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DoD News Briefing with Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace from the Pentagon

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace
April 18, 2006
DoD News Briefing with Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace from the Pentagon

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good afternoon, folks.   


            One of the interesting things about this city is that there are so many distractions that people sometimes lose track of how fortunate we are to be a part of what may very well be the most innovative and successful society in world history.  In a relatively short amount of time on this planet, our republic has found its way through a whale of a lot of tough challenges.   


            I was reminded this week by General Buzz Moseley, chief of staff of the Air Force, that it was 64 years ago today that Jimmy Doolittle led the against-all-odds raid on Tokyo during the early days of World War II.  After Pearl Harbor, of course, the United States faced difficulties and a long string of defeats, and we needed to show the  Japanese empire that they too were vulnerable.  Colonel Doolittle hoped to score a psychological victory for the American people, and he did.   


            The living survivors of that raid are gathering this week, and I extend my warm appreciation to them for their bravery and their service to our country. 


            This date has another significance.  It was a hundred years ago today  that the city of San Francisco was nearly destroyed by an earthquake, one of the worst natural disasters in our history.  Thanks to the American determination and ingenuity, San Francisco was rebuilt and today is prospering. 


            I mention these moments of triumph and tragedy because they remind us of the character of the American people and how Americans over time can and do overcome what might seem to be insurmountable difficulties. 


            Today it may seem that there's nothing in the world of ours but bad news.  Well, that's not the case.  There's some encouraging news as well.  The world today, according to Freedom House, is freer today than at any time in our history.  America's armed forces are without question the best trained and the most professional fighting force in the history of the world.  Today our country is working against the terrorists in more ways with more countries than perhaps at any time in our history.   


            And I should add we're pleased to be able to say that our volunteer troops are enlisting and reenlisting in our armed forces at encouraging rates. 


            Last week, I mentioned that active duty recruiting numbers had acceded their targets by -- for the last six months.  I could have also added that in the same period the Army National Guard has recruited some 32,000 soldiers, which is its best performance in 13 years. 


            We've read about some colleges and law schools that have tried to forbid military recruiters from coming on campus; decisions that under the Supreme Court's recent decision could lead to the denial of federal dollars under the law.  But it's also important to note that many colleges and universities welcome recruiters and are proud of our veterans.  I'm told that the University of Illinois, for example, announced last month that it would offer 110 full Masters of Business Administration scholarships to military veterans worth about $74,000 each.  What a wonderful demonstration of support for those folks who have stepped up and volunteered to help protect the American people and our free way of life. 


            Anyone who doubts our future need only think about those troops, their families and the millions of Americans who honor and support them.  They are outposts of hope and a tribute to the American spirit that has not faltered and will not falter. 


            General Pete Pace. 


            GEN. PACE:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary. 


            Next Monday, the 24th of April, the United States Navy ship, Mercy, a hospital ship, will be depart San Diego on a five-month humanitarian swing through the western Pacific and Southeast Asia. This is a direct result of lessons learned of last year during tsunami relief operations wherein the Navy medical team on board, the U.S. Department of Public Health folks on board teamed up, as they will this year, with non-government organizations from around the world, doctors who have volunteered to assist, and they'll spend five months in the region stopping first in the Philippines and then other countries that have asked for assistance to provide medical attention -- dental, medical help -- for those ashore.  So we're looking forward to just one more opportunity for the U.S. military, teaming with others, to be able to help folks in need. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Bob Burns. 


            Q     Mr. Secretary, among the criticisms that have been offered of you -- made of you by several retired generals in recent days is  that you've been dismissive and even contemptuous of the advice offered by senior military officers, and they've also said that on a strategic level, that you have been -- they've faulted you for some failures in connection with the Iraq war, including failing to gain sufficient international support for the initial invasion, for example, on the Northern Front and for post-combat operations, the stability operations. 


            Do you see validity in any of those criticisms?  And is it appropriate for these to be aired publicly by retired generals? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, you know, I've been hearing about all of this, and I kind of would prefer to let a little time walk over it.  There are important issues that are involved.  There's no question about that.  Change is difficult.  It also happens to be urgently necessary.  Transforming this department is important.  The -- I think that because of the importance of these matters that are being discussed, I'd like to reflect on them a bit, and I'm a little reluctant to start taking each piece of what people talk about and -- or the individuals involved, and I just am not inclined to be instantaneously judgmental about them. 


