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Town Hall Meeting with Rumsfeld

Presenter: Secretary to Defense Donald Rumsfeld
August 09, 2001 11:00 AM EDT

Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 11:00 a.m. EDT

(TOWN HALL MEETING - LOCATION: PENTAGON AUDITORIUM, RM 5A1070)

ADM. CRAIG QUIGLEY (Department spokesman): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Rear Admiral Craig Quigley. Welcome to the town hall meeting this morning with Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld.

As I've mentioned to the audience here in the auditorium in the Pentagon, we're going to do a system whereby those of you who are watching this live via satellite around the world, as well as listening or watching on the Internet, plus those that are actually here with us in the Pentagon, get an opportunity to ask a question as best we can during this 45 minutes with the secretary.

If you have access to e-mail, you can e-mail your questions to townhall@osd.mil. That's t-o-w-n-h-a-l-l -- one word -- at o-s-d.mil. And if you prefer to fax your questions, the number for the fax machine here is 703-695-5486, or 693-8920. And we will alternate from taking e-mail questions and fax questions as well as from those folks here in the audience.

Any questions that the Secretary is unable to get to during the time allotted this morning, we will take those questions, work with him to develop answers, and those will be posted on DefenseLink later today or in the next couple of days for sure.

And now it's my pleasure to introduce the secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Be seated. Thank you. Good morning.

I seem to be asked questions every day from the press, the Congress, the men and women that I work for, civilian and military, here in the Department, but I thought it might be useful to speak to a broader group and be able to respond to questions from a broader group. And I thank you very much for being here. Also I thank those who are participating by television or phone or e-mail, as the case may be.

When I'm around the country and people learn I work at the Pentagon, the question most frequently asked me is, "Do you know Admiral Quigley?" (Laughter.) And I'm proud to say I do.

And he indicated that they would put on the DefenseLINK the information with respect to questions that aren't answered here, that we don't have time for.

I would also suggest that we put on the DefenseLINK the ones that I don't know the answers to -- (light laughter) -- which is just as likely.

I'm also asked -- when I wander around the building or the country, people say, "Well, what have you found as the new secretary of Defense?" And what I have found are several things, really.

One is a force-strategy mismatch that's been the case for several years. And I know you've read about this, but it's just a fact. We have not had the forces for the strategy, and the strategy didn't fit our forces. And it's important to elevate that and acknowledge it.

Second, as a result of that, we have had a situation where our forces and our equipment have been, in a sense, overused for some period of time -- the so-called OPTEMPO problem with respect to the people, and the fact that the equipment is aging. The average age of aircraft, for example, has gone up about 10 years in recent years. The ships are getting older, and the maintenance cost rises. As we all know, if we have an old car or an old bike, that -- the maintenance costs go up.

The infrastructure has not been recapitalized at the rate it would be, for example, in the private sector, whether it's housing or hangars or buildings.

The result is that we're faced with a number of tasks. One task is to get the strategy force in balance. A second is to repair the needs that we see so obviously and to modernize the force. Another is to recognize that there are new threats out there that we need to transform the force to meet -- for example, the problems of cyberattacks, which many of you are aware of as a result of your work here; the problems of terrorism, homeland defense, which there's been a good deal of discussion about, as well as cruise and ballistic missile threats, and weapons of mass destruction.

We all know, of course, that resources are finite. They always are. So we face a complex set of issues, and we've been wrestling with them.

The one thing that is very much the same, I would say, is the fact that the men and women of the armed forces all across the world are voluntarily putting their lives at risk every day so that the rest of us can go about our business in peace. And we have to be deeply appreciative of that.

One other thing I've found is that there's not -- does not seem to be a full understanding of the effects of the procurement holiday that took place, or the effects of the increase in use of the force at a time when we were reducing the force. And it's the kind of thing that we all understand. It doesn't happen in a minute. You don't see it. But it happened so slowly over time that when you finally realize it and sense it, the magnitude of it is significant. And we need to understand that.

The President, as a result, and the Congress both have asked for a review of our defense policies, and of course that's what we've been engaged in. It's not an easy thing to do. It's complex, it's a challenge, and we're trying to find ways to balance the risks that exist.

One obvious risk we're all aware of is the risks that in effect are operational risks or war plan risks. Those we understand, and the Department does a very good job of analyzing those risks and balancing them.

