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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Roger Hedgecock, Newsradio 600 KOGO

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 30, 2004

            Q:  [In Progress]... he has been prominent in a number of private-sector firms and in a number of cabinet and congressional positions throughout his lengthy career, which began back in 1957.  Secretary Rumsfeld, welcome to KOGO.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, thank you very much.  Actually, my career began before 1957.  I was a Navy pilot back in 1954.  And even before that, I lived in Coronado, California, as a young man during World War II when my father was stationed out on an aircraft carrier. 

 

            Q:  Well, there you go. 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:   [Laughter]

 

            Q:  And you know, we love to hear that because there are obviously a lot of military people in San Diego and we have been through this station doing something called “Operation Homefront” mobilizing our listeners to help military families with, what, the broken transmission, the repair of the fence, whatever it is they need, during this time when their loved ones are deployed.  So I want you to know that, that we’re standing behind our military families.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I read that you were doing that and I do congratulate you and thank you for it.  It’s a wonderful thing that you do.  And goodness knows, the families serve and sacrifice just as the men and women in uniform do and we’re grateful to all of them. 

 

            Q:  You bet.  Secretary Rumsfeld with us.  Let me get down to business here.  You just got back from this NATO meeting in Turkey and I guess it’s unclear to me how much, if at all, can we depend on our NATO partners with respect to any aspect of the burden we’re carrying in Iraq?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, we’ve got I think it’s 32 countries currently helping us in Iraq and I think that of those, probably 16 or 17 are NATO countries.  And any numbers of others are NATO Partnership for Peace countries -- countries that are loosely affiliated with NATO.  So we’re really getting a good deal of support from the NATO countries individually.  NATO as an institution’s role in Iraq, thus far, has been restricted to helping the Polish Ukraine division in force generation and support. 

 

            But at the conference in Instanbul that I just returned from last evening, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreed to take an additional step with respect to Iraq and that is to provide training and equipment assistance for the Iraqi security forces, which is a good thing.  It’s going to be a centralized activity supported by NATO countries to assist in training and equipping the Iraqis, so that they can take over responsibility for the security of their country. 

 

            Q:  And those forces, we’re reading a lot today, The Los Angeles times has a couple of articles about the people in Iraq willing to sign up, even though they know it’s a very dangerous duty to be policemen and in the new army to take this step toward freedom.  Are they really up to the task?  We found in Fallujah, unfortunately, what, a couple of months ago that some of those people were not ready and, in fact, joined the insurgents when push came to shove.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, what you have is as we went from zero to 226,000 Iraqis serving in various security forces today -- some in the army, some in the site protection force, some in the border patrol, still others working with the police and others in what’s called the new Iraqi National Guard.  It used to be called the Civil Defense Corps.  When you go from zero to 226,000 in a year, obviously, you’re going to have to do some vetting that requires you to make some changes.  On the other hand, we’ve seen an uneven situation, but I would say overwhelmingly positive. 

 

            The police and the national guard and the site protection people received varying degrees of training.  The army gets the most training and the best equipment, the other security forces get somewhat less training and less equipment.  So if they’re up against some well-armed terrorist that have rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s and they have small weapons and side arms and pistols, obviously, they’re going to get into a difficult dust-up.  And you’re correct, some of them have decided that the better part of valor is to move away and try it again another day.  On the other hand, the idea that has been left by some that these forces just run and hide in their barracks is just flat untrue.  More than 400 of them have been killed already, so they’re not sitting around with their fingers in their ear, they’re out there on the front line helping to provide security for the people of Iraq and God bless them for it. 

 

            And you’re quite right, not only is it a dangerous business, but these folks are standing in line to be recruited to go in all of those security services and that’s a wonderful thing because they’re betting on the future of their country. 

 

            Q:  Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld with us.  Let’s talk about the size of the armed forces -- big issue here in San Diego, as I mentioned with the big military contingent in our community. We’ve got a situation where some of these folks have been held beyond their enlistment terms.  The Reserves, of course, have been called up sometimes repeatedly.  Private security people and other support contracts replacing what used to be duty done by armed forces personnel and now we’ve got headlines today on the recall of the Ready Reserves.  You were once in the Ready Reserves; you know what that’s about.  Have the armed forces of the United States got enough people to do the tasks required? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We have in the active force about 1.4 million people.  And in the Guard and the Reserve and if you include the Individual Ready Reserve, the people who are not training in ready units, we go up to somewhere over 2.3 million people.  At the present time, we have about 200,000 in the Central Command’s area of responsibility. 

