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Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Franks Town Hall Meeting in Doha, Qatar

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 20, 2002

Thursday, Dec. 12, 2002

(Town hall meeting in Doha, Qatar. Also participating was Gen. Tommy Franks, commander, U.S. Central Command.)

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much.

General Tom Franks, thank you for those words and thank you for your superb service to this country.

(hooah and applause)

I don't know how someone like Tom Franks ever managed to work his way up through that process -- (laughter) -- and get four stars, but we're darn lucky he did.

(hooah and applause)

Clearly one of the best parts of my job as Secretary of Defense is to be able to get out of that office, come to places like this and have a chance to look folks in the eye and say personally how much we appreciate what you're doing.

There's no question but that the folks in this room, this hall, and others who are standing and defending freedom all across the globe are people who weren't drafted, you weren't conscripted, you volunteered. You stepped forward and said that this calling is important and that you want to be a part of it. And indeed, it is important.

The attack on September 11th that killed thousands of innocent men, women and children from dozens of countries of all religions was a jolt to the United States. They were devastating to be sure, those attacks, yet if one thinks about it what took place was unconventional in its approach but conventional in what was done. What we face today is something far worse. That is the connection between terrorist states and terrorist networks and weapons of mass destruction. Weapons capable of killing not just hundreds or thousands of people, but literally tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people.

It means that the 21st Century is a different time. It is a distinctly different security environment. Our Department of Defense, our country is in the process of transforming itself to fit those new threats and those new capabilities that exist in the world.

The objective, indeed your mission in the global war on terror, is to see that attacks of that magnitude, of that lethality don't happen.

Our task is to disrupt the terrorist networks, to deal with states that are providing haven for terrorists and terrorist networks, to do everything humanly possible to see that they do not get their hands on chemical, biological, radiation or nuclear weapons.

So let there be no doubt. You are what stands between our people, the American people, free people all over the world, and an evil that cannot be appeased, that cannot be ignored, and must not be allowed to win. You're doing a great job at it. It's appreciated. It's appreciated by me and it's recognized by the American people, you can be sure of that.

It certainly is not easy to be this far from home during a holiday season -- at any time, but particularly during the holiday season. It's tough on some of you to be sure, it's also tough on your families and we recognize that. They suffer the same distance, they suffer the same separation, and it's important for all of us to recognize that they sacrifice and in a very real way they serve as well. So our gratitude goes to you, it goes to your families.

The President made a promise to the nation shortly after September 11th. He said that after the attacks on September 11th that we will not waiver, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we as a people will not fail.

(hooah and applause)

And you're the ones that are delivering on that promise that the President made. Looking at each of you, I know that that promise will be kept.

So thank you for all you do. You have my best wishes.

What I'd like to do now is to see if I can persuade General Franks to come back up here so that the two of us can respond to questions that you might have.

What I will do as an ex-professional politician is respond skillfully to those I can answer, and I'll defer to General Franks the tough ones that I can't.

Questions?

Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: My [field's] on the front over here. (laughter) What's on the front of this one?

Voice: (inaudible)

(laughter and applause)

Rumsfeld: Now what is that question?

Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. I'm Army Sergeant Ward with the 62nd Quartermaster Company from Fort Hood, Texas.

First of all I'd like to say thanks again for the pay raises and all the job security. [Laughter, Hooah and applause]

Q: I think there's one more coming in January, right?

(hooah)

Q: It's very well spent, Mr. Secretary. I'll be the first in line of 1.8 million people to tell you that.

History will recall that the OPEC Cartel is not the best friend of the United States and the Western world. The oil-producing nations of the local region vastly profit from U.S. agenda and energy interests on astronomical terms. The United States (inaudible) foreign policy towards this part of the world as the [boss] of international terrorism, inadvertent as that may be.

(laughter)

Rumsfeld: Let me walk around the second part of that question sideways.

There are a lot of people in the world who think that our interest in the Middle East is oil and that there's a great deal going on in connection with the war on terrorism that relates to oil, and I'm not one of them.

My view is fairly simplistic on the subject. Oil is a commodity. Countries that have it are going to want to sell it because they can make money off of it. And we as a country can have a foreign policy that fits our values, that fits our relationships around the world, that fits our economic interests and it need not be rooted in oil. The fact of the matter is that when the dust settles, whoever owns oil is going to want to sell it and oil-using countries will want to buy it, and there will be a world price and a world market and I think it's a misunderstanding to think that the United States interests in this part of the globe begins and ends with oil because it isn't true and it doesn't fit the economics.

Question?

Q: Yes, sir. Staff Sergeant Andy Stevens, 507 Air Refueling Wing.

We saw on the news today about President Bush ordering the smallpox vaccination for the military. About when are these vaccinations expected to begin and when can we expect to have them completed?