But there are other risks that are quite different in nature: the risk of not stepping up and dealing with the need to modernize the force and to get maintenance costs down, and to get newer pieces of equipment, and to slow down the OPTEMPO. The risks to people. If we don't treat people right and see that we have the right set of incentives for them so that they feel that they -- we're able to attract and retain the people we need here so that we can operate this important force and run the Defense Department in a way that is respectful of the taxpayers' dollars and that is able to provide the kind of deterrence and defense for our country, why we make a big mistake. We must do that right. So that's a risk.

And there's also the risk, as I mentioned, of transformation; that if we fail to meet those new threats in three or four or five years, and don't make the investments now that we need to make, why we put our country at risk.

Now, if there are those kinds of risks, it's obvious that you can balance the risks in any category relatively easily. You can balance operational risks, and you can balance the force risks, and you can balance the transformation risks. It's when you try to balance the risks between those four categories that it becomes a real challenge. It's trying to compare apples and oranges, and they're just different in nature. And that's why when you read and hear about this Defense Strategy Review and the Quadrennial Defense Review you read it's difficult. It is difficult, it is a challenge. I only can say that we've been hard at it. It's coming to a close. We'll probably be issuing defense planning guidance sometime next week, after I get back from Moscow. I think I go tomorrow for some meetings there with the Russians.

Now I'll stop. Be happy to respond to questions. Except to say thank you for all you do for this Department and for your country. We appreciate it.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Sir, let me start with one that came in via e- mail. The subject of this one is retirement system changes, and it comes from a Navy chief petty officer in Florida:

"I've heard there may be an emphasis on careers longer than 20 years. How will that work? Will a person have to serve more than 20 years before they can retire?"

SEC. RUMSFELD: No. The short answer to it is that this is an issue that we're addressing and have not resolved. It's not the kind of a thing that you can resolve or answer quickly. It will take a good deal of thought and analysis and discussion within the Department of Defense.

I have raised the issue because I think it's worth discussing. And there are two pieces to it, really. The first piece is, my impression is that a great many men and women in the service throughout their career have very rapid changes of assignment. I've been asking that I see the number of months people have served in their positions, excluding schools and excluding special assignments, and the numbers are down around 12 months, 14 months, 16 months, 18 months. That's not very long. One of the effects of that is they get into the job, just start learning it, and then it's just about time to say goodbye and they're out of it onto something else. Now, the disadvantage of that is obvious; people don't have enough time there to really set goals, put them in place and work them forward. The advantage of it is that individuals get a chance to do a variety of different things and punch a number of different tickets.

But we're looking at the question of whether or not people could serve in a tour longer. That goes hand in hand with the question that was asked, which was lengthening the total number of years that people serve in the military. It seems to me that people are living longer, that people are working longer. And I have met any number of people, much to my surprise, when asking them what are they thinking of doing next, and they're 46 or 47 years old, and they've got a good number of years in them, they say, well, we're leaving. It's kind of up or out. It goes like that, and we'll be gone. And I think to myself, goodness, I don't think everyone has to do everything. And it seems to me in most entities across the globe that are successful financially, like private sector companies, they very much value people who are over 46. I'm over 46! (Laughter.) Not a lot, but -- (laughter). And it seems to me that we ought to at least think about that.

So Dr. David Chu, the undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, is addressing that. We have not come to any conclusion. But it may be that over some time we'll be talking with folks about whether or not we ought to lengthen the number of years. And it wouldn't have anything to do with how long someone had to serve or didn't have to serve. I think with a volunteer force for the most part, we want people here who want to be here, who are anxious to serve, regardless of whether they've been here 10 or 20 or 30 years.

Yes, sir?

Q: Good morning, sir. My question is somewhat related, and it has to do with the PERSTEMPO. We're struggling with that a great deal to try to figure out how we control that through all the services; the definition of PERSTEMPO; the struggle with competing demands on careers that kind of relates to your previous answer. Could you share some thoughts, sir, on PERSTEMPO in general, where you see that going, and how you think personally your views might be that we could get to a more palatable pers tempo?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, it's something that the Quadrennial Defense Review group, the senior group, the undersecretaries and the service secretaries and the chiefs of the services and the CINCs and the chairman and the vice chairman and I have been discussing at some length. We have a review underway of all the things we're doing around the world by country, and then by activity, so that we can begin to possibly develop a template and say: Are we really doing the things we want to be doing? Are they things we need to be doing? And what are the ways that we can moderate down the demand.

I'm told, and I'm not quite persuaded yet, but I'm told that the requirement is something like three-to-one or four-to-one, or five-to-one in some cases. For every person posted overseas, there's someone getting ready to go, there's somebody who's just come back, and then there's somebody who's at school or on vacation or something else. So if you place a force of 1,000 people overseas, it isn't 1,000, it's 4(000) or 5,000, in effect, that you're utilizing.

Now, there are obviously things we need to do, and the picture is unclear. David Jeremiah, Admiral Jeremiah did a good study on various aspects of quality of life and morale. That's available if anyone wants to see it. And it is something that we're looking at in a variety of different ways, and there's no question we have to manage it.

There are some interesting things. In some cases, recruitment and retention is actually higher among groups that deploy than don't, in some instances. So it's not a perfectly clear picture. On the other hand, it can be very disrupting for families. And the other thing it causes, a lot of people do these long overseas deployments that are just 179 days and they're just short of a trigger that would change their circumstance.

So we're working on it. And I am doing things to try to find ways to moderate it. You may have been reading about the fact that I've raised the question on the Sinai, where we've been for 20 years. Seems like a long time to me.

Yes?

Q: Good morning, sir. This question is regarding the thrift savings plan intended for the service members. And rumor has it that the reservists will also be included in that program. And roughly less than 10 percent of the total participants are those reservists, yet close to 50 percent of the program costs are borne by -- or the reservists that are participating account for about 40 to 50 percent of that program cost. Where's the incentive for the active duty members? And will that program be phased in strictly for the active duty members and look for the reservists to participate at a later date?

SEC. RUMSFELD: What I'll do is ask Dr. Chu to look into that and supply an answer to Admiral Quigley and get back to you. I'm just not capable of answering in that level of detail at the moment. Thank you for asking.

Q: Good morning, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Greetings.

Q: I am interested in your thoughts or views on the role of information technology through transformation and into the military Department of Defense we must become to meet the threats of the future.

SEC. RUMSFELD: It's hard to say, if you're listing priorities, where you want to put things but I can't imagine anyone picking two or three top priorities and not having that included. It is just enormously important. It's important for a whole host of reasons. In this process we're currently in and preparing for the budget process, it is part of the guidance that we're currently drafting. We simply as an organization must recognize that we have to be interoperable.

We have to recognize that we are very dependent on information and situational awareness, from a host of sources, and we need to be reasonably agnostic as to what platform happens to produce a particular piece of information and be much more interested in how that information is presented and provided in a timely fashion, to benefit the war fighter and to improve our intelligence capability.

The Department is a very, very long way from being anywhere near the 21st century with respect to information technology. There will be a non-trivial cost attached to this, and we're going to step up and spend it.

Yes, sir?

Q: Sir, you mentioned being mindful of the taxpayers' dollars. Clearly, some of the efficiencies that -- cost efficiencies that could be realized are available through the Reserve components and National Guard. Right now almost half the entire American presence in Bosnia is National Guard.

My question, sir, is, as you look to the future, what proportion of overseas missions do you see going to the National Guard, or do you perceive that some part of the National Guard might be focused strictly on domestic, homeland security-type missions?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think it's a good question, and it's one that's been surfaced in our review. There is no question but that we do have a total force concept. There's also no question but that the OPTEMPO problem has been moderated substantially by the extent we've been able to use the Guard and the Reserve. And it's been an enormous benefit.

The discussions taking place currently are that there could very well be a significant role for the Guard with respect to homeland defense. And given the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the risks that we face with respect to chemical and biological, as well as nuclear, weapons -- it used to be threats at some distance. Now we recognize our potential threats here in the United States, as well as to our deployed forces. There's a certain compelling logic to a role for the National Guard with respect to that subject.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Next one, sir, came in via fax machine, and the subject is BRAC. It's from a DOD civilian employee.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Ah, what a subject! (Laughter.)

ADM. QUIGLEY: What do you think the BRAC process will yield? And is it needed?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there's no way to know what it'll yield. It depends on how much cooperation we can get from the Congress. But if there's one thing that everyone in this building and the defense establishment is unified completely on, military and civilian, young and old, every Service, is that we simply must have a base structure that reasonably approximates our force structure. And it doesn't.

