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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Avail after Missile Defense Conference, Huntsville, Ala.

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 18, 2004

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld Media Avail after Missile Defense Conference, Huntsville, Ala.

NOTE: Questions are paraphrased because reporters’ questions were mostly inaudible.

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good morning.  I’d be delighted to respond to a few questions.  Yes. 

Q:  Who do we address?

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Address me. 

Q:  [Inaudible]

             SEC. RUMSFELD:  I have no idea.  I doubt it, if I signed something like that – setting a date.  In a developmental activity like this, one would think you don’t set dates.  You get on the path and test things and see how things are going.  People then say, well, what’s the schedule and someone has a schedule that they’ve put out and then they change it every month.  Events occurred that caused them to change it.  But certainly, I wouldn’t have had anything to do with it.  I would have been informed that they would have said, this is what they’re thinking.  But I can’t imagine anyone who’s dumb enough to set a firm date, because you can’t do that.  You’ve never heard me, for example, tell anyone what I think the war in Afghanistan is going to cost or how long it’s going to last.  You can’t.  You can’t know those things.  And anyone who does that finds themselves embarrassed by eventually having the discovery that they were speaking from a pinnacle of near-certain ignorance. 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  No.  No. You don’t live here.  Yes?

Q:  Mr. Secretary, there were British pilots killed.  Where is the investigation involving this and the F-18 coming out?

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Don’t know.  It’ll come out when it’s ready – when it’s completed.  That’s another kind of a question that I have trouble with because when you have an investigation going forward, as we do in the Department of Defense all the time on any number of things, what happens in there is you got serious people, they’re given a mandate – a charter – they go about their business.  Someone asks them when you’ll finish, they say, oh, these things normally take X-amount of time.  And then they get into it and they find that there’s new information and they have to go down this track or some of the people they need to interview are no longer in the theater.  They have to deal with them back in the country, so you just can’t know when they’re going to come out.  They come out when they come out.  The goal always is to have them come out as soon as possible, having done a responsible piece of work.  Yes?

Q:  Regarding the system of alert, is flight testing stretched too thin?

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I’ll try and answer and then we’ll see what you have to say, General Holly, you’re the expert.  What my view has been since I came back to government is this was a worthwhile thing to do be doing.  We ought to explore a variety of different research and development avenues.  We ought to expect to have failures and successes in the process.  We ought to, as it is possible, deploy that which we have for two purposes – one, the principal purpose is so that you can continue to evolve it and test it and improve it and learn.  We do that with all kinds of things where you don’t wait till you have something perfected.  If we waited until we had something perfected, we never would have used the Predator, we never would have used the Predator or the Hellfire in Afghanistan or Iraq and it was a very effective weapon.  We never would have used JSTARS. 

There are plenty of times in our country’s history where you go ahead and deploy something, knowing that it has not completed all of the evolutionary aspects that it eventually will.  The question of going on alert, it seems to me, is a question that’s up to the experts.  And what they will do is they will get the – some radar capability, some interceptor capability, work with it, and at that point, where they have decided that they have a minimal limited capability to intercept a ballistic missile, they will then have before that developed the rules of engagement, developed the chains of command, worked through all of the issues that one has to with a new system, a new set of procedures and be prepared to have for the country that limited capability. 

I guess that’s what you mean by going on alert.   Is that roughly right? 

Now if someone said to me what ought we to do with this, should we have some research and development or some testing or some developmental activities we’d like to do, and it means taking it off, quote, “alert,” so that we know it would not be able to provide even that limited capability during that period. 

And the balance was either you take it off and go ahead and do developmental work or you leave it on and continue to have for the country that limited capability.  My attitude would be take it off – do the developmental work, keep learning with this.  Now it’s conceivable if you had a warning situation that caused concern that you might delay taking it off [Inaudible] during that period. 

[To General Holly]:  How’d I do?  Where’s General Holly?  Close? 

GEN. HOLLY:  Here, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Close?

GEN. HOLLY:  Yes, sir.  The only thing I would amplify would be is that we have never set the prerequisite [inaudible] prior to going on alert.  We are continuing to accumulate information and data on a daily basis and as we get closer to a place where we think it would be appropriate to bring in leadership, we will do that.

