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Camp Doha Town Hall Meeting, Kuwait City, Kuwait

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
June 09, 2002 12:00 PM EDT

(Camp Doha Town Hall Meeting, Kuwait City, Kuwait)

Lt. Gen. Paul Mikolashek, Commanding General of Combined Land Force Component Command: Well it's a great day to be a soldier or any member of any service to serve our country. And we're honored here today -- we came here today -- for a special reason.

Now if you look at the history of our country, throughout it's history, from the pre-revolutionary days to the revolution, the Civil War, World War II -- in times of crisis or in times of need -- our country has always had that magical ability to produce leaders who could rise above the fray. Not only rise above the fray, but also take charge of the fray, make order out of chaos and lead our country to victory. Now, at this point and time in our nation's history when our freedoms are threatened is another time when we need such leaders. And we are honored here today to have the kind of great American leader that will rise above that fray and take charge of the situation and lead us to victory.

And he is our leader; he is the thirteenth and the twenty-first Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld. And I am honored, fellow warriors, to introduce him to you. Sir. (Applause)

Rumsfeld: Goodness gracious! Well, that is something, I must say. General, thank you so much for those kind words. You know when he started talking about the Civil War, I thought he thought that I was involved in the Civil War and I knew I have been around a few years but I was certain I wasn't around that long.

Well, thank you so much for that welcome. I must say that it's a real privilege for me to be able to be here and to see you and say thank you personally to each of you.

I guess it's been over a decade since the Gulf War, when the United States and Coalition Forces came together, here in Kuwait to repel Iraqi aggression and defeat the forces that had done so much damage to this fine country. Today, it's the United States that has suffered aggression, and once again a large global coalition has come together to defeat the individuals, the countries, the people, who have visited such destruction on our country.

Each of you is playing an important, an important role in that effort.

The terrorists who attacked the United States on September 11 did more than blow-up buildings, or murder thousands of innocent people. They declared war indeed on our way of life and they attacked us because I suppose of what we are. As Americans we are free people, free men and women, proud of our country's cause and the cause of human freedom. In so doing, they reminded us that the world is a dangerous place, it's an untidy place, it's a difficult place and it's a changing place where determined adversaries still oppose human freedom and will stop at literally nothing to destroy it and deny it. And so long as such enemies exist freedom everywhere will be in danger.

The global war on terrorism began in Afghanistan to be sure but it will not end there. It will not end until terrorist networks had been routed out wherever they exist. And it will not end until state sponsors of terror are made to understand that abetting terrorism is unacceptable and will have deadly consequences for the regimes that do so. It will not end until terrorist states developing weapons of mass destruction -- and some listed terrorist states indeed already have weapons of mass destruction and are developing more advanced weapons --and they do need to be stopped so that they cannot threaten or hold free people hostage, to blackmail or terror.

I think it was Lenin who wrote that the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. That is to say that a terrorist can alter behavior without even using terrorist weapons. You are the people who stand between freedom and fear, between our people and a dangerous adversary that cannot be appeased and cannot be ignored and cannot be allowed to win.

Each of you I know worked long hours, and in this case, in a climate that has high temperatures. You are far from home, often working under difficult circumstances. You do it because you love your country and we know that -- and your country knows that. And we are grateful to you.

We are grateful actually, not only to you, but to your families as well. The loved ones who worry about you, who endure long periods of separation from you, and they too sacrifice for our country. And they know as you do that if we are to live as free people then some of us, some among our people, have to step forward to defend our freedom. And you are the ones who have stepped forward. You are here because you made a conscious decision, a voluntary decision. You weren't drafted. You weren't conscripted. Each one of you decided that this is what you wanted to do. And we have every confidence in your talent, your dedication and your ability to get the job done.

The president made a promise to our countries shortly after September 11. He said we will not waiver, we will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail. And you are the ones that are asked to make good on that promise. And seeing you today assures me that I can report back to him that his promise is in very good hands. Thank you.

Now, I am here and I would be delighted to respond to some questions from folks in this terrific crowd.

