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Secretary Rumsfeld at Fort Hood Town Hall Meeting

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
August 21, 2002 3:15 PM EDT

Wednesday, August 21, 2002 - 3:15 p.m. EDT

(Town Hall Meeting with Troops at Fort Hood, Texas)

Rumsfeld: (Cheers, applause.) Goodness gracious! Thank you! Thank you very much! That is breath-taking. I wish that every one of you could individually go to the back of that room and then walk in here to that kind of a greeting because each of you deserve that, and I thank you very much.

General Bell, thank you. Where'd you go? (Laughter.)

Gen. Bell: Right here!

Rumsfeld: There he is! (Chuckling) I like to keep track of where people are. I want to know who's behind my back, that's what I want! (Laughter.)

Where's the governor? Is the governor here? Not here.

Where is Congressman Edwards? Is he here? Did he make it? (Cheers, applause.) Congressman, we welcome you. It's nice to be in your area. And thank you so much for being with us.

Members of the Texas Senate and the Texas House, I understand some of you are here. Where are they? (Cheers, applause.) Thank you. We thank you so much for your support of this post and the folks, the men and women and the families here, and we do want you to know that we appreciate it.

Mayor Jouett -- is Mayor Jouett here? (Cheers, applause.)

Thank you. I can't really say "Welcome" to you, but you could say "Welcome to me, " so -- (laughter) -- pleased to be here.

And above all, thank you to the Phantom Warriors, all of you. ("Hoo-ah" call from soldiers.)

I just left the president, in Crawford, and had a terrific meeting. We talked a great deal about the Defense Department, the transformation of this institution, the important role it's playing today, the important service that each of you are engaged in. He also asked me to thank those of you who are involved in supporting the Texas Crawford White House, which he appreciates. I know a number of your folks are there. ("Hoo-ah" call.)

You have earned your reputation as America's hammer -- ("hoo-ah" call) -- home to 3rd Corps and some of the most highly respected warriors in the world and, as I'm told that General Bell likes to note, innovative, resourceful and courageous; ready to deploy and prepared to win. And for that, we thank you. ("Hoo-ah" call; applause.)

When the president sends you off, the enemy knows that our country is serious about a mission. You've not only supported Operation Noble Eagle here at home but Operation Enduring Freedom overseas. And I appreciate the truly outstanding job that you folks have done across the board. I understand that some of you have also been deeply involved in guarding some of the al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners, both in Afghanistan and in Guantanamo Bay. And for that, we thank you also.

I understand that members of both the 64th and the 401st MPs are recently returned from Afghanistan and Cuba and are here today in the office -- in the audience. And we thank you for the fine job you've done. ("Hoo-ah" call; applause.)

And there's another serious and important way that you folks are supporting the war on terrorism, and that's through transformation. I remember on September 11th and shortly thereafter I was asked frequently whether or not we could really continue to try to transform the Department of Defense if we were engaged in a global war against terrorism. And an awful lot of folks said, "You really can't do both; you have to concentrate on the one and set the other aside for a period." Not so. We not only can do both, we have to do both. We are in a new security environment, and unless we transform this institution, why, we will not be able to provide the security for the American people that it's our job to do.

I'm frequently asked to describe transformation, and I can say this. Transformation is not a single thing to be trotted out and looked at and inspected. Simply put, transformation is change. It's change in the way we fight, in the way we train, in the way we exercise, but especially, it's a change in the way we think and how we approach our jobs. Changes in doctrine, in training, in organization, in the way we develop leaders, and, most important, in the way all of the services work together.

When soldiers stopped marching into enemy fire shoulder to shoulder, that was transformation. When armored vehicles replaced mounted cavalry and when automatic weapons replaced single-shot rifles, that was transformation. Precision-guided munitions rather than carpet-bombing a battlefield, another example of transformation.

But single examples in individual services really are not enough. We must think and act and fight jointly, and that's what Millennium Challenge was about. And I know that you, General Bell, and the folks in this room played an important and leading role in that activity. It took thousands of people from all across the services, placed them in situations where they were required to think joint, to be joint, to focus on goals that were not service-centric. And that's quite a change. In the past, the Navy stayed on the water, the Army on the land, the Air Force covered bombardment, and the Marines were off working the problem elsewhere.

Those days are gone. They can't -- it will not work anymore for us to think of charging off in a service-centric way. Tomorrow our heavy forces will be lighter, our light forces must be more lethal, and all must be easier to deploy. It will be a force that will not only be interoperable, but responsive, agile and capable of capitalizing on the revolution in information and the advances in technology which were taking place every year. You're leading the Army's transformation effort in that regard. It's important work. And as the war on terrorism continues, you're going to be called upon to do even more.

