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Secretary Rumsfeld Radio Interview with Bill LuMaye 680 WPTF

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
January 25, 2006 3:00 PM EDT

Secretary Rumsfeld Radio Interview with Bill LuMaye 680 WPTF

            LUMAYE:  Let me just first say what an honor and a privilege to have you on the program.  Thank you for taking some time with us.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well thank you, Bill.  I'm delighted to do it.

 

            LUMAYE:  I saw your press conference, sir, and I have such tremendous respect for you on how reserved you are.  I probably would have gone up and slapped a few of those folks.  [Laughter].

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  You can imagine what was going through my mind.  Fortunately it didn't come out of my mouth.

 

            LUMAYE:  I'll tell you something, I've never seen such a pessimistic group of individuals when it comes to our military capabilities.

 

            We have such a huge audience of military families, people touched here in North Carolina as you know.  And they seem to get it, Mr. Secretary, so I'm not going to go down the list of the silly questions I heard today.

 

            But maybe if you wouldn't mind, just help bring us back up to speed because I think we've forgotten some real basic things.  Let's just start with the war on terror and the fact that this wasn't going to be over with in a year with a few extra commercials thrown in.  It's going to take some time, isn't it?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  It really will.  It's a struggle that's taking place within the Muslim faith, and it's really by a relatively small number of violent extremists and a large majority of the people of that faith who are going to have to ultimately engage those folks and see that the people who get brought into these Madrasa, extreme Madrasa schools, and trained to go out and put on a suicide vest and kill people, are taught something other than that, something that would be useful to the world, something that would be useful for them in their lives.

 

            LUMAYE:  And I think for folks, just to get a basic understanding of how your job and the military's job here to get a better perspective, they hear sound bytes all the time, Mr. Secretary.  Oh, they don't have vests, they don't have this.

 

            As Secretary of Defense and all those involved, you do have to take a look on a global scale and budget.  And how is the military, I guess in making a long question shorter, how is the military learning, transforming, modernizing?  Because I know that's happening.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  It is amazing what the Army's doing under the leadership of Secretary Harvey and General Pete Schoomaker.  They are doing so many things so rapidly and doing it during a war, which is impressive.  They are rebalancing the skill sets, the talents of people within the Guard and Reserve, people within the active force and between the active force and the reserve components.  They're shifting military positions, correction, positions that are basically civilian positions, away from military people and putting civilians in them because they're basically civilian tasks to free up a larger number of the military.  They're taking the old division structures and moving them down to brigade level, and providing the kinds of lethality and capability and equipment and support so that they have many more combat brigades they can deploy.

 

            And as they are returning, they're purchasing additional weaponry and equipment at a rate that is modernizing much of their equipment simultaneously.  So they're doing a wonderful job.

 

            LUMAYE:  Well the QDR, and for folks like me, we're rather simplistic, maybe you can help explain it to me.  But my understanding of it is basically, you evaluate the military and the possibilities of conflict from peacekeeping all the way up to Armageddon, and then of course you allocate your resources.  That's being done now.

 

            What have you found, how are we changing?  It's a different military than it was even four or five years ago, isn't it?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Oh, it certainly is.  If you think back to the 1990s during that drawdown, many of the units were hollow and they didn't have the kind of equipment they needed, and those shortfalls are being corrected.  We're going to have units that are fully manned and fully equipped and fully resourced.

 

            One way I like to think about what's taken place over the last five years and the trajectory or the vectors we're on for the coming period, is that we've gone from really garrison forces that were in place at the end of the Cold War to expeditionary operations.  We're shifting our weight, our emphasis, from large institutional forces which we think of as the tail, to large operational capabilities which are the teeth.

 

            We're moving from a focus as a department on major conventional combat capabilities to capabilities that will enable us to deal with irregular, asymmetric operations, the kinds of things that we're facing today.  There aren't big air forces or big navies or big armies that are contesting us.  What we're facing is terrorism and asymmetric attacks of various types.

