Secretary Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace held a press conference today at the Pentagon. Following are highlights.
On Change in the Department
The Department of Defense has undergone many changes in the past five-plus years, all while fighting the Global War on Terror.
Changes include: agreeing with the Russians on sizable reductions in strategic offensive nuclear weapons; new unified command plans for the Northern Command and the Strategic Command; changes in the defense logistics system; providing reforms in NATO to create a NATO Response Force; fashioning a senior-level review group so military, civilians, the Services and the combatant commanders are all included in decision-making on major issues; increasing the Special Operations Forces and giving them new authorities; base closings; two quadrennial defense reviews; adjusting U.S. military posture around the world and bringing home forces from Europe and Korea; passing a new personnel system to help better manage the civilian workforce; canceling weapons systems; and modernizing the Army.
There are a lot of moving parts to these changes. Some people will be uncomfortable with change and some people will complain about it. Differences of opinion are healthy, but cannot be paralyzing or nothing will get done.
On Decision-Making and Input
Each day the chairman and vice chairman meet with the secretary of defense, listen to the information he’s being given, and give him their own best military advice. They reach out formally and informally to the combatant commanders for input. The chiefs of staffs of each of the Services also meet at least once a week with the secretary. Senior civilian and military leaders gather, sometimes for two or three days at a time. There are multiple opportunities to be heard and all opinions are put on the table. Decisions are not made in a vacuum. After military leaders have given their opinions, the secretary makes a decision, and unless it is illegal or immoral, it is carried out.
On Effect of Criticism of the Leadership on the Troops
Troops in the field are focused on carrying out their missions, not on the airing in the media on differences in opinion.
On the Drug Trade in Afghanistan
The pull of narcotics is powerful, and money from the narcotics trade is enormous. The corruption could adversely affect the democratic process in Afghanistan. While a great deal is being done to mitigate the narcotics trade, we still need to do more. The Karzai government has responsibility for taking the lead; the United Kingdom and other countries are helping to support them, including many agencies of the U.S. government such as the departments of defense, state and justice, along with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
On Militias and a Permanent Government in Iraq
The decision on how to assimilate the militias, and the speed at which this is addressed, is an issue for the new Iraqi government.
It is a concern that Iraqis have not been able to agree on the new leadership for their government. But they are in discussions, and senior Kurdish, Sunni and Shia leadership recognize it is inadvisable to continue without a government and that they must resolve this issue.