            Q     Mr. Secretary -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I did -- coming into work today, I did think about something that happened 30 years ago, I think close to this month.  I was secretary of Defense, and to my office at about 7:00 at night came a decision where I was told that the Army was recommending an M1 Battle Tank that had a 120 millimeter cannon, as I recall, instead of the 105 howitzer that the Army traditionally had.  And the Army was in favor of the 105 and in favor of a diesel engine.  And the other approach would have been for the -- to standardize with our NATO allies at 120 millimeters and also to move away from the diesel engine to a turbine engine. 


            I decided I wanted to take some time to think about it, and ultimately announced that I thought that the turbine engine and the 120 millimeter cannon was preferable to the 105 and the diesel engine. 


            Well, you would have thought the world had ended.  The sky fell. Can you imagine -- can you imagine making that decision and breaking tradition for decades in this country?  Can you imagine overturning what the service had proposed for a main battle tank? 


            Well, it went on and on in the press, and it was a firestorm, and there was congressional hearings and people saying how amazingly irresponsible it was, and it calmed down eventually. 


            The tank has done a great job and served our country very well these intervening decades.  And I mention it because the people involved were good people, and there were differences of views, and somebody needed to make a decision.  And the person who is appointed by the president -- who's elected by the people -- and then confirmed by the Senate as secretary of Defense has to make those kinds of decisions. And when you make a decision, you make a choice, somebody's not going to like it.  It's perfectly possible to come into this department and preside and not make choices, in which case people are not unhappy, until about five years later when they find you haven't done anything and the country isn't prepared. 


            Now, let me just take a minute and tell you what's gone on in this last five years.  We have agreed with the Russians on dramatic reductions in strategic offensive nuclear weapons, sizeable reductions.  We have a new Unified Command Plan with the Northern Command and the Strategic Command.  We have made changes in the Defense Logistics System.  We have provided reforms in NATO to create a NATO Response Force and to reduce substantially the number of headquarters that existed.  We have fashioned a senior-level review group, where for the first time we really bring the military and the civilians, the services as well as the combatant commanders, into the decision-making process on all major issues in this department -- a different way of functioning.  The Special Operations Forces have been dramatically increased and given new authorities.  The Marines are now involved.   


            Every one of those changes that I just described has met resistance.  It's taken years to get the Marines involved in the Special Forces.  And people like things the way they are, and so when you make a change like that, somebody's not going to like it.   


            We've had the largest base-closing effort I think in history. We've done two Quadrennial Defense Reviews.  We've adjusted our global posture around the world, bringing forces home from Europe and from Korea.  We have gone out to the combatant commanders who have the responsibility for war plans and had them revise and update their contingency plans, and shortened the process so that they wouldn't be on the shelf and be stale and be unusable and irrelevant.  We have passed a National Security Personnel System so that we could begin to get a grip on how we manage the Department of Defense and the civilian population, the workforce, which is so important.   


            And it's tied up in the courts, and it'll take time.  It's been three years, I think, that we've been struggling with it, so far.  And that's hard for people, that change.  The idea of paying for performance is stunning for some people.   


            We've cancelled weapons systems, just like we cancelled the -- disagreed with the tanks three years ago.  The artillery piece, the so-called Crusader, was cancelled, and it caused a major uproar.  You may remember that.  People didn't like it.  Other pieces of equipment have been terminated. 


            The Army's going through what is a major modernization.  It's moving from a division-oriented force to a modular brigade combat team force.  It is -- and it will -- when it's completed, it will be an enormous accomplishment, and our Army will be vastly better than it was five, six years ago.  And that's hard.  That's hard for the people in the Army to do.  It's hard for people who are oriented one way to suddenly have to be oriented a different way. 


            The -- (pauses) -- if you think about the movement, we've gone from the military -- from service-centric warfighting to deconfliction warfighting, to interoperability and now towards interdependence. That's a hard thing to do, for services to recognize that they don't have to have all of the capabilities, but they have to work sufficiently with the others, so that we get -- truly get a leveraged capability, and the taxpayers get better bang for their buck, and the United States military becomes vastly more capable. 