 

            Now think of that.  The force is stressed and we’re only sustaining 200,000-plus in the Central Command region out of a total of 2 million.  So the question is, well, why is that.  Why is it stressful if you’re sustaining a relatively small force percentage-wise and yet you find it’s difficult?  Well, one of the folks here, General Schoomaker, puts it this way.  He says, think of rain barrel.  And you’ve got a rain barrel filled with water.  And you turn the spigot on and you can only access 10 percent of it because the spigot’s up at the top of the rain barrel.  See, you’re only accessing a very small portion of that water. 

 

            Now the choice you have is to get a bigger barrel -- increase the size of the armed forces in this case – or  move the spigot down and figure out ways that you can have access to more of those people.  And that’s what we’re doing.  We’re in the process of doing just that.  We’ve got probably 300,000 military people who are engaged in tasks that could every bit as easily be conducted by civilians.  We don’t use contractors as skillfully and successfully as we probably could.  We have a number of Reserve and Guard people who have either never been called up or have been called up very rarely over their entire careers.  While at the same time, we have guard people that have been called up too frequently because they happen to be in a skill set that the United States, for whatever reason, didn’t have on active duty. 

 

            So what we need to do is to manage the force smarter.  We need to rebalance  the reserve components – the guard and reserves -- with the active force, so that we have the right people on active duty and the right skill sets there.  We need to make better use of civilians – both contractors and civilian employees – and stop over-using uniform personnel in things they need not do.  And my estimate is that if we do that skillfully, we’ll find that we’re probably sized about right, although we do need to increase the force, when we have a crisis like we have with respect to a war in Afghanistan after September 11th or a conflict in Iraq.  But we can do that.  We have emergency powers and we’ve increased the – for example -- the army by something like 25[000] or 30,000 people over the last 2.5 years. 

 

            Q:  Under any circumstances, Mr. Secretary, would a draft be necessary in the future, as you contemplate it? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I can’t imagine it.  I just can’t imagine it.  There are people who can argue that a draft is a good thing because it gives everyone a chance to serve and understand the military and national service.  Although it really never did, it never drafted women, only men, and it exempted people who were in school and people who were married and people who were teaching and a whole lot of exemptions they had.  But in terms of the need of the services, goodness no, we’re perfectly capable of increasing the incentives and the inducements to attract people into the armed services. 

 

            As a matter of fact, despite all the talk about the stress on the force, today we still are having very good results with respect to recruiting and retention.  And we do not have a problem of attracting and retaining the people we need in the military.  And if we ever did get to that point we should, in my view, do exactly what you do in the private sector and that’s increase the pay and increase the incentives and the inducements, so that you can have the kind of skills and the numbers of people you need to help defend our country.  We’re very fortunate to have so many people raise their hand and say, “I want to volunteer to go in the United States Armed Forces,” and they say, “send me” and God bless them for it. 

 

            Q:  Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  In a related issue, and it’s a big issue here in San Diego particularly in terms of supplying the military, Congress appropriates this money and then the Pentagon through all these mysterious ways, finally gets around to buying the stuff that soldiers need.  And there’s been a lot of controversy about whether the soldiers out there – Marines and the soldiers – are getting the body armor, the armored Humvees, all that.  And Duncan Hunter, a congressman from this area, that’s a chair of the Armed Services Committee in the House, has legislation that he calls “the rapid acquisition authority” because he’s so frustrated with the time it takes, the lag time between the money getting appropriated and the stuff actually getting out to the soldiers and Marines.  Do you support that kind of legislation, that approach?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I have not had a chance to read that precise proposal, but Duncan Hunter, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, of course, is a very strong supporter, a stalwart supporter of the men and women in uniform and he’s a former service man himself.  And he has paid a great deal of attention on the subject of shortages in areas that needed to be adjusted, for example, like body armor and up-armored Humvees. 

 

            There’s been a little bit of misunderstanding about the body armor.  There always has been ample amounts of body armor.  But from time to time, people developed new techniques and new materials that can, in fact, provide additional capabilities.  And so what they developed were some inserts that would go into the body armor that the service people had.  And the manufacturer of that had to ramp up and produce it.  But of course, it was new.  It was brand-new stuff.  And as a result, there were some people out there who did not have it in the early period and they ended up having to use people who were out in the spear point of the war getting the early portions -- the early deliveries -- of these inserts for their body armor.  And people who were in the rear areas did not have it.  Then what happened was during the course of the war, it turned out that the rear areas were vulnerable to attacks.  Convoys and combat support people were vulnerable to attacks as well.  And so it’s been a task of seeing that it can get out there as fast as it possibly can. 

