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DoD News Briefing with Secretary Rumsfeld

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
January 25, 2006 1:30 PM EDT

DoD News Briefing with Secretary Rumsfeld

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Why am I here alone?   


            Q      (Off mike.) 


            Q      A mystery illness has felled -- (off mike). 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Apparently, and the vice. 


            Q      And the vice. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And several others. 


            Q      I hope you civilians are capable of running the Pentagon without -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It's never run smoother. 


            Q      (Chuckles.) 


            Q      They got anthrax shots but not flu shots! 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I guess.  Yeah, it's a shame.  They both are down with some kind of a bug. 


            Well, before President Bush took office, he expressed his determination to see the United States military well-prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.  Noting that the outcome of great battles are often determined by decisions made decades before, which of course we all know is true from history, he said that as president, he would recommend that the Department of Defense challenge the status quo and envision a new architecture of American defense for decades to come. 


            Since 2001, the Department of Defense has been doing exactly that: questioning old assumptions, reorganizing, with the goal of providing military commanders with greater flexibility. 


            Consider, for example, one of the many changes within the United States Navy.  When I came to the department in 2001, Vern Clark, the chief of Naval Operations, showed me their current Navy deployment map.  It indicated that three out of every four U.S. naval ships were not deployable at any given moment because of the long repair and maintenance cycles, and the peacetime culture.   


            The map -- we called it the hockey puck map -- it had globs of hockey pucks located in maintenance yards and, as I say, very few ships deployed. 


            Then some of the best naval strategists went to work and developed creative ways to make considerably more efficient use of the United States Navy's fleet.  These included swapping crews by flying them out to ships, rather than bringing the ships all the way back home and then all the way back out to the AOR (Area of Responsibility); investing in more spare parts, to significantly reduce maintenance downtime; keeping manning at high readiness levels throughout the fleet at all times. 


            Because of those innovations and others of the kind, and importantly, because of a change in culture, the number of a ship's deployable days has nearly doubled.   


            We hear a lot of talk about how many ships are there in the Navy. What people should talk about is not how many ships but how many ships are deployed, how many ships actually are giving you capability out there.  And the percentage of the fleet routinely at sea has increased by more than 50 percent.  And the number of deployable days has nearly doubled.  And an additional third of the fleet is ready to surge, as required.  In short, the United States Navy is vastly more capable, more lethal and more agile today. 


            Consider the Army as well.  For decades, the Army was organized in large divisions of roughly 15,000 soldiers.  If commanders wanted to send a smaller number of troops somewhere, it required an enormous effort, because the logistics needed to support the trips -- troops were arranged at the division level in division-size support capabilities.   


            With the Cold War long over and the likelihood of a large conventional battle reduced, the Army asked:  Is there any reason to still organize that way, other than the fact that that's the way they've always done it?  The answer, of course, was no.  So the Army decided to reorganize into brigade combat teams consisting of about 4,000 soldiers, and it divided up the large division-size support systems to give each brigade enough of its own firepower, logistics and administrative capacity to deploy on its own. 


            This innovation has given commanders considerably greater flexibility. Because of the reforms now under way, some 75 percent of the Army's brigade structure should always be ready, in the event of a crisis, and more capacity in modules that are more flexible and more applicable to the new century.   


            Each of the services have made changes in equipment and practices, to be sure, but also changes in attitudes and culture.  Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.   


            There's a clear awareness that our military must be ready for unforeseen eventualities, while incorporating lessons learned from previous and current conflicts.  In Iraq, lessons-learned studies began, as many of you know, the very first days of the war.  A team of Central Command, along with strategists in Washington, have since analyzed both the successes and the setbacks from that conflict with an eye towards improving the way we train our troops, equip them, and fight. 


            To name just a few of the recent changes, the department has increased funding for intelligence, put an emphasis on training troops in foreign languages, significantly expanded the role of Special Operations Forces, and emphasized curriculums that teach non- traditional irregular or asymmetric warfare at military training schools. 


            In the coming weeks, the department, as you know, is going to submit to Congress several documents.  One is the Quadrennial Defense Review, another is the National Military Strategy Risk Assessment, and the third is the president's 2007 budget request and the Forward Year Defense Plan.  Each is part of a larger strategy designed to focus on how to fight future wars and how to maintain the momentum behind the last several years' continuum of change.  The Quadrennial Defense Review, in particular, should be seen as the next step in a long line of significant changes, many of which have been accomplished in the last five years, others of which are in process.  It should not be seen as some sort of a new menu for program adjustments.  The overriding goal is to keep our country safe and to support the missions of the dedicated men and women in uniform. 


