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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability at the Pentagon

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 07, 2001 11:10 PM EDT

Thursday, September 6, 2001 11:10 a.m. EDT

Rumsfeld: I'll put this in the category of what I did on my summer vacation. (Laughter.)

Q: We'd like to hear about that.

Rumsfeld: Look at you! My gosh! Look at that. That's impressive.

Q: Don't you have an announcement? (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.)

Q: After Torie bored me with pages and pages of minute decisions you'd made, I decided to go ahead and shave. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: That's good. Good. Well, I did have a good vacation. I rode horseback and chopped wood and saw grandchildren and played squash. Worked about a half a day is all, and I'm ready to go.

I just came from the farewell for General Mike Ryan, which was -- I don't know how many of you were there, but it was a terrific event. And it is also the welcoming of General Jumper as the new chief of staff of the Air Force. It's a wonderful thing to attend those events because it reminds you of what this is all about, about service and duty and the men and women who wear uniforms and do so much for the country.

We had a hearing yesterday. I didn't see too many of you there, but of course, I was facing forward. (Laughs.) Were you all there?

Q: We wouldn't miss it.

Q: We were there.

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Son of a gun. And that's good.

Q: Every one of us. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: I have no idea what you all thought about it, but I came away with just a modest impression that there's very good bipartisan support for what we're trying to do. And certainly Senator Inouye's comments of support were terrific. And in case you missed my message, the truth is we do need every nickel. And it is clear, it is true, and it is something that the president understands. As you are well aware, the last several weeks, he has repeatedly talked about his top priorities being defense and education. And I'm delighted they are, because they're the right ones.

The -- it's hard to know exactly what'll happen up on the Hill, and I'm sure there'll be some curly-cues and ups and downs and roller coaster rides as we go through it in committees and then in the floor in the House and the Senate and then eventually in a conference. But as I've said before, there's no question in my mind that when push comes to shove, the Congress and the American people tend to use good judgment about national security issues, and I have every confidence that we'll end up with our budget.

And we're certainly going to be working hard on it.

I might just add, before turning to questions, that I met with Congressman Curt Weldon yesterday, and some of you may have seen some press reports over the last two weeks that he has been involved in, and then some today in the national press. I think you had an article on the subject.

What he found, to not my surprise, needless to say, is basically what I have been saying, and that is there has been a serious underfunding of infrastructure over a sustained period of years, which has been harmful, costly, and needs to be dealt with.

And we are -- as you know, have presented budgets and are working on a new budget for '03 that tries to address those problems, but because of their magnitude, they're not the kind of thing that you get out of in a year. It is a very, very serious set of problems that run the gamut from housing to hangars and offices and facilities and roads and sewers and pipes. And you can't over a sustained period of time neglect things and underfund things and overuse them and not expect that at some point you're going to be paying a pretty big bill.

With that, I'll stop and respond to questions. Charlie?

Q: Mr. Secretary, I asked you, when you came down recently, if you were confident that you could get the military spending you needed, and I think you said, "How can anybody be confident?" And now you say you are confident that you will get your budget.

Generally, members of the armed services committees are kind of washed in the blood of the military lamb, if you will; they are for Defense.

Rumsfeld: This is the Appropriations Committee.

Q: Right.

Rumsfeld: And there were members of the Budget Committee there --

Q: Well, this -- (off mike) -- Appropriation Committee on Defense. Yeah.

Rumsfeld: Mm-hmm, true. And there were members of the Budget Committee there. Senator Domenici of New Mexico was very, very helpful, I thought.

Q: There's still talk on the Hill about possibly cutting the 8.3 billion you're asking for missile defense. You say you need every nickel, but if you had to give up -- if you had to give up anything --

Rumsfeld: We're not in that mode. We're not in a give-up mode. We need the money that's in that budget, and we need it with as few changes as is possible. Obviously, the Congress is -- Article I of the Constitution -- they're going to make their own judgments. But we spent time on it, and we have sent forward the bill that we feel together provides the kind of approach that is appropriate for the year 2002. And we're going to be working our heads off trying to get it.

Q: Do you think that they ought to dip into the Social Security if the government has to do that? Do you think it should dip into the Social Security?

