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DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 27, 2001 2:00 PM EDT

Thursday, December 27, 2001 - 2:00 p.m. EST

(Also participating is Gen. Richard Myers, chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Slides shown in this briefing are on the Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2001/g011227-D-6570C.html)

Rumsfeld: Well, good afternoon. One year ago tomorrow, President Bush asked me to serve as secretary of Defense. I was sworn in on January 20th, which is just a little over than 11 -- longer than 11 months ago. It seems like a little longer. But in his Citadel speech the previous -- back in the year 2000, and in other national security pronouncements, the president did set forth an agenda, which we have been following. This, needless to say, has been quite a year. When one looks back at it, there is no question but that it's been a tough year.

The men and women of this department have many significant accomplishments, of which they should be very proud. And as always in life, we've got some unfinished business yet to accomplish. With the New Year fast approaching, it seems a good time to briefly take stock of some of the successes, some of the disappointments of 2001 and the challenges that remain for 2002.

Certainly the toughest moment was September 11th, when we lost 184 men and women, civilian and military, here at the Pentagon. When you think about it, however, as terrible as that day was, we saw some true blessings in the courage of the rescue workers, the compassion and generosity of so many Americans -- we just were talking with two gentlemen who represent labor unions who had collected sizable sums for the benevolent fund, people who gave blood, and in the way we have come together as a nation.

And of course, what a difference three months makes. On September 11th, the Pentagon and the trade towers were burning. The Taliban were in power, and Afghanistan was a reasonably safe haven for terrorists. Today the fires are finally out. The Taliban have been driven from power. Their leaders are on the run. And thanks to so many nations' efforts and the extraordinary men and women of the defense establishment, in the armed forces and our coalition forces, Americans are celebrating this holiday season as they were meant to -- in freedom. So we have a good deal to be thankful for.

We also have a lot of work ahead of us -- in the war on terrorism, to be sure, but also here at home. As we prosecute today's war, we're also working to try to prepare our nation for the next war by transforming the Department of Defense and our armed forces for the 21st century. Some areas of progress: When the president took office, he recalled his speech at The Citadel and asked us to undertake a number of important tasks. He asked us to review our nations' defense strategy -- that is a big task -- to see whether we might fashion a new approach to sizing our forces for the threats and challenges of the new century -- another big task. He asked us to take a fresh look at missile defense and fashion a program that's appropriate for the period ahead. He asked us to take a look at our offensive strategic nuclear forces, which we have done, and whether or not significant reductions might be appropriate. And he asked us to find ways to encourage a culture of creativity and intelligent risk- taking here at the Department of Defense. I think we've made progress in each of these areas, but there's no question in my mind but that we have more to do.

The Quadrennial Defense Review ought not to be in the first year of an administration. It's unfortunate that that's the way the statute's written, and it probably ought to be changed to the second year, because it's an important activity. With that review, the senior military and civilian leaders of the department came together, and we produced a new defense strategy for the United States of America. We also produced a new force-planning model to guide the department in the 21st century. We put aside the threat-based model of the past and adopted a capabilities-based approach -- one that focuses less on who might threaten us or where, and more on how we might be threatened and what capabilities we will need to deter and defend against those threats.

This is an important step for our country. It is a big project, and it was undertaken in a relatively short period of time, but with a great deal of care by the very senior people in the department.

We replaced the two major regional conflict construct for force sizing and adopted a new approach that fits the 21st century and better fits the realities of own time. I've forgotten when the two major regional conflict construct was first established, but it was in the very early 1990s, and I believe it was under Vice President Cheney. And it's served us well, but the newer approach, I am convinced, as are the members of the chiefs and the CINCs, will serve us better.

Even before September 11th, we had agreed on an approach that put a new emphasis on homeland security and helps us to prepare for the full range of asymmetrical threats while balancing the risks to our people, which are so central to the success of the department, the risks of not modernizing for the 21st century, and the risks of not transforming for the 21st century when we allocate defense dollars, so that as we prepare for near-term threats, we do not cheat the future or the people who risk their lives to secure that future for us.