            I'd be happy to respond to some questions. 


            Charlie?  How old are you, Charlie?  (Laughter.) 


            Q      I'll never tell. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It's your birthday! 


            Q      Mr. Secretary, you and General Pace and other leaders in the Pentagon have said -- in the past year have said that the Army is not only not broken, but not even close to being broken.   


            And yet former Defense Secretary Perry issued a report today on the Hill which says, as other reports on the outside, that the U.S. military ground forces have been placed under enormous strain by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so much so that potential adversaries could be tempted to challenge the United States.  It says -- he said at a press conference that if the strain is not relieved, that it will have highly corrosive and long-term effects on the military.  And this report warns of looming crises in recruiting new troops and retaining current ones that threatens the viability of the all-volunteer military, and cites critical equipment shortfalls in the Army and National Guard.  How do you respond -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I haven't read the report, Charlie.  But from what you've said, it's clear that those comments do not reflect the current situation.  They are either out of date or just misdirected. 


            The -- there's no question but that if a country is in a conflict -- and we are in the global war on terror -- that it requires our forces to do something other than what they do in peacetime.  And so if one thinks that a wartime force is the same as a peacetime force, they obviously are wrong. 


            The issue of recruiting and retention -- retention is up and recruiting -- against higher goals than previously because we're increasing the size of the ground forces -- the recruiting against them have met their goals -- these higher goals, I believe, every one of the last seven months.  


            The force is not broken.  The implication in what you said is also, I think, almost backwards in this sense:  the world saw the United States military go halfway around the world and in a matter of weeks throw the al Qaeda and Taliban out of Afghanistan, in a landlocked country thousands and thousands of miles away.  They saw what the United States military did in Iraq, and the message from that is not that this armed force is broken, but that this armed force is enormously capable. 


            Second, I would say that it is not only capable of functioning in a very effective way and therefore ought to increase the deterrent rather than weaken it; in addition, it's battle-hardened and it is not a peacetime force that has been in barracks or garrisons. 


            It is a force that has been deployed, functioned effectively and, as I say, battle hardened.  So while I haven't read it, I think that it's a misunderstanding of the situation and -- 


            Q      Do you think others might be tempted, sir, do you think others might be tempted by the fact that the ground force is stretched, notwithstanding enormous air and naval power that this country has? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think quite the contrary.  I think anyone in the world who has watched what the men and women in uniform of this country are capable of doing and seen the investment we've made, an increase of, I don't know what it is, 47 percent or something, and the equipment that's been acquired would -- anyone with an ounce of sense would see it exactly opposite. 


            Q      (Off mike) -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just a minute.  Just a minute.  Yes? 


            Q      Mr. Secretary, may I continue on along much the same line? There's another report on the table, one ostensibly ordered by the Defense Department and prepared by a retired military officer, which refers to a thin green line and says the Army is stretched so thin it's close to breaking.  But the bottom line of this report, as I read it, is that the OPTEMPO (Operations Tempo) is so severe and so demanding on particularly the Army now in Iraq and Afghanistan that if we continue at this current OPTEMPO, we cannot outlast the insurgents.  Can I get your specific reaction to that, please? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, it's just not consistent with the facts.  I just came from the White House, where the president was meeting with eight or 10, 15 senators.  And Pete Schoomaker was with me, and someone asked that question.  And Pete Schoomaker's answer was that it's just not correct; that he's seen a broken Army, he knows what a broken Army looks like, in the post-Vietnam period.  There's no question but that during the period of the '90s, a number of aspects of the U.S. armed forces were underfunded and there were hollow pieces to it.  Today that's just simply not the case.  Close to breaking is -- only someone -- I just can't imagine someone looking at the United States armed forces today and suggesting that they're close to breaking.  That's just not the case. 


            Q      So -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just a minute.  Just a minute.  I'm going to finish my responses. 