Now I'm no expert. I haven't gone around and counted noses. But everyone you talk to who studied this subject says it's somewhere between 20, 22, 23 percent excess force -- base structure.

Now what do you do about that? Well, anyone with any sense says that's not cost-effective. That means that that money that we're using for those facilities is money that we're not spending on the weapons we need and not spending on the force, the people we need; we're not spending on the transformation we need; and that is unwise, imprudent, and unacceptable.

(Chuckling.) Therefore, despite the unpleasantness of the whole subject -- and it is -- someone told me there was an article today in one of the papers saying, "On a hand wringer over base closings." Look, anyone with any sense does not want to do that. I would not be doing it if we didn't absolutely have to do it, and we must.

What kind of savings? No way to know. It'll take probably two or three years to get any. People estimate somewhere between $3 (billion) and $6 billion if we did the job, did it well, did it soon, that we would be saving. We need to do that.

Yes, sir?

Q: Good morning, sir. I'd like to thank you for spending some time with us this morning.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.

Q: I have a two-part question, actually. First of all, does the current patients' bill of rights legislation that's before Congress, is that going to allow us to take action against TriCare? And secondly, if it's not, is there some kind of thing in the works that will allow a third party that has the authority to moderate Tri-Care's action, allow us an avenue to respond to them or to take complaints against them?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I have no idea about the piece of legislation that is -- I guess it's not even completed. It's partly through one house, I think. So that it's yet to know what its provisions will be. But I have no idea about what the answer will be. We'd be happy to have David Chu, Dr. Chu, look into it and provide an answer for Admiral Quigley to make available on the net.

Yes?

Q: Sir, it seems that the only thing constant these days is change, and yet there's a lot of press concerning your apparent frustration in being able to effect change in this large industrial military complex.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Do I look frustrated? (Laughter.)

Q: Sir, with your release you're expecting next week of your review, are we expecting any sort of sea change or is it more business as usual?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I don't think it will be business as usual. On the other hand, you know, if you talk about change, it makes people nervous. They think, "Gosh, I know what the drill is right now, and if we're going to change it, it could be worse." You know, if you change it, it could also be better!

And when I arrived and took a look around and saw the fact that we're recapitalizing our infrastructure at around 192 years, when in fact 67 years is about what the private sector does, and that the aircraft have aged 10 years, and that the shipbuilding budget is heading down to about 230 ships on a steady state, and that our information operations capabilities are somewhat primitive, and a host of other things, I say to myself, What's wrong with change? We ought to be able to do better than this, and I think we can and will.

But in fact, how does it happen, how does change happen? Well, the way it happens is slowly. We've got an enormous institution, we have a wonderful force. We have the finest military on the face of the earth. We have a legacy force that -- where the pieces of equipment don't last a year or two and three, like a razor blade and you toss them away, these ships and tanks and planes last any number of decades. I think the B-52s are older than I am. No, couldn't be! (Chuckles.)

So what we have to do is recognize that there will be change; it will -- it has to go through the Congress, and the Congress is resistant to change sometimes. On the other hand, sometimes they're on the leading edge of change. And I suspect that what we'll find is -- for example, take some of these personnel questions.

The force has changed. We have a married force in large measure today, as opposed to a single force. We have a force that's living in a very different circumstance, as our country is, than it was previously. Changes in personnel systems have to be slow because they all ripple all the way up and down through that system. So you need to do a good deal of analytical work. You then need to implement those changes in a responsible way so they don't adversely affect people who have signed on under one system and then find a different system. And we're not going to swing the wheel this way and swing the wheel that way. What we're going to do is say, "are there enough changes in circumstance that maybe we ought to make some of those changes?"

Take the force sizing construct. Everyone said, "Oh, you can't change that, you shouldn't think about that." And yet the fact -- it's a mismatch. We all know that. Everyone knows that. And I said, "Well, let's talk about it." So I went to the Congress, raised the question, said, "I'm thinking about changing it. We're trying to find something better." If you're going to tear down what is, you darn well better have something better. And you better have thought it through very carefully.

So we've spent months now discussing this, and the idea has gotten around that maybe there is a better way to size our force. And people are getting comfortable with it, and the Congress is getting comfortable with it. And I suspect that we'll find that we will have made that shift. And it's not a small shift, it's a fairly significant thing. And it will be better for this institution. (Noise at the podium.) That's Admiral Quigley. (Laughter.)