We face an evil that can't be appeased; as the president said, it cannot be ignored, and it must not be allowed to prevail. As he said in June at West Point, "We will not leave the safety of the American people and peace on this planet to the mercy of terrorists and tyrants. We will lift this dark threat from our country and the world."

You are serving at a unique time. It is a momentous mission, and your role is critically important, let there be no doubt. We're proud of your service, we're grateful to you, and I should add, looking around this audience, we're grateful to your families. We know that they too serve, and we value your service.

Now, who has some questions? (Laughter.)

Yes, sir?

We need a microphone. There we go.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: Give me an easy one! I'm not warmed up! (Laughter.)

Q: I'm Sergeant -- (inaudible) -- 282 Field Artillery, First Team. Sir, my question to you is, the selective reenlistment bonuses just went away. And in order to main -- to -- excuse me -- to maintain the force, I thought that that was an important part of keeping soldiers and making soldiers want to stay in the Army. Is there any plan to bring that back, sir?

Rumsfeld: They just went away? What's --

MR.: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: Oh, once you meet the quotas. I see, okay. Fair enough.

The short answer is that we have -- since the president came in, he has proposed, and the Congress has passed, a pay raise which has taken effect, an across-the-board pay raise, plus a targeted pay raise for grades that we had a particular need to attract and retain.

Second, he has proposed a second pay increase which is pending before the Congress, should pass when Congress gets back from Labor Day holidays, and then would be effective October 1st, if in fact it passes in time.

I am advised that with respect to the bonuses you're referring to, that they are phased in and out depending on the recruitment needs at a given moment. And that, therefore, I can't really answer the question as to whether or not they will be phased back in because it will be a function of what actually happens with recruitment, as I understand it.

Question?

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, Sergeant Timothy Butler from 21st Combat Support Hospital, 13th COSCOM. My question: How do you foresee health care on the battlefield if the U.S. is involved in a major military conflict with Iraq?

Rumsfeld: (Pause.) You must be with the press. (Laughter.) (Applause.) You see how cleverly he did that? (Laughter.) He took a perfectly proper question and buried it in a land mine. (Laughter.)

I see battlefield medical care getting better every day, every year throughout my lifetime and, I suspect, as we go forward. They do just a terrific job. And I have nothing to say about the latter portion of your question. (Laughter.)

Way back over here.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Captain -- (off mike) -- (Air Force's 11th ?) -- (off mike).

Q: (Off mike.) (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, as a proud -- (off mike) -- I'm curious as to what you think the future includes for the Army's favorite fixed-wing platform -- (cheers) -- (inaudible) -- X-45, JSF, F-22.

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.)

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: Well, I'm not going to go picking on other folks. (Laughter.)

I'll tell you, we are currently doing something that this department has never done before. And what we're doing is we are requiring that a joint operational concept be fashioned that will then be used to test proposals from the various services against to see to the extent to which they can be rationalized and harmonized to fit within a joint operation concept. Absent that, what happens is that proposals come up from the individual services. And nobody fights alone anymore. I mean, it's interesting what the individual services want and it's important what they want, but what's really important is what the combatant commander needs to conduct a conflict.

And what happens is, the services all propose their various things, they come up to me and the senior military and civilian leadership in the department, and then there's a train wreck in the last six months before a budget's put together, trying to fashion these things into something that's coherent. And we can't go on like that. Things that -- are changing so fast in this world. And the technologies are evolving so rapidly, and the security environment's changing underneath us. And what we need to be able to do is to have some concepts of operation that are truly joint and have the services then bring their proposals up and have them tested against that concept of operation so that a combatant commander, in fact, can go out and fight a conflict and deter and defend and prevail in a conflict. And at the present time, we're not able to do that.

Therefore, I respect your question. I like people that are proud of what they do. But we need to see that every piece of this fits. A combatant commander who has to put some power -- lethal power on a target quite honestly does not care where it comes from. He doesn't care if it comes from a land platform, a sea platform or an air platform. He wants to be able to do it fast, and he wants to be able to do it precise. And what they're going to be looking for is lethality and precision and flexibility, agility -- the ability to get into a battlefield and to function there and sustain itself there. So while I would be happy to answer on an individual weapon if we were alone, but -- (laughter) -- in a place like this, it might show a bias. But thank you.

Yes, sir.

If there's someone behind me here, yell out.

Q: Staff Sergeant Streeter (sp), Charlie Company 167 Armored, 430-D. I'm from Houston, Texas. ("Hoo-ah" call.) My question to you is, sir, I'm tank commander of the most advanced tank in the world, and I need new parts --

Rumsfeld: What tank is that?

Q: It's the M-1/A-2 SEP tank, sir.