            We have over, you know, 1.4 million active, over 2 million total, counting the Guard and Reserve.  And we've got 138,000 people in Iraq. Now, does the force still need more rebalancing?  You bet.  Do we have the wrong skill sets within the Guard and Reserve, as between the active and Reserve components?  You bet.  Do we have too big an institutional army, as opposed to a warfighting army?  You bet.  And is that what we've been doing for five years, fixing that?  You bet. And Schoomaker and Harvey are making solid progress.  The changes that are taking place in the Army are revolutionary.  They're going to -- I mean, you just don't go from 33 combat brigades to 42 -- whatever the number is we're heading towards -- and not increase your warfighting capability.  The Guard and Reserve for a great many years didn't have the kind of equipment that they needed.  And those changes, the funding's taking place up on the Hill in the supplementals, and equipment's being purchased, and you're going to see a more capable Guard and Reserve than in a very long period. 


            So I think there's -- those kinds of things misunderstand what's taking place, which is not surprising.  You know, an awful lot of things are happening and there are a lot of moving parts.  And some people have said, "My goodness, you can't transform the Army in the middle of a war."  The fact of the matter is, that the sense of urgency and the impetus from the war to transform is actually accelerating transformation rather than retarding it.   


            Q      But the Army's reducing its combat brigades from 77 to 70. Last -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That's just factually wrong. 


            Q      Last year they told the Hill they were going to -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It's just factually wrong.  You're talking about Washington reductions.  If you have -- if you have a plan that says, in the case of active duty brigades, that you have 33 and you're going to go to 43 -- and that was the announcement last year -- and this year -- and you're going to 43; you're in route, that's an increase from 33 to 43, what you've announced.  And this year you announce that you've changed your mind and you're going to go from 33 to 42, that is not a reduction, that is an increase from 33 to 42.  


            Q      But the Army officials told the Hill last year they needed 77, and this year they're saying 70.  What has changed in the last year that would lead them to believe they need 70? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The Army will be up presenting their budget and testifying to it.  They have made adjustments within their desires and interests and needs as between the present and the future, as between the active and the Guard and Reserve.  And they are all going to be increased.  The warfighting army will be higher, not lower. 


            Calling it a cut is a Washington inside-the-beltway misunderstanding and characterization. 


            Q      (Off mike) -- threat environment in the last year -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Shhh!  Just a minute -- just a minute -- 


            Q      -- would lead you to believe you need seven less combat brigades? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We are increasing from 33 to 42 combat brigades.  


            Q      Last year -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, wait a second.  Are you going to let me finish or not? 


            Q      I -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Are you going to let anyone else ask a question or not? 


            Q      I will.  But -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That'd be a whale of an idea! 


            Q      What -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Why don't we go over here? 


            Q      Mr. Secretary, I want to ask you about this report that the Pentagon paid good money for from Andrew Krepinevich, and two things of that --  


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Inaudible.) 


            Q      -- two -- two things that he said that I'd just be curious about.  First of all, all these reports make a distinction between how the U.S. Army is performing now and what they're -- what the risk is in the future.  And one of the central premises of this report is that recruiting and retention problems are going to get worse, and that's why there's a danger of breaking the Army in the future. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Okay, they don't say it's broken, as was characterized. 


            Q      Not what I've read. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Okay. 


            Q      The other thing that he suggested is that the drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq is not entirely based on the ability of the Iraqi forces to take over, but partly driven by the need to relieve the strain on the U.S. Army, and -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That's just false. 


            Q      Could you comment on either of those -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I mean, unless people are telling me something other than the facts, that's just false, because, I mean, I spent another hour on the secure video with General Casey this morning, then spent another hour on it with the president, briefing a group of senators, and the recommendations he has made, the recommendations he told me he will make over the coming year are based on conditions in Iraq.  And they do not have to do -- the problem here of the -- how we deploy or redeploy and manage that is a Washington problem, not a Casey problem, and he is not making his recommendations based on that.  And anyone who says he is, I think you'd find if you asked Casey, he'd tell us is just not true. 


            Q      And are you managing problems in the Army in terms of recruiting and retention in a way that provides a short-term fix but is going to come back and provide bigger problems down the road? Because that's what these reports seem to be suggesting. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Huh!  That I don't know.  I mean, I've never heard that argument.  I know that when -- I'm trying to think when it was.  It was -- gosh, it was almost two years ago when the Army said, my goodness, we'd better increase our efforts to attract and retain. So they increased various incentives, they beefed up the number of recruiters, they announced all of this to you folks, and went about their business.  And they've had good effect.  They've been able to -- the retention, as I say, is up.  It's particularly high for people who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan -- 


            Q      How long is it going to be the case -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't know!  Time will -- 


            Q      -- that the troops continue to be sent back to a war zone, how long before they -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Time will tell.  We'll see.  But I -- my -- 


            Q      (Off mike) -- knowable? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, well, I don't -- it's I don't know, the answer to the question.  I suspect the people writing these things don't know, either, because I suspect that they don't have any more insight than the other people around here do.  And it seems to me that we have started to reduce our force levels as conditions have permitted.  We're now, I don't know, at 227,000 Iraqi security forces. We're transferring bases, we're transferring real estate, we're transferring responsibilities, we're training people to handle the combat support and the combat service support -- expected to be, I think, 300,000 by the end of the year and more in 2007.   