Rumsfeld: The answer is that I approved the use of a smallpox vaccine some days ago and they're in the process of implementing a program which will make it available first to first responders -- medical-type people who would be handling any sort of an outbreak with respect to smallpox. And then it will be made, in fairly close proximity to that it will be made available to people who are in the parts of the world where there is a possible risk of a smallpox epidemic. In terms of the actual number, weeks and days, I can't tell you. But it is being tracked and it will be moving along through the armed forces.

Simultaneously the President is addressing the matter from the civilian standpoint, working with the Department of Health and Human Services and they will have a program there to make the smallpox vaccine available to the American people as well.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Ron Marconnell from Central Command, Master Sergeant.

My question is, as a career service member I've appreciated the support that I've received so far from this Administration, from previous Administrations. As a father my concern is as my son enters the Marine Corps in February --

(hooah)

  • I am, I want to be assured that he is going to continue to receive that kind of support as he goes through his military tasks.

Rumsfeld: You know the single most important thing in any organization are the people. What one has to do in a company or in the armed services or in any walk of life is to see that you have the kinds of incentives to attract and retain the people necessary to make that institution function. As the role of the institution evolves you have to change that mix of incentives so that you are in fact successful in attracting and retaining the people you need. There is no quicker way to do our country damage than to misunderstand what the nature of that population has to be, what the roles they're going to be asked to perform are, and to then be inattentive to the kinds of incentives that they need.

My guess is that if one looks over a span of time, the history of our country, we'll see that we have tended, during the periods that we had a draft, we tended to pay people about 40, 50, 60 percent of what they could have made in the civilian manpower market and use compulsion to have them serve.

Once that ended, we then were forced -- properly in my view -- to go to incentives that can attract out of the public sector the people we need and reward them properly so that they will in fact stay and serve and develop the kind of educational background and the kinds of skills and the kinds of time in position so that they can perform well for the country. I'd love to have your son join the Marines.

(hooah)

Rumsfeld: Or the Navy.

(hooah)

Rumsfeld: Or the Army.

(hooah)

Rumsfeld: Or the Air Force.

(hooah)

Q: Sergeant Williams, (inaudible).

I'm an activated reservist and with this war on terrorism it's going to continually go on, what is the Army's plan as far as restructuring or will it upsize the Army so they won't be as dependent on reserves? Or will they make the reserves more attractive as the incentives that you just spoke of so that people will want to join the reserves?

Rumsfeld: That's a good question and let me respond this way.

I believe that the roles and missions of the Guard and Reserve have got to be changed so that we have on active duty people that can perform all of the various functions that are necessary for our country to be able to perform. We ought not to be totally without certain skills and certain disciplines that then forces us to call up Guards and Reserves. We ought to call up Guards and Reserves when we have a level of activity that exceeds the norm, rather than simply because we have decided to not have certain skills or disciplines in the active force.

The Guard and the Reserve is so enormously important to this country because it does enable us to have a total force concept, it does enable us to manage our affairs as a country in the most cost-effective way. And just as with the active force, we've got to find the right kinds of incentives, both from the standpoint of the individuals as well as their employers, so that in fact we are able to have the people we need and can expand at those moments in history such as this when we obviously have a higher level of activity than otherwise would be the case.

Our goal is to keep the end strength of the services at the level that is generally what makes sense for a certain period in history and then be able to expand with the Guard and Reserve for short spurts when the demand requires it.

Q: My name is Petty Officer Seaslay --

Rumsfeld: This is to General Franks, I hope. (laughter)

Q: I'm not quite sure.

I have two questions. One is on Tri-Care and the other one is on tuition assistance. The

Tri-Care question is, my family belongs to Tri-Care Prime, and yet when I first joined the military 13 years ago my spouse and my daughter, they could receive medical and dental care at a minimal cost. Now that has changed dramatically to where with Tri-Card Prime, if my husband was to have a wisdom tooth pulled out, they can yank it out, but the military contractor doesn't pay for anesthesia. Well who will have a tooth pulled out without anesthesia? It doesn't make sense.

My question is, how can the military readjust its goals as far as getting my family the type of support it need medically and dental wise? It's time to restructure the program is what I'm saying.

(hooah and applause)

Franks: When I heard the question the first thing I thought about was damn, I'm glad I'm a humble combatant. (laughter)

The fact of the matter is that what I think you see, and I won't give you an authoritative answer, but from what I think we all see the system, our medical care system, to use the example that you talked about, evolves over time. I think what we're looking at is an evolution. Tri-Care, Tri-Care Prime and so forth. And I can attest to you that I don't understand all the specifics of it. But I think what happens is, because it's been my experience for about 35 years, Petty Officer, that when we have our men and women in uniform who look at any particular system or program that we have in the military and find out -- to use the example you used, we can get the wisdom tooth out but we can't do the anesthesiology that we need to do -- What happens is when people find out about that sort of thing then people start to review the processes and procedures to see where we go next.