 

            The Humvees, of course, also were designed to have a certain ability to resist various types of attacks.  When you then decide that you want to increase that capability by adding armor to an existing Humvee’s protection capability, then you have to manufacture it and you have to attach it and see that it’s there.  The reality is that even a tank can be destroyed, and you’ve seen pictures of tanks and they’re fully armored, not just up-armored Humvees, but they’re fully armored. 

 

            Q:  Well, this issue was taken up in the opinion journal in The Wall Street Journal opinion page by Brendan Miniter on Tuesday on this issue of the Hunter legislation.  It passed the House.  And the interesting thing was that Mrs. Pelosi abstained after criticizing this very thing, the administration not getting necessary equipment to the troops.  She abstained on this bill.  But it did pass 285-97 and goes over to the Senate.  So I think on behalf of Mr. Hunter, although I haven’t talked to him, but this rapid acquisition authority addresses an issue of bureaucratic lag time that simply is not up to -- in the minds of many people – the need.  Do you agree with that?  

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, I do.  I think basically what we have is we’ve had over our history since World War II basically an idea that we were either in war or we were in peace and that we were in peacetime constraints.  And of course, since we don’t have a declaration of war and we’re not in World War III, all of those peacetime constraints and procedures and auditors and contract rules and competitive bidding, all of that pertains.  And the effect of it is that you end up in a war on terror, like we’re in, losing lives and yet you are still required to adhere to the rules of peacetime, because we don’t have gradations of between war and peace and therefore we need to find a way to live in this 21st century where threats can come at you from the shadows and from ungoverned areas in ways that are not predictable, as they were, for example, during World War II or during the Cold War, for that matter. 

 

            Q:  Secretary Don Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense.  A couple of other issues I want to get to were weapons of mass destruction and the Supreme Court rulings.  And so quickly, on the weapons of mass destruction, obviously, the opposition to the administration says we should never have invaded.  The Bush administration lied about the WMD, never found any, never were any, etcetera, etcetera.  Now, I’m reading recent reports in fairly easily accessible published accounts that Syria is holding the weapons of mass destruction or some of them, that others were destroyed, that others might still be hidden in Iraq, etcetera.  What is the status on WMD?  And if Syria is holding any of them and you guys know about it, how come we haven’t heard about it? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, let me respond this way.  The decision to go to war was a concern on the part of, first, the president, then the Congress of the United States and ultimately the United Nations that Saddam Hussein had had weapons of mass destruction, had used them on his neighbors in Iran and had used them on his own people in Iraq – chemical weapons – that he was known to have various other WMD programs and that he was required by the United Nations over a period of some 17 resolutions to file a declaration declaring what he had.  And everyone agreed he had filed a fraudulent declaration as to what weapons of mass destruction he had.  The debate as to whether to go to war was not whether or not he’d filed a fraudulent declaration.  Everyone agreed to that.  The only question was should you give him another chance, should you wait and go 18 resolutions or 19 resolutions, another five years or however many. 

 

            Now what’s actually happened?  Right now you have the Iraqi Survey Group, which is a multinational group that’s out there reviewing documentation and looking at suspect WMD sites.  I was with the Polish minister of defense this weekend in Istanbul, Turkey at the NATO Summit.  And in the course of that, he pointed out that his troops in Iraq had recently come across – I’ve forgotten the number, but something like 16 or 17 – warheads that contained sarin and mustard gas. 

 

            Now these are weapons that we always knew Saddam Hussein had that he had not declared and they have tested them and I have not seen them and I have not tested them, but they believe that they are correct that these, in fact, were undeclared chemical weapons -- sarin and mustard gas -- quite lethal and that is a discovery that just occurred within the last period of days.  If you think about -- most people remember the image of where Saddam Hussein was captured in that hole -- that pit that he was living in.  That pit, that hole in the ground was probably big enough to hold chemical and biological weapons sufficient to kill tens of thousands of people.  And therefore, it is not hard to hide things in a country the size of California.  It’s quite easy to hide things.  In fact, we finally found a bunch of jet aircraft that they’ve buried underground. 

 

            In answer to your question on Syria, there have been a lot of intelligence speculation and rumors and chatter about the fact that Saddam Hussein may have placed some of his weapons of mass destruction in Syria prior to the start of the war.  Until that can be validated and proved, you’ll find people in the administration not talking about it. 

