Q: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. Thank you very much for joining us.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Good morning. I’m delighted to be with you.
Q: Let’s talk just for a minute about what America is doing in providing aid to the victims of the Tsunami in Southeast Asia. There’s been an awful lot of loose talk about who’s stingy and who’s generous. And it seems to me we’ve got a lot of people on station working pretty hard.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, indeed, we do. It’s amazing. We have 19 U.S. naval ships that are purchased and maintained by the U.S. taxpayers at great expense, including aircraft carrier -- the Lincoln -- and the helicopter carrier the Bonhomme Richard. We have a Coast Guard ship there, six heavy lift aircraft and medium-lift aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft, helicopters -- some 45 --- and I think there’s something in the neighborhood of 15,000 U.S. military people who in one way or another are involved in this activity.
There’s a great deal that any country could invest in and have available for the world in case of emergency that they don’t invest in. And in a number of specific areas, particularly like intelligence and lift and command and control and instant medical competence, the United States taxpayers are the ones who make those investments and who have those things available and that’s why on the front pages of paper after paper around the world today we’re seeing U.S. military people assisting those people who have suffered so terribly in this tragic disaster.
Q: And this is not exactly a safe job either. There’s disease and all sorts of things over there. And I’m assuming all our people are pretty much aware to try to protect themselves, as well as help these folks.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, you’re quite right. It is a dangerous part of the world. When there are that many people dead – something in the neighborhood of 100 to 150,000 -- and where disease is rampant, where water is not clean and it is a dangerous circumstance for the people that are assisting there and they’re doing it happily and with a great deal of skill and a great deal of courage. And our country is certainly blessed to have these wonderful volunteers, men and women in uniform, who are out doing that.
I was stunned by the comments by the person from the United Nations. They reflected, of course, if not a total lack of information or accuracy or a total lack of judgment or else a bias.
Q: Well, probably a little bit of each, I would suspect. Let’s hopscotch a little bit around the world if we can, sir, and let’s talk about Iraq. I think everybody’s focused on what’s going to happen between now and the election. We’re less than four weeks away. There’s a lot of violence over there. The insurgents are doing what they’re doing in trying to kill people and blow things up and interrupt the effort of the election. Number one, is it going to get worse, before it gets better?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I think that’s a possibility. I think that if you think of what they have to lose, the terrorists and the pro-dictator Iraqis, the Sunnis -- the small number of Sunnis -- who are in favor of bringing back a totalitarian dictatorship, they have a great deal to lose if elections are held and are successful and the people of Iraq for the first time have an opportunity to actually express a free vote and a free opinion in helping to guide and direct the country. So you have to believe that they’re determined to not let that happen.
Today with the announcement by Osama bin Laden that he is against the elections, the linkages between Zarqawi who is one of the leading terrorists in country that’s been involved in these beheadings, and his linkage to al Qaeda, it’s rather clear that this is an important part of the global war on terror and as such we simply can’t afford to lose it. We’d be turning that important nation back to darkness.
Q: Well, hopefully, we’re turning it into a democracy. And one of the things we’re looking at in this election is – well, a nation of about 24 million people and we’re supposed to be getting a lot of international help. Is the U.N. really stepping up to this job or are they kind of holding back because there are complaints of security?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, the U.N. has played a reasonably constructive role early on in helping to form the interim Iraqi government and they have been assisting in preparations for the elections. And the Iraqi people have been making an important and constructive contribution to that as well as, of course, the coalition forces have been assisting also.
But I think that you’ll recall, the U.N. went in early and then the minute their representative Mr. de Mello was killed in a terrorist attack, the U.N. left. They’re now back in and it is, of course in four of the eighteen provinces, it’s relatively dangerous in the remaining 14 provinces, it’s relatively peaceful.
Q: Well, it’s a very big country. And you know, are the U.N. people coming in in sufficient numbers to do what needs to be done?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think that only time will tell. Our hope is that they will and our hope is that the Iraqi people who’ve been recruited to participate in the elections will have the ability to see it through, despite the fact that we see this growing level of intimidation and assassination attempts against people who are determined to see that the elections actually happen.
Q: Sir, we hear all sorts of various reports about the quality of the Iraqi forces, the free Iraqi forces for the Allawi government. What’s your best assessment of how they’re doing now and what are we doing to make them better?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, if I could just take a minute or two here and describe it, when one talks about the Iraqi security forces, what we’re talking about is the regular Army, the site protection people, the border patrol, the police, and what has been called the national guard and is soon to be folded into the army and become a part of the army.
They have different roles. They have different levels of armament and weaponry and therefore different purposes, as I say.
So any time a relatively lightly armed police unit ends up against a heavily armed terrorist group or Baathist group, clearly, they can be outmatched. And on the other hand, they have a number of units that have performed very well. They performed well in Fallujah. They have a counterterrorist unit that has been extremely successful and the numbers keep growing. And despite the fact that they’ve taken some heavy losses, they’ve lost a good deal more people than the coalition has over the past year. And yet, people are in line, ready to volunteer to participate in it. And I think over time, there is no solution other than having the Iraqi security forces be responsible for Iraq’s security. They can do it better, they’re all knowledgeable of the language, they know the streets and the communities and that’s the only solution.
Q: Well, let’s jump ahead again, if we can. And I know one of the big exercises the Pentagon has to go through every year is the whole budget process. You really came back to the job as secretary of defense planning to transform the military from a Cold War force -- the one that’s facing into the future. The budget process, I take it, is going on yet again. What’re your objectives? I mean, tell us where you want things to go?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, if you think about it, when we came here four years ago, the Department of Defense was arranged around the world pretty much in a static defense arrangement that was a leftover from the Cold War. And so what we’ve been doing is working with our friends and allies around the world and negotiating and arranging so that we can adjust and refocus our forces in a way that fits the 21st century. The world we live in, in this century, requires combined military capabilities that are agile, that have precision weapons, that can move with speed and flexibility.
You know, our Department of Defense was basically organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces, but the reality is today that there are relatively few big armies, navies and air forces that we have to compete with and we’re dealing with asymmetric threats, threats that go to the seams, threats that do not confront directly our armies, navies or air forces, but through terrorist attacks and various asymmetric approaches, they can propose a very serious threat to our country and our friends and allies. And we have to get adjusted to that and that’s what we’re doing.
Q: Well, do you have two or three major goals, I mean, the overall picture that you’re trying to accomplish in the next couple of years?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, yes, indeed. We have to get our global footprint, that is to say where our forces are located, rearranged to fit this new century. That is a critically important goal. Second, we have to see that we have rebalanced our active and reserve forces so that the active forces have on duty the kinds of skill sets that are obviously going to be needed and that we’ve put into the Reserves and Guard – National Guard – those skill sets that are much less needed so that we don’t overstress the force.
I feel very good about the progress that’s being made. We’ve increased the size of the United States Army substantially. We’re going from 33 brigades to 43 brigades on the active force and we’re also increasing the number of ready brigades in the Guard and Reserve. We’ve increased the total number of people on active duty in the ground forces because obviously they’re needed. When you think of what we’re doing in Kosovo and Bosnia and what we had to do, help out within Liberia and Haiti and what we’re doing today with some 7 to 15,000 troops involved with the disaster relief in South Asia, as well as what’s going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, the demand is, in many respects, for two things: one is airlift and the other is ground forces that can create the kinds of capability that are needed.
Q: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for spending this time with us. Ladies and gentlemen, Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you. It’s good to be with you.