Wednesday, August 22, 2001
(Meeting at the Pentagon with the editorial board of the Washington Post. Portions of the meeting were off the record and have been deleted from this transcript.)
Q: I think a lot of us read the transcript of your briefing on Friday and also I read Paul Wolfowitz's briefing the day before so we wouldn't be starting at zero. I wanted to ask you a little bit about this process you're in. It seems as though you're trying to set a marker to be more honest than the Clinton administration was about them saying let's not just plan for two wars of some kind, but also the small scale contingencies and also the transformational issues. But it also seems as though having done a tax cut first, you're constrained on resources.
My question is, if you look at all three of those, are you free to come out and say okay, we've looked and we really need an extra $50 billion; or are you going to have to make do with less than you may end up thinking you need and then where are you going to take the risk?
Rumsfeld: (Laughter) You don't mess around, do you?
There's no answer to that. What you have to do in this job, it seems to me, is to tell the president what you believe to be the case. Recognize that presidents have to deal with multiple sets of issues and problems whereas the department deals with the defense set of issues.
You end up with a budget that is lower than clearly the department would want. I think that's been true every year since the department was formed. And yet in this instance it's a budget that is the biggest since 1986 or '85, I think, during the heyday of the Reagan buildup. It's a large increase. And probably we're dealing with a substantial drawdown over a long period of time which did not lead to replacements and a procurement holiday which had the effect of allowing the force to age dramatically, in some instances. And in some instances it's not aged. But in many, many categories it has, and that costs you more money. It means you've got a bigger replacement problem coming up, and you're buying at a steady state that's lower than replacement which means you're going to shrink it every year.
For whatever reason the past five or six years -- I don't like to be unnecessarily critical of my predecessors. I didn't walk in their shoes so I don't know. But the fact of the matter is for whatever reason government, the United States, interaction between the people, the Congress, the president over the last five or six years have starved this department in many respects and allowed the infrastructure to deteriorate, allowed the force morale issues to be treated in a way that is something other than competitive. We did not do the modernization that was necessary, and we were very skimpy with respect to transformation.
If that happens over a sustained period of time, and simultaneously the world is changing underneath you, you're faced with a problem that can't be dealt with in a single year. It just can't be. It took awhile to get here and it's going to take awhile to get out of it.
The department, as I said, and I think on Friday, has a pretty good ability to balance operational [risk] across war plans and understanding how this risk compares and then surfacing it up, looking at it, discussing it, and saying fine, we'll take that risk instead of this risk. But in terms of balancing non-operational risks, like the risk of not transforming, the risk of not modernizing, or the risk of not treating your people and your infrastructure in a way that is excellent and respectful of them, and thereby putting at risk the force, you're not doing what needs to be done in the intelligence gathering area or other areas. The system doesn't balance those risks well. It tends to want to maintain force levels and look at the operational risks that are understandable and comparable -- apples to apples as opposed to apples and oranges.
So for a good, sustained period of time those risks weren't taken into account. Over time that hurts you with people. Most people want to be part of an organization that is interested in excellence, and to the extent their airplanes are aging and they're not maintained right and they constantly need repair and their housing is old, this begins to affect how they think that society feels about them. That's bad.
If you look out in the future, or if you look at the past, almost nothing any president does during his tenure is going to benefit his presidency in terms of the military capabilities. These pieces of equipment just last too long. I mean every war is fought by capabilities that were developed in the preceding period. So the last thing in the world anyone who's present-oriented wants to do is to invest for the future. And to do it you have to deny the present.
When resources are finite, obviously, that's what you've got to do. You've got to take those steps to force those tradeoffs and insist that the future is too important and the world is changing too fast and the threats are evolving, asymmetrical threats are evolving in a way that it is wrong from the country's standpoint not to be investing now in those capabilities.
The here and now is what most people are interested in. Not tomorrow, and not next week, and not next month, and not next year. We need to be interested in the future. It seems to me that it is not -- the president decided he wanted to have a defense review and he wanted to see that we engaged in a process of transformation, the Congress requires a defense planning review. It didn't come out of my brain. And of course if you do it, you do it seriously. You end up where we're ending up. And that means you're ending up making recommendations about things that are going to benefit the future, the country for the future but not the present. Therefore, people who are interested in the present are going to resist that and be uncomfortable with it and worry about it.
Q: I heard on that subject that you or your office might have said we're going to need reductions in force size, [credit] the force by 15 percent. And the commander of forces in Europe said he would resign if there were a cut like that. Is that true?
Rumsfeld: No. If you believe all the things you read in the newspapers, you are going to be a sadly misinformed individual, I'm afraid.