 

            Q:  All right.   Let’s talk about the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court in a somewhat surprising ruling on the rights of enemy combatants has kind of put the administration in a tough spot -- because I suspect I can almost smell lines of lawyers lining up -- to file lawsuits in federal courts on behalf of these enemy combatants at GTMO and maybe otherwise, what’s going to be the administration response, at least as far as Department of Defense?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, thus far, it’s been silence and consideration.  I was in Turkey and so I was not back here.  I just came in last night and really have not had time to talk to people who have studied several decisions -- three or four.  My guess is what they’ll do is they will fashion a plan that will enable us to move forward in as reasonable a way as makes sense, given the fact that we are in a new – we have new set of facts in the world.  We have a large number -- small percentage wise, but a large numbers -- of tens of thousands of extremists radicals who are determined to kill innocent men, women and children using terror as their weapon of choice to terrorize the world into making it fit an image that they would want.  That is to say a world that has a small handful of clerics running it, an end of nation states and bringing down moderate regimes of that religion and preventing the cultures of other nations in other parts of the world to influence what they prefer to see as the way they want life lived. 

 

            This is a very dangerous threat to the world.  It’s a dangerous threat because they are the kinds of people who go around cutting off people’s heads and cutting off their hands and as we saw Saddam Hussein putting pliers in their mouth, pulling their tongues out and cutting them off, shoving people off the tops of buildings, filling up mass graves with tens of thousands of bodies.  These are people who have little or no respect for human life and they are determined and we need to be equally determined. 

 

            The problem we’ve got is they know precisely what they want.  The have a strategy, they have a plan.  They are determined to prevent democracy from prevailing in Afghanistan.  They’re determined to prevent it from prevailing in Iraq.  And the rest of the world is still trying to figure out what’s happening.  The rest of the world, we see terrorist attacks in Bali, we see it in Madrid, we see it in Turkey and in the United States and in Indonesia.  But the world is still trying to sort through all this and what it really means, while the enemy knows what they’re doing and they’re determined to prevent the kinds of progress that is occurring in both Afghanistan and Iraq. 

 

            We need to have -- as they say in the military, a more common threat assessment in the world of the moderates, the people who were not running around trying to tell everyone else how they must live their lives.  And we’re in a long struggle, a serious struggle, where human life is at risk.  And we need to be resolute.  We need to be steadfast.  We need to recognize the nexus between extremists and weapons of mass destruction means not simply 300 people can be killed or 3,000 people as on September 11th, but it means 300,000 or potentially millions of people can be killed to the extent extremists, as we’ve seen recently on television cutting people’s heads off, to the extent those people gain access to still more powerful weapons, biological weapons, for example, or radiation weapons. 

 

            So we’re in a critical time in the history of the world.  We need to allow free people to come to free decisions about what it really means, but we don’t have the luxury of being careless or inattentive. 

 

            Q:  So with regard to these enemy combatants then, do you think these military tribunals which have been announced will begin processing these people in terms of trials?  Do you think the folks at GTMO are going to be moved somewhere else?  What’s the response? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, as I say, I’m sorry I’m just not in the position to respond.  I’m not a lawyer.  The lawyers are poring over these decisions trying to find out what the implications are.  And at some point, there’ll be policy meetings that will take the best legal judgments and come to some conclusions about what the appropriate steps might be.  We have to constantly recognize that what we are are a free people and that is our essence.  And we cannot give up our rights and the things we value so much, simply because we’re terrorized by terrorists.  We have to learn how to live in this 21st century.  And that means we have to, with respect to the peacetime constraints on contracting but so, too, with laws and interpretations and procedures.  We have to find a way to live in this world that protects the men and women and the children in our country.  And by golly, we’re determined to do that and at the same time, protect them in a way that’s consistent with the values that we have and the freedom we respect so much and the thing that makes it the single most productive and free society on the face of the earth. 

 

            Q:  Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld.  I know you have to go.  I want to ask you if you an give us an update or any information at all of a Camp Pendleton Marine who was held captive, Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun.  What’s the update on him? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  As I say, I’ve been overseas and traveling until late last night and I would be reluctant to try to pretend that I could give you a precise update.  We have people who can do that, but I’m not in that position. 

 

            Q:  Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, we appreciate your time.  Thank you for your service.  I have an opportunity to say that on behalf of all of us here in San Diego.  And please be aware that at least in this part of the media, we are concerned about those military families in supporting them during this tough time for them, too. 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, we appreciate that a great deal.  And as someone who was selling newspapers at the Coronado Ferry on VJ Day in 1945, I want to say hello to all those folks out in that part of the world.  It’s a wonderful part of the world.  

 

            Q:  Indeed, it is.  Thank you very much for being with us here at KOGO.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you.  

 

            Q:  Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense.