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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Armed Forces Radio and Television Service

Presenter: DoD News Briefing
May 17, 2002

(Interview with Armed Forces Radio and Television Service)

AFRTS: Can we talk about Crusader for a little bit?

Rumsfeld: Whatever.

AFRTS: All right, sir. Yesterday you spent about four hours telling Senators why it's not a good idea to buy the Crusader. Can you get it down to four sentences for us?

Rumsfeld: Well, Crusader is a good piece of military equipment. The question is in life that you can't have everything and what one needs to do is, as a family does or a business does, is to recognize that your resources are finite and you have to pick and choose.

The important thing is not what weapon system goes forward, but what is it the combatant commander in a given area, in a conflict, needs to defend the United States and to preserve freedom? And he looks not at Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines; he looks at all of those things combined in a joint effort.

As we look at the situation it's pretty clear to us that from a pure artillery standpoint we can probably upgrade the Paladin we have and bring forward the Forward Combat System and bridge that period that the Crusader had been intended for.

AFRTS: That was my follow-up question. If not that, what?

Rumsfeld: It is, to take some of the technologies that have been developed for Crusader and migrate them into Paladin and into the Future Combat System, take advantage of the investment that has been made.

AFRTS: What do you say to young soldiers who may have been licking their chops, ready for something new?

Rumsfeld: Well of course there will be things that are new. Indeed the precision munitions that we plan to accelerate will make an enormous difference for the artillery.

AFRTS: As you looked into their eyes yesterday and said I'm not going to buy this thing, you were pitching. Were they buying?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I think so. There are certain number of people who feel they have a different view and that's fine. These are tough choices. They're not easy calls. But we've spent a lot of time thinking about it and I'm convinced this is the right thing to do. You always wish things would be received unanimously, but in our country with free debate and free discussion you don't expect that.

AFRTS: May I change the subject to Memorial Day.

Rumsfeld: Yes.

AFRTS: While Memorial Day recognizes those who died in the service of their country, you lead more than a million men and women today who are living and are serving their country.

Rumsfeld: God bless them.

AFRTS: What's your message to them on Memorial Day?

Rumsfeld: You know, when you think about it, these people come from all walks of life, come from all states, villages large and small, and they make a personal decision that they're going to voluntarily join the armed services and they're going to voluntarily put their lives at risk, and they are going to undertake an assignment that they know often calls for them to be separated from family and friends and husbands and wives and children. And that takes a certain kind of person. I think it's a lucky country we have, that we have people like that.

We don't use the draft and compulsion to force people to serve. We ask these people to serve and they step forward and say 'you bet, I'm ready.' It's a wonderful thing.

When I travel around the country and the world visiting with them, there isn't anything that I do that gives me greater pleasure than to be able to look them in the eye and say thank you.

AFRTS: The nation has deployed more troops around the world since the end of the Cold War in many ways than we did during all of the Cold War. On what occasions do you think it's proper to ask American men and women to leave their families and serve overseas? Is there one of Rumsfeld's Rules that applies to this sort of thing?

Rumsfeld: Well, you bet. As a matter of fact I have set out some guidelines that I think I use as a checklist. I go down it and ask is this really affecting a significant interest of our country? If we're going to put people's lives at risk you better have a darn good reason. And if we're going to do it we have to feel the commitment as a country and as a people and be willing to back it up. We need to be able to assure that the rest of the world knows that the United States is engaged in the world and that we're willing to participate and contribute to peace and stability.

I think that if one looks down that list that I've fashioned, and when you get to the end the reality is that there's no magic formula. A president has to make a set of judgments and he has to listen to his advisors and then say this is something we need to do. That's why we elect presidents.

AFRTS: Do we have people stationed around the world today everywhere we need them? And of course I have a follow-up; I'm a reporter. [Laughter] Are there places from which we should be withdrawn?

Rumsfeld: Sure, there are places where we've been for an awfully long time that we don't need to be, and what's important is that we recognize that and say fair enough, it was a good thing to do at the outset. Now we have to fill in behind us, our people, and see that there are police keepers or civil law systems of policemen that will take up those responsibilities.

So, for example, we're constantly pulling our forces down in Bosnia. They went in, I think, in 1995 or '96 and the hope was we could do it in a year. Now it's 2002 and a lot of them are still there, although they have been coming down. We still have folks in the Sinai that have been there 20 years.

But we need to do what we need to do but then we need to have the wisdom to see that the civil side is built up and that when we do pull out. We don't inject an instability into the situation.

AFRTS: A former secretary of Defense said of Bosnia, 'we would know the end when we saw it.' Do you see it?

Rumsfeld: I think that it's closer. I do. I think we're making progress.

AFRTS: As you travel around, what do Americans and others, for that matter, civilians, tell you about the men and women of the U.S. Military?

Rumsfeld: Well they are very appreciative; there's just no question. They say they pray for them, they appreciate what they're doing, and they recognize what they're doing. We really are united as a country in support of the men and women in uniform as we should be. We're very fortunate that they're doing what they're doing for our country.

AFRTS: Congressional support for the Pentagon clearly ebbs and flows. How do you gauge current congressional support for the U.S. military?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I think it's wonderful. I think it's very strong and bipartisan. There's no question but that the men and women of the House and Senate of the United States pretty much reflect the American people, and the American people are very supportive of what we're doing.

AFRTS: Let me finish up with, in your younger years you served in the military.

Rumsfeld: I did.

AFRTS: As you of course encourage many young men and women to do today. And after you served in the military you went on to a varied career in private business and public service.

How did your Navy service prepare you for your professional life afterwards?

Rumsfeld: My father was in World War II in the Navy and it never crossed my mind that I wouldn't join the Navy, and I did when I left college and was a pilot, and I loved it.

One of the things that happens when you go into the military as a young man or woman is you get a lot of responsibility early. You get trained, you get disciplined, and you develop some of the things that you don't really in civilian life and you do it at a much earlier stage. I've always felt that I benefited enormously by having been able to serve in the United States Navy.

AFRTS: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

AFRTS: Mr. Secretary, just a couple -- going back to the Crusader.

Would it be fair to say that the Crusader would be a great system if we were still facing the same threat we were back in the '80s?

Rumsfeld: I don't know that I'd say that. It certainly would be, to be sure, but I think it's more than that. I think it would be a good piece of equipment to have today, tomorrow, if you could have everything in the world. But you can't have everything in the world. You have to make choices between them.

There are certainly going to be instances where artillery is going to be important and it is a good piece of equipment. But we're going to win this contest and we're not going to have Crusader.

AFRTS: So the new proposals are really aimed at winning the next war, not winning the last one.

Rumsfeld: There's no question but that our proposals are designed for the future. They are to bring that Future Combat System forward, to see that we have more precision munitions. And we believe the approach we've taken better fits the world we live in and the world we're going to live in.

AFRTS: When I went into the Army you were the secretary of Defense. My son is enlisting and you're the secretary of Defense.

Rumsfeld: I feel like a gerbil. I get on that thing and I run like hell and I'm still -