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Right now, I’ve been trying to sink through with our folks rules of engagement and delegations of authority and how that would work; not because it’s imminent, but because it’s the kind of thing you need to do before it’s imminent that you’d have that capability, so that you’ve thought that through.  Yes? 

Q:  Mr. Secretary.   This is an easy question.

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good – I need an easy one. 

Q:  My son is a plebe at the Naval Academy. He’s considering a major right now.  What would your suggestions be? He’s a third generation. 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, first of all, tell him thank you.  We’re delighted he’s doing that and that’s impressive to be a third-generation. 

This is an unconventional answer.  I think people ought to do what they feel good doing.  I think people take aptitude tests and they say you’re good in “A” and not so good in “B” and the people like “B” a lot.  And they turned out to be better at “B” than they would have been at “A,” not because of their aptitude, but because of the energy they bring to it and the determination, the number of hours they’re willing to devote to it. 

And there’s so many wonderful avenues in things that people can do.  I mean, you think just of what’s going on this week in intelligence, how important that is.  I think almost no matter what anyone does, whatever their discipline is – they be driving a ship or driving an airplane or one other thing.  Developing competence in languages is an area -- and cultural competence – will have to undoubtedly prove useful over time. 

We live in our own hemisphere.  We tend not to have those skills and the nature of the world is that it’s so interlinked and interconnected and not only are the economies increasingly global, but the things we need as a nation to succeed and prosper depend on our relationships with other countries and not just the traditional other countries, but untraditional countries in terms of our relationships.  So I think as a sidelight for almost anybody, developing a language capability in languages that look to be important over the next [Inaudible] the span of their careers and cultural knowledge would be a useful thing.   Yes?

Q:  You just mentioned the need to work with other countries, some critics of the [inaudible] say that in effect you might make it more difficult to work with other countries because of the growing resentment in places like Iraq [inaudible].  Can you comment on that? 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think you have to take – walk at  this subject this way.  What is is – people understand it, they tend to like it, and they don’t want to change it.  Change is hard for people.  Therefore, if you do something, somebody’s not going to like it, by definition. 

And what we have been doing for 3 ½ years is looking at the nature of our world, refashioning new relationships with countries where we’ve not had particular relationships, looking not at how we ought to be organized to fight the Cold War in static defense in Germany or static defense somewhere else.  But instead looking at the reality that it’s no longer possible to know precisely where a threat is going to come from.  We know the capabilities you’re going to have to face.  So we migrated from a threat-based strategy to a capabilities-based strategy.  Therefore, certain things become important -- one is usability.   You’ll probably be able to use those capabilities -- our forces, our airplanes, our ships. 

What does that mean?  It means that if you’re in a country and the neighboring country won’t allow you to use the rail lines to move your forces out of that country, that means the taxpayers have been paying for that capability located in country “X” and it’s not available to be used in an effective way, which is suggesting that the taxpayers in America that have one military for this country and another military for that country, another one for – that’s outrageous in this time and day. 

We’ve got to -- not only do we have understandings and arrangements that we can use our forces wherever they may be located, for whatever may be needed as opposed to for a static defense of that particular country, but they have to be usable fast.  We have to have agility.  We have to have flexibility. How would you do it? 

Now the other thing that’s important to me is I think they have to be in places where people want them.  I don’t think it’s good for our forces to be put in countries where they’re not wanted.  Our country has – we have aspirations, not to take over anyone’s real estate.  Our goal is to help contribute to a more peaceful and stable world.  And if our forces are going to be located somewhere else, we want them where they’re well-received.  We worry about recruiting and retention.  Fortunately, the numbers are good and we’re meeting our recruiting and retention goals for the most part, but this is a important element. 

The other thing I would say is that to the extent we can have fewer moves leaves less stress on our force.  A lot of our people are married now, and their spouses work.  And the fewer permanent changes of station they have over time, the better off it is from a family standpoint, in terms of kids finishing high schools and spouses not having to change jobs.  So we want to behave in a way that recognizes we’ve got an all-volunteer force.  Everyone of them is here because they want to be.  They have a choice.  They can leave.  And we’ve got to create an environment that’s hospitable to them.  And so we may have forward operating locations or sites where people will rotate in and somewhat fewer number of permanent bases and heavy footprints and hundreds of thousands of dependents in locations.  So we will continue to have a presence around the world. 