ADM. QUIGLEY: I promise to leave the podium alone.

SEC. RUMSFELD: He's trying to tell me I was answering the questions too long and he wants me to shorten it up so I can answer more. And I'll do that.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Right there, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes, sir?

Q: Good morning, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Greetings.

Q: Sir, since the end of the Cold War, our military has become involved in a greater number of locations around the world. How does the Department of Defense plan to handle the increasing demands on our current airlift fleet? And more specifically, sir, how do you see us allocating limited funds to C-17 procurement versus C-5 modernization?

SEC. RUMSFELD: One of the force strategy mismatches is in lift. And you talk to anybody who's been involved here in the last period of years, and they have all known it and they all said, "Yes, that's right. We haven't had the lift we need." And so what the defense review is looking at is how we address that. And I don't have any doubt in my mind but that that issue will be reflected in the defense guidance and in the 2003 budget bills, because it is a problem. You've put your finger right on it.

Yes?

Q: Hello, sir. My name is Sergeant Triggs, and I'm with Army New Service.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Uh-oh, a reporter. (Laughter.)

Q: I've read in newspapers, sir, that Army leadership says that the Army needs more troops. And I also read that you wanted to cut two divisions. Could you tell me how the two will compromise?

SEC. RUMSFELD: You don't believe everything you read in the press, do you? (Laughter.) Goodness gracious, a smart person like you.

I have read everything in the press. I've read two divisions, one division, no divisions, add two divisions. And I'm going to be meeting with the folks from the Army today or tomorrow, and we're going to be talking about that. It is not a subject that has been resolved or decided. They have -- there have been proposals that have leaked to the press where people have suggested that -- a difference in number of forces, not just Army, but others, and difference in structure and arrangement of forces, as well as in balancing locations of forces. All of those three things have been up and discussed, as Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz said in his press briefing yesterday, but those issues have not been resolved.

What will happen mechanically is we'll have the meeting today or tomorrow, the defense guidance will come out, and it will be up to the Army to take a look at how they're going to balance those four risks: How are they going to balance the risks as to seeing we do the right things by the forces; how do we balance the operations risk; how do we modernize -- and they're in the middle of a modernization program; and then how do they complete their transformation, and over what period of time. At the current moment, their transformation is on a very slow schedule, and they're going to have to make recommendations back to us sometime in September or October, I would presume, as to how they want to balance those risks. It's not something that the Secretary just sits up there and divines.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Mr. Secretary, we'll take a couple that have come in from e-mail as well. This one is on the future of DOD. It's from a non-commissioned officer from Army Forces Command:

"What do you envision the Department of Defense will look like when my 11-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter are old enough to follow in my footsteps?"

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I'm delighted they're going to do that. (Laughter.) And the one thing we know, it will be different. We'll be living in a world that will continue to see the rapid changes, the shifting -- the demographics that -- if one looks at demographics across the globe, we'll see significant shifts in terms of the aging of population in certain continents and the circumstances with respect to the sizes of populations in different continents. We'll also see a world that will still be somewhat dangerous, still be somewhat untidy. We see parts of the globe that are really almost not governable today, if one looks at big chunks of Colombia, for example, where they're having so much difficulty; parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where they're having some difficulties in terms of just governing the problems; Indonesia is having some difficulties, although they've just been making some strides.

I think the Department will still be a volunteer force, and I think it will be filled with men and women who care about the country and recognize the special responsibility that they have.

Yes, there was another --

ADM. QUIGLEY: One more here, and then we'll take some more from the audience, sir.

This is -- the subject is reorganization. And it's from a civilian here at the Pentagon:

"Do you foresee a need for a separate space force?"

SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't, at the moment. It is -- it is -- I say I don't at the moment.

I guess that's right.

I chaired a space commission -- a commission that looked at the organization of space, and our group -- and it was filled with a bunch of people who were an awful lot smarter than I am -- Howell Estes and Chuck Horner and just a great group of folks -- Admiral Jeremiah was on it. And we spent a lot of time looking at that, and the question was, should we leave it basically like it is, or should we have the Air Force serve as an executive agent, basically, for space, so that it has a bit more cohesion and a bit more identification? Or should you move to a space corps?

