people that have been involved in running that country and running terrorist activities out of that country they fall into several categories. Taliban leadership -- a number of handfuls of senior people. Taliban fighters -- thousands of Afghan people. Al Qaeda leadership and al Qaeda fighters who are from Arab countries -- Pakistan, some from Uzbekistan, some from Chechnya, some from China. From a number of countries around the world these people have found their way to Afghanistan.

Our position on what it is we are doing is we are interested in having all of the foreigners, the non-Afghan fighters captured or killed, out of business. We are interested in having the Taliban leadership -- correction, the Taliban -- no longer running Afghanistan and making it, harboring terrorists. We're interested in capturing and putting out of business the Taliban leadership.

With respect to the Taliban fighters, the people, the Afghan people, they are going to do what they do. They are going to either be put in prison if they're particularly, their behavior has been particularly egregious. The opposition forces on the other hand may let some go, they may recruit some into their own forces, some may melt away and disappear. So it isn't this or that, it's a more complex picture.

Q: So just to make sure I have this right, there's no real disagreement on this between the U.S. and the Northern Alliance leadership.

Rumsfeld: Not that I know of. Nor with the other groups in the country.

Q: Okay.

Q: Sir, given the performance of the hardware and the tactical flexibility the troops have shown in Afghanistan, one could argue that a lot of transformation to fight conflicts we hadn't anticipated already has taken place. Would you agree with that?

Rumsfeld: I don't know quite how to answer it. Any institution is in a state of, one would hope, some degree of transformation. Any corporation is, any government institution. It's hard to stay static in a world that is as dynamic as ours, and where technology is changing as rapidly as it is. So I don't know quite how to characterize a lot of transformation.

What I will say is that we have a lot of transformation, whatever that means, ahead of us. There is -- you don't need to change everything. Indeed, you wouldn't want to change everything. Of course the cost would be prohibitive anyway, because your legacy systems last 20, 40, 50 years. Take the B-52 bombers. And on the other hand, transformation can involve something quite apart from a platform. It might involve how it's used. It might involve how they're connected in interoperability. It might, as in the case of what's taking place in Afghanistan today, it might be connecting several platforms and sensors and using the information differently. It might involve connecting platforms and people as we have on the ground.

Q: Some of that is taking place.

Rumsfeld: Some of that is clearly taking place.

A number of the things that we're using are what the department calls high demand/low density assets. That, as we now all know, is a euphemism for we didn't buy enough of them. We didn't care about it enough. We didn't look around the corner far enough. And we have a shortage, a relatively serious shortage of a number of those HD/LD assets, as they call them.

Q: For example? Sensors?

Rumsfeld: Various types of sensors. EP-3s, we don't have very many. U-2s, we don't have very many. Predators, we don't have very many. Global Hawks, we've got one now and that's in the early stages. The emphasis, for example, that was put on that, was in retrospect less than one would have wished.

Now you can't know everything, and you can't know everything in advance. So I'm not being critical, I'm just reflecting a reality, that we're finding we have opportunities to use some of those things to a greater extent than we have the capability to.

Q: Do you think the use of the drones is the biggest lesson from the war so far?

Rumsfeld: Oh, we've got folks thinking about lessons learned. It's a bit early. How many weeks has it been?

Q: Seven, eight.

Rumsfeld: Less than two months, I think. I'm sure there will be bigger lessons.

Q: Going forward on transformation. With the increase in the precision of munitions requiring fewer sorties to achieve a goal, what does that say about the need for 3,000 new fighters?

Rumsfeld: I think it's always a mistake to hold one flower out and say what does this say about the garden? We are where we are. We're in Afghanistan. We don't plan to be there forever. We're doing something that is distinctively different than what this country normally does. There is no road map for it. There was no playbook that one pulls out and says okay, this is how we do that. The next thing we do may be totally different.

I think if you look back three years from now and you handed me a piece of paper saying here's what you said on December 3rd, how do you feel about it? I think I'll like it, what I'm going to say right now. That is that the United States of America is, and our defense capability, and indeed even more broadly than simply our defense capabilities, is what underpins peace and stability in the world. And that is what permits economic opportunity and people to have jobs and people to go about their businesses and live their lives. Not just in our country but the global economy. It is enormously important. And what's central to our country's being able to contribute to peace and stability is the full range of our capabilities. They may relate, they may interact and relate in one way in the case of Afghanistan and in a somewhat different way in the case of X, Y, or Z. Tomorrow, the next day or the next year.