Rumsfeld: Look, look, what I think is that the president said it just right, that his priority is defense and that -- and education, and that whatever else happens, the Defense Department budget request should be fulfilled.

Q: Mr. Secretary, a two-part question, if you will allow it. One is that, while the president is trumpeting the $18.4 billion increase, and you, in a sense, are echoing it, there are several experts who are saying that the key word should be "modernization," not "transformation," and that if that's true, this budget is going to be some 30 (billion dollars) to $50 billion short. I'd like a reaction to that.

The second thing is, will you tell us this morning such things as are you going to go ahead with the Osprey, with the Joint Strike Fighter, with the DD-21, those little, minor things that we'd like to know or need to know?

Rumsfeld: This budget is about balancing the risks that exist to our national security. They're operational risks. They are risks that involve the question of modernization, that have to be balanced off against operational risks. They're risks involving the failing to transform and ending up facing a situation one, two, three years down the road where you don't have the ability to function because you've been denied the ability to communicate, for the sake of argument, as an example. And it's also the risks involving how we do our business, and the risk that you could lose support for national security because you're visibly wasting money and not managing your affairs well, and proceeding with base structure that's not needed and so forth.

So all of those things are what are on the table. And it is not a matter of this weapon system or that weapon system, it is a matter of looking at those risks and recognizing that they have not been properly weighed one against each other over the past period of time. And we are forcing something entirely new and different. We're forcing up on the table the fact that we must do that.

Now, you say there are those who say we should do more in modernization rather than transformation. You bet! There are also who are saying the opposite. And it's been a very healthy discussion and dialogue that's been taking place. And as we go through the process -- and we're, you know, at that stage where the fiscal guidance is out, the defense planning guidance is out -- the next step is for the services to be making their recommendations, coming back to us within the constraints of the fiscal guidance and the defense planning guidance, coming back to us with how they think they ought to arrange their programs, at this point -- this is something that's not new, this is the way the budget cycle works in the POM process, and we will then have an iterative process.

We will look at that and make decisions as to how we feel about the extent to which in the '03 budget they have or have not conformed to the fiscal and defense planning guidance, and how we feel about the proposals they make with respect to the rest of their budgets and how they fit with respect to the other services and the components.

Now, there is no quick bumper-sticker way to say what I just said, but that's what's happening. And it is in that process that those weapon system decisions get made.

Q: Well, to follow up to that, if I may, then trying to read what you're saying and trying to find a bumper sticker, is the $18.4 billion sufficient to weigh those risks and come up with a program, be it transformation or modernization, that is satisfactory for the national defense?

Rumsfeld: It seems to me that at this point in history, the United States of America ought to be able to take the largest increase since the mid-1980s and -- proposed increase, and fashion a way, for the first time in some years, to balance those various risks one against each other, and come up with a proposal for the Congress for the year 2003 that will be different in the sense that those risks will have been elevated and, in a sense, confessed, brought forward, presented.

In every case when you're balancing things, something gives and something gets and something is -- you make a judgment call as to what extent would you rather have this than that. And those are the kinds of decisions that we're making at the macro level, they're the kinds of decisions that will get made by the services and the components. And it is -- it is -- it is not bumper stickerable. (Laughter.)

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, when you're balancing things and you're weighing things, is the fact that the accounting system doesn't provide a lot of information, is that a problem?

Rumsfeld: It is unhelpful. As we all know, the financial systems are not financial management systems, they're financial reporting systems to the Congress and the GAO, and they just were never designed for a person to get the kind of information you need to know what you're doing.

Q: So the decisions you can't make, or decisions you're making that you think, well, I don't really trust the data, don't have confidence in decisions because of that?

Rumsfeld: In the last analysis, you know, we always end up -- time's always short and you end up with 80 percent of what you know in 20 percent of the time. And the last 20 will take the next 10 years, so you make judgment calls.

Yes.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, what is your answer to critics who say you're failing at defense reform, that your new force-sizing construct is simply a difference without a real distinction, that what you're heading toward is a military that's about the same size with about the same mission as today and with the same underfunding problem that's existed for years?