Our weight will shift somewhat out of western Europe, because we no longer are fearful of a Soviet Union invasion across the North German plain with tanks.  I know some people still worry about that, but I don’t.  And it’s time to shift our emphasis and our weight so that we will have the capability to deal with those capabilities that come up against us wherever they are.  We will not weaken the deterrent in any place.  I can assure you of that.  We’re going to have a tough time getting the Department of Defense, the United States Military and the world to recognize that speed and lethality and agility count and they count big. 

Mass and numbers was last century, sitting around counting up how many troops are here, how many ships are there, how many tanks are here, how many bombs are located there - is not going to be the way that intelligent people who understand these things are doing to be measuring capability.  Therefore, you’re going to hear people say, “Oh, my goodness, we’re going to be meeting our capability here because we’re going to have “X” fewer soldiers.” When, in fact, we will be increasing our capability because of speed and deployability and usability and lethality. 

And it will take, I’m afraid, the Department of Defense maybe a generation to get there.  It’ll take the world probably longer and therefore we’re going to have to go through a period where we arrange ourselves to fit the real world – the 21st century -- and this is a terrific program that we have designed.  It’ll probably take five or ten years to roll it out.  It is thoughtful.  It’s been extensively discussed inside the building, with services, the combatant commanders.  It’s been extensively discussed with our friends and allies. 

Some people are saying, “Oh, my goodness, the Germans are going to be mad because you’re taking your troops home.”  That’s just factually not true.  We’ve met with the ministers of defense from the government of Germany over a period of close to a year now.  They  understand it.  They’re doing the same thing we are, with respect to their forces within their country.  And this Henny-Penny, the sky is going to fall if we move some folks out of Germany, I think we’re still going to have something like 70,000 troops in Europe.  We’re going to have more rapidly deployable forces and core structures. 

We’re going to have a more capable Navy with a considerably improved surge capability because of the way it’s been rearranged -- the deployment schedules and the maintenance and training schedules that Vern Clarke and Gordon England have resigned.  We would be arranged in a way that will reflect the importance of Asia. And clearly, we don’t plan large permanent presence in the Gulf, but one has to recognize that the Gulf is a part of the world that’s important and where we have made a commitment and we’ll be working with those countries and some Central Asian countries in various ways, not in terms of permanent basis, but in terms of relationships and training and cooperative agreements. 

Again, expect people to watch it, as it rolls out, express concern because it’s different than what it was, and recognize that most of the concern that’s expressed will be based on a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding and the fact that there’s always going to be resistance to change.  And as this thing goes forward, it will be broadly and strongly supported by thoughtful people who understand what’s taking place in this century. 

Q:  Mr. Secretary, do you support the creation of an intelligence czar [inaudible] and would that person be central to the GWOT?

SEC. RUMSFELD:  The president’s announced -- and I certainly support what he announced – a national intelligence director.  Calling him a czar, I think is a mistake.  It is unclear what authorities and responsibilities that individual ought to have.  When I say it’s unclear, it’s complicated and it needs a lot of discussion.  And the discussion and debate that’s taking place within the Administration in the Congress and in the society, in think tanks is a very useful thing because, as I’ve said, “The devil is in the details and we need to get it right.” 

We’re fighting a war - we do not want to tear down what is, unless we’re darn sure were going to substitute something better.  And one of the mistakes that I find in the public dialogue on this subject is that people are equating counterterrorism and wanting to organize for counterterrorism and they’re equating that with intelligence and vice versa.  They’re equating intelligence and how we ought to organize for intelligence with counterterrorism and that’s the mistake. 

The task of the intelligence community is much broader than simply counterterrorism.  Counterterrorism is critically important and we’re in a global war on terror and we had people killed and more attacks will occur, let there be no doubt, and this is not something that’s going to be over in a year or two or three.  It’s going to take time.  But nonetheless, other countries still exist.  Other threats still exist.  Other capabilities still exist.  And we must not take our intelligence community and alter it so that it only does counterterrorism.  We have to take our intelligence community and say how do we design this to fit the 21st century?  How do we design it to meet the broad range of responsibilities that the intelligence community needs to meet?  (including to be sure, counterterrorism which is enormously important.)

Mr. Di Rita:  This will have to be the last question.