I wrote down this morning, just for the fun of it, it said, "Rumsfeld proposed cut forces to the president," which of course was nonsense. We didn't. Then the next said, "Rumsfeld backs off his decision for force cuts." Which was also nonsense because we hadn't proposed it in the first place. Then it said, "Rumsfeld says plans for transformation are limited," which I didn't say. I just defined what transformation means. Then the next one says, "Rumsfeld blasts the two war strategy," which of course I did not do. The two-war strategy makes a lot of sense. It made a lot more sense when we had the forces that could support it.
Q: Let me ask --
Rumsfeld: But the answer is no. What we've done with forces is say look, we have a strategy -- the force sizing mechanism for two major regional conflicts, we lack the forces for it. We've had a strategy/force mismatch in the department for about five years. I arrived and there it is.
Now you could pretend it isn't there and go about your business, or you can just be honest and say look, it is there. It seems to me that's the thing to do, so I did that. We don't have the airlift, we don't have the troops, we don't have the high demand/low density assets. There are a number of things we don't have for the current situation.
What we said was look, we've got to fix the infrastructure of this place, for the department, or the decay, we'll never catch up and we'll drive people out. If the hangars don't work and the housing is bad and that type of thing. Streets. A $300 grate in a drain and it rots, and you drive an F-15 into it, it costs you $300,000 to fix the F-15. That's stupid. It's like not fixing the roof of your house. You can do it for a year or two, but pretty soon you have to fix the whole damn place.
So we've got to do that. And we've got to do some modernization. We can't let the fleet keep aging. And we've got to do some transformation.
Here's the guidance on that. You then come back, services, and tell us how you're going to fit within that. It may end up with some proposals to reduce forces from the services; or it may come in and say look, the teeth-to-tail ratio has gotten out of whack and we can cut the tail and not reduce the force structure, which I suspect is the case.
I don't know where it will come out, but the article that said that is not correct.
Q: And he never threatened to quit?
Rumsfeld: Absolutely not.
Q: Let me ask you one more. I understand everything you're saying. You're going to a different kind of two-war strategy and you already didn't have the capability for the ones we said we were doing.
Q: The one you're going to is still pretty robust, it sounds like, and --
Rumsfeld: It's a lot less.
Q: Is that right?
Rumsfeld: Yeah, I can tell you why. I think we're going there. I've got to speak to the president Friday, but if you begin with a two major regional conflict force sizing construct and then you look at how you've lived for a decade, you haven't had either one of those since the Gulf War, and you've had a lot of smaller scale contingencies.
Then you look at the mission creep that occurs in those two major regional conflict war plans, and you see the assumptions go up. Pretty soon you end up having a force sizing construct that says you have to be able to near simultaneously be able to win decisively on your terms anywhere in the world, meaning go to the capital and occupy the country. Now that is a very stressing force structure construct.
The model or the construct we've been testing is moderately different in the sense it says do that once, and simultaneously or near simultaneously or concurrently or whatever the word is, be capable of repelling or defeating swiftly, another major conflict. Period. Not on your terms and not necessarily going to capitol and occupying the capitol. The difference, the demand is enormously different.
Q: Do we have that capability now?
Rumsfeld: We're just about right. We're close.
Q: If we're --
Rumsfeld: Plus some smaller scale contingencies. We're not bad. It is a mismatch in some things. We're short of some things and we may have too many of some others, but --
Q: So if you're just about right for where you want to be for today's risk, and you want to spend, you want to do a lot of fixing for stuff that went downhill, and you want to do a lot of R&D, I assume is what transforming --
Q: That $18 billion seems to go very quickly with the health benefits and stuff like that. Are you confident you have enough to do those three things?
Rumsfeld: We'll know a lot more. We just put out the guidance, and we're in the process, probably early next week, putting out the defense planning guidance.
What happens then is they take that and the services and the agencies read it, take the guidance that we've given, which is on the things that we believe have been neglected, implement it and then do everything else under that and come back in the POM [program objectives memorandum] process and say here's where we are and here's what we can do and here's what we have to give up if we do that. Then OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] says we're leaving it to the services which of course, I mean the press says OSD is leaving it to the services which of course is not the case because they have to come back in, and then you have to create a cohesive whole out of it. It's in that iterative process that you'll find out what you you're going to give up for what you're getting.
Q: So would you maybe go to Mitch Daniels and say I need another $30 billion? Or will you live with what they've given you?
Rumsfeld: The place you go is the president, and I've talked to him on a number of occasions about what I think, and he knows what I think. And if I have occasion to talk to him more, I'll keep talking to him more. But I don't talk to the press about what I talk to the president about.