And of course, this -- these space -- here we are, trying to achieve jointness in everything we're doing, trying to see that the services -- the forces from the various services train like they fight and fight like they train, and are capable of getting going fast. The idea of making a separate -- a force entity seemed to be counter to that, notwithstanding the fact that space is increasingly important, and we do need to be aware of that.

So we took a midcourse on it and have now reorganized -- are in the process of reorganizing the Department to reflect that. And I think we're set for the moment in the right place.

Yes?

Q: Good morning, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Good morning.

Q: In testimony you have indicated that an additional $18 billion is required for defense. What do you believe is the likelihood of us receiving authorization for higher levels of spending?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Higher than the 18 (billion) in the year 2002?

Q: Eighteen billion -- yes, sir. Eighteen billion is what was -- what you said was required above the current budget level.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yeah. You know, I have been away from Washington for a quarter of a century, and I watch the Congress on an issue like this, and on the one hand you hear a great many people saying that the Pentagon needs the 18-plus billion, and we need more. And then you see a good number of people saying that that's too much, that here's the Department of Defense, we're at peace, it's a prosperous world, and we got $328 billion, and it's more than most of our allies combined, and why do they need more money if the world's peaceful? So you hear that debate up on the Hill. How it will sort out I don't know.

I know this: I know the President is determined to do everything in his power to help -- and so is Vice President Cheney -- to see that we get every single cent of it, because there isn't a doubt but that we need every nickel.

Q: Thank you, sir.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes?

Q: (Off mike) -- Colonel Gildner, Joint Staff. I'm interested in recognizing the significant efforts towards transformation that the CINCs, services, and staffs have been making in the past few years. How does the Department plan to integrate and use the past work that's been done to further the department's transformation?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you're quite right; this Department has been -- and the Services and the Joint Staff and the CINCs have all been involved in elements of transformation and -- for some years. And some -- I mentioned the work that's been done in the Army, and other Services have done things as well.

Transformation is an interesting word. Sometimes we sit here and talk and we use a word and we all think we know what the other person means when they use the word, but in fact, we all have a slightly different meaning of the word. Some people think transformation means a different piece of equipment or a platform, a different weapon system. The two truly transforming things, conceivably, might be in information technology and information operation and networking and connecting things in ways that they function totally differently than they had previously. And if that's possible, what I just said, that possibly the single-most transforming thing in our force will not be a weapon system, but a set of interconnections and a substantially enhanced capability because of that awareness.

We are not as far down that road from what's been done, to my knowledge, as I would like to see us. That does not say that we ought not to take every advantage, as we are and will, of the transformation work that's been done in the individual Services.

Yes, sir?

ADM. QUIGLEY: The next one, sir, is another e-mail. This is on base housing, and it's from Fort Stewart, Georgia: What is the time frame for improving base housing here and around the world?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I went down there and looked at some of that housing and it is just -- some of it is just terrible. It is -- as well as some of the facilities. I mean, there's asbestos, there's leaded paint curling off. It is disgraceful.

I don't know how it got that way. I mentioned earlier that I think this Defense Department doesn't do a great job of balancing different kinds of risks. But the risks of not properly taking care of our infrastructure is one that is very serious, and for some reason, it's been tail-end Charlie. And I mean, I said it was -- we're recapitalizing our infrastructure at something like 190-plus years, when private sector does it at 67 years. That's wrong. We can't keep doing that. We've got to find a way to shove up into the equation, as we consider everything -- force structure, people's circumstance, infrastructure, transformation -- and see that we get the proper balance because we don't have the proper balance today. We wouldn't have let our airplanes go up in age by 10 years and end up spending all the money we're spending on maintenance force, if we had our heads properly wrapped around these issues.

How long will it take? I don't know. The President felt that way when he was still campaigning last year, and one of the first things he did when he was elected was ask for an increase of several hundred million dollars in the housing thing -- housing account. We've -- I think the only way to do it, frankly, is to really encourage the private sector to get involved in this full way and use their leverage and their money and do lease-pay -- sell-lease-back arrangements so that -- I mean, even the Post Office does sell-lease-backs. We ought to be able to figure out a way to leverage it and get a substantially larger number of units. And some of the Services have been doing it, and the Congress has been pushing some of it, and we've simply got to move that along, I think. It's a serious problem.