So I think it would be a mistake for one to look at Afghanistan and think about it as a model that will be replicated prospectively. I think that's unlikely. I think that country has some distinctive things about it -- hundreds and hundreds of tunnels and caves, for example. Maybe thousands. And it isn't a model. It is what it is, and we have to deal with it.

The way that our country can best contribute to peace and stability is to have a spectrum, a full range of capability.

Q: Speaking of the role that you're talking about for the United States, you said this weekend that we know with absolutely certainty that Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons and --

Rumsfeld: He's used them on his own people.

Q: Right. But has a more advanced nuclear capability than we previously had understood.

Rumsfeld: I think what I said was when the Israelis went in and took out their nuclear capability and then Desert Storm came along and we got access to information about the state of their nuclear program, it was considerably more advanced than the external observers had known. And thank goodness the Israelis had taken out their nuclear capability at an earlier period.

Q: Knowing that he means us ill, how long can we tolerate that situation in which we know he is capable of a mass attack with weapons of mass destruction?

Rumsfeld: Well, those are questions that are above my pay grade.

What we've got is a dangerous world. We've got whatever it is, six, eight, ten countries that are on the terrorist list. A non-trivial fraction of those countries already have chemical and biological weapon programs. A number of them, not a large number, but a lesser fraction, have been actively pursuing radiation and nuclear capabilities. We know that. And you're quite right, in an earlier period when weapons were less lethal and involved thousands of people instead of hundreds of thousands or millions of people, one could say to themselves that they had a somewhat different margin for error. You could have less warning, you could be afford surprise, you could make a mistake and it wasn't terminal for your country.

When you're dealing with that many countries with that many weapons of mass destruction and that kind of close linkages with terrorist networks you've got a different circumstance and it does change the equation. It forces you to make a different set of calibrations and calculations about how comfortable you are.

Q: Recognizing that it's the president that makes these decisions, there's been a lot of speculation about where the internal discussions are about Iraq, just in terms of options, potential future actions.

Is there any significant error between the Cheney position and the Rumsfeld position on Iraq? Because I just keep reading, I picked up my Post today, there's a Bob Novak column -- I read a lot about this, and I'm used to basically seeing you guys in sync.

Rumsfeld: We do tend to be in the same place. I don't know of any differences.

Q: On the Iraq question?

Rumsfeld: None that I know of. But then we have not as an administration taken a position on this. We've not offered our advice to the president on this. We deal with lots of different things. But the press reports and speculation you referred to is just that, it's speculation on the part of people. They're reading tea leaves, they hear what the vice president says or the secretary of State says on some subject and then they make some guesses and write an article about it.

Q: Talk to us a bit about the Middle East, which is beginning to look like the second front in the war, a very dicey situation. Clearly there is the expectation of fairly significant Israeli retaliation for the terrorist bombings, maybe even more terrorist bombings underway while we're talking here.

Is this anything that we can have any optimism about given the state of affairs?

Rumsfeld: It's a heartbreaker. You just can't see that many innocent men, women and children killed by terrorists and mass murderers and not have your heart break. It's a terrible, terrible thing.

There has been tension that has periodically broken into terrorism and in some instances war in that region for my entire adult life. There's been an awful lot of presidents and an awful lot of kings, prime ministers and what have you who have tried to deal with it and thus far have not been successful. There clearly is a tension that exists. When it will end, I don't know. Israel does not have a big margin for error. It's got a very small country, you can see three sides of it from the top of the [inaudible] [hotel?], and that makes it difficult for them.

To have a negotiation you need parties that can deliver. The single thing that's been delivered by way of negotiations -- well, not single thing but certainly the big thing was Egypt and Israel with Sadat and Menachem Begin. They each reached forward and they made an enormous step and they signed a peace treaty and they transferred a big piece of real estate away from Israel. Arafat is not Sadat and has not been able to deliver anything to the Palestinians. And I don't suggest for a minute that the being the leader of the Palestinians is an easy task so I'm not being critical. It's just a reality. That's a difficult interlocutor.

Q: Is separation the answer? Becoming more viable is an option?

Rumsfeld: Gosh, I don't know. In the past I've always felt, this is really not something that I'm involved in, it's more the State Department and the White House. I've always believed that if you don't pay attention to that it's going to get worse. If you do, it might not get better but it might not get worse.

We've all been paying attention -- the president has, the secretary of State has, and so have other leaders. Senator Mitchell proposed a plan.