Rumsfeld: The -- now, it's tough to know what this will all look like when you've looked back one, two, three years from now. But I think that in the things that have been done and are close to being announced by -- in September, October, we will -- there is at least a good possibility we will look back and say that there are in there three, four or five things that are truly significant. I think the new defense strategy and moving from a purely threat-based strategy to a capability-based strategy and understanding how the world's changed, and the fact that we have to be ready to deal with a variety of capabilities regardless of where the problems may come from, by country name or non-state entity, and forcing that kind of thinking into this process is significant. And it will have -- it has the potential to have a significant impact. I think the new force- sizing mechanism is equally significant that we're considering and that we've briefed the president on very recently -- not very recently; he's been briefed three or four times, and we had a good discussion Friday before we left. But that is something that is --

There was recently a war game that was conducted that used some different approaches that we've been working with -- the senior review group, the chiefs and the chairman and the vice-chairman and the undersecretaries. And there isn't a doubt in my mind but that that approach is going to create some significant changes as to how we arrange ourselves, how we size our force, how we arrange war plans. And that is, I think, something that will be -- when we look back, we'll see it as being very significant.

The fact that those kinds of things which are obviously conceptual, they take time to be worked through, a very complex department with a complex set of mechanisms, contingency planning and war plans and all of those things, these things all have to run through that full cycle, which is a year, year and a half.

A third thing that I think is -- it's too soon to know, again, but if you think about the Kosovo air war, and if you recognize that when they tried to stand up the headquarters to conduct that air war, that by the time the war was over, they were still only 82 percent staffed up, one has to ask the question, how do you feel about that? Do you think that's the way we ought to do business? Do you think that we ought to be arranged the way we're arranged today and know that the likely events that are going to occur are going to be things -- activities, events, challenges, threats -- that we're not organized to deal with, we're not prepared to deal with? We don't have mechanisms that give a president the kinds of options that the president needs before the fact.

And I'm of the opinion that this is worth doing, what we're doing in the defense planing guidance, where we are looking at different ways of arranging forces so that the United States of America has the ability in the pre-conflict period to manage its affairs in a way that increase the deterrent and give the president the kinds of capabilities that he may very well be able to dissuade someone from doing something untoward, rather than proceeding along happily and knowing that when the balloon goes up, you have to begin the process of pulling people together who haven't worked together, who aren't necessarily functioning with the same kinds of equipment.

And so I think that -- I guess I don't know quite how to answer your question, Jamie, except to say, when you're dealing with anything as important as the national security of the United States and the ability of this country to contribute to peace and stability in the world, not just for ourselves but for the entire world and major chunks of this globe, you have to recognize that it is achieved through a complex set of processes and a culture.

And to change that culture and to change those processes and to inject new things into them in a way that it alters how we do things, how we are arranged, where we are arranged, with whom we are arranged, and those are the kinds of things that are coming and will come out of this process.

Q: Just a brief follow up. The services --

Rumsfeld: That's a long answer, but it is an important question.

Q: The services have received your Defense Planning Guidance, and all of them have said that the current budget doesn't cover what it is they're being asked to do. Are they misinterpreting the guidance? Are you going to have to rework it? Or are they going to have to --

Rumsfeld: I don't think there's ever been a year in the history of the Department of Defense where that wasn't the case. You've been around here a long time. You know that no one has ever said, "Gee! You've given me too much money! Son of a gun, take it back, please!"

Q: They say they're billions short, in some case $15 billion, $20 billion short of what they need to carry out your strategy.

Rumsfeld: That depends -- it isn't my strategy. The Defense Planning Guidance reflects the work of the senior review group. And the terms of reference for it and the document have all been scrubbed and washed through the senior military leadership and the senior civilian leadership, and every word has been carefully looked at and discussed and analyzed, and to the extent humanly possible, clarified.