            Certainly, it's there country.  They're going to have to take hold and take responsibility for it. 


            What we've seen in the Guard and Reserve, for example, is that the percentage of the force deployed in Iraq has gone, I think, from 40 percent down to 25 or 26 or 27 percent of the force from the Guard and Reserve.  Rather than going up, it's going down.  And there isn't any reason in the world why we shouldn't be able to maintain with an Active and Reserve total force concept of over 2 million people, why we shouldn't be able to maintain 138,000, even though I don't expect we will maintain 138,000 in Iraq.  But there isn't any reason you shouldn't be able to do that if you balance your forces right and arrange them, get the right skill sets on the Active side, and if you move some military people out of civilian slots, as the Army's been doing. 


            I just -- I think there's so many things happening in this department and have been for five years and on an accelerating basis that people haven't taken the time to think about or look at or watch the effects of.  I mean, if you think of the water barrel with the spigot, the spigot was at the top.  You were only able to drain the top 10 percent of this institution, and it's been moved down.  And it's still moving down, and we're able to access, which takes the ability to use a larger portion of your total force.  I think there's just -- people just don't fully understand. 




            Q      Mr. Secretary, can I take you back to what you said at the outset about the Navy and the reforms that Admiral Clark put in place to get more use out of a smaller fleet? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Uh-huh.  (Affirmative response.) 


            Q      Admiral Mullen is understood now to be proposing a rebuilding of the Navy, adding more than 30 ships to get back up over 300.  Are you suggesting that perhaps that's not necessary? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, I agree with Admiral Mullen.  He's doing a good job, and he was a very intimate part of Vern Clark's team, along with Gordon England.  They've done an excellent job in the Navy, and you know -- what I'm trying to point out is that if you -- if one focuses only on 20th century metrics, how many ships, is it 500, 600, 400, 300, 200, you miss the point.  The point is how many days do you have ships capable of being deployed to do what it is that naval vessels are there to do for the United States of America, to create presence and to be able to provide military power in various parts of the world. 


            And a naval ship today, in terms of lethality -- first of all, the deployable days are not any different today with a Navy of just under 300 ships than they were when the Navy was 4(00) or 500 because we've increased their deployable days.  And the lethality of those ships has gone up many fold.  We used to talk about number of aircraft -- number of sorties per target.  Today, we're talking about number of targets per sortie, and the precision weapons make an enormous difference. 


            So what the Navy's done is important, and it's important for people to begin to start thinking about it in the 21st century, looking at the right metrics, rather than the last century's metrics. 


            Q      Along those lines, the QDR recommends that the Navy -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  How do you know?  It's not been released! 


            Q      The draft's been out there, sir.  It's been -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  But the draft's a draft! 


            Q      The draft that's on your desk -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Think of all the fine-tuning it's getting. 


            Q      The broad point is this:  according to the latest draft, the -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Do you believe every draft you see?   


            Q      The later ones I do, especially if they come off your desk. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Come on! 


            Q      The latest draft has the Navy positioning six of its 12 aircraft carriers into the Pacific and 60 percent of its submarines in the Pacific to -- for engagement, deterrence and presence factors.   


            The question is this.  How much is that being driven by the threat of an emergent China or the perceived threat of an emergent China?  And is this one of those issues where you're showing a long- term trend, re-positioning of U.S. forces, to accommodate that kind of a potential? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think we'll wait for the QDR to be released and the end -- and leave it to that.  


            This is the president's budget that's going to be announced next month.  It's the Quadrennial Defense Review, which we give to the Congress and the president.  And rather than speculating on whether the draft you saw was a late one or an early one --  


            Q      Well, but it's true.  It's in the report, though, and -- (inaudible) -- I mean, is that a factual -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We'll wait and see when it comes out.   