Rumsfeld: Do you have any idea which secretary of Defense was the one who approved that in 1976? ("Hoo-ah" call; applause.) (Laughs.) It's a fact! I did it! (Laughter; laughs.)

Q: It's a hell of a tank, sir. (Soft laughter.) My question to you is, sir, is being able to have brand-new parts available off- the-shelf, so that way, if something breaks on my tank or I break it, I can go to the shop, fix it and be back in battle in minutes.

Rumsfeld: You deserve that. We deserve that. And we've got to see that we're capable of doing that. The -- it is a big task to do it; it's a big task to do it with respect to aircraft. It's a big task to do it with respect to ground forces.

But we have -- how do I put this -- when I arrived in the department, it was pretty clear that we did a good job balancing risks among war plans. We did a pretty good job balancing risks among personnel problems and issues, like pay, housing, medical care -- all those types of things -- working conditions. We could balance them among there -- that category. We did not a bad job balancing the risks within modernization. We needed new planes. We balanced that against ships and tanks and other things, and spare parts. Within transformation categories -- research and development -- things that aren't going to benefit this country for five, 10 years down the road, we could compare those and do a pretty good job. We did a lousy job comparing between those types of risks, between a war plan risk and a personal risk and a transformation risk, against a modernization risk. And certain things got shorted, and that was one of them, there's no question.

And, of course, as a fleet gets older, whether it's ships or planes or tanks, they need more spare parts and it takes more effort to keep them up to speed.

We have a strange thing, when I arrived back in the Pentagon -- I never heard of it 25 years ago -- of course there was a lot of things I never heard of 25 years ago! (Laughter.) They barely had television 25 years ago! (Chuckles; laughter.) Was this -- they now have a thing they called "high demand/low density assets." Now, what that really means is -- it's a thing, an item, an aircraft or something, that is very much is demand and everyone wants it, but we don't have enough of them. So when they say HDLD, what they really mean is we didn't buy enough of them -- (laughter) -- and we made a bad judgment in terms of priorities.

And we've got to see that we don't do that with respect to the spare parts because we simply have to see that the equipment we have -- for a lot of reasons. We have to have it ready, but I think it also affects training, it affects exercising, it affects attitude, it tells a person in the armed services that this country and this department wants to have them dealing with the best type of equipment that works and is operating, and is not a "hangar queen" as we used to say in the Navy.

Question?

No one said "hoo-ah" -- (laughter) -- when I said "Navy," I didn't hear anything from this crowd! (Laughter.) I can't imagine it!

Yes?

There comes a mike.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Specialist -- (inaudible) -- 227 Aviation. We've had leaps and bounds with the education of the eArmyU program being installed, and I was just wondering --

Rumsfeld: The Army what?

Q: -- eArmyU, computer online college. And I was just wondering if there's any future plans for educational opportunities for soldiers and spouses.

(Cheers of "hoo-ah.")

Rumsfeld: See, spouses get a "hoo-ah!" (Laughter; more cheers of "hoo-ah.") Navy gets nothing! (Laughter.) I'll remember that! (More laughter.)

Let me see -- short answer, don't know. It sounds reasonable to me. And the last time I looked at it, there seemed to be a lot of educational opportunities for people in uniform. I have no knowledge at all about opportunities for spouses, and it's a fair question. And Larry DiRita made a note. (Laughter.) And we'll discuss it when we get back to the Pentagon. Good.

Yes?

Q: Ardemis Brown (sp), Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My wife is a spouse -- I mean is in the military. I -- (laughter) --

Rumsfeld: No, he's the spouse! (Cheers of "hoo-ah"; applause.)

Q: I'm a student here locally. I actually had the privilege of watching you do your reviews with the Army -- I mean, excuse me -- Joint Chiefs of Staff. And I would like to first personally thank you. You represented the United States Army and the United States respectively (sp). We could not have asked for a better representative to represent the military. (Cheers of "hoo-ah"; applause.)

Rumsfeld: Goodness! Thank you very much. (Continued cheers, applause.) Thank you. I wish I'd saved that for the last question! (Laughter.)

Q: Here's my question -- (laughter) --

Rumsfeld: (Laughing) Oh, zip up your pocket, here it comes! (Laughter.)

Q: Because of that -- I mean, you made a big fan out of me. Because of that, I was wondering, will we see a Powell-Rumsfeld ticket 2004 -- (laugher) -- or Rumsfeld-Powell in 2004? (Cheers, applause.)

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Oh no! Well thank you very much for that nice thought. But I've -- I've taken myself out of active competition. (Laughter.) I think at age 70, I've served pretty long! (Chuckling) Thank you, though.

Yes, sir?

