SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here. This is a wonderful part of the world and it’s always great for me to get out of Washington and have a chance to say thank you to some of the troops, so I’ll be happy to respond to some questions.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, what’s your reaction to Senator Roberts proposal to reorganize the CIA and the pentagon intelligence?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I haven’t had a chance to see it in writing if it exists in writing. I don’t know. I know he announced some proposals and what I would like to do as everyone would, is have a chance to read and think about it. This is an important subject matter for our country. The 21st century is fast moving not slow moving. The weapons are of increasing lethality and the dangers to free people are significant. Therefore, we simply must take the steps necessary to see that the intelligence capability of our country is strengthen. The process we are going through right now is a healthy one, a good one and I think it will produce some significant improvements.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, one of the biggest things locally here is the possibility of getting additional troops. Is there a chance that you could talk about the possibility of getting those troops here at Fort Bliss?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I’m told by the general that there recently was an announcement by the Army involving the subject of a brigade at some point, over the coming period, arriving here.
What that is, is that General Schoomaker and the Army have proposed and I have agreed that we will increase the number of brigades in the Army from 33 to 43 with the possibility of going to 48 brigades.
He is bringing some the capabilities from the divisions down to the brigade level. We will be much better able to deploy our forces in a way that fits the 21st century and I believe the announcement involves one of those new brigades. There was some confusion I’m told about whether it involve that or whether it might have involved something to do with the announcement the President made with respect to the force posture adjustments in the world, and the answer is, it does not involve that. Those changes are something that will roll out over two, three, four, five years, and they will be part of process called BRAC, where a BRAC commission will look at it and decide what places that might make sense and so that’s yet to come.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, what do you think…?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: It’s unclear. It depends on how this rolls out. What we are looking at currently as it was indicated was something in the neighborhood of 70,000 U.S. troops coming from various places overseas to various places in the United States including Hawaii, and Alaska and Guam and other [inaudible] over a period of time and something in the neighborhood of 10,000 dependents as well. What we are going to be doing is shifting our forces in ways that they will kind of fit the following criteria. We want them in places where they’re wanted. We want them in places that are hospitable because we need to attract and retain terrific young people in the armed forces and we want them to be in places that are hospitable. Second, we need to have in them in places where we can use them. The usability factor: Can we rapidly deploy them? Are there restrictions on how we do that? We had trouble for example in Iraqi…Operation Iraqi Freedom where we weren’t allowed to move some of our forces in Europe through a country by train. Well that restricts us, badly. So, we need to constantly upgrade our relationships with other countries so that we have the flexibility to use those forces. Third, we want to move them out of a static defense mode where they are there to defend a particular piece of real estate and have them flexible so that they can defend or assist with whatever piece of real estate might represent the problem at that given moment. It has been a big task. We’ve worked on it for close to three years. We have been in extensive discussions with the congress, with the allies and friends around the world. We will be working with some countries so that we have a rotational base, not a base, a site or location. A base I think of as a permanent place where the dependents and families…it’s more of a permanent arrangement.
A forward operating site or location would be something where you would move people in and out for training exercises on a rotational basis not have dependents. They wouldn’t be there for a year or two and yet we would have a relationship. We would have status of forces agreements. We would have cross-accessing agreements so that we could work very easily with the local governments. I think the template we’ve developed is a very important one and exciting one and will leave our country much better defended for the future.
Q: How…is El Paso and Ciudad Juarez…?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: El Paso? I think it’s a great city. I like being here and it’s been a very fine location for our forces.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: How crucial? You see, under the law, there is going to be a commission that is going to look at the entire base structure for the United States of America. I think it’s over next year and the year after, and my role is to not make a series of odd hook opinions about specific bases. So, I’m restricted from doing that. Therefore, all I can say is I’m delighted to be here and we appreciate the wonderful support the folks here give this base.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, sir, could you reiterate your answer inside how much longer the soldiers will be in Afghanistan and Iraq?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: They’ll be…the President has said they’ll be there as long as they’re needed and not any longer. The important thing is that those people, 25 million Iraqis have been liberated. They are in the process of fashioning a government, and they have a sovereign government at the present time. They will have elections for all the Iraqi people probably in January, probably late January. We are helping to train and equip and NATO is helping to train and equip the Iraqi security forces so that they can take over the responsibilities that the United States forces and coalition forces have been performing. We want that to happen. We wish them well, and they’re making good progress towards that goal. I think it would be unwise to try to speculate a particular date as to when that might happen. Nobody is wise enough to look at that many corners. We are on a good path and we are making good progress.
Q: Do you think El Paso and Fort Bliss are prepared to receive all the soldiers that are coming here…the families?
(SECRETARY RUMSFELD TURNS TO MG VANE)
MG VANE: Yes sir, absolutely.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The general is the commander here. He knows about that, “sure,” he says. Let me see who has the next one. O.K. Two more. We don’t let cameramen ask questions J! (laughter) Oh, she’s right back there…(laughter) Why shouldn’t we let cameramen ask questions.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: On infrastructure? I had a visit with the general about it and he gave me a briefing as to what is taking place here with respect to the base and housing and the cooperative relationships with other countries and he is obviously very excited with the opportunity they are going to have to improve housing for example—part of infrastructure for the troops here because of the so called privatization of housing that’s taking place.
Q: One of the soldiers in there asked about reinstating the draft. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Every once in a while someone asks me, “will we go back to a draft,” and I am always stunned by the question. We have the finest Armed Forces on the face of the earth. We are able to attract and retain the people we need because we have so many wonderful people, patriotic people, who want to serve. We have been meeting our targets for recruiting and retention. If we, at some point, don’t meet our targets for recruiting and retention, what that means is not that we need to suddenly use force and make people serve. All it means is all we have to increase the incentives, increase the pay, increase the health care, increase the circumstances for the families. That’s what you do in any other activity on the face of the earth. There is no need. There is absolutely no need for the United States of America to go back to the draft. In my judgment, it would be a big mistake. I do not think it will happen. It seems to me that it is almost a little unfortunate that people keep raising it as a threat that we might go back to a draft. On the other hand, it gives me the opportunity to knock it down. (laughter) Hard!
Good to see you all.
MEDIA CROWD: (thank you very much—applause).