Military pay raise. To that end, the president recommended -- and we have since secured -- for our men and women in uniform a well deserved pay raise, as well as needed funds for improving housing and health care.

We reorganized DOD's space functions and are implementing many of the recommendations of the Space Commission report. [ news release ]

We refashioned the missile defense and the U.S. research, development, and testing program from one that had been constrained by the ABM Treaty to one that is broad-based and designed to test the widest range of promising technologies.

With the Nuclear Posture Review, which will be released next week, we lay the groundwork for a new approach to strategic deterrence, one that will combine deep reductions -- truly deep reductions -- in offensive strategic forces with deployment of missile defenses capable of protecting the U.S., our friends, allies, and deployed forces from limited ballistic missile attacks.

This again, the Nuclear Posture Review, when it's released, it will be seen as a capability-based approach, which will be a change from the historic approach that has been taken by our country with respect to offensive weapons.

In each of these areas there has been important progress. At the same time, there were some disappointments. The confirmation process was unacceptably slow. For the first five-and-a-half months as we began the defense reviews that the president had requested, we had really no confirmed officials in the policy department -- for many, many weeks, I was here alone, and then Paul Wolfowitz came in -- in terms of the administration's new people. We need to fix this process so that future administrations don't have the same difficulties.

The budget process is really not working well. We've had to prepare, since I've been here, something like five, plus or minus, budgets of sorts -- not real budgets, but in some sense some of them are real budgets -- since last January, the '02 budget, the '01 supplemental, the '02 budget amendment, the '02 war supplemental, and now we're, of course, working very hard on the '03 fiscal year budget and the Forward Year Defense Plan. This is really no way to run an activity as important as the Department of Defense. People need to have some sense of what the future's going to hold and what they can do, and to keep shifting these numbers around and altering things the way we are because of the way the process worked this year is really unfortunate and certainly not good management.

The president, as you know, asked that we end the practice of seeking annual non-emergency supplementals and try to base budget requests on realistic costs and honest budgeting. That we're doing. We did so in 2001, and we will continue to do so in 2002. But while Congress has approved significant increases in defense spending, and indeed they have, a decade of underfunding and overuse of our force has taken a toll on our forces, and we have not yet gotten back to acceptable steady states. The events of September 11th were a reminder of the critical role that the U.S. armed forces play in underpinning peace and prosperity, and the need to adequately invest in the defense of our country.

We will certainly need sustained investments over a long period of time.

The management of the department is something that we focused on here this year. With those new investments, I believe, comes a responsibility to spend the taxpayers' money wisely; to have respect for the men and women who pay their taxes and deserve to have them spent wisely. Today we're not doing so; nor will we be able to do so as long as the department is burdened with literally hundreds of restrictions, regulations and reports and literally thousands of earmarks in our legislation that encumber the people who work here in the department. We simply do not have the freedom to manage the department effectively, so that we can really unleash a culture of innovation and begin turning waste into weapons. Certainly, working on this problem will be a very high priority for all of us in the year 2002.

Base closure is a mixed situation. As you know, we -- I believe, and the president believes, and all former living secretaries of Defense and all members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that it's not fair to the taxpayers to continue to have something like 20 to 25 percent larger base structure than we need. The Congress responded to that positively in the sense that they did provide it. Unfortunately, it's provided for the year 2005, rather than the year 2003, which is unfortunate.

Finally, in the wake of September 11th, we've been awakened as a nation to the reality that the world remains a very dangerous place. To ensure peace and prosperity, we have to have the best trained and the best equipped armed forces on the face of the earth. That is a role that our country has to assume during this period. We're blessed with extraordinary men and women who risk their lives each day so that each of us can live in peace and freedom. They are clearly doing us proud in Afghanistan today and in many other countries of the world, and we ought not to forget where our forces are spread far and wide across this globe -- in Korea and in Japan and in Bosnia and Kosovo and in the Sinai, just to name a few of the places.

I know that we all join in wishing the men and women of the Department of Defense, civilian and military, a very happy new year.

General Myers.

