Thursday, July 22, 2004
Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Edd Hendee, “The Michael Reagan Show” (Radio America)
Q: It’s my pleasure to welcome to “The Michael Reagan Show,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Secretary, it’s a joy to have you with us, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, thank you, Edd. I’m delighted to do it.
Q: Well, it’s a pleasure. Nagging rumor keeps coming up. We’re under size in our military. We can’t hold our numbers. The pressure is too great on our military and we may bring back the draft. Comment on this for me.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there have always been people in our country who have favored the use of compulsion -- the draft -- but they have basically been people who believe that if we needed to use compulsion we should use it. The fact is we don’t need to. We are doing well with respect to recruiting and retention. We have a military today of 1.4 million active and another 800-plus thousand in the Guard and Reserve. It comes to close to 2.5 million, if you include the Individual Ready Reserve. And currently, for example in Iraq, we have 123 or 125, people. Now, out of 2.5 million, that’s not a lot – 125,000.
Our problem isn’t that we’re short on total numbers of people, it’s that our military needs to be adjusted to fit the 21st century and we’ve been in the process of doing that for the last two years. It takes some time. But we’ve increased the army, for example, 12,000 already -- the active force in the army and that’s the bulk of the people that we’re using in Iraq and Afghanistan. And God bless them, they’re doing such a wonderful job. And they’re proud of what they’re doing and they know what they’re doing is important. But we have, I think, 600,000 people active duty now in the army from the active force -- the Guard and Reserve -- and they’re doing a great job.
Q: Well, it still takes, you know, boots on the ground and there’s been a constant criticism that we didn’t put enough up in there. And yet, you look at the successes of the U.S. military in this second Gulf War as nothing less than astounding. Well, how did you accomplish that if we didn’t have enough boots on the ground? Maybe the new formula for the Army, Air Force, Marines and such doesn’t require as many people?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you’re exactly right. If you have to drop 10 bombs and they’re dumb bombs and instead you can drop one bomb and it accomplishes the work of 10 bombs, clearly, it takes a lot less force and airplanes and logistics and everything else to manage one bomb versus 10.
Q: Yeah. We’ve seen the video and the accuracy is astounding. Mr. Secretary, I had the honor of having our son serve under you and the president – Bush -- as a naval officer. He graduated from the Naval Academy and served under you. And I can tell you in meeting the men and women of the Navy as well as the Air Force and Marines that I have come in contact with, they’re a motivated group of people. And I think this volunteer force has given us finally, frankly, a better soldier than we’ve ever had before and the re-up rates are in the 60th percentile for enlisted. It’s astounding to me.
SEC. RUMSFELD: It is amazing. We’re doing very well, even in the Army reserves, for example, we’ve got good numbers. Well, good for your son. I’m delighted to know he’s a naval officer and we appreciate that and I hope you’ll tell him thank you. But we can do this job that we have to do without a draft and I think that using force compulsion as a last, last, last resort. And if you don’t need it, you ought not to do it. And we’ve got the finest military that our country’s ever had in our history and it is, without question, the most capable military on the face of the earth. And we absolutely do not need a draft.
Q: We just defeated, in some cases, by our mere presence on the battlefield another army that used compulsion. So I think there’s a lot to be said for not only training and technology and the motivation. Well, then the military readiness, where are we there because we’ve got, you know, army and some Marines and some Air Force still over in Iraq. We still have forces in Bosnia. And we’re literally transitioning, as you indicated, from a Cold War force in a number of old bases to a new age anti-terrorism military.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we’re adjusting our force posture around the world – our bases, our forward operating sites and our locations to fit the 21st century. We’re rebalancing the Guard and Reserve with the active force so that we have the right skill sets on active duty, so that we don’t have to call up certain skill sets from the Guard and Reserve too frequently because, clearly, those people consider themselves reservists and not full-time people. And to the extent you have to call them up because you don’t have those skills on active duty, it’s not a good thing. So we’re fixing all of that. I think that the progress that’s been made is so significant that we’re going to see over time that we’ve been able to reduce stress on the force in a rather significant way.