It's a shame because Israel has energy, it has vitality, it has economic prosperity of a sort, despite the fact that it's in a hostile environment and has had a difficult road to go. There's no question it would benefit enormously if neighbors -- It already does. Think of all the Palestinians who work in Israel on a normal working day. When the roads aren't closed.

But there is no way the United States or the U.N. or anyone else on the face of the earth can grab those folks by the scruff of the neck and put them together and make them like each other and think that there isn't going to continue to be the kind of thing that's going on. It's going to have to happen on the ground. The facts on the ground are going to determine that eventually.

Q: It occurred to me that we've left Afghanistan and we didn't mention the one guy that sort of is responsible for this whole involvement, Osama bin Laden. What is your confidence meter on the scale of like zero to 100 percent, where is the gauge these days that we're going to get this guy?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I think we will.

Q: No number though?

Rumsfeld: No. What do I know? We're looking not just for him. If he were gone today he's got a lot of lieutenants who can carry that on, he's got activities and bank accounts all over the globe, in 40 or 50 countries probably.

Q: Fewer than he had when he started.

Rumsfeld: That's true. We've put a lot of pressure on the bank accounts, a lot of law enforcement action where people have been arrested and interrogated, a lot of intelligence has been pulled together, a lot of people have been killed. And some have been captured. It's all for the good. It's made their lives very difficult. But when or how or in what way it will all sort through, I don't know.

Q: We've talked a lot about technology and people tend to look at cave searches as beyond technology, as sort of the lowest of the low tech pursuits because we all think back to Vietnam when guys would just crawl in holes. However, a lot of technology has happened since then.

Is this an area where scientific advance can actually be used to rat this guy out?

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Q: And we also have an attitude about the proxy element, who's going in?

Rumsfeld: We're doing lots of things. We're putting out a lot of reward leaflets. We're putting out a lot of radio calls for help by air.

Q: And locals are responding to that?

Rumsfeld: We're getting a lot of help from folks. We're hiring people to do things and we're doing things.

Q: How about technology?

Rumsfeld: There's no question but that the early assumptions that once you got to December everything would stop is not correct. It's a big country. There are lots of different climate patterns in that country. And as you're suggesting, there are a lot of things that one can do technologically that will enable us to continue to be productive in our efforts to track down those folks and stop them.

Q: When you find some of these people alive and you bring them before the military tribunals, speaking of the leadership of the al Qaeda and the Taliban, and you convict them, will they be prisoners of war? And how are you determining whether or not the Geneva Convention will apply? What's your legal advice been on this so far?

Rumsfeld: What I have done is read the president's military order asking me to be prepared to provide military commissions. And I have asked my general counsel, Jim Haynes, to pull together a group of people individually, as opposed to as a committee. We're not looking for committee advice, we're looking for individual advice so we're dealing with each person as an individual. And there are a lot of very smart people in this country from both political parties and all ages who have had varying degrees of knowledge and interest. Indeed, we had lunch in here the other day with six or eight of them. One of them had served on the Nuremberg Trials.

What I'm doing is saying to myself, this is important, it needs to be done right, it needs to be done right at the beginning and not wrong at the beginning and then fixed halfway down. And I need to invest the kind of time and get the kind of expert advice that will help me see that that's the case.

I suspect it will be used on a relatively limited basis. The reason I say that is the president's retained the authority to designate who, if anyone, would be subject to one of these commissions. That being the case it strikes me that he is unlikely to do it for thousands of people. He's more likely to do it for (inaudible).

There are some very obvious baskets or categories one can lump people in and they all have legal meaning, legal implications, and I have avoided characterizing what someone might be called. You used (inaudible), but there are four or five different categorizations that one can use. Until we -- we're trying to develop some hypotheticals and saying if this were the case or if this were the case or if that were the case what one might do.

We're not at the point where we're ready to do that, to talk about it.

As I've said, I really think the discussion that I've read in the press has been helpful, and I've read some good articles by people. Some of the stuff's a little shrill for my taste. It seems to have put the worst on every single assumption that one can conceivably make and I don't find that terribly constructive.

Q: It sounds like the process may take longer than the war.

Rumsfeld: Do you think so? I doubt it.

Q: I want to ask you about some meetings that I think you're having with business leaders. As far as I know many cabinet secretaries are having outreach sessions, some of them are brainstorming sessions. Obviously the secretary of Treasury and Commerce have had tons. My impression is you've had some. I'm particularly interested when you get together with folks from Silicon Valley or other people that are at the forefront of innovation what you're asking.