So if you have a pattern over a number of years of saying to yourself, "Okay, what we'll do is we'll worry about the operational risks, and then what's left over, we'll do -- and we'll deny infrastructure year after year after year, to the point where we're 192 years recapitalization instead of 60 or 57 years. And we just won't spend on this and we won't spend -- we won't bother to transform them, we won't bother to modernize; we'll let the aircraft age, we'll let the other things age," -- if you have a pattern of doing that and all of a sudden someone says, "Wait a minute! Do you really think that's the way we want to do business? Don't you think we ought to look at the risks that this country is incurring if we fail to transform? Don't you think we ought to look at the risks, if we fail to modernize and we keep wasting a lot of money on aging aircraft and aging equipment, and if we let the infrastructure go year after year, how many more years can you do that?" At some point, the people in the armed services are going to say, "I don't want to work in a place like that. I don't want to live in a place like that. I don't want to fly airplanes that are treated like that." So all of a sudden you say to an institution, "Gee, what do you think, why don't we at least look at those other risks?" it should come as no surprise that someone's going to say, "But that's not the way we've been doing it," and "there isn't enough to solve all those problems in the next five minutes."

And there isn't. I've said it repeatedly -- in this room, on the Hill. You cannot fix year after year after year of neglect in five minutes.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Bill?

Q: You said yesterday that no one in the administration has given a green light to the Chinese strategic buildup. We reported today that China's getting ready to deploy its first road-mobile ICBMs, possibly as soon as the end of the year. Are you concerned about this development? And if so, what are your concerns about it?

Rumsfeld: Let me put it this way, let me generalize -- give you a generalized response, rather than a specific response. Anyone who watches intelligence over a sustained period of time and anyone who reads the press over a sustained period of time is -- cannot be unaware of the reality that the People's Republic of China has been increasing its defense budget to the extent we are knowledgeable about the exact size of their budget, but even their reported budget has been raising it in double digits over a good period of years.

We know that they have been investing in various types of weaponry, including ballistic missiles of varying range. We know that they have been deploying various types of weaponry, including ballistic missiles. And we know that they have been acquiring a number of types of weapons from Russia and from other countries. It is a long pattern that reflects a seriousness of purpose about the People's Republic of China with respect to their defense establishment. If one reads what they write and what they say, one finds that there's a high degree of compatibility between what they're saying and what they're doing.

Q: Are you concerned about that?

Rumsfeld: Why, I would think that if one's goal is to hope for a -- let me rephrase it. The People's Republic of China is a large country. It is an important country. It is a country that is truly significant in its region. And it is a factor in the world for a variety of reasons -- political, economic, and, increasingly, military.

It is navigating along a path that is uncertain, at least uncertain to this individual, as to where it's going to end. I don't know. I don't know that they know. They're trying to feed two impulses. One impulse is to preserve the regime roughly in its current form, one would think, which is not a free system, not a democratic system, not an open system; and simultaneously to achieve economic prosperity. And as a result of the various things they've done to try to integrate themselves into the world from an economic standpoint, they are clearly putting stresses against the second or first goal they have, namely of preserving the regime and being able to continue with the political system that they have.

One would think that those two paths will - cause a stress. And how it will come out, I don't know. But I believe that it's in our best interest, and in other free systems' best interests, to try to behave in a way with respect to China that encourages that it comes out in a way that those impulses towards greater economic relationship with the world prevail and that the thing that gives is the nature of its system, its regime.

Q: A missile defense question. The Senate Armed Services Committee Strategic Subcommittee last night cut about $1.36 billion --

Rumsfeld: Which committee?

Q: The Strategic Subcommittee on the overall committee.

Rumsfeld: On which committee?

Q: On the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Rumsfeld: They cut how much?

Q: About $1.36 billion. My question is this; the reason they cut it, according to Senator Levin, is because you have failed to articulate what activities in the 2000 budget will butt up against the ABM Treaty. Can you address that issue? He's made this claim a couple of times in the last month or two.

Rumsfeld: He has.

Q: Yes.

Rumsfeld: I noticed that. (Laughter.) As you know, there's been a running discussion, public and private, with me and with Paul Wolfowitz and with Secretary Powell and with the president on this very subject. I don't find it complicated.

I think that the difficulty with it is that the president has made a set of statements with which some members of the Senate don't fully concur. That fact means that it's not possible to say with -- if you're not the president and you don't know how the negotiations and discussions that are going on with Russia are going to turn out and when they will resolve something; and if they seem not to be working out, when, if at all, you would be willing to set aside that treaty and give notice, it's not possible to say -- and simultaneously to have another set of uncertainties, namely, you have a test program, research and development and test program that's proceeding, and at various moments they either see something working or not working, and so you have multiple uncertainties.