            The idea of bringing a retired person out of retirement to serve as chief of staff of the Army was stunning, and a lot of people didn't like it.  The fact that he was a Special Forces officer, a joint officer, added to the attitudes.   


            The idea of taking a Marine and making him Supreme Allied Commander and another Marine in the Strategic Command, let alone a Marine as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the first time in history -- imagine!  What a stunning thing to do! 


            I look back on those decisions, and I'm proud of them.  They caused a lot of ruffles; let there be no doubt.  I mean, how many years ago -- it wasn't too many years ago that the Marines weren't even members of the Joint Chiefs, let alone the chairman.   


            GEN. PACE:  Sure.  Mid-70s -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Mid-70s. 


            Q     Well, they got a good one there. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I -- so far.  (Laughter.) 


            Q     General Pace, General Pace --  


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just a minute! 


            I was asked a question and I'm going to take all the time I want! (Laughter.) 


            Now, all of this is to say that at the same time we had a war in Afghanistan, we've got a war in Iraq, and we've got the global war on terror going on.  Now, that's hard for people.  That's difficult. With all of those moving parts, with all of those challenges, to try to get from the 20th century, the Industrial Age, into the Information Age, the 21st century; from conventional warfare into irregular and asymmetrical warfare, is a difficult thing to do.  And by golly, one ought not to be surprised that there are people who are uncomfortable about it and complaining about it.   


            It's also true that I have a sense of urgency.  I get up every morning and worry about protecting the American people and seeing if we're doing everything humanly possible to see that we do the things that will make them safe.  And that means you have to look out six months and imagine that there was another 9/11 of equal proportion, or twice, or three times the proportion, and ask yourself:  What ought we to be doing today to avoid that from happening six months from now? And that's what we're doing, and we're working hard at it. 


            I -- (pause) -- I think that -- 


            Q     I'd like to follow up that.  (Laughter.) 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think that it's important to put all of what's going on in context and recognize that people who are often talking about what's taking place inside here don't know what's taking place inside here.  I don't -- I don't mean to say they -- they knew when they were there, certainly.  But I think it's important that we recognize that there's a lot of change going on, it's challenging for people, it's difficult for people.  And we have to, I think, be reasonably tolerant with respect to things that get said. 


            Q     Mr. Secretary, just one thing that you may want to comment on.  I know you don't like to quote The Washington Post, one of your favorite newspapers, but there was an issue this morning I think you may want to reflect on, if you haven't seen it, the lead editorial. That is that it might be a bad precedent to have a secretary of Defense, a civilian, given the fact that you have civilian leadership of the military, be forced out because of criticism by military officers, active duty or retired. 


            And another brief point.  Have you considered perhaps -- or have you talked to the president in this firestorm, where you are clearly the center of the controversy over Iraq -- have you considered resigning to ease his burden and maybe to assist GOP people running for election or reelection in November? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  With respect to the first, you asked if I'd like to comment on it, I don't think so.  I think I'd like to let the experts and historians talk about that question of civilian-military relationships -- leave it to them.  And the president knows, as I know, that there are no indispensable men.  "The graveyards of the world are filled with indispensable people," quote, unquote. 


            Now, he knows that I serve at his pleasure, and that's that. 


            GEN. PACE:  Let me say something, if I could, about the process because it's really important that our fellow citizens understand that the process of making decisions and all the things that the secretary just talked about, as far as issues, all were handled basically in the same fundamental way, which was a great deal of dialogue amongst the people wearing uniforms and those wearing civilian clothes. 


            A normal day for me, a minimum of 30 minutes a day -- today's much more of an example, three to four hours per day; sometimes as many as six, seven, or eight hours per day, the chairman and the vice chairman are with the secretary of Defense listening to all of the information that's being provided to him, giving our best military advice.  We are reaching out either formally through a war plan staffing process or informally just through a discussion process to the combatant commanders and asking their opinions about whatever the issue of the day is.  And if it's important, the combatant commanders have either gotten on video teleconference or they've come to this city and sat down with the secretary, and it comes to the tank and then with the chiefs. 