Myers: Well, thank you, Mr. Secretary, and good afternoon, everyone.

Regarding Afghanistan, we continue our search for the Taliban and al Qaeda leadership. Yesterday we did strike one target with both heavy bombers and tactical aircraft, using both precision and non-precision weapons, and we destroyed a compound near Ghazni. We had reports that put some of the Taliban leadership in that facility, and we do have pre- and post-strike photography -- pre-strike that you're looking at right there and post-strike.

Also late yesterday, we took custody of about 20 people turned over to us by Pakistani authorities. These detainees are now being held in facilities at Kandahar, and that brings us to 45 total right now Taliban and al Qaeda personnel in custody, 37 at Kandahar and eight on the -- on USS Peleliu.

And finally, I just returned from the region on this Monday. I went over to see our friends and allies in the region and thank them for their support. And I also had the opportunity to meet with many of our troops, and I just want to say, to all the moms and dads out there who have forces forward-deployed, as the secretary said, around the world, but the ones that I just met in the region, the Middle East region, to their spouses and their sons and their daughters and their brothers and sisters, all their family and friends, that they are absolutely doing a superb job over there; that the best I could tell, the morale is high, because they understand how important the mission is, not only to this country, but to the world. And they're serving in some pretty tough conditions in many cases.

So we thank them, of course, for their sacrifices, and I also thank all their friends and family for the sacrifices you make in enabling them to serve without worry, without too many worries, in the forward area.

And with that, we're ready to take your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the Afghan Defense Ministry said today that bin Laden had escaped to Pakistan and was being protected by an Islamic militant leader. Do you have any reason to believe that he may have gotten out of Afghanistan? How important is it now to the success of the operation that he be found dead or alive?

Rumsfeld: We hear six, seven, eight 10, 12 conflicting reports every day. I've stopped chasing them. We do know, of certain knowledge, that he is either in Afghanistan or in some other country or dead. (Scattered laughter.) And we know of certain knowledge that we don't know which of those happens to be the case.

With respect to the second part of your question, our goals have been stated very clearly, and that they are that we want to stop the terrorist networks in the world, including al Qaeda but not just al Qaeda. And to do that, you have to go after those networks and root them out, and second, you have to go after the countries that harbor them. With respect to Afghanistan, we had an additional goal, and that was to end the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan because it was so obviously harboring the al Qaeda. We have now achieved that one goal. Taliban is no longer governing Afghanistan. We still have the al Qaeda network worldwide to deal with, and as well as the other terrorist networks, and we intend to do so.

I have said all along that if you walked in and said, "Here is Mr. bin Laden," the problem would not go away. There are any number of people in the al Qaeda network who could continue to operate that network and would. Now, clearly it's our goal to chase them and find them wherever they are, including bin Laden, Omar and their lieutenants and their leaders as well as the people who are assisting them. And that is -- that's our goal, that's what we're trying to achieve, and that's what we're working on.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask General Myers a question, but feel free to jump in if you like. And General Myers, a brief prelude question if I may. How were your wife's cookies? I know you can't answer that because you have to go home, but how many did you take over, and were they well received?

And the question, before you answer that question, a question I want to ask you about what's going on in the war. There are reports, published reports today that the United States is offering rewards, for lack of a better term, to Afghanis who will volunteer to go into the caves, because it's now considered too dangerous for U.S. forces to go in. Is that true? And what about the Marines? Are you going to send them not to go in, or stand by till you get enough Afghanis, or what do you intend to do?

Myers: Let me answer the first part of your question. We'll save the cookies for later.

We are using Afghan opposition groups to assist us in the Tora Bora region. We also have U.S. Special Forces with them. So both those factions are working. Obviously, there are many ways to incentivize the opposition groups, and it may be that cold-weather clothing is more important than money and so forth. But all that is being worked to solicit their cooperation in this endeavor.

As to the Marines, as we said, I think, many times from this podium, that we reserve the right to use any part of our military force as we see fit. And right now they are not in the Tora Bora region. That does not mean in the future they couldn't be.