Q: If the president approves this guidance that you've just described and you proceed through the process that you've just outlined, at what pace do you expect to reach specific decisions about force structure, force size, acquisition --
Rumsfeld: In the normal cycle of the budget building in the fall. So the POM process, where they take the fiscal guidance, they take the defense planning guidance, they take it aboard, they do all their work, and they do the sensitivities, and they figure out how they would like to allocate what's left, and then what it means. Then they come back up and say here's what we're getting for what we're giving and how do you feel about that? Then we look at the connectors between the services. It's a very complex process.
Q: Given the elasticity in the process, I hear you emphasizing the threat, and on Friday that you simply don't know at this stage whether the results of that fiscal process will be a reduction, a proposal to the president to reduce or increase your personnel, particular -- you just don't know that.
Rumsfeld: You can't know it.
Q: You're not saying you're leaving it to the forces. You're not saying --
Rumsfeld: Of course not.
Q: -- reduce it. And you're not saying that you're going to go above the $18 billion. You just don't know yet.
Rumsfeld: You can't know.
In other words, if you take the fiscal guidance and the defense guidance and give it to the services and say now take that and fashion what you would fashion by way of a budget within the constraints that are in the fiscal and defense guidance, and they come back and say well, here's how we would arrange everything else. Then you look at that and see what the tradeoffs are.
Take a war plan. You're a combatant commander in a region and he's got a war plan, and he looks at that. He says here's my war plan. Once it gets approved, it then means there are requirements. Then he's got requirements and he calls for those requirements to be filled. I would do the same thing. That's what his job is. He has to have the forces and the capability or else he can't execute the war plan that's been approved.
So what you have to do is make sure that the assignments you've given him make sense for the day, and that the assumptions that are made in that plan are realistic assumptions for today. And then that you figure out a way either to change the assumptions or the plan, or supply them with the forces that that requirement demands, or else he can't do his job.
So it is a series of connectors between them.
Q: Did I hear you correctly when you were answering [to privately say] that you thought that as to the specific questions of force size and structure that so many people are interested in, that you thought that it was likely or most likely that a tail-to-teeth approach that didn't require a major structural change would get you where you needed to go, given the guidance that you've now seen from --
Rumsfeld: I don't know the answer as to what they will come back with by way of forces. It's not knowable when you give out the guidance. You can guess.
We ended up sitting in that room next door with every one of the chiefs and most of the CINCs and the chairman and the vice chairman and all the under secretaries and assistant secretaries unanimously agreeing on both the fiscal guidance and the defense guidance. So these are smart people who've been around a long time, presumably they don't think that the guidance, either the fiscal or the defense guidance, is going to be in a big mismatch with the budget or they would say so.
So all we can say is we've got a pretty good guess that what's going to come back is going to be roughly in the ball park.
Q: How far are we away from a number [of nuclear weapons]?
Rumsfeld: Oh, gosh. [Portion deleted.] We've had meetings week after week after week on Saturdays. I had one again this week. We're getting closer. There are a lot of complexities to it.
As you know, numbers you need to look at over time phasing. Both with respect to Russia and with respect to other countries, and other countries can combine with still other countries in ways that change what you think you might or might not need.
Second, there's the issue of safety and reliability of your stockpile, and the concern that a category of weapon can be declared unsafe or unreliable at some point. That's a problem.
Third, there's the amount of time it would take you to begin to be capable to build nuclear weapons again, and it's years at the present time.
Third, there's a testing problem. I mean there are a lot of people who are, wisely in my view, who are concerned about building weapons and not testing them. So as the stockpiles age at some point people are going to have to address that, which is why a lot of countries have left that issue open. Observing the moratorium but recognizing the safety/reliability issue.
Then there are theater nuclear weapons, which are another issue, and people tend not to talk about them when they start talking about warheads. And there's the issue of the mix of weapons and what is the most -- If you had thousands, your mix could be one way. If you have fewer, your mix may very well need to be some other way. Of course there's time to do that, there's money to do it on both sides.
Also the theory that they have, that you worry more about command and control and safety and reliability than you do when you have lots.
So there are a lot of complicated issues, and I'm worrying my way through them. There's no doubt in my mind but that I'll have some reasonable answers sometime in the next month or two.
Q: The posture statement's got to go up when? December of --
Rumsfeld: I intend to get ahead of that.
Q: Is there a finite amount of time that we're giving the Russians or that we're giving ourselves before we want to reach an agreement, before we --
Rumsfeld: The president said he'd like to get on with it and have some arrangement that would get us past the ABM Treaty.
Q: At what point is that? Is that over (inaudible)? Have we indicated some clear deadline?
Q: Can I ask you a little bit about the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs? The White House, possibly inadvertently, announced yesterday that General Myers would be with you on Friday briefing the president. That of course led to all sorts of speculation that he would be the next chairman.
Rumsfeld: It's a presidential announcement. The president will make it when he makes it. That's my attitude about it.