Q: As we're working in a more joint environment, what is your philosophy and your vision in the transformation of the Department of Defense and its abilities to synergize the capabilities that -- for instance, the Air Force has a very robust reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities. The Army has the ability to use those assets. However, there are obstacles in the way sometimes in terms of working that joint....

Rumsfeld: There is the understatement of the afternoon; that there are periodically obstacles to that. There are indeed. Well, thank you. That's a good question.

Two things: first, the President decided in the last few days to create a Department of Homeland Security and that is good idea. He has concluded that there are elements in so many of our departments and agencies that need to be working much more closely together and his intention is to have the Congress pass that legislation this year, before they leave.

Turning from that to the Department of Defense and that really does not affect the Department of Defense, we have the same set of issues as you suggested with your question about transformation. We've spent a lot of time with the senior folks, civilian and military, in the department in discussing the subject of transformation and what it is.

Some people think of it as an untransformed circumstance and then you are suddenly going to be transformed. Life isn't like that -- life is dynamic, it continuously changes, the world's changing. We are living in a new national security environment. Transformation is a process really and it involves people and cultures. Some people think it's simply a new weapon system that's transformational, in and of itself, which of course it isn't.

Change is hard for people. It is very, very difficult. I guess we all know that. But changing a big institution like the Department of Defense takes some time. We are working hard on it. We've got a lot of terrific people. [Army Chief of Staff] General [Eric] Shinseki said something recently, which struck me. He said if you don't like change, you're really not going to like irrelevancy. You'll like irrelevancy even less; I think is how he put it.

And you can think about it. Here are people in the military who decide they want to join up and be a part of something important. And to the extent that you are doing things that are no longer relevant -- to the extent they have organized, trained and equipped for things that don't exist or aren't happening -- they'll left behind. They are not a part of it. And good people, like the people in this hall, aren't going to like that and they want to be a part of it.

That's why it's so terribly important that we recognize the changes taking place in the world and see that we have the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines -- all make the kinds of adjustments so that we will be able to function in a changed security environment and as a country continue to be able to contribute to peace and stability. And you can be darn sure that I have every intention of seeing that we do that and the leadership, the military and civilian leadership and the department, have every intention of saying that we do that.

It is a time when we simply have to change. At the present time, we still have too much of the business where the Army comes straight-up, the Navy comes straight-up, the Air Force, the Marines, and then instead of having it all fit together in a joint way. It takes a train wreck at the end to try and connect all those pieces and create something that combatant commander like [U.S. Central Command Commanding General] Tom Franks has got.

You know we don't fight with the Army or fight with the Navy or the Air Force, we fight joint. And we have to. We've got to get past this business of thinking that everything comes up in stovepipes and it's going to work, because it isn't going to work. It's a long answer to a short question but it sure is on my mind. Thank you.

Q: My question today is, as we are talking about transformation and the current conflict and future, how do you see the budget playing into that? Are we going to see more major acquisitions cut to fund the ongoing campaign or are we going to give more money to fund this as well as fund the transformation effort?

Rumsfeld: Well. First let me straighten out the question. (Laughter) You asked if we are going to cut any more things, programs or weapon systems to fund the current conflict. Is that roughly right?

Well, we haven't cut any yet, so we can't - there is no way we can cut any more because we have not cut any. The things we have stopped, the things we will stop in the future are not being stopped to fund the conflict - the war on terrorism. We are being funded by Congress and the President's asked for the money and we are receiving the money to fund the global war on terrorism. Let there be no doubt about that.

What we've got to do is to take all the requests that come up -- from combatant commanders, from the services -- and look at them and say all right, what are the risks, how do we balance the risks? And there are a certain level of risks that would be characterized as war risks. And how do we - what kinds of needs do we have in North-East Asia? What kinds of needs do we have here in the Middle East? What kinds of needs do we have for the Afghan campaign? And we can do that rather well. It's apples and apples.