But that's -- but we're not --

Q: A follow-up, if I may: Do you and the secretary consider it now too dangerous for U.S. forces to go in in numbers in the caves --

Rumsfeld: Absolutely not.

Myers: No.

Rumsfeld: Look, from the very beginning, we said that we were going to have the Afghan forces that were in that region work the problem. To the extent they needed additional help, we would try to get Afghan forces from other regions of the country. And to the extent they needed additional help, we would use U.S. forces. There are U.S. forces currently with the Afghan forces doing that job. That is exactly the way it's always been. The stuff you're reading about in the paper, that there was a decision to send in 500 Marines and a decision to not send in 400 Marines -- that's all newspaper talk -- just flat out. We have been consistent from the very beginning that we would have the number of people doing that job that we felt was appropriate. And that is exactly what we've been doing in the priority order that I indicated.

Now the cookies.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Q: Cookies -- the cookies.

Myers: We're going to talk cookies for just a minute. People in the Washington, D.C. area put together what started out as a small effort -- about 13,000 cookies, the best we can count. I mean, it filled up -- it didn't fill up the C-17 that we traveled on, but it filled up a portion of it. And they've been distributed in -- some in Pakistan, where we have forces, and four-fifths of them up in Afghanistan, where we have the folks in probably the worst conditions. They were exquisite cookies. These weren't just -- I mean, people really put their heart into them. There were notes from senators, from congressmen, from other folks around town -- 30 different nationalities --

Rumsfeld: Fortune cookies? The notes were inside?

Myers: They all promise us a bigger budget, sir. (Laughter.) No, these were not -- these were not -- (chuckles) -- but they wrote notes as the things were being baked; they were their grandmothers' recipes, in many cases. And by the time we left the location in Pakistan, we saw them distributed, and people seemed to be -- appreciate the thought that they were meant to convey.

Q: Mr. Secretary, a two-pronged question, both regarding India and Pakistan and rising tension: your thoughts and concerns about that as it affects that region and its stability, and also, with the tensions rising along the India-Pakistan border, do you feel that in any way the Pakistani troop attention to watching for Taliban and al Qaeda members escaping over the border has in any way been diminished as a result of shifting of troops to India's situation?

Rumsfeld: First, it is a difficult and tense situation, obviously.

And the president and Secretary Powell and others had been working with both governments over the past days. I suppose we must have had at least one or two phone calls each day on -- secure conference calls discussing this subject throughout the past period.

The problem you raise about the Pakistan situation is an important one. To the -- the short answer is, they have not yet moved forces from the Afghan border, and that is very encouraging to us, because it would be a big disappointment to us, needless to say, because they are performing an important task. They must have seven or eight, nine battalions along the Pakistan-Afghan border, which is clearly a deterrent to people trying to come across, trying to escape from Afghanistan.

The other set of problems that could exist, obviously, are if the situation became more tense, we could have problems with air overflights because of the problem of deconfliction, in case they needed their airspace for that. That would be difficult for us, and unfortunate. Needless to say, we've got thousands of Americans, military as well as civilian, in Pakistan, and clearly the bases where many of the military people are located would conceivably be -- require different force protection arrangements. So this is something we're keeping our eye on very carefully, and we have clearly made the interest we have in this subject known to both sides very carefully and with clarity.

Yes?

Q: May I follow, Mr. Secretary, please?

Q: Can I ask if you've seen the latest Osama bin Laden tape, released yesterday -- at least excepts of that tape released yesterday? And more importantly, do you think that there's any valuable intelligence to be gleaned from that tape regarding his health, the time that he was alive, that sort of thing?

Rumsfeld: Yeah. My television was on briefly, and I saw his face and some English words coming out of his mouth, which I suspect were not actually coming out of his mouth. But I did not watch the tape. I have no idea if there's any intelligence. We have expert people who would be looking at it.

Q: He says things during the tape that would indicate knowledge of events at least up till November 16th. Does the U.S. have any intelligence that places him -- reliable intelligence that places him as being alive since November 16th?

Rumsfeld: I don't know of any.