It's true that -- Dick or Hugh Shelton have been with me on most of the times when I meet with the president on briefings, and we're going to be with him for, oh goodness, three or four or five hours Friday I guess. A long time. Lots of different things that need to be tied up. And Hugh Shelton is in Mexico, or --
Q: Do you expect an announcement on Friday?
Rumsfeld: Look, I know precisely who it is and when. And it's a presidential announcement, and I'll old fashioned. I think I'll leave it to him.
Can you talk to us a little bit about, I know you've preferred in the past to have a talk to 30 or 35 people in your selection process. Can you talk a little bit about the process you engaged in to come up with your list of candidates for the president and a little bit also about the kind of leadership qualities you're looking for in a chairman?
Rumsfeld: Yes. What I did was I sat down and developed a list of criteria that I thought were appropriate. And then I discussed the criteria with General Shelton and a number of other people, the president, the vice president, and others. And I satisfied myself that I was comfortable with it.
Then I obviously looked at the people who don't require a waiver, the CINCs and the chiefs. And then I started looking beyond that at other four stars, and various people. Talked to, I'm sure, 30 or 40 or 50 people and asked them their views about people, and kind of triangulated on people. And then started cleaning down the list of people that I was working on, and came away with a feeling -- You know, I haven't worked with any of these people extensively, nor has the president. But after you talk to 35, 40, 50 people about those people you end up with a pretty good sense of them. I feel that we've done a very thorough job of it, and the president has met a number of candidates. I met with a lot of candidates. I brought in a former retired admiral who was my special military assistant when I was here a long time ago and he's been helping put structure into this search.
We've had to do the same thing with the chief of staff of the Air Force. And I feel we came up with a very good candidate in General Jumper. We've had to do it with respect to a couple of CINCs -- TransCom and StratCom both were retiring. So it's been a useful process, not just for the chairmanship, but because it's given us a chance to look at a number of people.
Q: Are you confident that the person chosen shares your desire to move toward the future, future technologies, possibly some enhanced risk for the present?
Rumsfeld: When you balance risk, there's always tradeoffs. I would not want to say that we're increasing the risk for the present. I just don't feel that's the case.
Q: I guess what I'm asking is do you have someone who shares your view of transformation?
Rumsfeld: Well, you never know. (Laughter) You get married and you hope and pray, and I was lucky there. I've been married 47 years to the same woman. I probably was lucky, not smart. So you kind of look at it all and then you roll the dice.
Q: But that must have been one of your criteria.
Rumsfeld: Sure. Not the first, to be honest. The first is that you've got to assume that in a reasonable period of time you're going to be in a pickle, in a conflict, and you've got to have someone that you have confidence in, that will give outstanding military advice, and who understands the process and contingency problems and the risks and the dangers, and who people in the military will have confidence in.
I had a wonderful person when I was here before, George Brown. He was not smooth or clever or polished, but he was just a wonderful person. He had total integrity, and a fine warrior and had the respect of the troops.
Q: One more question on the chief. Is there any significance to the fact that Admiral Clark and General Myers were invited back for second interviews at the White House?
Rumsfeld: I won't discuss the interviews. The president met with a lot of people.
Q: Mr. Secretary, are you convinced that the NATO force will be out of Macedonia or finish its job in 30 days?
Rumsfeld: [Portion deleted.] The deadline, as I understand it, was set by NATO with the explicit, narrow purpose of collecting weapons in a peaceful environment. Where an agreement had been agreed, and both sides had accepted that, and a plan was agreed to, a security plan, for the collection points.
If it happens that the forces go in, and weapons are collected, there's no reason in the world not to think that 30 days would be ample. It could be you could do it in a week or two. We have forces in Kosovo along the border, ours and others, that could serve as collection points. You could have some other collection points. And it doesn't take a genius to pick it up and get them out of there.
So the short answer to your question is sure.
If the job is that, there isn't any reason -- and if you don't start it until the environment's correct for starting it. And if you agree that you will stop the process in the event the environment's not hospitable to it, then there isn't any reason it couldn't be completed in that period of time.
Q: So based on what you know about the parties to the conflict, how confident are you that the weapons will be collected?
Rumsfeld: If it starts, I suspect that some weapons will be collected. What percentage of the total weapons that conceivably could be available for collection I wouldn't even want to guess.
Q: If it starts and the environment degrades, is NATO now in a position to be able to pull out and say sorry, guys, you're on your own.
Rumsfeld: I think so. It isn't that you're on your own. What you say is look, here was the drill. [Portion deleted.] The purpose of the effort is to go in and collect the weapons. If the parties decide they don't want the weapons collected, that's their choice. They have to live there.