  SEC. RUMSFELD:  We’ll make two – you and then we’ll go to the outlander.

Q:  Do you want to bring troops home from Europe and Asia?

SEC. RUMSFELD:  First of all, I don’t want to bring troops home from Europe and Asia.  I want to have our troops wherever they ought to be in the world – that it is the most cost effective for the American people, that it is the most hospitable for the troops, that offers our country the greatest flexibility, agility and lethality and where the deterrent will be the strongest.  That is my goal.  I do not get up and say, “Gee, I want to bring troops home.” 

Second, you do not move troops around the world to fit base structures; so I would not make the argument that the reason that we are going to not be bringing some folks home was because we wanted to fill up bases at home.  It happens that that’s a happy byproduct. But it should not be thought of as the reason for doing this.  The reason for doing this is because we are in a circumstance that in this new century, with new technologies and new problems and new threats, we need to get rearranged. 

One of the most hospitable places for our forces happens to be our country, not just our continental United States, but Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, the possessions that our country has.  And since we are in the process of going through a BRAC – a review of our base structure in the United States – it seems to me that it was important that we moved ahead with a review of our installation and base structure around the world because you wouldn’t want to close a base at home, if in fact, it turns out you’re going to be closing some installations overseas and you would need or want those bases at home.  So we have to make sure we know where we’re going with this international piece of it and it will have the happy side effect of permitting us to have greater utilization of structure at home that we already have and that’s a good thing. 

Go ahead. 

Q:  Sir, since speaking of missile defense, what is your latest read on where North Korea and the development of Taepo Dong.

SEC. RUMSFELD:  My instinct is to leave that to the intelligence community.  There’s a lot – first of all, as you know well, there’s a lot we don’t know about the North Koreans.  They do an enormous amount of their work underground.  They do not behave in a testing pattern that is considered comparable to ours or the Russians, Soviet Union’s in their day.  They’re not as interested in reliability as we are.  They’re not as interested in safety as we are; therefore they can have very few tests and they have been very aggressive as one of the world’s leading proliferators of missile technologies. 

And to the extent my earlier comments are valid – and I believe them to be valid – that you can trade comparative advantages, then one would think that in the marketplace out there, they’ve had things they could offer and very likely, they’ve gotten things in exchange.  Now, whether or not what they get in exchange is going to enable them in a relatively short period of time to produce intercontinental range ballistic missiles, is something that we’ll probably discover after it’s happened almost.  And they came close with that test not too long ago where they, as I recall, had a kick-motor on it and – was it a two-stage?

UNKNOWN:  Three stage.

SEC. RUMSFELD:  It was a three-stage with a kick motor, right.  I think it’s realistic to say that you have or will have in relatively short – I think the intelligence community says they either have or will have in relatively short period of time that kind of a capability. 

Q:  So is the reason for the urgency in deploying based on what we know or what we don’t know about North Korea?

SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don’t feel it is urgency about deploying what we know.  There are some people – and you might be one of them – who have a mindset that says the way you develop something is you put it into R&D, you develop it, you test it, test it, test it, and never deploy it until it’s working perfectly.  And anyone who does anything other than that is rushing to deploy.  And in my view, that’s just simply not the case and it wasn’t the case with Predator or with JSTAR -- nor is it here. 

I think there are any number of things that you benefit greatly by getting it out there, playing with it, working with it, testing it, evolving it, learning about it, showing people what it can do, learning what it can do and what it can’t do.  And that is not rush to deployment, that’s a rush to learning, by my standard. 

Now there are people in our country who are only comfortable with the other pattern.  That is to say it stays in the laboratory until it’s finished.  It’s just not clear to me that that’s a good idea.  But if I were not persuaded by the experts that we would learn and that we would get better cooperation from our friends and allies and that it would evolve more rapidly by going forward with it, I would recommend not going forward with it. 

As I said earlier, if someone came to me and said the world’s roughly like it is today and we’ve got a choice.  Either we keep its alert capability up or we take the alert capability down and go ahead and do some more testing and evolving, I would say do the latter because that’s what’s really important, unless you had a threat warning of some kind in which case you, obviously, would make some adjustments in that and you’d have to.  It’s a cost-benefit ratio -- what are you getting for what you are giving up.

OK. Thank you, folks.  Good to see you.