ADM. QUIGLEY: This one from an Air Force non-commissioned officer in Korea. The subject is Asia Pacific region: How will our military mission in Asia, specifically in South Korea, change as we establish warmer relations with North Korea and China?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, of course that's been the goal, is to have an environment in Northeast Asia that is more benign and more peaceful than has been the case in past decades. How will our circumstance change, I think, is yet to be written. It is possible that over some period of years we could find changes that take place in each of those countries that would moderate the risk to the region and that we could then have a different circumstance in the region. On the other hand, there is an advantage that accrues to our country and to the world by forward-basing some of capabilities. The presence has an effect. It has a stabilizing effect.

If you think about it, the thing that we all are interested in, all the people of the world, is to have a better life and to have the chance to work and to make some money and to take care of your family. And that is underpinned by peace and stability. Without peace and stability, people don't have that opportunity. Anyone who's been in a war zone knows that you don't get up in the morning and walk out the door and pick up the paper; you get up in the morning, open the door and look down the street to see if someone's going to heave something at you. And we have to have peace and we have to have a stable world if the bulk of the people in the world are going to have the opportunities to go about their lives and take care of their families.

Now, that can happen, we can find a more peaceful world in Northeast Asia, and it still may be desirable to have troops forward deployed in Asia because of the fact that they do contribute to a more peaceful and stable world. Things will change, however, dramatically. China is clearly on a track that is uncertain. They are -- people ask me are they a strategic competitor or a strategic partner, or a friend or an enemy. And you know, the fact is, we have a multi-dimensional relationship with them. It's political, it's economic and it's security.

And we need to hope and try to create an environment that encourages them to evolve in a way towards freer political and economic systems. The problem with that is, as they evolve towards freer economic systems, it puts pressure on their political system, which is certainly not free. And are they going to be able to go down that road and get all the benefits of an open -- relatively open economy, with computers, with the inevitability that people want more freedom and more free speech and more awareness of what's going on in the world, and more interaction with other countries -- which, of course, is not the first thing you'd want if you wanted to perpetuate your -- a dictatorial regime in power? There's a tension there, and I don't know how that will play out.

So it's not clear how Asia will play out, but we're playing an important role there and I suspect we will be for some time to come. We're a global nation. We're both an Atlantic and a Pacific country.

Yes?

Q: Good morning, sir. I have a -- hopefully a short and simple question. Do we know when we're going to hear about the new chairman selection for the Joint Chiefs?

SEC. RUMSFELD: You don't. (Laughter.) But I do. (Laughter.) And it's going to be a good one.

Q: But do we know when, to hear?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I do.

Q: Oh; you're not going to tell us! (Laughter.) Well, can you share with us some of the maybe unique criteria that went into selecting?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure! (Laughter.)

Q: Thank you!

SEC. RUMSFELD: I sat down with a pencil and a paper and asked myself that question, and looked at the chairmen that I've served with -- George Brown, Air Force general, 25 years ago; General Hugh Shelton, Army general; and the characteristics, the qualities that are the most important, I would submit, are these:

First, that he's the principal military adviser to the national command authorities, the president and the secretary of the Defense and to the members of the National Security Council. So that individual has to be a person who, by background and experience and command and war-fighting, is going to be able to provide the president of the United States and the secretary of Defense the best possible military advice.

Second, it's a person that you -- that the secretary of Defense is with three or four times a day. I just came from a meeting with General Shelton. I was in a meeting with him late yesterday, the last meeting of the day, I think, and with General Dick Myers, the vice-chairman. I'm with them constantly. And we're constantly dealing with the president and the National Security Council on issues. So it has to be a person who is -- has some breadth and some experience, preferably someone who has had those key positions as CINCs or as chiefs, an individual who is comfortable in that setting and is -- not only has the background to give good military advice, but has the ease of doing it.

And third, I would say that that person is not just an adviser up, it is the person who interfaces with the military; and not in the chain of command, as you know, but as a practical matter. The leadership that that individual provides is critically important to seeing that the Department is engaged in the decisions that are made and the directions that are set. So it has to be a person who has the respect of the men and women in the armed services and that they would be proud to have in that post.

And last, I suppose it has to be a person that I feel good about working with. All of us here work long hours in this building. You do, I do, the Chairman does. And if you're going to spend that much time with somebody, you darn well better like them.

What else? Yes?

Q: Teresa McGervey, a civilian with the Joint Staff. I've got kind of a loaded question for you.

SEC. RUMSFELD: Uh-oh.