Q: Hi there, Mr. Secretary. Sergeant Jason Deckman (sp), 91st Engineers, 1st Cav. (Cheers of "hoo-ah!")

My question is, last year I heard talk in the news about hiring civilians to do menial work like gardening, mowing lawns, picking up trash, and important force protection of guarding gates, so that soldiers can do our job training for war. What's your take on that?

Rumsfeld: Well, I feel very strongly that we ought to move people in uniform out of tasks and responsibilities that don't require people in uniform. We organize and -- (cheers of "hoo-ah"; applause) -- we organize and train and equip people for war fighting and not for things that can be done every bit as well by civilians or by contract workers. I'm having some difficulty -- Congressman Edwards -- in the Congress, getting them to change the law so that we can actually -- (sustained laughter) -- seize the moment! (Cheers, applause.) The problem is that for some reason, some years back, the Congress passed legislation that, as I understand it, requires that force protection in the United States be done by men and women in uniform, as opposed to civilians. And we're trying to get that law changed. And is it possible this year or is it -- ?

(Off mike response.)

Rumsfeld: There's an outside chance it might pass this year -- particularly if Congressman Edwards gets back there and -- (laughter) -- goes at it!

So I agree with you.

Questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yes. Oops.

Q: Mr. Secretary, my name is Staff Sergeant Walker. I'm from Delta Company 27, (Maintenance ?) Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. (Cheers of "hoo-ah!") My question for you is, with the integration of Force 21, how will it affect our mission on the battlefield? I understand that a lot of equipment's going to be repaired by contractors, and I want to know how that will affect our manning. And are they going to be beside us on the battlefield or areas that we might find ourself in around the world?

Rumsfeld: It's a good question. I'm no expert on it, but what has to be done -- first of all, the short answer to the question is, that's the kind of thing that's decided by a combatant commander. And he makes those judgments with his land-component commanders and his other force commanders -- exactly how they want to be arranged. And I think I'd best leave it to them to worry that through. We have a number of instances where we have contractor employees in theaters performing a variety to functions that are either close to or actually, in some instances, on a battlefield area. And it varies from time to time, from circumstance to circumstance, and it tends to happen more often when equipment is new or under development and is being pulled out of a development cycle and actually being used. It happens in other instances for a set of assignments that are fairly routine and can be done by them, in which case, if they do need to be in close proximity, they are. But I just don't know enough about your particular situation to answer, but I bet you General Bell does. (Laughter.)

Yes.

Q: (Off mike.) Sir, my question has to do with the media. I know, as a person who's prepared to go to war, I worry about press leaks. When we have some war plans and they're coming from you and from the boss, I hate to think that our health, our security is jeopardized based on media trying to get the story out first.

(Cheers of "hoo-ah!") (Applause.)

Rumsfeld: Well, um -- (laughter) -- the unprofessionalism today is as bad as I have ever seen it in terms of the handling of classified information. (Applause.) It is serious. It is dangerous. And it is beyond my comprehension how a person who has been cleared for the handling of classified information can be so irresponsible and callous to the lives that can be lost, and still provide that information to people who are not cleared for handling it.

It's easy for us to blame the press. The truth is that there's -- they didn't get the information from nowhere. It didn't come out of mid-air. They got it from somebody who was cleared for the handling of classified information who, for whatever reason -- self- aggrandizement; wanting to be seen as knowing a lot; wanting to ingratiate themselves with the press -- are willing to put people's lives at risk. It is inexcusable. You wish that those people had their youngsters in the front lines, and maybe they'd be more sensitive about doing that kind of thing.

(Cheers of "hoo-ah!") (Applause.) I'm told by my general counsel that I'm not supposed to say that I wish they were all in jail -- (laughter) -- because it would be pre- judging something. But the truth is, I wish they were all in jail. (Hoo-ah cheer.) (Applause.)

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. This is an honor. Anyways, my name is Carmen Ingals (ph), originally from Washington State, and my husband's with Bravo Company 15th MI, 504 Brigade. (Hoo-ah cheer.) My question for you, as a family member, is, are there going to be any changes in the future -- and if so, what they are -- to our dental and vision portion of our care plan? (Applause.)

Rumsfeld: Well, Mr. DiRita will write that one down, too. (Laughter.) The answer is, I don't know. We have a wonderful person who's working on those problems, Dr. David Chu, who's the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness. And I must just flat-out say I do not know if he has any -- or if the Congress has any current proposals to make any adjustments there, but we certainly can look at it.

Are you referring to not -- for the spouses and families is what you're thinking of?

Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: Good. Well, we will take a look at it. I just do not know the answer, I'm sorry. Thank you.