Yes?

Q: Sir, concerning the same tape, he alleges in this tape that there was a bombing around November 16th to a place called Khost, and that you have targeted a mosque, going after a Mujaheddin leader for the Soviet Union, and that 150 people were killed in this mosque. Now, a million people, Muslim people, are watching these tapes and they listen to these allegations.

Rumsfeld: I know.

Q: Could you shed some light, sir, on this, and refute it or confirm the circumstances that took place?

Rumsfeld: Well, I mean, here's a man who has killed thousands of innocent people. So, using him as the oracle of all truth clearly would be a mistake. He has lied repeatedly, over and over again. He has hijacked a religion. He has hidden and cowered in caves and puddles while sending people off to die on a -- I almost said a fool's errand, but I don't know that I should say that. It is more a -- sending them off to die for reasons that he is propounding which are fundamentally inconsistent with the causes he purports to support, I think is probably a better way to say it. So I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what he's saying, although I do agree with you that to the extent his words are played around the world, some -- many, many millions of people will hear them, and some people will believe them despite the fact that they are so patently false.

Q: Are you refuting the allegations that you bombed a mosque?

Rumsfeld: Pardon?

Q: That's not true?

Rumsfeld: The Taliban and the al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, have gotten up day after day since October 7th and told lies about what has been done. Is it possible at some point that a civilian was killed? Yes. We announced here at this podium that a civilian was killed and it was an accident and unfortunate, and we regret the loss of any innocent life. But that person was not killed by us; that person was killed when the al Qaeda and bin Laden attacked the United States and killed thousands of people and caused us to have to go into that country and root out those terrorists before they kill thousands more. And it's important for the people of the world to understand that.

Q: Mr. Secretary, are you planning to use Guantanamo Bay as a place to hold detainees and possibly to hold military tribunals there?

Rumsfeld: We are making preparations to hold detainees there. We have made no plans to hold any kind of tribunal there.

Q: Mr. Secretary, putting aside Osama bin Laden, in Tora Bora there are some reports that more documents, videos, intelligence information has been gathered about al Qaeda operatives around the world. I wonder if you can give us a sense as to how important or successful the operation in Tora Bora has been as far as understanding al Qaeda's operations around the world.

Rumsfeld: The intelligence take, when one takes everything into account -- that is to say, the sudden occupation of Kandahar, of Kabul, of Herat, of Mazer-e Sharif, of Kunduz, of city after city across the country, as well as the terrorist camps that exist, the things that used to be used as terrorist training camps and no longer are -- the take totally has been very helpful in understanding al Qaeda and understanding how terrorists approach things and what they're doing and what they're thinking about doing, and in some instances has actually been -- led directly to preventing terrorist attacks.

Now, out of the caves -- to try to take one piece of that and disaggregate it, I think, is probably not a useful thing to do. The caves and the tunnels -- probably relatively modest, since it's a relatively modest part of the country.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, if we determine that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, will it be more difficult to bring him to justice? Will we have the freedom to act over there?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I've -- we have found the Pakistani government to just be very cooperative in so many things that I have trouble believing it would be a problem at all.

Q: But there are very many extremist groups over there that are very sympathetic to Osama bin Laden. Will that not be a problem?

Rumsfeld: I've answered the question. I honestly believe that we have received such wonderful cooperation from the Pakistani government that we would not have a problem.

Q: Mr. Secretary, we've gotten into trouble every time we've tried to use Guantanamo Bay in the past to hold people, for other reasons. Why use it? Why is it the best place? And are you concerned that we could have trouble with Castro if we did?

Rumsfeld: We don't anticipate any trouble with Mr. Castro in that regard.

Q: Can you give us --

Rumsfeld: I would characterize Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the least worst place we could have selected. It has disadvantages, as you suggest. Its disadvantages, however, seem to be modest relative to the alternatives.

Q: If you use it, do you know when we will -- the first prisoners would move there?

