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Rumsfeld: 9/11 Created ‘Sense of Urgency’ for Transformation

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2006 – The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and concerns that another similar attack might follow, gave Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld “a tremendous sense of urgency” in pushing his transformation effort, he told Pentagon workers today.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld takes the podium Dec. 8 for his final town hall meeting with Pentagon employees before relinquishing his post to Robert M. Gates. Rumsfeld received thunderous applause and a standing ovation at the start of the event, which was broadcast to military bases worldwide on the Pentagon Channel. Photo by R.D. Ward

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Rumsfeld said today at his 42nd and last town hall meeting as defense secretary that the Sept. 11 attacks underscored the importance of the transformation program he announced Sept. 10, 2001.

“Anyone who lives through Sept. 11 and then sees in their mind's eye the prospects of a Sept. 11 times two or three or four, six months out, has to ask themselves, ‘What ought we be doing today to prevent that coming (attack) six months from now?” Rumsfeld said to the audience of hundreds of servicemembers, civilian employees and contractors at the Pentagon and a worldwide TV audience watching on the Pentagon Channel.

“What can we do to prevent it from happening?” he asked. “What can we do to mitigate its effects were it to happen?’

Five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Rumsfeld said the national security apparatus is still too slow and unresponsive to meet the country’s urgent security needs, but that progress is happening.

The secretary referred to a report that Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once gave President Bush on DoD’s transformation effort. On a scale of 1 to 10, Pace gave it an 8 in terms of attitude and culture and a 4 for progress.

As he prepares to leave office, Rumsfeld said he’d upgrade the number for progress to a 5.

“The important thing is that there has been … a change in people’s approach” and a recognition that the way people operated in the 20th century isn’t good enough in the 21st century, he said.

“We’re simply going to have to be wiser and more agile and more skillful, and we’re going to have to be able to do different things,” Rumsfeld said. “We’re being challenged asymmetrically by irregular warfare, by people who operate totally differently than the way people operated in World War II.”

That’s a challenge Rumsfeld acknowledged still isn’t well understood in the United States. But he said it’s increasingly recognized in DoD.

“I think the major sign of progress is the fact that the senior people in this department today are overwhelmingly people who understand that and who are attracting people in their activities who also understand it,” he said.

This creates an energy and impetus that propels the “transforming process,” a term Rumsfeld said describes the effort better than “transformation.”

“‘Transformation’ leads you to believe you started untransformed and suddenly you're transformed, which isn't the case, because the world's not static. It's dynamic; it's changing,” he said. “And we need to continue to transform as we go along.”

Rumsfeld shared Pace’s assertion that for the United States to meet the challenges posed by violent extremists, other governmental institutions involved in the effort must also undergo a transforming process. He noted that most of them, like DoD, were formed “in the aftermath of World War II for a very different world and a very different set of circumstances.”

“This first conflict of the 21st century is so different, just enormously different from the World War II conflict,” he said. “And yet the institutions -- the committees of Congress, the subcommittee system in Congress, the turf fights over jurisdiction that exist and the micromanagement of the bureaucracy -- in so many instances leads to a situation where the bureaucracy can't respond.”

Rumsfeld said that overcoming these barriers and promoting change has been a big driver throughout his term as defense secretary. “I have felt just an enormous sense of urgency these years,” he told the audience. He paused for effect, then added with a smile, “Some of you may have noticed.”

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

Related Sites:
DoD Transformation
Video of Town Hall Meeting

Related Articles:
Rumsfeld Reflects on Accomplishments, Highlights at Pentagon Helm

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld responds to a question from the audience during a Pentagon town hall meeting Dec. 8. The event provided Rumsfeld with a forum to address Defense Department employees for perhaps the last time before stepping down from his post. Photo by R.D. Ward  
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