Questions? Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, my name is Teresa Streeter (ph), married to Staff Sergeant Streeter (ph) that you spoke with earlier. (Laughter.) I'd like to know -- mine is a very easy question. I'd like to know if you like baked goods.

Rumsfeld: If I like what?

Q: Baked goods, sir.

Rumsfeld: (Pause.)

Audience Member: Baked goods.

Q: Do you have a sweet tooth? (Laughter.)

Q: Baked goods!

Rumsfeld: Baked goods?

Q: Yes.

Rumsfeld: (Pause.) (Laughter.) Let me tell you my problem. I have a bad hand, and I haven't been able to exercise for seven weeks. (Laughter.) And all I have to do is look at that stuff and I grow. (Laughter.) But the answer is yes.

Q: Great, because I'm an FRG leader for my husband's unit, and we are -- (applause) -- and we are sponsoring a bake sale Monday in their motor pool, and we'd like to invite you to come, as well as the president and Mrs. Bush. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: Terrific! Thank you very much. (Applause; cheers.)

Yes.

Q: Sir, on behalf of the soldiers of 1st and 227th, my name is Sergeant Gilful (ph). I'm an NBC NCO from my battalion, and my question to you, sir, is, what do you feel about the recent trade agreements between Iraq and Russia? And how does that affect our soldiers?

(Hoo-ah cheer; applause.)

Rumsfeld: It is -- the announcement of it has just been made. The details are not available. I do not personally yet have a good sense of precisely what they have agreed to do by way of trade.

There is -- there's two possible effects. One effect is on Iraq, and and Iraq has been able to develop a good deal of additional strength by virtue of both legal trade, under the so-called U.N.- monitored oil-for-food, where the trade is supposed to be, oil goes out and money comes in to buy food and things, but in fact, a good deal of the money's going in to buy things like dump trucks that are then -- the back end is taken off, and artillery and rocket pieces are put on the back of these so-called dump trucks, and they are able to continuously improve and strengthen their military capability in ways that are unhelpful to their neighbors and unhelpful to other countries.

Interestingly, from the standpoint of Russia, there's another effect. Russia has an economy, a gross domestic product that's probably about the size of Holland's. It's anxious to connect with the West and be seen as an environment that's hospitable to investment. To the extent that Russia decides that it wants to parade its relationships with countries like Iraq and Libya and Syria and Cuba and North Korea, it sends a signal out across the globe that that is what Russia thinks is a good thing to do, to deal with the terrorist states, to have them as their relationship-developers. What that tells -- (audio break from source) -- but shouldn't have those capabilities, it hurts them, because people all across the globe, businesspeople can make a decision where do they want to put a plant? Where do they want to invest? Where do they want to have a relationship? To the extent that country is saying to the world that, in fact, they want to be known as close personal friends of Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro and Kim Jong Il and those folks, it sends a signal that is harmful to them, it seems to me.

So my guess is that we'll see, as a country like Russia kind of migrates away from where it was as the Soviet Union and tries to connect with the West -- that we'll see them -- hopefully, at least -- spending more time with Western Europe and North America and countries that have freer political systems and freer economic systems and that have greater respect for their people, rather than spending their time and investing in places like Iraq.

I thought that was a very measured response. (Laughter; applause.)

Yes, sir.

Q: Mr. Secretary, PFC Billingsly (sp), HSC, USAG; Chicago, Illinois. My question --

Rumsfeld: Chicago?!

Q: Roger, sir. (Scattered "hoo-ah" cheers.)

Rumsfeld: (Does "hoo-ah" cheer.)

Q: (Does "hoo-ah" cheer back to Sec. Rumsfeld.)

Q: (Audience member.) That's your hometown!

Rumsfeld: That's my hometown! (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, my question is, how might the relationship between Russia and the United States be affected if the United States were to be engaged in a conflict with Iraq?

Rumsfeld: The question is, how would our relationship with Russia be affected if the United States ended up in a conflict with Iraq?

I suppose if I answer the question, the implication will be that we're going to have a conflict with Iraq. And I therefore would suggest to the press and the -- everyone here that if I do answer the question, as I'm going to answer the question in a minute, that no one ought to take any assumption away from that, because the president is -- has made no such decision that we should go into a war with Iraq. He's thinking about it, but -- (chuckles; laughter and murmuring among soldiers.)

And there's an awful lot of stuff about it, but the fact of the matter is, we are doing things diplomatically, we are doing things economically, and we've got some military activity in Operation Northern Watch and Southern Watch, all of which are designed in cooperation with some coalition countries to try to see if we can't find a way to see that that regime is not developing weapons of mass destruction and is not a threat to its neighbor -- neighbors, which is, of course, our goal. That is our goal and our interest.