In a sense, are you sort of redefining the context of the industrial base? Are you looking at the U.S. economy as a hard target for terrorists which might have implications for this department? What's up with the consultations?

Rumsfeld: Well, I've met with labor leaders and business leaders and religious leaders because this department, of course, is important to people from all walks of life. I have also met with a group of people from high technology. And basically -- I begin with the premise that this department needs to be the investor that's caused the development of some of the most important technological advances in our country -- the Internet and computers, and you name it. Today I doubt that it is, and I doubt that it is because I've been in the private sector for a good many years and I've watched what's going on out there and I have a good sense of this institution and this institution takes a long time to do almost anything it does. Ten or fifteen years to produce a weapon. Technology has been turning over in relatively short periods of time, a couple of years, two to three years.

It used to be an advantage for private sector enterprises to be connected to the department because there would be technology transfers that would benefit the private sector. Today it's just the reverse. We've got to find ways we can be connected to the private sector.

Q: How about a board?

Rumsfeld: The big defense contractors are, in my view, a lot more like government than they are private sector. And how they function. They have to be. To effectively interact with this department they've got to be a lot like this department. And that's not -- that is not what you see going on in Silicon Valley.

A board is a possibility. We've got a Defense Science Board. We've got a group of scientists called the Jasons that are advisors to DARPA, DARPA being the Defense Advanced Research and Development Agency which has been the fountain of an awful lot of interesting technologies over the years. Still is.

There is the Defense Policy Board. We've got a Defense Business Board that's being put together right now. But that's going to be oriented more to logistics and that type of thing. Business practices.

We also have talked about how we can effectively use the relationships we have with people in the high tech business. We had a very good group in the other day and an excellent discussion. And it may be that there should be some kind of a board like that. Because there's an awful lot of smart people out there and they aren't 90 years old necessarily. A lot of them are in their 20s and 30s and they're just swift and bright and with small companies that wouldn't think of wanting to do business with government because it would consume them.

Q: That was last year. This year they want to do business with --

Rumsfeld: (laughter)

Q: There was a Rand study last year, Paul Wolfowitz was on the panel, Doc [inaudible] was on the panel, Frank Carlucci was on the panel. They suggested one way of avoiding getting locked into the much longer weapons product cycle that you have is to focus more on R&D and low rate production rather than long run production. It gives you added flexibility. It eliminates the most profitable part of the business for the contractors, though. So if you go to that model how do you keep the industry healthy?

Rumsfeld: That's a good question. I'd have Pete Aldridge and some of the folks that are really, have thought a lot about this. I got briefed by General Tom Moorman when I was chairing the Space Commission. He had been on a panel that, I think it was probably the Defense Science Board panel on the defense industrial base. It was a very good briefing. And there's no question but that a lot of the people who deal with the department are just simply not getting a return on their investment. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out if you don't get a return on your investment you're not going to want to be investing in it. A trained ape can figure that out. An untrained ape can figure it out.

Q: -- reporter. (laughter)

Rumsfeld: No. I mean I looked at it and I said my goodness, why would someone do that? So we have to find a way. If we're going to benefit through interaction with the private sector, the private sector has to be able to say to an investor that they got a return that's better than nothing.

We also have to be sensitive to the fact that we do need an industrial base. And behave in a way that enables it.

One of the things that's happening in the world is that to the extent the innovation and creativity is taking place in the world, is taking place in the private sector, it is automatically available to the world. That is to say that those that would oppose it are going to have access to some of the most advanced technologies on the face of the earth because they can buy them.

You can go over to Surrey and get the ability to stick a micro or nano-satellite on a rocket and send it up and they'll take care of all that for you.

Now people can buy a laptop that's more powerful than the original computers. They can have the benefit of GPS. They can have pagers and all these things. They can have lasers. You can jam things from the ground and almost off the shelf stuff.

Now if that means that the Defense Department is going to have to be competing in the world against states or non-state enemies that have access to the most advanced technologies, then we'd best figure that out and be prepared to have at least those capabilities connected into the department by our relationship with the private sector where those advancements are coming from. They're not coming through the Department of Defense. We need to at least [shift?] on that if not a bit more.