Q: And you're willing to live with whatever risk in Kosovo and --
Rumsfeld: Presumably NATO weapon collectors, which is the kinds of people that are being sent in -- It's not like you're sending in a major (inaudible), are not appropriate to do anything else.
Q: Doesn't this put NATO in a kind of Chapter 6 environment where they're just working with the consent of the parties and the parties can manipulate the process depending on their view of their tactical advantage on any given day?
Rumsfeld: That is -- there's no question but that in any unsettled situation where parties are competing and contesting, that they do try to advantage themselves. And the only thing that one can hope is that at some point they decide that they're, each of them decides that the advantage is best by ending the hostilities. Whether they will or not, I don't know. Nor does NATO.
Q: Why are we not participating more directly in this deployment?
Rumsfeld: Well, we are participating, in my view, rather fulsomely. We have agreed to use U.S. forces in Kosovo at the border as collection points. We have agreed to use the back office to Kosovo which is already in Macedonia for intelligence gathering, which is a very helpful -- we have capabilities there, unmanned aircraft. We're assisting with logistics in and out of the area. We're assisting with logistics within the area. We offered to assist with respect to medevac in case that becomes necessary. We've offered Camp Bondsteel facilities in the event they become necessary.
So we have hundreds of people already in Macedonia. And I would -- the implication -- simply because we didn't in addition add some people to go out and collect in the interior of the country it seems to me, is misplaced. I think we're doing a lot.
Q: Do you fully support the sort of, in addition to this deployment, do you think it's a sound program despite the 30-day deadline and the uncertainty about the parties' willingness to participate?
Rumsfeld: Well, I supported the idea and agreed to the kinds of support that I've just outlined. I think it's appropriate and I think it's enormously helpful, the kinds of things we're doing other people can't do. Whether it will work or not is an open question, but do I think it's worth a try? Sure.
Q: There's been some criticism of it, for example, by (inaudible) on (inaudible) last week that said by setting such a limited goal and kind of leaving it up to the parties, if they're willing, will participate, if not --
Rumsfeld: Uh huh.
Q: You're sort of hostage to them. And in fact if they're not willing and the Macedonia, the conflict became larger, it would be very damaging to our effort in Kosovo and in the Balkans and therefore --
Rumsfeld: Mort's a smart guy. I know him. I like him. And there's no question but that if you do not -- NATO has not been invited in to take over the country. They have a government. They have a structure. They have not asked NATO to come in and occupy it, if that's what the alternative is, to take up broader mandate.
Second, with respect to the interaction between what happens in Macedonia and the neighboring countries, you're quite right. Instability in Macedonia is unhealthful for the neighbors.
On the other hand, it's unhealthful now. Our forces are at risk now. People can go across that border now, and our folks are doing a lot in Kosovo to try to make that border less porous, but it's very difficult to do, and it's being done unevenly in various parts of the border.
So there's no question but that there is some transfer of people between Kosovo and Macedonia, and that makes it difficult both places.
But because this effort that NATO decided to do is not everything, it doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything unless you're going to do everything. In my view.
So I mean I'm not an expert on the region and I'm not over in the Department of State which is involved in the kinds of things you're asking about, but it seems to me that from the Pentagon standpoint we are doing the right things that are the most helpful. And the effort has a chance to succeed, and it might not. But there's lots of mights or might nots in that part of the world. There have been all my life.
Q: What is your assessment of your relationship with the other [levels] of power that figure in your efforts to create transformation here? Your relationship with the Hill right now as the defense budget makes it way through there? Your assessment with the Joint Chiefs which has been the subject of a lot of journalism (inaudible) things that you might disagree with?
Rumsfeld: On the Hill, the kinds of things that we're -- first of all, the Hill had a difficult situation in that they expected, they got in the rhythm for a budget amendment every year. And the president announced when he first came in before I was hardly involved, he wasn't going to have budget amendments. Of course that was a very difficult announcement. And he subsequently decided to have one because he realized that the department budgeted for a budget amendment. Year after year after year. That's the rhythm they were in, and the Congress expected it. And that was a relatively new thing, so he agreed to have a budget amendment.
Second, he decided to delay on the '02 budget, which again, kept the Congress from doing what they do, is to do a budget amendment, then do the '02 budget, and they left a lot of people without the normal activity that they like to engage in, and that they care about the department, they've been involved in it for years. So that was a difficult start, unquestionably.
The situation with the Hill is -- my view, we need several handfuls, and I think we've got them, of people who understand the importance of balancing those risks and are beginning to understand the logic of the force sizing construct, and there are some very smart people up there. I think you'll begin to see people stepping up and you know, saying look, this is important that we do this now for the future. It's not an easy thing to do. They have bases in their districts, they have contractors in their districts, and of course as anyone changes anything it's hard. You're going to continue to hear people who are concerned or apprehensive.