The answer is I don't think our relationship would be affected with Russia if that were to happen. Why do I say that? Well, I say it because it seems to me that Iraq owes Russia a lot of money and Russia is interested in getting paid back. And that may be the basis for their trade agreement of some sort, I just don't know, because as I say, I haven't seen the details.

But my impression is that the Russian administration is fairly pragmatic at this stage and their interest in the United States is greater than their interest in Iraq. And I suspect that the current leadership in Russia's interest in continuing to kind of point that country towards the West, towards Western Europe, towards North America, is a -- somewhat stronger than their old relationship with Iraq. And I therefore think it would not have an adverse effect on our relationship.

Questions?

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, my name is Nancy Martin (sp).

Rumsfeld: The button. Is it on?

Q: Okay. Mr. Secretary, my name is Nancy Martin (sp). My husband is Captain Martin, 122 Infantry Regulars. (Cheers of "hoo- ah!") Our home of record is Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

Rumsfeld: Ah-ha.

Q: So my question to you is, what emergency measures and precautions are being taken to protect the military families located near military facilities?

Rumsfeld: Yes. The short answer is: A lot. (Laughter.) There have been so many things that have been done since September 11th of last year by way of force protection, forces in the United States and forces overseas. Now, these things have been done -- a number of things have been done particularly with respect to bases and the population of a base. A number of things have been done also with respect to the population at large. And the number of dollars that have gone into this, the amount of time and attention that's gone into it, it runs the gamut from the normal kinds of attentiveness and heightened awareness that exist, to substantial increases in numbers of people who are engaged in force protection, to a beefing up of the chemical, biological and radiation-detection capabilities. And I must say, I'm sure we do not do it as well as it can be done, but we are doing it many, many times better today than we were doing it on September 11th.

And I would suspect you would agree with that, General Bell. It's an enormous effort that's taken place.

Thanks.

Yes, sir.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Sergeant Alexander Morales, Charlie Battery 316, field artillery, 4th infantry division. (Hoo-ah cheers.) Quick question a lot of artillerymen would like to know right about now is, since you scraped (sic) the Crusader project, and we hear a lot in the press, media that it might be coming back. Is there a possibility that we might be getting our Crusader?

Rumsfeld: There isn't a chance. (Laughter; applause.)

Who's next here? (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, Lieutenant Colonel Broden (sp) with the 9th Air Support Operations Squadron supporting First Team, First Cav. (Hoo-ah cheers.) My question is going to take us into the retention arena and tie it in to dependent and spouse benefits. And all I want you to do is entertain the idea of taking the military GI Bill and opening that up to -- (Hoo-ah cheers; applause) -- spouses and dependents. Fifteen, 20 years service, guess what. Maybe we can help our spouses out, and dependents. (Applause.)

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) That sounds like a winner. (Laughter.) I'm aware of that proposal. There are people in a private commission or a governmentally appointed commission that recommended that. And I know it is something that is being considered in the government in various locations in the executive branch and in the Congress. The concept of it is sound. It is that a number of people in the armed services in uniform develop that opportunity to have the GI Bill. And some don't use it. And to the extent they don't use it, the question is, ought they to then be able to transfer that advantage that accrued to them to a spouse or to a dependent. And one thinks of what it costs today to go to higher education, it's just enormous what it costs. And trying to save that amount of money to be able to send a spouse or a dependent to higher education is a very, very difficult thing to do. So I don't know what will come of it, but there's no question but that there are very, very, very good arguments in favor of it.

Let me go back to the Crusader man here. (Laughter.) I didn't want him to think I wasn't interested.

But the truth is, anyone who suggests that the Crusader will come back is wrong, but that does not mean that artillery is wrong. (Hoo- ah call.) And what we are trying to do is to think of the best possible ways -- and we've got, I think, some excellent ideas in development -- to put very precise fire on a target in a battlefield. And there are a variety of ways to do that. It can come from the air, they can come from the sea, they can come from an artillery piece, it can come from a mortar.

And what we need to do and what the future combat system that the Army is thinking about -- is looking at is a way to advance the artillery piece that was to be part of this future combat system concept, to advance it somewhat from where it was in the queue, or in the budgeting process, and have it be somewhat lighter. It would not take much to be lighter than the Crusader. (Light laughter.) Sometimes I like to stick a hole in a balloon twice. (Laughter.) And it would be lighter, it would be more mobile, it would be -- and considerably more accurate in terms of precision fire. So that work is going forward, as it should.