I think we're in an evolutionary process on it. That's probably the most honest answer I can give you.

Q: My second question, tuition assistance.

I'm acquiring a Master's degree with the tuition assistance program. Now we're 100 percent. That's fabulous. However, comma, there is a ceiling to that 100 percent that I found out about.

For example, I'm taking on-line courses so that I can travel wherever the military needs me and still be able to do my courses, but they're telling me well your course can't cost more than $400. Well, I've got a problem with that. (laughter) My pay's not going to subsidize the other thousand dollars it's going to cost me to take my classes.

Read through the program, however, comma, and that's not right. It's just not right.

Franks: Let me wing that one first and then hand it over to the Secretary --

Rumsfeld: I'm not going to mess with her. (laughter) Comma. (applause)

Franks: I won't be bold enough to ask this particular young person who is about to get her Master's degree very many questions because she'll ask me harder questions than any answer I've got. I've got that part figured out.

But when you asked the question what it reminded me of is, unfortunately, how old I am because I started thinking about when I came in the military without a college education and the military program that provided me the opportunity to go back and I think about all the imperfections that I saw in that program at that time. Then I look at what we have now and the levels of education that we have now.

So the first thing, after I realized how old I am, the first thing that I do is I thank my lucky stars that we have a military that encourages and supports the fact that you ought to be doing what you're doing with your personal life and as part of the uniformed services.

Secondly I think that it's sort of like the answer to your first question. What we want to do is we want to be evolutionary, but we also want to be fiscally smart and responsive, and I don't know where the balance is so I won't wing you a softball answer. I'll just tell you that I heard what you said and I'm sure the Secretary heard what you said and I don't know what the right balance is for how much is paid for specifically what.

Rumsfeld: One of the tasks that we have is when you have X amount of money trying to fashion it so that a portion goes to salary, a portion goes to health care, a portion goes to education, a portion goes to treating the people who've served previously properly so that people who are in the service and coming in the service will see that that is a career that they want to be a part of, and it's that mix that one tries to find.

Interestingly by far the fastest growing area has been health care. That has just been an explosion. I don't know what the number is currently, but the last time I looked it was something like $28 billion was going for health care and it is a number that is escalating in double digits every year. As opposed to salaries and direct compensation which is going up, as you know, in single digits. So there's a constant shifting of it.

What we have to try to do is to see that we get it right for the people in service because it has to be right for you or we're not going to have the folks we need to see that these jobs get done, and they're darn tough jobs.

Q: I'm [Sergeant First Class] (inaudible) of the United States Central Command.

My question is about this equipment. (inaudible) the way it is. We need and we've ordered and paid for (inaudible). My question is who and why does our (inaudible), Department of Defense, (inaudible), why they (inaudible)? And why so long when we need it out here?

Rumsfeld: If you write down what you're talking about -- (laughter) -- on a piece of paper, I sign execute orders all the time, every day, and you can be darn sure that this group among all groups across the globe has been getting, deserves to get, and will be getting that which they need.

(hooah and applause)

Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. My name is Staff Sergeant Grossman, USCENTCOM.

My question is every good President must surround himself with good people. When President Bush gets reelected in 2004 are you committed to stay another term with him?

(hooah and applause)

Rumsfeld: I thank you for the nice thought, but all members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President. (laughter)

Things must be tight. We only have one mike. (laughter)

Q: Sir, Specialist Croft, USCENTCOM, CCJ6.

The question I've got is with the continuing funding in the Department of Defense is there still a good portion of that going towards living condition maintenance worldwide on bases and posts?

Rumsfeld: When I came in two years ago it was clear to me that the housing and some of the facilities had not received the level of funding each year that would have been necessary to maintain them in their current status, let alone get ahead of the curve and get them up to an acceptable level of standard.

We've been investing each year in trying to bring them back up to standard. It has varied within the services as to how fast they see it getting back up to an acceptable level. In one service I think it's going to happen in the next three years. In one service I think it's going to take six or seven. The others are in between that.

But we have been attentive to it, we recognize the importance of it. If you force people all across the globe to live in substandard housing or to work in substandard circumstances then you're not going to be able to attract and retain the people you've got.

On the other hand, what happens in life is in any one year you can get by without making the necessary investments. People do this in their own houses. The roof leaks a little bit -- Well, I'll fix it next year. You do that for very many years and you're behind the curve. That's where we were and we're fixing it.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'm Colonel Eric Herron from the Jackson, Mississippi Air National Guard working with the Regional Air Movement Control Center here.

My question touches back on what Sergeant Williams asked and what you responded about employer support to the Guard and Reserve. In my prior life I was a CPA. For a number of years legislation has been introduced to provide a credit to employers who incurred additional training expenses, etc., on behalf of their Guard and Reserve employees. Apparently that has not received any Administration support. It would be a very tangible way to encourage employers to hire and retain people who are members of the reserve forces.