Rumsfeld: Well, it wouldn't be ready for a number of weeks to handle the kinds of people that we would very likely place there.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, General Myers: Can you describe a little bit more this strike that you mentioned before? There are reports on the ground that as many as 40 civilians may have been killed. It was the second such report in a week of a convoy or, in this case, a compound being struck. Can you walk through a little bit more about what exactly was there and how the strike unfolded?

Myers: Well, again, about all I can say, Eric, is that we had very good indications that the compound was inhabited by Taliban leadership. And we're confident enough and had watched it long enough that we felt we could strike it. I've heard no -- I don't know where the source is for the number of civilian casualties; we have not heard that. And of course, that's something we would --

Q: But you don't believe there are any civilians within this compound? This would be strictly a command and control-type target?

Myers: We think the majority of folks in there would've been Taliban leadership. To say there were no civilians in there, of course -- I mean, that -- there may have been. Again, just to remind you of what the secretary said: This is a war against terrorism, and unfortunately, there will probably be some of those incidents. But --

Q: Just to follow, there was a news conference today in the region, where a number of the tribal leaders discussed the strike on the convoy last week and once again reiterated their claim that there were at least members, tribal elders in that convoy. And maybe, if either one of you could --

Myers: We have nothing to indicate anything other than what we said before, and that that convoy was, again, leadership that was involved in this -- in this war on terrorism. And we'll, of course -- (inaudible).

Q: Where were those compounds that we hit?

Myers: It was near Gardez.

Q: Which is where?

Myers: Ghazni. I'm sorry. Ghazni.

Barbara?

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you have any insights you can share with us about Richard Reid, the American Airlines shoe bomber -- that he has ties in the past to al Qaeda or other terrorist groups? And just to go back on something General Myers said, can you confirm to us that you believe in this strike on the compound you may have killed the Taliban minister of intelligence?

Rumsfeld: On the first part, that's a matter that's in the hands of the law enforcement people and not the Department of Defense, and I don't have anything I would want to add.

Myers: And on the other part, Taliban leadership is what we're saying we struck there.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can I --

Rumsfeld: Torie said that that was the last question --

Q: Can I go back to --

Rumsfeld: -- but if there has to be one more, this young lady in the back was the one who had her hand up for a long, long time. I apologize.

Q: About the new defense strategy that you said: Can you go a little bit more in detail of what are the major threats that you are now identifying?

Rumsfeld: Yes, indeed. In fact, we can -- Torie Clarke can provide some materials for you on it.

Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for Public Affairs: (Off mike) -- stay after class.

Rumsfeld: And I will say this. Historically, the United States has looked at various types of potential threats in the world and said this country or this particular area is a threat to the United States, and therefore, we will organize and arrange and plan our strategies to deal with that particular threat. What we're saying today is that it is less clear today exactly what countries or what people might pose a threat to us. It is much easier or us to say what kinds of capabilities -- what kind of vulnerabilities do we have, what kind of capabilities do others have to impose damage on us and our deployed forces and our friends and allies; and therefore, we have to think through what we should do to deter that, to dissuade those people from thinking they can advantage themselves by using those capabilities against us, and how can we defend against them and indeed deal with those kinds of so-called asymmetrical threats.

And it has really turned the strategy issue around in a distinctly different way which will have a significant effect on how this department functions, how we manage our affairs, how we think about things, what kind of war games we engage in and what kind of planning and exercises we engage in.

Q: Instead of regions, you are now talking about maybe land wars or things like that?

Rumsfeld: We are looking at all those vulnerabilities. For example, to the extent the United States uses a great deal of advanced technology, obviously, that gives us an advantage; it also gives us a vulnerability. To the extent we are more dependent than other countries on space assets, it gives us some advantages; it also gives us some potential vulnerabilities. And we recognize that. To the extent we're an open society and have believed in allowing people to be free and go about their business and we don't live in compounds and we don't live big walls around us and electric fences, for the most part, that means we're vulnerable to certain kinds of attacks. So we have a strategy that we think will fit the period going forward much better than the strategy that we've used in the past.

Thank you very much. Have a good New Year's.

Q: If we don't see you before! Happy New Year to you both.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

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