            And the chiefs, individually, are with the secretary at least once a week, if not more often, in the meetings that he holds.  And then, the additional meetings that have been formed during the course of the last several years, where all of us, of the senior civilian leaders in the department and all of the senior military leaders in the department get together, not for an hour, but for two or three days at a time.  It used to be the combatant commands would come to town twice a year for two days.  Now, they come to town three times a year for three days to sit down for quality time, three whole days with the senior leadership of the department just discussing various issues. 


            There are multiple opportunities for all of us with whatever opinions we have to put them on the table, and all the opinions are  put on the table.  But at the end of the day, after we've given our best military advice, somebody has to make a decision, and when the decision's made by the secretary of Defense, unless it's illegal or immoral, we go on about doing what we've been told to do. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Don't even suggest that -- (laughter) -- illegal or immoral.  '


            GEN. PACE:  No, but -- but those are the reasons why you would expect somebody to -- after having had the proper opportunity to speak their mind, I mean, it's important for the American people to understand how this dialogue takes place; that they understand that decisions are not in a vacuum; and that all of those of us who you trust with the lives of your sons and daughters -- you trust us -- that we are going to speak our minds as we should to the leadership, so that they can make decisions based on as much knowledge as possible; so we all have the same facts that lead us to different opinions, potentially, that lead us to a dialogue, that gets to the right solution. 


            (Cross talk.) 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Ken? 


            Q     General, you talk about -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Ken.  Just a minute.  We'll call on people. 


            Q     The outpouring of criticism of you suggests that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction within the officer corps with your leadership.  So how can you lead the department effectively if that's the case? 


            And what are you doing personally to address the concerns that they may have? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't know that that's the case.  There are always -- you know, we've got, what, 6,000, 7,000 retired admirals and generals?  Anyone who thinks that they're going to be unanimous on anything -- look at the votes in the House of Representatives.  It's 51-49, 55-45.  The same thing in the Senate. 


            Look at our country when we vote.  There are always differences of opinion.  That's a healthy thing in this country.  We ought to respect it and get about our business. 


            But if it paralyzes people because someone doesn't agree with them, my goodness gracious, we wouldn't be able to do anything. 


            (Cross talk.) 


            GEN. PACE:  It would be unfair to leave that statement the way it is.  It is not my experience that that's true. 


            General Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, just came back from -- I think it was a week in Iraq.  He got exactly zero questions about the leadership in the department. 


            Last week, while all this is going on back here, guess what they're focused on out there -- they're focused on their mission and getting the job done. 


            The sergeant major -- my sergeant major -- Sergeant Major Gainey just got back from the Gulf region himself, and he received no questions like that, even though he did a lot of probing. 


            The fact of the matter is that the folks who are out doing this nation's business are appreciative of the leadership that's being provided and understand the missions they have and the value of what they're doing. 


            Q     But, General -- 


            Q     Mr. Secretary -- 


            Q     Can I just follow up on this? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yeah, go ahead.  Go ahead. 


            Q     Okay, Mr. Secretary, during the Abu Ghraib prisons abuse scandal, you -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Let's switch over here.  (Laughter.) 


            Q     No --  


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No. 


            Q     -- you twice offered your resignation to President Bush, which he rejected, even though there was no evidence that the activities there worked its way up the chain of command, certainly to the Pentagon. 


            Yet here, there are questions about decisions in which you were directly involved regarding the war in Iraq, and you don't -- you said you don't even consider resignation. 


            Why in one case and not the other? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, just call it idiosyncratic.  (Laughter.) 


            Q     General? 


            Q     If I could ask the secretary a question?   


            Q     General -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Go ahead. 


            Q     How much of this do you think is simply about your management style?  In this Wall Street Journal opinion piece that was written yesterday by a number of retired generals, it was said that some feel that you have been unfair, arrogant and autocratic.  And this was from your supporters -- (laughter) -- who are supporting you in this opinion piece.  How much do you think this is about your management style and -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No idea. 


            Q     Well, to the charge -- a quick follow-up.  To the charge that you're arrogant and autocratic -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I said I have no idea. 