One of the problems is I think people kept saying tell us what you're going to do with the weapon systems. How do you have any idea what you're going to do with the weapon systems unless you first start out with a review of the strategy and a process where you then go to the services with your fiscal guidance and... I mean I didn't come in with a computer chip in my head saying we need more of these and fewer of these and less of those in this district or that district. This is the normal rhythm of the building and you have to go through that process. That's what we're doing.
What makes people nervous is that you've got a new president who calls for a defense review; and then you have a Congress that had asked for the quadrennial defense review; then you have a period without those budgets up there for them to work on creating concern. So I think -- I mean the amount of congressional relations we've done, we've got some 400 people here who are involved one way or another in congressional relations. [Portion deleted.] We have some 3500 contacts a week, 3100 to 3500 phone calls, letters, visits, personnel, so on. I look at what I've been doing. In terms of meeting with the Congress, I had 361 meetings with I'm sure close to 200 or 300 of the members.
Q: A little different from your last time.
Rumsfeld: The extent to which you are dealing --
The other thing that's different -- Of course if I say what's different then someone will write an article saying he didn't get it. (Laughter)
But I've met with something like 88 presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, and defense ministers in seven months.
Q: When you look at --
Rumsfeld: I've had like 50 meetings with the president in the first few months. I've met with the military leadership some 320 times. I've had 93 events with the press of various types. And the appetite for interaction in every aspect of this is so totally different.
And the fascinating thing for me was that I came in here and I was alone for the first several months, and finally Wolfowitz got in here. And it's taken an average of 99 days from the time I've picked somebody until the time they're aboard. We had literally no one in the policy shop until two and a half weeks ago.
How do you do that? How do you manage all of that? It's very difficult and interesting and challenging.
Question: Before you leave the Hill let me ask you --
Rumsfeld: I've got to get to the military. Someone asked.
On the military, as I say, we've had 320 meetings -- there are 850 generals and admirals around, and I haven't met them all, but I've -- I think the indicator is that we had unanimous agreement on the terms of reference for the quadrennial defense review and we had unanimous agreement for the defense planning guidance which we achieved last Friday. The way we did it was the hard way. We simply closed the door, got the chiefs in, got all the seniors in the room and went over the dad-burned thing and got everyone knitted together at the top so that when this stuff goes down it's not coming down on my head.
As a surprise in the department, they had been linked as we've gone through these hour after hour after hour of meetings, and they presumably have been talking to their staffs. Now it still makes their staffs nervous when something comes down, and there were some things like rubber bands that went back and forth. Where one time it went down and it was misunderstood and it came back up with 34 aircraft carriers or something like that. We sent it back down saying I think you've got it wrong. It was probably our fault as much as theirs.
Q: Two short questions.
To go back for a minute to the nuclear system. Do I interpret you right as you do the posture statement that number one, testing is a possibility? I know that people want to do testing.
Rumsfeld: No. Don't go down that road. What I said, or hope what I said was there is a testing issue --
Q: For reliability --
Rumsfeld: -- which in looking at safety and reliability you have to be aware of. Because the longer you get away from your last test the farther you are from the kind of razor certainty which that provides. And when you're talking about the most powerful weapons on the face of the earth, one would think you would be interested in safety and reliability. And so there's that tug. But no. The president's not thinking about testing. I'm not thinking about testing.
Q: The second one is, is a new low yield weapon which is being studied under a congressional directive, is that part of the mix?
Rumsfeld: I'm not going to get into it.
Q: It's been a long time since the United States has designed a new warhead, and I think there is serious concern that if we go too much longer we will lose those skills.
Rumsfeld: People are retiring.
Rumsfeld: There's just no question about it.
Q: Right. In addition to which, as you attempt to cut back the total number of weapons, you may find that's easier if you are able to develop some new warheads that fill particular niches. Without talking about a particular type of warhead, are you inclined to think that we ought to be seriously considering a new weapon, group of weapons?
Rumsfeld: The focus of the work I've been doing has been on what I characterized as [opposed to] on that subject. I've got -- numbers make sense, and for our security. Of course that's a hard thing to do because life isn't static, it's dynamic, it's changing. So you have to look at overt chunks of time. But I've not spent much time on that subject.
Q: One more question about the military transformation process, about all the meetings you were talking about that you've had with members of Congress, and with your generals and admirals.
When you look back over what you did during there, is there something you wish you would have done differently either in terms of the way things are brought about, or who was told what, when, or what the administration --
Rumsfeld: I'm sure something could have been done better. I mean I just don't know quite what it would be. There are X numbers of hours in the day, and when the president wants this kind of a review you have to do it, so you do it, and it makes people nervous and it's questioned. And I don't know, I'm sure the answer must be us, but I don't know quite what it would be.