The Crusader -- I could be off by 10 percent, but for the sake of -- that's close enough for government work, isn't it? (Laughter.) My recollection of the Crusader is that people said it was something like 47 tons. And it turns out that that's just the Crusader. That's with the armor off, the crew out, and no ammunition. And if you want to have something that would work and operate and have ammunition and a crew and fuel and armor on it, isn't 47 tons, it was closer to 90 tons. And it was supposed to fit in a cargo aircraft, but it turns out, to put eight tubes into a battlefield would have taken something like half of the fleet of cargo aircraft.

We looked at, for example, a series of battlefields and tried to figure out where would you use it and where might you use something better. The people in Afghanistan, for example, had the Crusader been available, General Franks said he could not have used it. The terrain -- it was high, it was 5,000 to 15,000 feet high, it was steep. And it was not something that you could have gotten in there in a safe way, unloaded, and then moved at those weights across into a battle zone.

The mortars were easily deployed and used.

So I don't know the answer. I'm a broken down, ex-Navy pilot and I don't pretend that I understand all the artillery thing. But -- but believe me, our goal is to put precise fire on a target, and there is clearly a role for artillery. And I do not know precisely what the future combat system will look like, but I do know we've got very good people in the Army worrying it through and thinking about it, and we very likely will have something in the artillery area that will move along at a pace probably close behind what the Crusader would have been, but it will be a part of an entire combat system that I believe will be lighter and more precise and more deployable, and I would hope more sustainable. (Applause.)

Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. My name is Captain Mike Turpin (sp). I'm with the 321st (MI ?) Battalion, (1st Level?) Fourth Brigade, Army Reserve. Hoo-ah. (Cheers of "Hoo-ah!")

Sir, on behalf of fellow Army Reservists that have been called to active duty in Operation Noble Eagle, sir, there's been some discussion or we've heard the discussion within the beltway about -- for recruiting and retention of quality Reservists to -- the retirement benefits that we're entitled to after 20 good years, that currently we get at age 60, and perhaps change the law --

Rumsfeld: Say it again. Eight-60? I don't follow that.

Q: If a reservist does 20 good years, then he's entitled to retirement benefits at the age of 60.

Rumsfeld: At the age of 60.

Q: Yes, sir. There's been some discussion about perhaps lowering that to age 55 for (recruiting retention ?)

Rumsfeld: Holy mackerel! (Laughter.) We should lower it at a time people are living longer?! (Laughter.) I tell you, I have heard that. You know, the way I walk at it is this: I have a feeling that people are serving in posts too short a time, that the average tenure in a position, and particularly in the officer levels and particularly in the senior officer levels, is way too short. (Hoo-ah cheers.) Serving an average of 18 months in a post, they spend the first six months saying hello; the middle six months getting acquainted; and the last six months saying goodbye. (Laughter.) Tripping along the tops of the waves, and they're never around long enough to really clean up their own mistakes. (Hoo-ah cheers; applause.) So I'd like to see tour lengths a little longer.

Second, I just was talking to a fellow the other day. He hit the top of the business he was in. He was the senior sergeant-major. (Hoo-ah cheers; laughter.) I didn't say if it was Air Force or Army. (Laughter.) Or Marines. In any event, I said, "Well, how are things going?" He said, "Well, I'm fixing to get out." I said, "How old are you?" He said, "Forty-seven." My goodness; I've got a daughter 47! (Laughter.) What in the world is he getting out for? He's terrific at what he does! And the answer is, that's the way this system works: up or out.

And I have a feeling that people who want to serve -- it ought not to be mandatory, but I think people who want to serve ought to be able to stay in the service not as old as I am -- not 70 -- but -- (scattered laughter) -- but at least, you know, some decent age. People are living so much longer, and they've got so much to give and so much knowledge and so much capability. And so I'm -- I'm -- kind of got the undersecretary for personnel and readiness looking at how we can lengthen tours and how we can make arrangements for some people to be able to serve longer if, in fact, they'd like to do that. ("Hoo- ah" call; applause.)

And besides that, I can't imagine why anyone would want to retire. (Scattered "hoo-ah" calls.) Life is so much fun. There's so much good people can do. Get at it. (Soft laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Where are you?

Oh, now you're picking yourself! This is -- (laughter).

Q: Sir, they handed me a mike, sir.

Rumsfeld: This is self-selection! (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'm Captain Andy Morgata (sp), 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry, 4th Infantry Division, from Danbury -- ("hoo-ah" call) -- from Danbury, Connecticut. Sir, I'm also an armored cavalryman, interested about how heavy the force is. Our experience in Afghanistan -- has that accelerated the timeline for getting lighter? And what is the realistic timeline for when you envision the Army getting a lighter force?

Thanks, sir.

Rumsfeld: There's no question but that the fact that as you look around the world and ask yourself what countries have armies and navies and air forces that approximate ours that are going to tackle us, there are very few candidates. When one looks around the world at threats and capabilities that can impose enormous damage on our country and our forces, they tend not to be large, heavy, blue-water navies, major armored forces on the ground or major attack aircraft.

