Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Florida Radio Network’s, “The Florida Roundtable” with Reagan Smith and Lou Frey
SMITH: We are joined at this time by a gentleman known, I think, to all of you. He has not only been the youngest secretary of defense, but the oldest secretary of defense.
FREY: He probably likes the first better than the second.
SMITH: Don’t we all? It is a great privilege for us to welcome to the Florida Roundtable, the honorable secretary of defense of this country, Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, delighted to have you.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you very much. I’m pleased to be with you folks.
FREY: It’s a pleasure. We know how busy you are. We thank you for your time. A couple things, I think, that have been bantered around a lot we’d like to talk about -- one, the size of the military, especially the Army. Is it too big, too little? There was a Col. McGregor (sp), I believe, who had written some books about the different way the Army should be put together. Where are we now, Mr. Secretary?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, we have an Army team, under General Pete Schoomaker and Acting Secretary Les Brownlee who believed the Army needed to be increased. And so over the past two years, two and a half years, we have increased the Army by somewhere between 15 and 20,000 active duty.
At the moment, we have a very large Army totaling about 600,000 of Guard and Reserve and active force on duty. They’re busy, but for the moment, we believe we’ve got about the right number. The stress on the force is an issue that keeps coming up. And if you’ve got folks in Afghanistan, you have folks doing such a wonderful job in Iraq, God bless them for doing it. The question comes up, well, do we have enough that we can keep that rotation and maintain 120 or 40,000 folks in Iraq over a sustained period as long as necessary. The president said we’ll do it until the Iraqi security forces are capable of taking over that country. And the answer is that the leadership of the Army believes we do have about the right number.
FREY: Now I noticed that Korea, that we’ve talked about withdrawing some troops from Korea.
SEC. RUMSFELD: We have. We’ve, of course, been there 50 years. And the Korean military has gotten better and better and the U.S. military has become vastly more precise and lethal and capable. So we’ve been able, without altering the deterrent effect at all, we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to make some modernization and adjustments of our forces in that part of the world and it’s working just fine.
FREY: And would guess that the actions of the head of North Korea which has caused stress on countries like China and that have made the neighbors nervous, which really makes our situation a little better.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you’re right. I mean, the situation in North Korea is, of course, a serious one. They are a country that has been one of the principal proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and missile technologies. But it’s a country that’s having a great deal of difficulty. They have problem with not having enough food. They’ve lowered the height requirement to join the military down to 4’10,” which shows you the number of people who’ve suffered from malnutrition that they can’t fill their army with people who are of a normal size. We feel the deterrent is strong and not withstanding their behavior, which is certainly not the behavior of a civilized and modern country, that we’re well arranged in the Korean Peninsula.
SMITH: Mr. Secretary, with all of our commitments around the world, Afghanistan, Iraq and what not, the word has surfaced here in recent months and seems to persist, what with extension of term and things of that nature in the National Guard and what not, that there may be a return of the draft and move away from the volunteer Army and I wondered if you could address that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I don’t think there’s a chance in the world that they’ll be a return to the draft. I know there are some people who are proposing that – a handful of folks in the Congress, but it isn’t going to happen. First of all, we don’t need a draft. We’ve got – what – 275 million people in this country. We have an active armed force of 1.4 million. And we’re sustaining a force in Iraq of 140,000. Now, the math is there. All you have to do get additional people in the military is to adjust the incentives just like any other activity in our society. And we certainly do not need the use of compulsion to get people into the military.
Our recruiting and retention is very good. At the present time, given the current incentives, the army is about 101 percent of their goal and the reserves are up at about 102 percent of their goal. Retention’s strong in the National Guard. It’s over 100 percent of the goal. So we’re not having a problem at the moment recruiting and retaining the forces we need. And I just can’t imagine why people would be talking about bringing back a draft.
If you think back to the inequities that existed in the draft: we said we were going to draft people and then we turned around and let people not get drafted who happen to be married or happened to be in college or happened to be teachers and we had a whole series of exceptions for people and we weren’t really drafting everyone in that age group. We weren’t drafting women. We were just drafting a select group of men who happened not to be married or not to be teachers and not be students and I don’t think anyone in our country wants to go back to a draft.