Q: I'm just --

SEC. RUMSFELD: Get the hook ready. (Laughs.)

Q: -- putting this into perspective. I'm on my sixth government agency, my second time around with DoD, and one thing I've noticed is that there's often this love of technology. We love technology. We want to get technology, we want to use technology, but very often it's the wrong technology, it's not put in the right places, it may be the right technology but not the right office, and often an unwillingness to accept when the technology is wrong and pull it.

And I'm wondering -- you know, obviously this goes on at every government department, and I'm wondering what is DoD doing to make sure, because it has to buy so much technology -- and I'm thinking specifically of, in my case, information resources, information management technologies -- what are we doing to make sure that we're getting the right stuff to the right people at the right time?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I guess when I go to bed at night, if I want to worry about something, that's one of the things I worry about. I also worry about the problems of biological warfare, and I also worry about our intelligence apparatus and the enormous number of things we don't know that we need to know and to know more about, in more different places than before.

Companies -- private companies have exactly that same problem. You're quite right to say that most of the government agencies do. The difference here is, we can't afford to. I don't mean dollars. I mean we can't afford to because of the nature of our job.

The -- you know, perfect is the enemy of the good, and in some cases it isn't the -- what is the most advanced or the best technology; it is, are you able to interact with each other effectively, and therefore does the capacity or the competence or the capability of the linkages and the networks that exist give you that system that adds power and capability?

We've got people in the permanent bureaucracy in the Department who have spent a lot of time on it and who are good at it. We have people who we're bringing in. The new head of C3I, Mr. Stinbit, is going to be arriving, I guess, this week and will be worrying that problem. He will, by law, I believe, be the chief information officer for the department.

Pete Aldridge, the undersecretary for acquisition, is very interested in the subject, and we -- he and Dov Zakheim, the comptroller, and I have all talked about the importance of putting in some red lines so that anything new is interoperable and that we begin a process of investing to achieve some cleanup of some of the legacy systems.

Now we can't do everything at once; the cost is just prohibitive. But it's going to be -- it's moving so fast, technology does, that we will never be perfect, but we sure have to do an awful lot of jobs -- a better job than we do now.

I was told by Admiral Giambastiani, I think a week ago, that the computer systems in our office can't deal with the undersecretary for Policy's computer systems. So if that doesn't tell you that we have a little work to do around here, I don't know what does.

ADM. QUIGLEY: Mr. Secretary, I'll take -- I'll read the last one here, and then any closing thoughts you may care to share.

This one is on deployments and families, and the source is an online military family support group. "Are you going to return deployment rates to normal levels? We have read reports confirming our feeling that the length of deployments has increased by one-third, on average, since 1992.

We know that service members have to deploy, but this is getting ridiculous."

SEC. RUMSFELD: I am trying. I have already been trying. I will continue to try. There are big blocks of resistance every time anyone tries to calm things down. We've got detailees spread all over this city, uniformed people who are doing all kinds of things that don't have an awful lot to do with the Department of Defense right now. We've got it all centralized now. Every time an extension for one of the detailees comes up, we've got a big stamp that says "No." (Chuckles.) We're trying to start reducing some of that detailee work.

I have been working with the Department of State and Colin Powell and the National Security Council on any number of spots around the world where we have people deployed. I've also been working with the CINCs, and we're going to have a review of their engagement plan so that the first word out of everyone's mouth isn't "yes" when we're asked to supply this, or asked to send 20 people there, asked to send 40 people here. We'll always have to do that, we all know that. It's not bad that we're doing it. Some of it's very, very good in terms of presence and engagement with other countries and on important topics. The training is valuable in many cases. The relationships that are developed are very valuable in many instances. But it has to be done at a level that's rational, that doesn't wear people out, that doesn't drive people away from this institution, because we need the best people.

So I simply will close by saying thank you for being here. I've got a lot of respect for what you do. You're appreciated, and I wish you well.

Thank you. (Applause.)

ADM. QUIGLEY: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for joining us this morning for this Town Hall. And just a reminder again, the questions, all of them that were answered here, as well as those that we have received and the Secretary didn't have time to get to, we'll work answers to those, coordinate with him, and we'll post those on DefenseLink . For those of you who either want to see this again or did not have a chance to see it live, again, you can hear this, at least the audio portion, on DefenseLink.

And thank you for participating this morning. Have a great day.

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