Q: We’re literally evolving from a time that we had the forward deployed bases in Western Europe from, I guess, preparing for a potential World War III, you know, Eastern European war with the Soviet Union. Can we just, you know, relocate some of those forces to where it’s a little bit easier deployment or do we hold those bases and use that as a launching pad?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, what we’re going to do is we’re going to adjust the force levels in Europe. And, indeed, we’re going to be able to bring some of those forces back to the United States and use the bases we have in the United States and have a much greater degree of usability of the forces. That is to say, we can deploy them anywhere in the world. You’re right.
They were there in Germany, for the most part, expecting a major land war from the Soviet Union. Well, the Soviet Union’s gone. And we’re seeing that we’re dealing with problems in Afghanistan. We’re dealing with problems in Kosovo and Bosnia. We’ve got problems in Iraq. And our different structure and posture, force posture for our country makes all the sense in the world right now.
Q: Give us your opinion then from what you’ve heard, what you can tell us, if you will, give us an update on Iraq, because you know the news media continues to report every roadside bomb as if it’s the entire country’s in chaos and the people I talked to that have been over there, not only in service to our country but also contractors, come back telling a different story.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it’s an interesting problem. What is taking place there in that country is that they have a currency which is strong that tells you that the people there have confidence in what’s happening. You have refugees coming back in the country, not fleeing the country. You have a stock market that just opened. Hospitals and clinics are functioning. Schools are functioning. The central services, electricity and water and those types of things are improving every day. At the same time, you have violence. You have terrorists and former Saddam Hussein regime elements and common criminals that are engaged in various types of violence. They’re trying to attack the Iraqis that are working with the new Iraqi government. They’ve killed some police chiefs. They’ve attacked some ministry officials. They go after some governing council people.
And yet, while that’s going on, additional people are stepping up and taking those jobs. We have, literally, thousands of Iraqis standing in line to join the army and to join the police force and to join the National Guard and the border patrol and the site protection. And we’re helping the Iraqis get them trained so that they can take over their own security. It’s a difficult situation because there are people out there that are willing to chop off people’s heads and assassinate people.
Q: But you talk about the transformation of a country in less than a year and a half…
SEC. RUMSFELD: [Chuckles.] Exactly.
Q: …[inaudible] from the hand of Saddam Hussein to a democracy. It took our country, you know, a century or so to make the progress these guys have made in a year and half. Do you foresee in the next year – you know, there’s obviously going to be U.S. military presence in Iraq, but do you see a substantial transfer of the responsibilities for the forces to maintain tranquility in that country being handed over to the Iraqi army?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, there’s no question. Already we’re conducting many, many, many joint patrols with the Iraqis. We’re in the process of transferring certain responsibilities to Iraqi patrols where we’re not even doing it joint [ly]. They’re taking over with coalition forces standing there in reserve, ready to assist as necessary. And each month that goes by, already we’ve gone from zero to about 200,000 Iraqi security forces. We have a wonderful team of people helping the Iraqis develop their security forces, training them, equipping them and helping them stand up a chain of command so that they can assume that responsibility.
At the Istanbul Summit earlier this month or last month, the NATO countries got together and agreed that NATO would assist in training and equipping the Iraqis. The United Nations is planning to go in and assist them with elections. And I think the more the Iraqis see that there is no occupation of their country, that the United States has no interest in staying there. We want to just help, as is true with the other coalition countries. And the Iraqis then assume greater and greater responsibility for their own security and the functioning of their government. I think we’ll see the violence begin to diminish.
Q: This is all just 23 days after the June 30 date, so it’s great progress. Secretary Rumsfeld, I want to thank you for coming on to spend a few moments with us on The Michael Reagan Show. We appreciate the job you’re doing. And I want to say on behalf of my family, it was an honor to have our son serve under you, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, thank you so much, Edd. I wish you well.
Q: All right. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Thank you, sir, for joining us on “The Michael Reagan Show.”