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Rumsfeld at TRANSCOM: Transformation Moves Forward

By Cynthia Bauer
National Guard Bureau

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., April 19, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a joint-service audience here April 18 that the transformation of the Department of Defense cannot be put on hold while the nation pursues the global war on terrorism.

Rumsfeld came to America's heartland and the heart of military defense transportation to talk to the troops in a town hall meeting and to view the command and control operations of U.S. Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command.

TRANSCOM is the single Defense Department manager for transportation, bringing transportation components of the armed services under one commander in chief. AMC is the organization's Air Force component. The commands have put together one of the largest airlift operations in history to Afghanistan, surpassed only by the Berlin Airlift and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Rumsfeld began the meeting with a salute to TRANSCOM on its 15th anniversary as a unified command. The secretary said mobility is fundamental to warfighting.

"Because of all of you here at Scott and your comrades deployed around the globe, America's fighting forces are having the mobility that they need to carry out the important missions that they face, he said. "There's no question it is fundamental to warfighting."

He noted the effects air mobility has had on operation in land-locked Afghanistan, where everything in the early stages had to be flown in.

"The amount of it, it's just overwhelming." Rumsfeld said. "The aeromedical evacuation units have transported an enormous number of patients. I had the chance to see some of them in Washington at the Walter Reed hospital -- Americans, other nationalities, Afghans whose lives have been saved."

Addressing the war on terrorism, Rumsfeld said, "I think it was Lenin who said that the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. It is to alter behavior by putting enough fear in people that they will not do what they normally do.

"Free people are the most vulnerable, (because) that is what we are about. We're about freedom and going (about our) daily life, just going out to schools and to churches and to work without fear.

"To the extent the terrorist is able to terrorize, there's no question but they win. They really cannot be appeased, they certainly can't be ignored, and they must not be allowed to win," he said.

Taking questions, he responded to one on the effect of Sept. 11 on his transformation plans for DoD: "Well, we had put at the top of our priority list homeland security months before Sept. 11 and had begun the process of shifting from a threat-based strategy to a capability-based strategy.

"In large measure, the discussions that we had prior to Sept. 11 are what led to the strategy, what led to the transformation goals." Criticism that transformation should be put aside while fighting a war are "flat wrong," he insisted.

"The time that you can make changes is when you need to make changes," Rumsfeld said. "And there is no question but that we as an institution simply must recognize that we've got to be much faster, swifter, more deft."

He said he goes to meetings and someone talks about projects that started years ago. "A freight train got filled and it's coming across the country," he said. It arrives, "but you can't change it because it was loaded two and a half years ago. It's going to keep going just inexorably. Nah, that's nuts! We have to be able to recognize that times have changed and circumstances have changed.

When he was secretary of defense in the 1970s, he said, new weapon systems could be deployed in eight to 12 years. Now, the timeline is 20 to 25 years, even though private industry can field new technology in 24 months, he noted.

"We're putting things out that, in fact, are out of date, pretty much, when they arrive," Rumsfeld said. "We have to fix that."

He repeated the need to streamline the defense bureaucracy. "The institution has become more rigid and less flexible than it was, in my view, and more bureaucratic than it was. I think that we've got to do something about it," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld opened the floor to reporters, the last of whom asked whether future terrorist attacks he and other government officials are warning the public about would be on the same scale as 9-11.

"One can't know," he said. "The concern I have and the thing that lends great urgency to everything we're doing, is that we experienced the death of several thousand people on Sept. 11. If one imagines that weapons of mass destruction come into the hands of terrorists, we have to know they're going to be willing to use them. Let there be no doubt about that."

A terrorist can attack any time, at any place, with any technique, he said, and it's physically impossible for any country to defend at every time in every place against every conceivable attack.

America has no choice but to go after terrorist networks using all the elements of what Rumsfeld termed "national power." That's more than military force, he said, and includes diplomatic, law enforcement, financial and economic pressures.

"It is that pressure and creating an environment that's not hospitable to terrorists, and creating a situation where it's uncomfortable to be a haven or a sanctuary for terrorists," he said, "If we do that and we do it well, we will have done everything we can."

(Cynthia Bauer is chief of internal information in the Air Mobility Command Public Affairs Office, Scott Air Force Base, Ill.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSecretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld responds to audience questions during a joint-service town hall meeting at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Rumsfeld talked to service members and local reporters during a visit April 18, 2002. Photo by Airman Justin Myers, USAF.   
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