And then there is another set of risks and those risks are the risk of not modernizing. That is to say, ought we to be investing more in to reduce the average age of the aircraft so that we do not have to spend so much money on repairs and parts and have them down so much of the time, or ought we to be modernizing our fleet, for example.

Then there is a third set of risks. And we can do the second level pretty well, against each other. Then there is a third set of risks and those risks are the risks of not transforming. How do you compare, for example, five years ago an investment in an unmanned vehicle, a UAV, that doesn't exist, that you didn't have, that you'd not used previously? How do you balance that investment in the search and development against reducing the average age of your aircraft fleet, or against a war risk in Korea? A very different set of risks. We can make good judgments about research and development investments and advanced weapons that will be able to transform our services. But it is hard to balance them against the others.

Then there is a fourth set of risks. The heart and soul and the core of the defense establishment are the men and women in uniform. And we've got see that we invest in them -- in their pay and in their housing and in their facilities and in their circumstances and in healthcare -- in a way that we can attract and retain the people we need to be able as a country to contribute to peace and stability. Now, it is awfully hard to say: how do you compare or balance the risk of not investing in not reducing the backlog of substandard housing, for example? How do you compare that against a research and development investment, against a war risk investment or against an investment of modernizing your aircraft fleet? That is the complexity of it and the regrettable thing is that the Department of Defense has not established procedures and a process that would enable us to do that very skillfully.

And what we've had to do is to confess it, put it up on the table and force ourselves to say that that's a fact -- that each of those tracks works along pretty darn well but they don't. You can't compete them against each other very effectively and we simply got to do that better and that is what we are trying to do. But I can assure you that we are going to have to, simply have to not fund every single program for advanced weapons that are currently on the books. Some of them started 10, 15, 20, 25 years ago, in a different national security environment, in a different time for a different purpose.

Since then the Cold War has ended, things have changed. We have a set of so-called asymmetrical threats that we have to face. Certainly terrorism is very much on our mind. Weapons of mass-destruction -- we can look forward to ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. We can look forward to cyber attacks. We have certain vulnerabilities.

There is no question but that when those who wish us ill look at our armies and our navies and our air forces, they're very unlikely to try to compete against our armies and our navies and our air forces directly, because they know they'll be defeated and it's very expensive to try to do it. And what they are trying to do instead is to find asymmetrical ways to go after the United States and other like-thinking countries in the coalition. Therefore, we've go to adjust what we do so that we can in fact deter and defend against those kinds of situations.

But be absolutely certain the president is funding fully the global war on terrorism and it is not cutting into at all any of those other areas, whether it's the war risks or the transformation risks or the modernization risks or the people risks.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines on this installation have a great relationship with each other, and all of us are committed to a state of readiness that demand difficult sacrifices from each of us to continue this global war on terrorism. The question is though, where are we going to end it? How will we know the war on terrorism is won?

Rumsfeld: Well that is a tough question and let me take a crack at it. If the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize and alter behavior, then one would have to say the answer to your question is it will be won when we are not terrorized, when we are not willing to alter our behavior. When as free people, we will insist on being able to get up in the morning and go about and do our business and not live in a basement and not have to look around the corner every time that for fear someone's going to come around with a suicide bomb or fly an airplane into the World Trade Center.

It is a - that is hard answer to accept. But it seems to me that terrorism is an unusual thing, in the sense that a terrorist can attack at any place that we are vulnerable, at any time of the day or night, using a whole host of techniques -- whether it's aircraft or suicide people with bombs strapped around their bodies going into a discotheque. If that's the case, it's very obvious to all of you - you are professionals in this business - that there is no way on earth that we can defend at every place at every time against every conceivable technique that a terrorist can use. Now that being the case, it shows you got only two choices; either you acquiesce and accept that fact and that you're going to be terrorized and you're going to alter your behavior, or you've got to go find the terrorists where they are. And that's exactly what we are doing.

