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Secretary Rumsfeld En-Route to Shannon

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 07, 2003
Rumsfeld:  Just to make a quick comment on Georgia and then on Iraq.  What the government leaders in Georgia are going through is an important period in that country's history.  And I think it is interesting and impressive that the three leading political figures are so closely connected and so much in agreement. Which is a, I would submit, a good thing from the standpoint of a country, because they are, needless to say, moving right into an election period.  They will have to make a lot of decisions about the future and the fact that they are able to meet together and work together and have known each other, each in their respective positions all of which are important, I  think is a good sign.  I was pleased that I was able to go when I went and to have meetings with them and show the United States is interested in being as helpful as we can to them.

 

            On Iraq, you all had an unusual experience to be in the Odierno/Colonel Mayville briefing which was a good one, and what you saw was what you get.  That's what's happening up there.  These are professional people as you could tell.  They're doing an outstanding job.  Obviously it's not an easy circumstance they're in, but they've got wonderful young men and women who are dedicated to doing what they're doing and they're well led and well trained and well equipped and in my view are doing an outstanding job.

 

            I had a meeting with the current Chairman or President of the Governing Council, [Hakim], and talked to him about the program that the Governing Council has approved and the importance of moving forward on it.  I had good meetings with General Abizaid and General Sanchez and Ambassador Bremer. 

 

            You all saw, as I did, the work that's being done to recruit and train and equip the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.

 

            That activity is one of four that includes the Army, the site protection, the border patrol, and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps -- four security activities that are taking place with respect to the Iraqis assuming greater and greater responsibility for their own security.

 

            Each of those activities is moving forward and is benefiting from funding by the United States government, they're benefiting from funding and financial contributions from a large number of countries around the world that we have been meeting with at Donors Conferences.  It's benefiting from the training assistance, from I think four or five or six countries that are training the security forces -- some in Iraq and some in other countries.  And obviously it's benefiting enormously from the United States military and the time they are devoting to training and equipping these young men and young women.

 

            We have said from the outset that our purpose in Iraq is to liberate the Iraqi people and to replace that regime with a government that will be representative of the people and respectful of the various diverse elements in the country, that will be at peace with its neighbors and will be capable of assuming responsibility for the governance of the country including the security.  We feel an obligation to move as rapidly as possible to have the security forces trained and equipped and deployed so that they can assume a grater and greater portion of the responsibility.

 

            As General Odierno and Colonel Mayville both indicated, that's already happened.  They are creating a presence.  They are taking on responsibilities that have previously been undertaken by coalition forces and need not now be undertaken by coalition forces. 

 

            I come away recognizing the fact that we still have hundreds, possibly a small number of thousands as General Abizaid speculates, of people who do not want to see the Governing Council and the free Iraqi people succeed.  That's a small number of people relative to 25 million people or 28 million people, whatever it is, but it's a large number of people if they have money and explosives and a determination to kill innocent men, women and children, which they do. 

 

            So it's not going to be easy.  There are going to be successes and there are going to be setbacks without question, but I believe we're on a track that over time will work and it will work because of the determination of some I guess 34 coalition countries and a lot of brave Iraqis who are willing to step forward and in many cases put themselves at risk to try to create an Iraqi government and an Iraqi success story in this part of the world which will be an enormous benefit for the region.

 

            Q:  [Inaudible] more than the 220,000?  Which you originally planned to have [Inaudible].

 

            Rumsfeld:  I'm still unclear on that.  I raised that question today, not because I have conviction that we need more, but because I worry that budgets will begin to get committed and we may not know if we need more until sometime, for example, in February or March or April.  And to the extent the funds available from Iraqi sources -- the oil revenues, the other revenues that they are getting from international donors, from international lending institutions, and from the U.S. taxpayers -- gets budgeted and committed and contracted for.  I'm concerned that we might not have the option of increasing if in fact that proves to be necessary.

 

            So I raised that today, and the responsible individuals are going to reflect on that over their next week or two.  But at the moment they believe that's probably very close to the right number, whatever it is.  221 or 224,000 net, overall.

 

            We are going to have to retrain some of them unquestionably. Some of the police people have gone out with four weeks instead of eight weeks training.  Clearly some of the ones we have will be attritioned.  People will get killed.  People will just leave. We'll find some people that we probably wish we hadn't brought in in the first place.  But at the moment nobody except Rumsfeld is concerned about that issue.

 

            Q:  The papers back home, some of them this week have had stories about straying from the Army, that the Army's been briefing [inaudible] several of the divisions are going to have to go to C3 and C4 levels, readiness levels.

 

            How much do you think the Army is hurting?  And what level of risk does this pose to the rest of the country?

 

            Rumsfeld:  The answer to that is best given by Pete Schoomaker, and I've seen some of those articles and of course I've been talking to General Schoomaker about that ever since he came he aboard.  I think that -- I don't believe he knows the answer at the moment and I know I don't know the answer.

 

            What I do know is that the Joint Staff and the combatant commanders have run at least two exercises and scenarios and they believe that we have the capabilities today to fulfill our contingency plans.  That's one fact.  So in terms of risk, that type of risk, the military experts do not believe we have a circumstance that is in any way difficult.

 

            -- would be the risk that, not now because we know what the data is in terms of recruiting and retention, but in six months, eight months, 12 months, 18 months, we could see a cumulative effect of the stress that's been put on the force as a result of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the global war on terror.  And the problem is when you see it, it's late.  Therefore you have to anticipate it.

