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Rumsfeld Tells Troops to 'Expect the Unexpected'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2002 – "Expect the unexpected" was the message Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld delivered to airmen Feb. 20 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., near Las Vegas.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld acknowledges the applause of the audience at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., as he begins a town hall meeting on Feb. 20, 2002. Rumsfeld visited Nellis to meet the troops and local commanders. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert W. Valenca, U.S. Air Force.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Rumsfeld held a "town hall meeting" with base personnel in a Nellis hangar. He said current events should teach Americans of the peril of the unexpected.

He told the airmen that when Defense Secretary Robert McNamara went for his confirmation hearing in 1961, no one mentioned Vietnam. That war consumed McNamara's term as secretary.

Similarly, when Vice President Dick Cheney went for his confirmation hearings as defense secretary in 1989, no one mentioned Iraq. A year later that was all anyone spoke about.

During Rumsfeld's confirmation hearing in January 2001, "not one senator mentioned the word 'Afghanistan,'" he said. "Not one senator, nor I, mentioned Al Qaeda. And here we are.

"We have to recognize that it is not possible to know every conceivable threat that can be posed against our country, friends, allies or deployed forces," he said. "We have to recognize the kinds of capabilities that exist and deal with those capabilities wherever they happen to come from."

He told the airmen that's why military transformation is so important. Rumsfeld said more than just equipment must change. He said transformation also includes "the mindset, the way we train, the way we exercise and the way we fight. I am personally convinced that the Department of Defense and the defense establishment is up to the task."

Rumsfeld said that the Defense Department in March would release a new Unified Command Plan. That plan, he said, would stress the importance of homeland security with a new U.S. Northern Command. He said the plan would also make "a variety of other adjustments across the globe which will improve our capabilities."

He told the airmen that DoD is a big bureaucracy, but it has moved surprisingly fast in remaking itself. He told them about the changes brought about by the Quadrennial Defense Review, the changes to defense strategy, changes in missile defense and changes in the way the department assesses risks.

"All this while we are fighting a war against terrorism," he said. "For an organization that is supposed to be so resistant to change, what's been accomplished in the last year has been impressive."

He assured the airmen that he would continue to work to provide the "pay, housing and benefit improvements that you all need and deserve to do your work."

Rumsfeld told them that their generation has an opportunity to help shape the world for the better well beyond the war on terrorism. "Will it be a world where freedom is allowed to flourish? Or will it be a world where terror spreads like a creeping evil from country to country until the world is infected with fear and hate?" he asked.

"You are the people who stand on the very front line between freedom and fear," he continued. "You stand against an evil that cannot be appeased, cannot be ignored and it must certainly not be allowed to win. And you are doing a magnificent job."

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Related Sites:
DoD News Transcript: Secretary Rumsfeld Town Hall Meeting at Nellis Air Force Base, Feb. 21, 2002

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