That is why we went into Afghanistan. Afghanistan was harboring terrorists. The Al Qa'eda training camps. They had trained hundreds and hundreds of people very well and they sent them across the globe into some fifty or sixty countries that have Al-Qa'eda cells, and we have no choice but to find those global terrorists networks, to route them out and to stop them before they attack additional innocent people, which of course is what terrorism is: it's the killing, the purposeful killing of innocent men, women and children.

Now, that said the problem is somewhat worse than that. Terrorist states have weapons of mass destruction and the terrorist states have intimate relationships with global terrorist networks. One has to assume, we just have to assume, we have no choice but to assume, that within a relevantly short period of time, terrorists networks like the Al-Qa'eda will have access of weapons of mass destruction. Nobody even would imagine that the kinds of people who flew airplanes into the Pentagon and into the World Trade Center, they wouldn't hesitate a minute in using weapons of mass destruction - of course they would. Saddam Hussein already has against his own people, if we need a recent example.

Now, that means that our margin for error as a people has changed. It's modest because with weapons of mass destruction you are not talking about thousands of people, you are talking about tens of thousands of people being killed. And that is something that we as a people are not going to accept. We're not going to. I've painted a picture of a world that's not a pretty place but let me tell you we can live in this world. We can do it.

Q: Warrant Officer (inaudible) from the Marine Corps.

Rumsfeld: You're not in the press are you?

Q: No sir.

Rumsfeld: Because you're right back there with them. (Laughter)

Q: Low profile, sir.

Rumsfeld: And I was not going to answer any press questions. I've got nothing against the press; I like them.

Q: Just in front of the press, sir. My question to you is, in this current edition of Foreign Affairs magazine, you wrote an article about transforming the military. One of the things you summarized at the end was the critical necessity for communication and operations at a joint level. You've talked a little bit about it today. What steps are being taken from your office within the military to work more jointly with federal, state and local agencies, similar to a program like JTF-6 or something like that to fight the war of terrorism at home?

Rumsfeld: What we have done is two things: First, we are standing up a command, for the first time in our country's history I guess. It's going to be called the Northern Command. It's going to be in place on October 1st. General Ed Eberhart, who is currently head of the Space Command, is going to be the new combatant commander for that command. It will have NORAD in it. And we will for the first time will have a single U.S. military official with we can look to for homeland defense as opposed to the new department, which the President is setting up for homeland security, which deals with essentially the civilian elements.

The second thing we are doing is we are establishing in the Department of Defense -- we've not done it yet and we haven't quite figured out exactly how it will work -- but there will be a senior civilian who will have the responsibility of working with the Homeland Security Department and with the federal, state local agencies, so that the coordination and the communication among them will be better off.

Q: Sir, my question to you is this. As we kind of sit here between - you know the old joke: Iraq and a hard place - I was wondering if we've made any progress towards Saddam Hussein, as far as ending his regime and his threat against us? Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Well, there is no question that the Saddam Hussein regime is a dangerous one and it is the policy in the United States of America that there be regime change in Iraq. The Congress has passed legislation to that effect. The President has indicated that he has a minimum of high regard for that regime and the United States is currently doing a series of things.

We are, as you know, engaged in Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch, where we are involved with containing the situation. We are engaged with a variety of diplomatic activities that will also contribute, we believe, to ultimate regime change. We have been involved with a number of other countries in economic sanctions. Those are the things that are currently happening, but would respect anything that might happen prospectively that's for Presidents, not Ministers of Defense.

Q: Sir, as you know, a number of soldiers mobilized in the support of Operation Enduring Freedom are Reservists. There is legislation pending, which would authorize Reservists to receive pay at age 55 after serving 20 years. Can you share with us today what the status of that legislation is, and secondly what is the posture of your office, either in support or opposition of that legislation?

Rumsfeld: I have heard of the legislation. To my knowledge, the administration is not taking the position on it. We have in fact of course in a short time in office, increased pay twice or at least once and proposed the second, which is in the legislation.

