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SecDef Media Availability with MoD Australia

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
May 01, 2001 1:00 PM EDT

Tuesday, May 1, 2001 - 1:00 p.m. EDT

(Media availability with Australian Defense Minister Peter Reith following their meeting at the Pentagon)

Rumsfeld: We just had a very good meeting and a good lunch and a nice visit about a range of issues and aspects of the very sound and healthy relationship between the United States and Australia.

I'll turn it over to you.

Reith: Thank you very much, Secretary.

We've had discussions on a broad range of matters, obviously talking about the Asia Pacific region. I've expressed the Australian government's -- the interest that we have, the shared interest in developments in the region and the importance of the emphasis that the new Bush administration is giving to matters affecting the Asia Pacific. We have, of course, reaffirmed the importance of the alliance arrangements, which are important to both of us. And I've also accepted a very kind offer from the secretary for a briefing for me and my party in the next 24 hours whilst I'm here in Washington on missile defense.

So it's been a good lunch, and we've appreciated the opportunity to talk.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, there's been a lot of grumbling around the building by some of the senior military leadership that their input hasn't been included in these various strategic reviews you have going on. Are you intentionally cutting out the uniformed military? What's your message to them?

Rumsfeld: The military at all levels have been involved in this process throughout the process. And when the studies are completed, it will be put into the -- they will be put into the QDR, at which point it will be again engaged through the military at all levels. And there's no question but that with a big department, that not everybody's involved in everything that goes on.

But the CINCs and chiefs have had repeated opportunities to participate, as has the joint staff.

Yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, on missile defense, does the administration contemplate major -- major -- cuts, unilateral cuts in warheads beyond even the 2,500 contemplated under START III?

Rumsfeld: The president has said, and will say again today, that he believes that -- correctly -- that the United States is going to be able to reduce the numbers of warheads, and he has not concluded specific numbers, nor have I. We are in the process of studying that and have been working with StratCom and other elements in the department. And we'll be making some recommendations to them in due course.

Q: Do you contemplate that the cuts perhaps would go beyond the 2,500 contemplated in --

Rumsfeld: I don't contemplate numbers until I screw my head into it and think what I think, and then make my recommendations to the president.

Q: On missile defense, Mr. Secretary, is the administration hopeful, Mr. Secretary, is the administration hopeful that it could have an initial missile defense system as early as 2004? Is that a prospect?

Rumsfeld: I am not going to be putting time tables on that. We will have extensive briefings and consultations with our allies around the world and with Australia over the coming weeks and months and explain what our thinking is and hear their views before coming to a final conclusion. We'll be doing extensive briefings on Capitol Hill with those many members there who are interested in missile defense. And what will evolve from that will be after those consultations are complete and the discussions with Congress are complete.

(Cross talk.)

Q: Given that the president this afternoon is going to make a major speech reaffirming the government's intentions of going forward, what is Australia's official position on missile defense now, and what is the role that -- (word inaudible) -- may play?

Reith: Well, I think you should wait till the president's made his remarks, and I'll be happy to answer that question later on this week.

But I do appreciate the fact that we've had a discussion about it today, and we're going to have a more intense briefing, at the secretary's invitation, in the next 24 hours.

Thank you very much.

Q: (Off mike) -- at this point into Australia's position on missile defense or on the ABM Treaty?

Reith: Well, in terms of missile defense, the foreign minister has made a number of comments about it. Our position is quite well known. And, obviously, we'll be very interested to read the comments this afternoon.

Thank you very much.

Q: Secretary, does Australia have a role in the American vision of a missile defense system? And would there be a problem if Australia was not willing to participate in development of that system?

Rumsfeld: As I think most people are aware, the United States has indicated a conviction that the proliferation that exists in the world is pervasive, that increasing numbers of countries are finding their way to having ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction, and that it is in our interest as a country to work with our friends and allies around the world to see that we develop defenses against these limited capabilities that are existing and will exist to a greater extent in the period ahead. That means we'll be working with our friends and allies. And certainly Australia is a country that is a friend and an ally and --

Q: Mr. Secretary, one more on missile defense. Can we just get a clarification? Some of the critics of what the president is about to say are calling what you are developing a "scarecrow" defense because some of your supporters are saying it's not necessary for it to be 100 percent effective; in other words, you put something out there, you deter an enemy from attacking, yet they say it is more like just putting a scarecrow out in the field in terms of the effect.

Rumsfeld: Well, anyone who thinks about history understands that deterrence and dissuasion is an important aspect of modern life. We know that it is -- the first choice is not to prevail in a conflict, the first choice is to be arranged in a way that you can dissuade somebody from engaging in hostile acts, and therefore you've deterred a conflict from occurring.

Anything that a Department of Defense does ought to look at that deterrent aspect. So I don't discount that. There are people whose behavior can be altered if they're persuaded that it's not in their interest to do something.

Now, second, anyone who's ever been involved with research and development activities knows that it is highly unlikely that in the first try someone will develop something that is perfect. It's not true in pharmaceutical research and development, with any kinds of therapy. It's certainly not true in defense. The Corona, for example, failed something like 11 times. Most systems are imperfect; that is to say, for every offense, there's a defense, and vice versa.

But what we're talking about here is a new set of capabilities to be sure to dissuade or deter, as you put it, as well as to defend against a growing threat in the world. And it -- they need not be 100 percent perfect, in my opinion, and they are certainly unlikely to be in their early stages of evolution.

And anyone who believes that you can have a full-blown, perfect system from the beginning, I think, is underestimating the difficulties of doing that in anything that's technologically complex.

Q: Will it have an effect on future adversaries even if it's not good, even if it doesn't --

Rumsfeld: There's no question.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you plan to try to --

Rumsfeld: Ask the minister a question!

Reith: They've moved on to you, I'm afraid, Mr. Secretary.

Q: Do you plan to quickly try to add sea- and space-based weaponry to the ground-based system envisioned by the Clinton administration?

Rumsfeld: There's no question but that if one is looking to develop a capability to defend against a threat, that having the freedom to look at a variety of ways of doing that defense is preferable. It's preferable technologically. It's preferable from a cost effectiveness standpoint.

I will leave this group to you.

Reith: Yes, thank you very much.

Q: Minister Reith?

Reith: Yes?

Q: A basic question, if you can step back on the microphones for a second.

Q: Just for a second.

Q: Minister Reith?

Reith: Yeah? No, I'm talking to you on Thursday, so --

Q: It's just on the -- (inaudible) --

(Cross talk.)

Reith: I need to say goodbye to the secretary first. Give me five minutes.

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