            Q     Are you arrogant and autocratic? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You know me.  (Laughter.) 


            Q     I don't -- (inaudible) -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yeah, go ahead. 


            Q     Could I change the subject for a minute? 


            I was in Afghanistan -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It depends on where you want to go. 


            Q     Afghanistan.  I was there last month, and it seems pretty clear that the poppy opium trade is taking over the economy, that it's already become a narco-economy -- 2.8 billion (dollars) in illicit drug trade compared to 4.6 billion (dollars) GDP legitimately, and that that's having all kinds of affects in terms of funding the insurgency, wrecking the chances for legacy stability, that it's driving farmers into the arms of the Taliban, and that it's poisoning Western Europe, Russia, the "Stans" with cheap heroin. 


            Two questions.  How concerned are you about that?  And are we doing enough? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We are concerned.  We have been form the beginning.  It is something that the United Kingdom as part of the Bonn process had agreed to take the lead on.  With the establishment of the Karzai government and a parliament of their own, they have the responsibility for taking the lead, and the U.K. and a coalition of other countries are in support of that.  There's a good deal that's already being done.  Obviously, you're correct; a great deal more needs to be done. 


            The pull of narcotics is powerful, and the money that comes from the narcotics trade is enormous, and it is a risk to Afghanistan.  It is a risk that, through corruption, it could adversely affect the democratic process in that country.  I think that everyone's sensitive to that.  The State Department is involved, the Department of Justice is involved, DEA is involved, we are involved -- the Department of Defense -- and other coalition countries are working together to try to assist the Karzai government in dealing with it. 


            You have a very poor country, and depending on the crop year it can have a very big crop and have a large amount of revenue.  And it is a seriously problem that they're attending to and we need to assist them in attending to. 




            Q     Mr. Secretary or General Pace, as the focus has been on all of this criticism of you, still Iraq, there is no permanent government, no decision there.  Some Sunni neighborhoods are now reporting increased violence, and some Sunni lawmakers are saying it's the result of a(n) unleashed militia backed by the government.  They call it even ethnic cleansing.  Can you give us the latest on what your sense of the militias are in Iraq, and perhaps the prognosis for the permanent government? 


            GEN. PACE:  Long term, the militants are going to need to come up underneath central government control, and I think that'll be an issue for the new government, when it forms, to determine with what speed they want to deal with that. 


            Second, with regard to Baghdad, for example, in coordination with the current government, eight additional battalions -- five of which  were Iraqi battalions; three were U.S. -- were added to the security in Baghdad to help maintain -- maintain calm there.  So the current leadership in the country, in cooperation with the coalition leadership, is doing -- making the right decisions now to handle the handle the current security environment. 


            And when the new government gets in place, there will be a fundamental decision that government will have to make about how to assimilate those of arms into their overall security structure. 


            Q     Mr. Secretary, are you encouraged by what's happening as far as the development of the new government? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, needless to say, as I've said before, it is a concern that they have not yet been able to come to agreement with respect to the new leadership of their government of that sovereign country under their new constitution.  On the other hand, they've had a lot of discussions, and everything I see publicly and privately at this stage indicates that the senior Kurdish and Sunni and Shi'a leadership all recognize the inadvisability of continuing without a government.  And the calls that they're putting out to come to resolution of this are serious and repeated, and I expect that we will see a government form there in that country in the days ahead, and that my hope an prayer is -- and I know it's the hope and prayer of the people in that country -- that with a government that is inclusive, to be sure, but is also agreed to govern from the center on -- to the benefit to all of the people that voted and the -- every element in the country will have a salutary affect with respect to the insurgency.  Time will tell -- 


            Q     One more question.  General Pace -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  -- and we'll have to see. 


            Q     Clarification on General -- you said bring the militias under control. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  This is the end. 


            Q     Is that a new position -- as opposed to disbanding the militias, to bring them under control of the government?  Is that a new -- 


            GEN. PACE:  Well, I hope what I said was that they will have to determine how to assimilate them, that they will either have to assimilate them back into civilian society without weapons or into the police forces or the army with weapons, but that'll be up to their government to determine. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you very much. 


            Q     Thank you. 


            Q     See you next week. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  All right.


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