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Rumsfeld Defends National Security Council's Role in Iraq

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2003 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld downplayed the hoopla surrounding a memo from National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice that explains the National Security Council will assume a broader role in coordinating operations in Iraq.

Rumsfeld said Oct. 7 that he hadn't seen the memo, leading to media speculation that the Defense Department was being sidelined. The secretary quashed those rumors during an Oct. 8 press conference with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Rumsfeld explained that he simply hadn't seen the memo because the issue was being handled at a lower level, and he implied he has more important issues to worry about.

"I think, with the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs and what's going on in California, one could find something more important than (worrying about that memo)," Rumsfeld, a Chicago native, said as he jokingly alluded to the Cubs' quest for their first World Series baseball championship since 1908 and the California gubernatorial recall election.

"I just am really quite surprised about all of this frufrah about this memo," he said.

Moving beyond the issue of the memo's delivery, Rumsfeld also commented on its message. He noted that the NSC's charter is to coordinate among federal agencies.

"The reality is that the National Security Council's responsibility is to do exactly what this one-page memo says they should do," he said.

As Iraq becomes more secure and the focus migrates toward political and economic improvements, it's reasonable for other departments, such as the State Department, to gain more responsibility, Rumsfeld said, explaining the need for more NSC coordination among departments.

"It is not a problem or an issue," he said.

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