            Q      I'm asking you now --  


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Why don't you just report the news instead of what might be the news? 


            Q      It might be the news -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yeah? 


            Q      Sir, in the report that was released on the Hill today, Secretary Perry's take on what's going on, there's an interesting and important data point.  When you talk about retention, the forces are being retained at historically high rates.  But specifically, the lower-level soldiers, the soldiers with one four-year term under their belts, are not staying.  And they said that -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  In which service? 


            Q      In the Army. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  In the Army? 


            Q      That -- they said that they're 18,000 soldiers short.  So you're making up for it right now with the older career soldiers.  But two or three years down the line, four or five years down the line, there's going to be a problem with not having enough young soldiers to fill the ranks of the NCO corps.  Have you all tackled that question? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It's a question that people think about who are in charge of these things.  They worry about the mix within the various services.   


            It's interesting -- I haven't read the report.  I'll have to do that.  Yeah, I mean, these are the people, basically -- who did that report -- who were here in the '90s.  And what we're doing is trying to adjust what was left us to fit the 21st century. 


            Q      They left it a mess?  Is that what you're saying?  


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I didn't say that.  I'm --  


            Q      (Off mike.)  (Laughter.) 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, no.  


            Q      (Off mike) --  


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Which report? 


            Q      -- one of the recommendations from Secretary Perry today was that the size of the Army should be increased by 30,000 on a permanent basis, not on the current temporary boost.  Why are you opposed to that? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, my goodness gracious.  That kind of an argument -- you know, we think -- we're increasing it by about 30,000, using the emergency authority.  It costs money, costs a lot of money to have a larger Army -- to have a larger -- numbers of people, because of the costs involved.   


            We said that the -- we're perfectly capable of doing whatever is needed to do in the current time frame because of the emergencies -- authorities.   


            The Army -- people who happen to know something about this, General Schoomaker and Fran Harvey, are telling us they do not know how successful they'll be in switching skill sets, in moving things from civilian -- military positions to civilian positions and in reducing the size of the tail, the institutional Army, as opposed to the teeth, the warfighting Army.  


            And they think that they'll have to get through this process of increasing the number of combat brigades, modularized brigades, from 33 to 42 or 43 -- 42? -- they'll have to get through that to see what the savings are, and then they'll know what level they'll need above the current level.  And they just don't know at the present time.   


            So it's magic that somebody outside knows all of that, because you can't know it. It's not knowable.  So when you read it -- 


            Q      (Off mike) -- could be permanent. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  They tell me -- the Army tells me they think it will not be.  But why do we have to guess?  Why don't we just go through this transformation that's taking place in the Army.  Many things they're doing are less manpower intensive.  They're doing many more things that involve reach-back, so you don't need combat support, you don't need combat service support, you don't need force protection for people who are back in the United States.  They're doing much more reach-back.  There wasn't -- there was peanuts for reach-back in the '90s.


            People do not understand all of the changes that are taking place.  So I'd read very carefully what these reports are saying, and ask yourself the question, do the authors of them really have a clear understanding of what's gone on in this department in the last five years? 




            Q      Sir, is there going to be a change in the strategy of the American Army?  I mean, you've been looking for bin Laden for the first four years, and Zarqawi and his people for the past three years, and you haven't been able to find them.  So are you going to shift to accommodate the Army's strategy to guerrilla warfare instead of traditional warfare? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, clearly there's an emphasis on recognizing that the things that we face today are not conventional threats with large armies, navies and air forces, but more asymmetric or irregular threats, and we've been making those adjustments over the past four and a half years. 


            Yes, Bret? 


            Q      Mr. Secretary, you said that the people outside the people don't really have the insight of all the moving pieces.  And you said that perhaps you should read into these reports.  You've always been a steward of the taxpayers' dollars. 


            Why does the Pentagon pay people like Krepinevich to give you a report if you're standing up there saying they don't have the insight of all the things going on inside the Pentagon? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, because the way you get the best knowledge and the best perspective is to listen to people with different views, let people think about things, walk at them from different perspectives and see if they come up with insights that are helpful. And that's the reason we do our lessons learned is after the fact -- is to say, "Gee, what actually happened?  We know what we thought. What actually happened?"  And I think it's a useful thing to invite people to make comments and critiques and -- to a point on this and to a point on that, and then people who are really in the gearbox making this thing work have to take all of that and make judgments about it, and that's what we do, and it seems to work pretty well. 


            Thank you, folks.



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