You asked what my views are on it. I have not studied it carefully. I'll tell you one thing that I do think. I am interested and I have Doctor David Chu, the Undersecretary of Defense for Personal and Readiness, working on the subject of tour lengths and on the subject of total years of service. One of the things we have detected is that people seem to serve in specific assignments a relevantly short period of time and my interest is seeing if we ought to lengthen those tour lengths somewhat for a variety of reasons. Number one, I think people get better on at their tasks if they are in those assignments a little longer. Second, I think it's a little less stressful on families to be moving with permanent change of stations as frequently as they seem to do and I also worry about people not being in their jobs long enough to see their own mistakes and have a chance to clean them up themselves and learning from that process.

Second, people are living longer. Look at me. (Laughter) Who would have thought I'd be back yet for a quarter of a century?

But I think, every once in a while I'll talk with somebody. I was with one with the senior list of personal the other day in the Pentagon and we were visiting. And he said, well, I'm about out. And I said, well what do you mean? And he said, "Well I'm just about out. I'm going to be leaving -- it's up and out, kind of." And I said, "How old are you?" And he said 47.

Here you have a person who is at the top of his game, done a terrific job for the Armed Services and all of a sudden the process starts pushing people out early. Well, I guess at the moment, I'd have to be persuaded that there is some logic. That if we were fashioning the kinds of incentives that we need to have to attract and retain the people that we need in the Armed Services, I would think we ought to at least be flexible enough to have ways that people can stay and they're assigned with someone longer and that people can stay in the service somewhat longer, if in fact they'd like to do that. (Light Applause)

You could do better than that! (Louder Applause)

Let me just say finally on that question. What one has to do in a volunteer service is what you have to do in the private sector. You have to say all right, what are the kinds of folks we need to do this job? How do we attract them? It's going to cost money. And what is the best way to fashion that set of incentives that will encourage them to come in, make their service something that they can feel good about -- for themselves and for their families -- and provide the incentives they need to stay in as long as it makes sense for them as individuals to stay in. And then fashion that package -- I mean that is what everyone does in the private sector.

In the old days, when you had a conscript service, all you had to do is draft them, stick them in here, pay them about fifty to sixty percent of what they'd be making in the civilian manpower marker, bring in thousands in the intake and then shove them out as they leave because they didn't want to be there after eighteen, twenty-four, thirty-six months. This system in my view is a lot better, it's working better and we've got fabulous young men and young women in the military, and I think we just have to keep shifting and re-fashioning those incentives so they work well.

Q: How do you foresee the role of U.S. ground forces in the future in the war on terror? Is it all going to be Special Forces or do you see any larger scale operations?

Rumsfeld: You looked good up there against that flag, I must say. (Applause)

This country's had need for ground forces from its very first day and that isn't going to change. There isn't a doubt in my mind but that we are going to continue as a country to have need for ground and sea and air capabilities. But I am certainly not in a position to say exactly when, why or where.

Q: Sir, Sergeant Bragg, 345th MI Battalion out of Atlanta, Georgia.

Rumsfeld: What goes on around here? Doesn't anyone ever work? They just go lift weights? (Laughter) Look at the size of that fellow. He's got muscles in places that I don't even have places! (Laughter)

Q: Sir, we love what you, the President and Congress have been doing for us, and the military as far as pay is. Making our pay equal and par, bringing that up to par with the civilians. The question is, when is the next pay raise and how much do you think it will be?

Rumsfeld: He doesn't mess around, does he? Well, listen. The President of the United States is determined to see that we fashion the pay and the benefits for the men and women in the service so that we can effectively compete in that civilian manpower market, which we have to do. We have to do it. And precisely when that will come - he is talking about the third one and we've only been in office fifteen months? I'll have to talk to the President about that.

Q: Sergeant Williams here with the CJTF (Combined Joint Task Force) from Camp Pendleton, Calif. The question I had was that for being deployed over four hundred days for two years, if you went over that time you would be given extra pay. Now that was stopped a couple months ago, I'd say about six or eight months ago, in small section in the newspaper. And I was wondering if the rule orders, that like myself and many others here were going to be rewarded for being on the road so much in the end. They said it was going to be taken care of at the end of war of terrorism but I was wondering if it was on the table? Is anybody thinking about that because there are a lot of people like myself that are gone a whole lot.