 

            What we have to do now and what we have been doing is with the services and with Dr. Chu, assuming that there conceivably could be a downturn at some point in the future, we want to take steps now to see that that does not happen.  That means we've got to manage the incentives so that we are, as an important big national institution, able to attract and retain the people we need.

 

            Let's go to the third risk which is a readiness risk which you referenced.  I have dictated a note to General Schoomaker to see me about it.  I think that -- Let me rephrase this.

 

            I have found that the Department of Defense has a tendency I suppose as most big institutions do, to keep doing that which they were doing.  And that's not surprising, and I don't say it critically.  I'm the same way.  We all are.  But the world's different and we're in a war.  We've been through Afghanistan. We're currently in Iraq with 123,000 human beings.  We're fixing to bring them home and put others over there.  And that means that if you are going to use metrics that are fashioned for peacetime and you think that they should apply in a circumstance such as we're in which is not peacetime, then I think it at least raises to me a caution flag and says wait a second.  Oughtn't we to look at those vectorates and see how comfortable we are with them?

 

            Our force today is as trained, equipped, experienced, combat hardened, benefiting from lessons learned in Afghanistan, benefiting from lessons learned in Iraq, benefiting from lessons learned in the post-major conflict portion of Iraq.  I'm going to sit down with Pete and go over that.  There's no doubt in my mind but that if you bring a unit home having just been there for a year or something less than that, your equipment's going to need to be refurbished, some of it's going to need to be replaced, and that affects your readiness level.  Does that mean their net not ready?  Does that mean they are not capable?  I think one has to look at it somewhat differently, and we need as an institution to ask ourselves those kinds of questions and probe and push and understand what they really are capable of doing and how comfortable we are with the metrics that are the norm during a long, sustained period of peace as opposed to conflict, combat or more.

 

            Q:  Mr. Secretary, how would you apply that thinking [inaudible]?  You talked about before the risk of having knocked on the door with Iraq.  You talked about the risk of not transforming.  Has the effort in Iraq, the expense, the wear and tear, etc; slowed the process?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I think it's accelerated it.

 

            Q:  Why so?

 

            Rumsfeld:  Because I think that what's happened is, change is very hard for all of us and it is particularly hard for a government because there's no bottom line.  You can't fail like a business can.  A business, that focuses the mind if you can go out of business and end in bankruptcy.  The government can't. Therefore it tends to be much more difficult to change than a private, for profit institution, and that's understandable.

 

            September 11th and Afghanistan and Iraq have brought home to this institution the urgent need to change.  It is much easier for people to see that the world's different.  It's easier for them to understand that the pattern of organizing and training and equipping for the last century or for a static defense isn't going to work. That we've got to develop the skills and ability to move much more rapidly in days or weeks instead of months or years.  We've got to have the ability to be much more flexible.  We have to be able to work together in a way that is truly joint rather than simply deconflicting.  And I am absolutely convinced that the institution will have -- that more people in this big institution will have incentives themselves to transform than would have been the case otherwise.

 

            Q:  You talked about need to retrain the Iraqi police at some point,

 

            Rumsfeld:  Right.

 

            Q:  Why, and what happened?

 

            Rumsfeld:  What happened was we had a need to get policemen out.  The experts say it should take eight weeks to train a policeman.  We put some out on the street after four with the understanding that we needed them on the street and life isn't perfect.  So --

 

            Q:  -- whatever (inaudible) --

 

            Rumsfeld:  -- and the policemen that were there were the kind of policemen that, they were not there to help the Iraqi people.  They were there to punish them and arrest them and throw them into the slammer, so we needed real policemen who had a function that was something more approximating police in a civilized, non-dictatorial state. 

 

            So what you do is you make do.  You train them for four weeks, get them out on the street, tell them to do their best which they've been doing, and some of the police didn't get the full eight weeks.

 

            Now as soon as you begin to go from zero to 100 and whatever it is now, security forces, then you can start training those folks back into the other four weeks.  Polish them up.

 

            Q:  What sort of problems are you seeing, if any? 

 

            Rumsfeld:  No problems.

 

            Q:  -- Or what part of the training did they get…--

 

            Rumsfeld:  I'm using eight weeks as a generalization.  If you're going to be an inspector or you're going to be an investigator, if you're going to do forensic work or if you're going to be a border patrol person and you're going to have to learn how to do seizures and customs and all of that kind of thing, it isn't four weeks or eight weeks.  It's many more weeks.  So it varies, depending on skill sets and discipline.

 

            But if you just want to drop a plumb line through policemen, the carrot(?) says eight weeks is about right so the general number was that.  So the ones that got four come back in and get the other four.  It's not that you saw a problem, it's that you didn't lift them up to the level that you'd like to have a good police force.  Some of them, not all of them.

 

            Thank you.

 

            Q:  [Inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:  Okay, stop.  Let's figure out why they did that, what's going on.  I'm not making any allegations or charges because I don't know any.  All I know is that the caution flag goes up so I said and believe and instructed our people to review what went on and find out to the extent we can what transpired.  At that point we then will make judgments as to what we think is appropriate.

 

            Q:  There was [more] in the paper today about yet another angle with an Air Force official.  [Inaudible].  Every day it seems like [inaudible]?

 

            Q:  [Inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:  Before I went to that press briefing I'd been in the morning staff meeting and I said I'd seen the papers and I want to stop right there.  Then I said what I said in the press briefing, then I got on a plane and Paul did what I said.

 

            Q:  [Inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:  So far.  It could get lousy later.

 

            Thank you folks.