Now, if you want to inject a certainty into that, then what you have to do is forego either the negotiations and make a decision that you are going to do this, that or the other thing now with respect to notification on the treaty, or signing some sort of an understanding with Russia. Or you have to make a decision that you're not going to do anything, regardless of what happens in the test program.

Now, he knows that. It is not ambiguous, it is --

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: All the people in the Senate or the House who raise the issue.

Now, it's a fair question. His point, I think, is look, we want certainty -- I -- some senator or congressman wants certainty with respect to whether or not any dollar in this budget conceivably could be spent on something. Now, the 2002 budget ends in the end of September next year. And if there is, for example, a six-month notification, that ends well before that and it is simply that issue.

What we have said in response to him, and I think it's very fair, and I understand the question, what we've said is, "Look, we're not going to violate the treaty." The president is not going to get in a position of violating one of the treaties that we have. If we're unable to work out things with the Russians and if it looks like we need some breathing room in the treaty -- and the treaty, of course, is designed to prevent you from doing exactly that which the president wants to do. So it doesn't take a genius to figure out that we have to figure out some way to get behind it. You know, it seems to me that the answer is pretty clear. If we get to the point where -- the president has said that if he gets to the point where it looks like he can't make a cooperative arrangement with the Russians, then he'll have to make a decision as to what he does about it. And he doesn't know when that would be, and it's not for me to opine on it.

Q: What if they cut the dollars, though, sir? What's the impact from a symbolic -- the symbolic impact of those cuts? Will it tell the Russians the U.S. Senate doesn't approve of Mr. Bush's plan? Or what's your concern there?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think the -- first of all, we sent the budget up with a missile defense portion which was something less -- somewhere between 2.5 and 3 percent of the budget -- 3 percent of the budget. And if you disaggregate that and look at the -- part of it's theater and part of it's national, if you want to use that phase. You know, the actual portion that somebody who is against missile defense, and there are people who are against missile defense, we all know that, is less than 1.5 percent, I think, 2 percent, something like that.

So what happens if you take -- what was the amount, a billion --

Q: A billion-three, basically.

Rumsfeld: A billion-three. You take a billion-three out of some portion of it, it's big as a percentage, it's enormous, it's very harmful. It moves everything to the right. It delays things. It causes a change in the program that has been put together, which is to test things that had never been tested because they would in fact have been violations of the treaty, if they worked.

And so the program that General Kadish came up with was a program that was designed to be unconstrained by the treaty, and to do things that this country had not looked at previously.

Now, it's very harmful. What kind of a signal does it tell the Russians? Obviously it tells them that at least those individuals who propose those things and those individuals who support those positions think differently from the president on the issue. And I suppose that they then make their calibrations based on that. No one could in any way characterize it as helpful.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, you were pretty outspoken yesterday in your view that the shipbuilding budget is inadequate, as it's been proposed, and that there needs to be more attention to shipbuilding. You also told Senator Stevens that the administration is not going to support the advance appropriations plan that a lot of members feel would be a way to jump-start shipbuilding. Can you reconcile those for us and tell us in a little more detail than you provided yesterday why the administration has taken that position?

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't know that I can. I mean, I happen to think from our standpoint, the Pentagon's standpoint, it would be a good thing, advance appropriations, because we'd be able to not take the full vote the first day -- the full hit, I should say, not vote. (Laughs.) Excuse me. I know the difference between a vote and a ship. And I've not thought carefully through Ted Stevens' -- Senator Stevens' thought about whether or not it would reduce the possibility of overruns. But I think he's a very knowledgeable person and feels very strongly about it, and I suspect he's right.

Considerations the Office of Management and Budget and the White House are balancing in that, I don't know exactly, and I'd have to -- I think the biggest thing is you end up, if you don't take the full hit, that means you've bought a mortgage. And so maybe they prefer to have greater flexibility going forward.

Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, there's been talk that beginning in 2007, you're going to ask each of the services to come up with 15 percent savings in their budgets to help pay for transformation. And a lot of officers I talk with say it would be difficult, if not impossible, to come up with those kind of savings.

Rumsfeld: Fifteen percent in the year 2007?

Q: Right. For transformation. What would you say to those officers who say it would be difficult, if not impossible, to come up with those kind of savings?

Rumsfeld: Well, I have not screwed my head into that. That is a subject that has been rumbling around over the last week, week and a half, and I'm going to be getting into it this weekend.

I don't know that I should even respond, except to say, you know, 15 percent is 15 percent, it's not nothing. So I could see why a person would say, "Gee, that's a lot." On the other hand, and I can also understand why a person would make the comment, given the fact that the pattern has been to deal with the present and not the future and not the problems that are building, just the immediate, so we're in a rhythm in this institution of doing that, so it doesn't surprise me that someone might say that.

How I'll end up landing on that issue is not clear to me at this point.

Clarke: Sir, you have time for maybe one or two more questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Q: Wait a minute, who's in charge?

Q: Can I take you back briefly to missile defense? A Russian government official quoted today as saying they believe it would take at least a year to complete these negotiations that you're into right now. Doesn't that argue for moving ahead, making a decision sooner rather than later to set aside the treaty, withdraw from it, give your notice? If it's going to be a year or more, I think it would imply that your program would be delayed.

Rumsfeld: I don't think that the United States government necessarily gets blown off course every five minutes every time some Russian official makes some comment in the press, or is reported to. I've read four or five different reports from Russian officials just in the last week on that same subject. Public. As well as some other things that -- reports of conversations that people are -- U.S. government people are having with Russians.

So I think it would be a mistake for me to comment on that one -- I guess he was the deputy national security adviser, I think I saw in the press -- his comment, because there are, just as from our government, there are people who are saying things in slightly different ways, and people end up with slightly different impressions from it. And I don't know that I would get up in the morning and behave off that particular news report.

Q: But is it beyond your scope of what you anticipate, these negotiations lasting that kind of a period of time?

Rumsfeld: You know, when you're doing something as complex as a relationship between two countries and you're trying to change it from a cold war construct to one that looks in a less hostile environment at the political dimension, the economic dimension and the national security dimension, and you're trying to bring all of those three up through the needle head -- together, because you don't want to walk in there and establish a new political relationship that's totally separable from the economic or the security, you want to look at them together and bring them together -- it isn't simple for people to get their heads wrapped around that different way of looking at things.

Now, how long will it take? I don't have any idea. Is it possible you could come up with some understanding of some sort between now and November? I wouldn't rule it out. Do I think it's likely? I just -- I wouldn't -- why should I even put any probabilities on it? Because no one can do that. It takes two to tango. But what I do know is, you know, there's lot of ways to do things. You can deal with things and move them to this point and have some sort of an interim understanding, and then you can move to some other point from that. Things don't end up, in most cases, full-blown. And I think that probably the people who are saying those things are people who are looking at it from the way things normally have been done. It does take a long time if you're going to negotiate a very intricate, complex arms control agreement. That's true. That kind of a thing does take a long time. It's not the kind of things we do with England.

Q: Do you feel a little beat-up these days?

Rumsfeld: A little what?

Q: Do you feel a little beat-up? Kind of a punching bag, you know, being hit from all sides?

Rumsfeld: Do you know what happened? I was at dinner with my wife in Taos. And someone said, "How do you feel about all that stuff in the press?" And Joyce said, "Good grief," she said, "it's nothing! It isn't 10 percent of what garbage we got dumped on us the last time we were down there." (Laughter.)

Q: Mr. Secretary, going back to the --

Rumsfeld: No, it's -- there's kind of a rhythm to this whole thing. The new group comes in, everyone's kind of nice for five minutes, and then -- (laughter) -- then they start throwing them in the barrel and beating them up a little bit, and life goes on, and we'll all survive, and it's nice to see you, and I'm glad your beard's off.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, I got a nickel for you here. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: I'm a Depression baby. I -- (laughter) -- I'd pick up a penny! (Laughter.)

Q: Just my part!