FREY: The morale, I’ve noticed in the re-enlistments that a lot of the people – a number of people who were over there, the units are over there, had been over there are re-enlisting. You’ve been over there a number of time, I remember. What was it (like) over there and what’s your feeling about the morale, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I must say I find it just wonderful and amazing. These folks, these young men and women, are the finest military we’ve ever had in the history of our country. They’re doing an absolutely superb job. And as you point out, one of the indications of morale is are they re-enlisting. And in the case of the Army, they’re 101 percent of their goal and the National Guard is about 101 percent of their goal. And it shows that they’re proud of what they’re doing. They recognize that it’s noble work. They’re feeling the appreciation of the Iraqi people. That’s not to say it’s not tough. It’s not to say that it’s not dangerous. It is. But God bless them, they are – I go out to Bethesda and Walter Reed Hospital out here and visit with the wounded. And I come away inspired by their personal courage and how proud they are of what they are doing in Iraq and in Afghanistan and in the Horn of Africa and on behalf of our country. And we just have to be enormously grateful to them.
FREY: I was at Landstuhl (Germany) sometime back and spent a day with the kids out of Iraq and a few out of Afghanistan and I can, just from the little bit I saw, I can only echo that. And one of the things that they were a little bit frustrated about, they just wanted everybody back here to understand what they were doing and why they were doing it. But Mr. Secretary, are we safer today with what we’re doing, what we’ve tried to do around the world now? Are we safer on our home front today than we were before 9/11?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Lou, the 9/11 Commission just finished its report and it was unanimous. Republicans and Democrats, former officials and others, they came out unanimously and said, in answer to that question, that we are safer. They added another fact, which is that we’re not safe. We’re safer than we were. There’s no question about that. But that does not mean we’re safe. And the reason I say that is because the terrorists, of course, can attack any time, any place, using any conceivable technique from truck bombs to flying airplanes into buildings. And it’s physically impossible to defend at every location at every minute of the day or night against every conceivable way of conducting a terrorist attack. So the idea that we’re not safer I think is just factually wrong. And I think the unanimous report of that commission shows that.
We’ve done so many things to improve our safety. We now have a Department of Homeland Security. We have here in the Department of Defense a homeland defense capability, a new Northern Command that assists in defending the homeland. We are doing – if you think of just our daily lives, the precautions that are now taken with air marshals and reinforced doors on airplanes and the vastly improved security for flights, the sharing of intelligence among 90 nations across the globe, the cooperation in law enforcement -- all of these things. The fact that we’ve taken out a very high percentage of the senior al Qaeda leadership. That’s not to say that they don’t replace those people; they do. But it’s harder for them today to raise money. It’s harder for them to move between countries. It’s harder for them to communicate with each other and that’s a good thing.
FREY: Do you think that the stuff we’ve done, too, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, the changes in that have taken away any bases and training that they’ve been able to do easily and without a lot of harassment?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you’re quite right. I mean, we’ve destroyed all their terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and the cooperation we’re getting from President Musharraf and from the Saudi leadership, given the recent attacks in each of those countries, they have re-doubled their efforts to cooperate with us and to seek out the terrorists and to attack them wherever they are. So a good deal has been done.
On the other hand, the extremists have the ability to recruit new people in and they do that. And it creates a danger because they are able to get financing. It’s much harder for them today to get financing. It’s also much harder for them to reruit. But they’re still getting the financing because we can follow that and we’re also see that they’re recruiting. And that means we’re going to be in for a long struggle against the extremists. And if you think back to the Cold War, it lasted close to 50 years.
FREY: Yeah. And we had an evil empire and now we got just little bits of people floating around all over the place, which makes it a difficult thing and requires patience on everybody’s part.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Exactly right.
SMITH: Mr. Secretary, we know that your time is limited. And we want to thank you for sharing a few moments with us today on the Florida Roundtable, the Honorable Donald Rumsfeld, and we look forward to your next visit, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, thank you so much. Reagan and Lou. It’s good to talk to you.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.