Q: There hasn't been a point where you've looked back and said I wish I would have talked to this person first, or there's been so much publicity that (inaudible) raised a lot of questions about --
Rumsfeld: I think change is just hard in this town. I think there's an enormous appetite for the immediate and the present, and an enormous appetite for personalities and for conflict. What we're trying to do is not complicated; it just takes some time. It takes time to think it through and to do it right. You don't want to be tearing something down until you've got something better. That's what we've been about, is working our heads off trying to [catch things] that are. And every person you talk to turns over a rock and says gee, we need $3 billion here and $4 billion there and $5 billion here, and this weapon taken care of, and the paint's peeling off, and the roof's leaking, and the grates are broken. We haven't done the modernizing; the aircraft are getting older. We aren't building enough ships. And welcome aboard.
Q: From what you've seen and read about elsewhere so far, how far do you think, or how close do you think you'll get from what your vision and what the president's vision is and what military transformation of the future military really ought to look like and what it's really --
Rumsfeld: I think that we're going to end up in September and October with a set of initiatives to, internally that we can do ourselves, make this place run more efficiently and more effectively and save the taxpayer some money. And I think we do need to be more respectful of the taxpayers' dollars than the department has been.
We'll have a set of legislative initiatives to try to get freed up so we can be freer to manage the place.
Rumsfeld: I haven't finished. We will have set in place some studies on personnel, how the force can be improved possibly by some lengthening of the tour lengths which are now very short, and possibly having people stay in somewhat longer if they wish to. We may very well end up with some interesting ideas about standing joint task forces, which would enable us to train the way we fight and fight the way we train instead of getting into Kosovo and having to begin the process of standing up a task force to do the air war that doesn't exist, and starting to bring people in who haven't worked together, and where the systems aren't interoperable, and by the time the war's over still only be 82 percent staffed. Now I think we can do better than that. That's transformation.
I think we're going to end up with a strategy that will be different. I think we'll end up with a new force sizing mechanism that will be more realistic. I think we'll end up with some fairly significant changes in our nuclear posture. I think we will end up with a new chairman and a new chief of staff of the Air Force and some new CINCs who will do a good job. And our team will have been on board a month or two or three by September and October. I think we will have done a very good review of the deployments around the world and the problem of personnel tempo that has been difficult for the force, and we'll be looking at ways -- we already have been looking at ways we can reduce that tempo and moderate it somewhat without withdrawing at all from the world and without disengaging. We need to engage in the world.
And I think that over the next two or three months, most of the things that we've been working on for the past four or five months will be rolled out in a way that they will be a coherent whole. I think that will have a calming influence, although, nonetheless when you change a base -- I think one of the difficulties, obviously, there's never been a BRAC [base realignment and closure] that wasn't difficult. It's the worst thing anyone would want to try to do. The only reason you have to try to do it is because you've got 25 percent excess bases.
Someone can say -- I read an editorial in a paper last week that said the BRAC was a good idea but you should consult more closely with Congress. (Laughter) Which is nice. It's fun. You can sit up there in New York and opine on that. (Laughter) Gee, I've got a heck of an idea for you. Why don't you make them like taking a base out of your congressional district? You get a lot of free advice in this job.
Q: Talk about Congress a little bit more compared to your last tenure. There's probably half the number of military veterans in Congress there were 25 years ago. Does that make a difference on the sophistication of their understanding of this job?
Rumsfeld: Last week I had a group of educators in and we were talking about the force and the pool that we worked from and the kinds of people we're going to need over the coming decade, and how you can get our personnel policies arranged so that one size doesn't fit all, which is kind of the way -- I mean there's a pay increase and a lot of people think it ought to be straight across the board as opposed to the way a company would do it, and to fashion it in a way that you can attract and retain the people you want.
But one of the important things that came out of the lunch was the comment that there is a, one of the distinctive things today, and increasingly every year now since the draft ended, is that the uniform and the experience of having been in uniform is declining in every walk of life. You were in the military and you look around at your peers today compared to then, and they are. It's true in journalism, it's true in education, it's true in everything. It's not just the Congress; it's across the board. It's in this building on the civilian side.
Gosh, my dad was in the Navy. I was in the Navy. It was kind of a normal thing, but that's what you did. Now it's not. That has an affect in this society, there's no just question about it. People [look] at things differently.
Q: You were talking a little earlier about the difference between the OSD/congressional relationship now and in '75. Is there more contact and more demand for involvement at a smaller level perhaps?
Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness. The Defense Authorization Bill went from something like 50 or 70 pages to 900 plus pages.
Q: With earmarks?