 

            We're also shifting from a position of responding to attacks to recognizing that we can't defend everywhere so we simply have to go after the terrorists where they are and we're shifting towards preventative actions so that we can prevent problems becoming crises later, and crises from becoming conflicts.

 

            LUMAYE:  How difficult has that been for you, sir?  Certainly the military's huge, it's big, it's a bureaucracy, and people of course have their own vested interest.  Has it been a tough go making that transformation, or are you pleased with the progress?

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  I am enormously pleased with the progress.  I think it would be very difficult to find a five-year period in our country's history where the changes have been as dramatic as they have been.

 

            You know, when the attacks took place on September 11th, the day before I had announced a series of, a program for transforming our department.  When the war broke out and we were immediately called on to go into Afghanistan and throw out the al-Qaida and the Taliban, people said well there goes transformation.  You're not going to be able to do it and fight a war at the same time.

 

            The reality is just the opposite.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and the sense of urgency that's been imparted to this department and our country has been so great that it has actually been, we've been better able to transform the department because of the need to do so, than we probably would have been absent the need to do so.

 

            LUMAYE:  I want to talk to you, and we only have a few minutes left, but because we have such a large audience of military folks, certainly they're always interested in the progress in Iraq, and more importantly we also have a project that you've taken to heart as well, and that of course is the America Supports You Program.  So maybe in the last couple of minutes, Mr. Secretary, could you, just your own gut feeling of how things are going in Iraq, what the families can expect, and then tell us a little bit about the America Supports You program.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, I'd be delighted to and thank you for asking, Bill.

 

            You know, Lieutenant General Vines and his team just returned to Fort Bragg.  He was the commander of the multinational corps out there in Iraq and he and his group just do a terrific job.  The young men and women who serve there understand how important their mission is.  They understand that it is a noble work they're engaged in and they also see the progress.

 

            The wonderful thing about the America Supports You, it's a web site, and it's AmericaSupportsYou.mil.  It provides a whole series of examples of ways that people can support the troops and support their families.  I'm told that over 1.5 million people have now visited the web site, AmericaSupportsYou.mil.  There's something like 100,000 new visitors each month, and over 145,000 messages of support have been e-mailed to the troops.

 

            It is just enormously important that the people who put their lives at risk, the people who say send me, the people who raise their hand and volunteer to serve in our armed forces feel the support of the American people, and it's all the wonderful things that families and individuals and school classrooms and corporations and non-profit organizations are doing to help the troops, and we're enormously appreciative of it.

 

            LUMAYE:  And I know it's a nice counter, isn't it, to some of the media reports that we tend to get on a fairly regular basis concerning our military.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Yes, indeed, and we do appreciate it.

 

            LUMAYE:  Well, I only have you for about 40 seconds or so.  I've got to ask you, and I know what the answer is, the military's not dying is it?  We're not a thin green line.  We're not weary.  We're not tired.  I'm beginning to think though, Mr. Secretary, maybe the public is.  I'm not sure.  But I got the impression you feel the military's in good shape.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Well, it is.  You know, it's tested, it's battle hardened.  The modernization that's taking place within the armed services is dramatic.  The increases in precision, in speed, in agility, and lethality are dramatic.  The problem is there are an awful lot of people who used to serve in the military or people who have observed the military over the years who look at it and keep thinking it's the way that it used to be, and it isn't.  It's a notably different force that we have today and they're proud of what they're doing and they're doing it well and it certainly is not broken.  Anyone who says it's broken just doesn't get it.

 

            LUMAYE:  Mr. Secretary, a lot of e-mails saying attaboy sent your way.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Thank you.

 

            LUMAYE:  Thank you so much for joining us today.  We really do appreciate it.

 

            SECRETARY RUMSFELD:  Good to talk to you, Bill.

 

            LUMAYE:  You too, sir.  Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.