Q: I want to ask a missile defense question. The test obviously didn't take place this weekend. I am wondering -- there are people who were missile defense advocates who were saying all you need to do is put Aegis on steroids and we'd be there. What is your sense of where we are in the research and development phase of this? Is something really going to be deployable by 2004? Or will it be --

Rumsfeld: I'm not in the dollars or the date business. I have so much respect for what I know now. But what's going on here was a very large, limited, narrow development program, and what we have said is that we want to have a broader, more robust research, development program that goes beyond the constraints of the treaty.

Now we can't do that until we're free of the treaty, until the treaty has been set aside and there's something else in its place. But we have folks now looking at it in a very fresh way that they hadn't previously, and where that will lead us, I don't know. I suspect it will lead us to places that we didn't expect we'd get because that tends to be what's happened. There's a certain amount of serendipity in life that when you have intelligent people working seriously towards a goal they end up finding they get there by a path that they did not necessarily think was predetermined. So we're looking at a variety of different ways to do this and the most cost effective and fastest way to do it. Where it will come out, I'm not in a position to know.

Q: Prior to Crawford, a lot of people tended to view U.S./Russian military issues as sort of let's pay them to stop exporting dangerous technology, let's do things like that. Crawford was obviously some kind of turning point. The cooperation in the coalition is a turning point. Are we getting to the point where you can seriously contemplate U.S./Russian weapons development or anything that goes beyond the mere political, let's find some way to give money to scientists so that they don't sell (inaudible) to the Iraqis? Can we actually go beyond that?

Rumsfeld: Well, if you start down a path you don't know where it's going. But there's no question but that Russia has faced a fork in the road. They are doing a number of things most recently that look like they're turning West. If I were Russia I would do that. Their choice really is to look at the world and see all the countries that are doing pretty well for their people -- Western Europe, North America and others -- and then to look at the countries that they've had historic relationships with like North Korea and Cuba and Iraq and Syria, Libya, what have you, and say which road do we want to go down? Do we want to spend our time with the world's walking wounded? Or do we want to go where the energy and the innovation and the creativity and the return and the opportunity for people?

Here's a country that's got some very serious problems. It's got a GDP the size of Holland. It's got a lot of disease. It's got a declining life expectancy for males. It's got some real difficulties. And I think that they're reaching down and saying maybe that's where we ought to go. And if they do that, we're better off. The Russian people are going to be better off. The world is going to be better.

Now you're right, there's a lot of very bright mathematicians and scientists in that country and they're not getting paid much and they're available, and there's a lot of people around the world who would like to have their knowledge and their ability to do systems integration and to develop nuclear weapons and chemical and biological weapons and very dangerous, bad stuff. But a country that allows that to happen or promotes it or even tolerates it is not going to be very welcome in the West. So Russia's going to have to do a good job of dealing with that. And the good Lord willing, they will.

Voice: That's a good one to end on, sir.

Q: One quick question?

Q: -- how the military is going to take an increased role in homeland security? Traditionally the military has stayed out of homeland security.

Rumsfeld: Yes, we have.

Q: I was wondering if --

Rumsfeld: It's tough to do that today, isn't it?

Q: It is. I was wondering if any lessons had been tossed up and hit us all in the forehead.

Rumsfeld: The idea that the United States would have airplanes flying around in the sky prepared to shoot down an American airliner because it was aimed at a nuclear power plant or aimed at the White House or the Pentagon or the World Trade Center is such a thought that it's hard to even contemplate it and yet we've got combat air patrols up there right now thinking about that.

Everything's changed since September 11th. The laws are the same, there's still posse comitatus and the fact that for the most part the defense establishment is in a supporting role as opposed to a first responder role. But we do have the assets, we do have the capabilities, and we do get called on.

We've got, I don't know how many people it is today, but, what did Tom White say at the staff meeting today? Something like 40 or 50,000 men and women in the Guard and Reserve in the armed forces today involved in some aspect of homeland security or defense.

Now that may not be full time, and it may be off and on, but it is a big number of human beings doing things that are -- we've got all these planes on strip alert, we've got people helping, supporting the Coast Guard, we've got people looking and helping with airports, and in Washington, D.C., and any number of things. Chemical and biological or nuclear response teams.

It is a big job and it takes a lot of manpower and a lot of money, and it is not something that our country's really had to worry about that much historically in many, many decades. Think about it, with two great big oceans and friends to the north and friends to the south we didn't get up every morning and think about homeland defense. And yet my goodness gracious, we now have to.

Gentlemen, nice to see you all.

Q: Thank you very much.

Rumsfeld: You bet. Interesting subjects.