Rumsfeld: In other words, you are asking, ought there to be some differential for people who, for whatever reason, end up being deployed or on the road as you put it longer than some average or norm? Is that right? Kind of like flight pay, or...

Q: Yes, Sir.

Rumsfeld: Well, let me go talk to David Chu about that. I don't know that there is anything like that at the present time and if there were I am sure you would know. So, let me take a look at it. It never crossed my mind. I assumed you were on the road all those days because you wanted to be. I'll take a look.

Q: Sir, Lance Corporal Nelson with the JTF, Camp Pendleton, Calif. I was just curious, sir. For a lot of us, September 11 really hit home for everyone. We're closely approaching that year mark, which is the anniversary for it. Are they going to have any type of a holiday or anything like that to remember it, to honor it and everything that happened?

Rumsfeld: They will. There's going to be events in Washington DC that I know of for sure on September 11 and the President will be involved and I'll be involved, and they are working out various things at the present time as to exactly what will happen. I am sure that they'll also be events commemorating and reminding the world of September 11 in a good number of countries all across the globe. Thank you.

Q: Lance Corporal Williams with JTF. With regards to the amounts of ordnance used in the war in Afghanistan, there was word that I guess our supply was running low. I know you cannot give a specific number but how is the U.S. military doing on that, regaining our supply back?

Rumsfeld: You bet. Those are questions that get posed every year and needless to say, what one does is they end up with a requirement that is based on expected use in a conflict. So they have a number that is calculated and is based on experience. Then what happens is you have more experience. You have a situation in Afghanistan, where you end up using weapons and after it's over you start counting up what you've done and it is notably different than what the requirements had suggested it would be. So if you had a requirement for of X, for certain kinds of munitions and you ended up using ten percent of X instead of ten times that amount, you then learn from that and change your requirements. So too if you have a requirement of X and you used ten times that and basically, with respect to precision guided munitions, we used multiples of the ones that the requirements suggested we would use in Afghanistan. Then you again, you change those requirements.

As that happens, we started a lessons learned process immediately as the conflict in Afghanistan started in October and by the end of the year we had some fairly good information about lessons learned and immediately production lines were opened, funds were put into sups - or requested in supplementals, investments were made and we in fact have the lines open and producing the kinds of capabilities that we'll need.

The second thing -- one of the reasons you read things in the press about low supplies of certain types of weapons is because what combatant commanders up before Congress and he gets asked a question. And he answers the question for his command. He does not answer the question for the worldwide supply of those capabilities. And I guess all I can tell you is not to worry. If we have needs for munitions, we'll have the munitions. (Applause)

Q: Sir.

Rumsfeld: There's the last question, and then I am told I am getting the cut sign. I'm going to get the hook in a minute.

Q: Sergeant Carter, 18th Air Reconnaissance, March AFB, Calif.

Rumsfeld: Now this is the last question, so make it a good one.

Q: I have a suggestion for a question you were asked earlier about extending the life or the career of soldiers and also building up the military. And that would be to put money into the IT sector of defense, because that's the one area where a soldier, the older he gets the better he gets. And the civilian sector is taking away all the military IT people. Maybe possibly set-up a special branch or a special incentive and build that up and that could keep everybody in longer and make stronger defense and I think that's the future anyhow.

Rumsfeld: I think you are right. There is no question but that everybody does not need to be able to do everything and everyone does necessarily have to do everything throughout their career. What we do need to do is to find a way to create situations so it's attractive for people who have those kinds of talents and skills to continue to serve, if in fact that's interest and their desire. So I agree with your thought. We'll look at it. Thank you.

Now, I want to say thanks to each of you.

You know, people say, what is different about coming back as Secretary of Defense 25 years later. And there are a lot of differences and we talk about them and discuss them. But I'll tell you, the one thing that's the same and that's the people. And probably the most enjoyable thing I have in my job is coming around and being able to say thank you. And I say thank you. (Applause)