Have you considered that or some similar venue for tangible thanks to the employers who are a critical leg, obviously, in the Guard and Reserve component?

Rumsfeld: No, I've not considered it. I've not particularly heard of it. I'm happy to hear of it and I'll certainly take a look at it.

What we have had thus far is we have had wonderful support from employers all across the country. They have been terrific. I just simply had not looked at that as a way of encouraging that kind of support, but I'll be happy to take a look at it.

I'm told we ought to take one or two more questions and then let you folks get back to work.

Q: Captain Amy Susa from HHC, (inaudible) Quartermaster Battalion out of Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia.

(hooah)

Q: My question is for both of you. What are your respective assessments thus far of Iraq's level of cooperation in the ongoing weapons inspection.

Rumsfeld: This is off the record. (laughter)

Let me say this about that. Comma. (laughter)

We are at an early stage. If you think back a few weeks and months no one was interested in the problems in Iraq and the development of weapons of mass destruction in the United Nations. The President called it to the world's attention. Went to the Congress, received overwhelming support. Went to the United Nations and received a unanimous vote in the United Nations on the new resolution.

And as a result of that we find that there are inspectors going back into Iraq and Iraq is in the process of responding to one of the stipulations in that resolution, namely filing a declaration with the United Nations. It arrived last weekend, as I recall. It is lengthy. It could be anywhere from 12,000 to 24,000 pages including annexes. It's partly in Arabic, partly in English. There is an interagency team in Washington that's in the process of translating it and examining it. There also are interagency efforts taking place in several other countries to do exactly the same thing.

As this plays out, very likely what will happen is the United States will begin discussions with other members of the Security Council that have been examining that declaration to determine what they think about it. To what extent has it or has it not fulfilled the obligation in the unanimous UN Resolution? Is it inclusive? Does it in fact set forth all of the WMD activities and programs and capabilities that Iraq currently has, or does it not?

I think just in fairness to the process, it would be kind of out of line for me to opine as to what I think it might prove to be. Time will tell. In a relatively short period of weeks, I suspect, people will have had enough to look at it, think about it, analyze it, and then discuss it with other countries and then come to some conclusions. That is one indication of cooperation or lack of cooperation.

A second indication of cooperation or lack of cooperation is the fact that there are some inspectors currently in the country.

A third indication would be the provision in the Resolution that said that the inspectors may take Iraqis out of the country with their families so that they will be free to talk and say what they know about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. That has not yet happened. That, needless to say, will be an indication of cooperation or lack of cooperation.

Most of what has been discovered in prior inspection regimes has been provided to the inspectors not by a discovery process on the ground in Iraq, but rather by defectors, people who got out of the country and knew where the weapons were, knew what the capabilities were, knew where the documentation was, and told the outsiders that that's the case.

The two most prominent defectors were sons-in-laws of Saddam Hussein who when they returned to Iraq were brutally murdered.

A third example of cooperation or lack of cooperation might be considered whether or not the Iraqis continue to fire on coalition airplanes and air crews in the Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones, and as all of you know, they are continuing to fire on coalition air crews in both the North and the South.

That's my answer.

Do you want to answer?

Franks: Actually, Mr. Secretary, I thought that was a really good answer. (laughter)

That got it all, sir.

Rumsfeld: Here's the last question.

Q: Good afternoon sir, and General Franks, if you keep that up, sir, you may get that fifth star. (laughter and applause)

Franks: I don't think so. I'm not a lawyer but I understand something about the law. (laughter) Most of the people I know, including my wife, think I'm damn lucky to be where I am. (laughter) I met my high school principal not long ago and he looked at me and he said, "Damn, am I surprised." (laughter) I looked at him and said, "Ain't this a great country?"

Please, your question.

Q: Actually, I have a question for you, sir, General Franks, and I have a question for the Secretary.

First of all, let me introduce myself. I'm Chief Warrant Officer Mark Fishback, just your average United States Marine.

(hooah)

Q: And for all my Marine brethren, I want you to know that Hooah is French for Hoo Rah. (laughter)

Mr. Secretary, I was just wondering, I read somewhere where you serve as the Secretary of Defense for the exorbitant salary of $1 a year. Is that true? (laughter)

Rumsfeld: There is a statute that provides a certain amount of compensation for a Secretary of Defense. There's two ways to look at it. Three ways. (laughter)

One is to compare it with what you used to make. A second way is to compare it with what a four star, let alone a five star general makes. (laughter) And it's less. And a third way to look at it, someone did the calculation the other day and he figured it out that I'm hitting about $3.29 an hour.

The truth of it is that the opportunity to serve this country is always special, but it is particularly special at a time like this.

(hooah and applause)

God bless you all and Merry Christmas to you.

(applause)

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