Rumsfeld: The constraints and the requirements, and you can't have this office, and you must have that office, and it has to be called this name, and it has to be at this level. It is just an amazing change. We've got something, I'm told, like 20-plus thousand auditors. That's as many shooters as the Army can pull together almost on any given day. We have multiples of surgeon generals, and multiples of inspector generals. It's just --
The first thing I read when I was asked to do this job, much to my amazement, someone sent me a report by a non-partisan group here in town and it began with the distrust between the department and the Congress is palpable, is what it said. And I read this thing and I thought my golly, what's that about?
Apparently what happens is that somebody thinks they didn't get the straight story and that you didn't do something well, so then they put a requirement in.
We have to file over 900 reports a year to the Congress. We're killing trees all over the world to do it. And nothing ever ends. There's no sunset on things. And it all happens just a little bit at a time. But someone sees something wrong or they feel they didn't get the information they wanted, or they said they thought it ought to be this way and it's that way, so then they require a report, and then they put an amendment on requiring that it be this way. Then the feeling is it will make it better. It's well intentioned, but of course it doesn't make it better because you end up so constrained that you can't function efficiently or effectively or in a manner that's responsive to people.
Q: You could always make a list of members to whom other members look for guidance on defense policy. It was a little easier to do that historically with Richard Russell and Sam Nunn --
Q: Who are the experts up there now? Who are some of them?
Rumsfeld: Well, certainly the Chairman and the ranking member in the Senate are both people who have spent a lot of years on this and know an awful lot about it. Carl Levin and John Warner. Bob Stump, Ike Skelton. There are any number of people who... The chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Young, is someone who's spent a lot of time on these subjects. Jerry Lewis now is the chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Ted Stevens has been a long time interested, a World War II veteran. Dan Inouye has been terrific. Senator Lieberman is one who has demonstrated a continuing interest in these issues.
Q: But they don't have the clout that Mendel Rivers had or any of the others.
Rumsfeld: I'm going to take that off the record for him so he doesn't get in trouble. I'm worried about --
Q: [Portion deleted.] -- there comes a point where the President's going to have to make a decision the U.S. and the ABM Treaty --
Rumsfeld: And what he's said is he wants to, that it's constraining the kind of [test] program that we have going on, and it will. The lawyers will debate whether this does or that does, but it's pretty clear the Russians are not terribly uptight about the testing.
Q: -- came here last time and said --
Rumsfeld: But the problem is you've got other people besides the Russians who will look at it and say I don't want the United States to be in the position of having people legitimately look at us and say we break treaties. So I don't like to go bumping up against the edge of something and get a gray area and then have a big legal debate and the Senate has a debate and the House has a debate and the president has a debate. We don't need that. We don't break treaties.
If the thing constrains us at some point, the president has indicated obviously that he'd have to step away from it, but the purpose is not to do that. The goal is to try to work with them in a way that you don't have to withdraw from it, at least unilaterally. That you could do it mutually and put something else in its place so that the relationship makes sense for the future. And that's the path that the president's on. The testing program clearly will begin to -- what's the word.
Q: Bump up against? (Laughter)
Rumsfeld: Could bump up against.
What else? Then I've got to go.
Q: Thank you very much.
Q: He said what else, I'll throw out one more.
The Russians, in addition to suggesting that they would like to see a number for nuclear weapons on the U.S. side have also suggested that they would like some limits on the ABM system that we might eventually build. And just like the number, everybody understands the United States isn't there yet. We're still testing.
Rumsfeld: But we have to look at the architecture.
Rumsfeld: People look at that and say what in the world, tell us what you're going to deploy. My answer is we don't know what we're going to deploy. We're trying to test that because it had never been tested.
The government of the United States decided they would not test anything that could, if it worked, violate the ABM Treaty. So none of that work was done, so that's what we're doing. And the Russians look at you like come on. (Laughter) What do you mean you don't know? We don't.
Q: But in principle, at some point would you be willing to put some limits on the system?
Rumsfeld: [Portion deleted.] Clearly you'd want to know what the architecture was and what its utility might be. Our intention -- I cannot believe that anybody watching this process honestly thinks that thousands of weapons is something that needs to be threatened by what it is we're about. And it's for handfuls, not hundreds of thousands.
Rumsfeld: -- transparency and verification of various tests, one would think that any legitimate concern or question or angst might be significantly reduced.
Q: With transparency, but not any sort of commitment to the ultimate size. Even without knowing the architecture. If it's only handfuls you could make a commitment. For example, at least in theory, the system ultimately would be able to say not tackle more than 100, 200, pick a number.
Rumsfeld: I'm just not at a point where I'm in a position to make any kind of recommendation to the president, and if I were, I think I'd probably make it to him.
Question: Thank you.
Rumsfeld: All right.