(Regional Telephone Interview with ABC – John Karroll)
Karroll: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, we appreciate you taking the time with us here today. We know your time is short, so we’ll jump right in.
Fort Carson has quite a large commitment to the Operation Iraqi Freedom -- we have roughly 12,000 soldiers serving over there. You are going to visiting the Mountain Post tomorrow, we understand. And we’re curious, what kinds of things will you be saying to the families of those troops that are deployed and are yet to be deployed?
Rumsfeld: Well, I’m looking forward to it. I must say, it’s one of the most enjoyable tasks I have is to be able to visit with the troops and the families and tell them what a wonderful job they’re doing. I was in Iraq last week, I guess last month -- now it’s probably been 2 or 3 weeks, 2 ½ weeks -- and had a wonderful visit, and just yesterday I was at the Walter Reed Medical Center and visited three of the Ft. Carson soldiers that were wounded.
So what I’ll be doing is telling them that what they’re doing is important: it’s important to the country, it’s important to region, and that their young men and women are doing an absolutely superb job.
Karroll: We have just learned in recent news reports that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, it sounds like, may be taking on a greater role in setting some policy for the future rebuilding of Iraq. Are you going to elaborate on that today?
Rumsfeld: Well, I’m really not. What they’re apparently attempting to do is to – the National Security Council has a coordinating responsibility among the various departments and agencies, and as this task migrates from essentially a security assignment over towards more political and economic activity, the coordination task, I understand, very likely will be the focus of what was reported.
Karroll: All right. We’ve heard some reports of active duty members, also some Guard and Reserve troops, that after having endured such a long deployment may be somewhat reluctant about re-upping for future military service. Are you prepared to address those concerns?
Rumsfeld: Sure. We’ve spent a great deal of time in Washington in the Pentagon with the leaders of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines addressing that very issue. It’s critical, but the most important thing we have in the Department of Defense are the people, and we simply have to manage the force in a way that we can continue to attract and retain the people that are needed to make this the finest Armed Forces on the face of the earth.
At the moment, we are meeting our targets and goals with respect to the troop retention, on the other hand there’s generally a lag after a spike up of activity like this and so you don’t really know what the effect will be for another probably 6, 8, 10, 12 months. And what we have to do is to see that we provide the right kinds of incentives and treat people respectfully. Guard and Reserve, they have employers, they have family, they are not full-time military people, so we have to make sure that we get the balance in the force so that they in fact are not called up repeatedly and that they are treated in a way that’s appropriate for their task.
Karroll: We know that you favor a greater NATO commitment to a more of a global war against terrorism, and I’d like to ask you, what kind of a role do you see Colorado Springs playing in that commitment?
Rumsfeld: Well, first, I’d like to thank all the people in Colorado Springs for this wonderful hospitality. It’s, of course, a lovely day here. We have 19 NATO nations that are going to be here, plus another 7 countries that are invitees to NATO, plus the Russian Minister of Defense that will have 27 Ministers of Defense, 27 Chiefs of their military staffs and 27 Ambassadors, and we’re all looking forward to being together and being here and to focusing on NATO’s role of the 21st Century. And certainly this state of Colorado, which has always been enormously hospitable to the Armed Forces and we appreciate it.
Karroll: You mentioned NATO’s role. The organization originally started out as somewhat of a defensive organization and I’m sure you’re seeing that change now. What do you envision for the future? And what do you think that these new countries will bring to the table?
Rumsfeld: Well, NATO, of course, in the first instance have never done anything outside of the NATO treaty area. Then they started assisting with the Balkans, which is in Europe but outside of the NATO treaty area. And more recently they’ve taken over the responsibility in Afghanistan for the International Security Systems Force. So NATO clearly is spreading it’s wings and recognizing that, in fact, the threats – the kinds of threats we face today require the approach that they’re now taking.
Karroll: All right. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, we really appreciate you taking some time with us today.
Rumsfeld: It’s a pleasure. Thank you.
Karroll: Thank you so much and enjoy your stay in Colorado Springs.
Rumsfeld: I’m sure we will.
Karroll: All right, Kelly we’ll send it back to you in the studio.
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