Therefore, what we've got to do is, we've got to maintain those important capabilities we have to defend and deter in the event that they're needed. But we also have to migrate a portion of this force so that we can deal more effectively with the kinds of threats -- so- called asymmetrical threats -- that we face. I mean, we face problems with ballistic missiles of all ranges, of cruise missiles. We face problems of terrorist attacks. We face problems and threats from weapons of mass destruction. Increasingly we're going to be facing cyber-attacks and attacks on information capabilities of our country. Because we're so dependent on satellites, we're so dependent on information technologies, the most advanced nation in the world also becomes the most vulnerable to attacks against those systems.

Now, that means we simply must face that. It's a different security environment in the 21st century and we have to -- a force that's able to get organized and go do something in six months -- six months? -- think of what can happen in this world in six months. A force that is -- that cannot be deployed in hours or days or a few weeks is one thing. A force that can only be deployed in months, lots of months, is quite a different thing.

So we have to -- we simply must have the ability in all of our services to have elements, the capabilities that can do things with a relatively modest footprint, that can do things quite rapidly, that have flexibility and the ability to sustain themselves for some periods, that can operate in hostile environments. And how long will that take? Well, I wish I knew the answer. If it takes too long, we're in trouble.

We simply must get the kind of cooperation in this institution so that people recognize that we're going to move pieces of it into the future -- not everything. We don't have to move everything. But we simply have to have greater versatility, greater flexibility, greater lethality, greater precision. And that means, in many cases, a lighter force for at least a non-trivial portion.

I have a feeling -- I mean, I'm a realist. I know how tough it is to have an institution as large as the Department of Defense actually move and turn and change. The resistance is just enormous. I have the feeling, however, that men and women in uniform are professional, that they care about what they're doing, they're proud of what they're doing, they recognize that they're voluntarily putting their lives at risk for their country, voluntarily, not because they were drafted, not because of a conscript army, but because that's what they wanted to do. And when our country is in a conflict, they want to be involved, they want to be a part of it, they want to feel useful. And if the phone doesn't ring, they don't feel useful. And therefore, this force -- I think the pressure for changing this force and for transforming it is going to come from the bottom.

It will have to come from the bottom because there inevitably will be resistance at the top. There's resistance in the contractor community. They want to keep doing what they're doing. There's resistance in the Congress because they're in many cases convinced that what's there is real, and it is, and that you better darn well have something better if you're going to tear down what is. And that's a fair comment. Anyone who wants to challenge what is better have a better idea.

And so it's right that these things be debated vigorously, it's right that they be analyzed, it's right that the Congress hold hearings and that the contractor community force us to make our case. And it's also right that those of us with the responsibility go right ahead and try to do everything we can to move this mountain, and I intend to. (Hoo-ah cheer.) (Applause.)

I'm told this is the last question. Make it a beauty. (Laughter.)

Q: I'll try, Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: Sammy Sosa. Knock it out of the park. (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'm Sergeant First Class Roe (sp). I'm with the 410th Military Police Company --

Rumsfeld: And if I don't like it, I may take one more. (Laughter.) Okay.

Q: -- with the 89th Military Police Brigade. And I'm from Iowa Park, Texas. Mr. Secretary, in the media recently, the Army Times and some of the other releases that are available, there's been discussion about making Korea tax free for soldiers and their family members who are stationed in that hardship area. As a platoon sergeant who has several soldiers who are about to PCS to that location with their family members, being concerned about their welfare, what is your department's position on this? And do you think that this is really possible?

Rumsfeld: I am -- if I'm -- I'm almost positive I'm correct in saying this, that when people get sent there, there is a disadvantage that occurs to their family because something that changes financially. And I don't know quite what it's called, but there is a disadvantage. And I know that the department is looking for a way to rectify that disadvantage. That is to say, one of the proposals that the previous combatant commander in Korea proposed, General Schwartz, was in fact some sort of a tax arrangement that would mitigate the disadvantage that occurs to the families. And it is a problem. And we know it's a problem, because people vote with their feet. We have found that when people are assigned there, that not as many end up there as were assigned. And it's pretty clear -- (laughter) -- Mrs. Rumsfeld didn't raise any dummies -- (laughter) -- and when you see that happen for a period of time, you begin to say to yourself, "Aha! There's something that isn't right." And that something needs to be fixed. Whether it ought to be fixed that way or a different way, but Mr. DiRita is going to raise it when we get back there. (Hoo-ah cheers.)

All right, thank you very much. Good to see you all.

(Hoo-ah cheers; applause.)

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