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Secretary White Meeting with Pentagon Reporters

Presenter: Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White
September 21, 2001

Thursday, September 20, 2001

(Breakfast meeting with a group of Pentagon reporters. Also participating: Maj. Gen. Larry Gottardi, Army chief of public affairs, and Cols. Stephanie Hoehne and James Allen from the office of the Army chief of public affairs.)

White: Thank you very much for coming. We truly appreciate it.

This was going to be our normal quarterly discussion as of at least through the 10th of September, but the world has changed as we all know, so we can use this to talk about how the world has changed and how the Army is responding to it.

Let me just make a couple of remarks to start out with and then we can get to questions.

I visited New York City yesterday, and I met with Mayor Giuliani who is an incredible leader. I think that we would all agree that the city is extremely fortunate to have a man of his caliber, talent, compassion, and energy in a moment of crisis. So I was fortunate enough to spend some time with he and his emergency preparedness officials to make sure that the support that they were getting from the department was properly aligned. I'm very happy to say, proud to say they're quite pleased with the support we've provided.

I then went down to Ground Zero which is a sobering experience, to say the least. I spoke with the National Guardsmen from the State of New York, the Army Guard that has been there since the early moments of the crisis. They're doing a wonderful job, which again reiterates our point that we keep making, that we're one Army today, that the reserve components are absolutely vital to the Army.

In the past two weeks I've been to Kosovo, Bosnia, stood on the Macedonian border, and in all the places I have been there have been reserve component forces side by side with active. You have to cheat a little bit and look at the patch on the shoulder to figure out whether it's an RC or an AC soldier. The expertise, the discipline, the professionalism is seamless and we're very, very proud of that.

On the home front here at the Pentagon, the recovery operation continues. The support, again, not only from civil authorities principally from the state of Virginia, but also active and reserve component soldiers have been terrific. There were incredible acts of heroism here immediately after the attack or the loss of life would have been greater. There are a number of wonderful stories of people, both civilian and military, who stepped up during that critical period.

We are well on the way to finishing the process of the removal of remains from here and then we will get about memorializing the event and reconstructing and I think it's been publicized how we intend to do that, the contractors that will be involved and so forth.

We are supporting Infinite Justice. As you know it was widely reported that the deployment order was signed yesterday. This is -- but I would remind you that the president and the secretary of Defense have made it clear that we are in a campaign, that this will be a multi-faceted campaign aimed at destroying international terrorism from a number of different perspectives -- economic, political, military, operational, communication. And consequently a single deployment order has been instituted following on that, but there's a lot more that will come.

The Army is engaged and is fully ready to execute its part of that campaign plan as it flows up. We have wonderful soldiers and they are trained and ready and confident that we will, in fact, get on with this as a part of our joint team.

So with that as background, why don't I open the floor to questions and we'll get to what you want to talk about.

Q: What is the Army's role in supporting the (inaudible)? Can you be more specific?

White: I won't be more specific in terms of the exact operational nature of the plan. Of course we won't talk about that. But we are ready to conduct sustained land combat operations as determined by the secretary of Defense and the president. That is our business, that is our mission. So as the campaign unfolds, should that be required, we're ready to deliver that, and we're ready to deliver it across the whole array of force structure -- heavy, light, air mobile, airborne, special operations. All of the combat capability and combat support and combat service support capability that we have in the Army structure.

Q: You can't get into it, but everyone's already talked about, including the secretary, about Special Forces being used here. You don't take out these shadowy people with cruise missiles. You have to go and route them out of caves. We may need even more Special Forces.

Clearly, and everyone said it throughout the day, that Special Forces are going to lead the way for the Army. Is that right?

White: Well, we have a very strong Special Ops capability in the Army, and I am sure that this campaign will involve them. And they are ready to go.

Q: Have any Army units, were any covered under the deployment order from yesterday?

White: I won't discuss the specifics of the deployment order except to say that we are in the process of executing that order. Our components are executing it. But I'm not going to get into the details of the line by line of the deployment --

Q: Without going line by line, can you tell us if any units were covered by that deployment order?

White: Yes. We have elements that were part of the order.

Q: The OSD guidance, I understood, was once a unit is ordered you are free to identify it and tell us it's going. I thought that was the OSD guidance.

White: Is that the OSD guidance? Then I'll have to follow up with you and give you specifics of it. We'll be happy to do that through Larry.

Q: Mr. Secretary, how is the Army going to prepare for this new kind of war that we keep hearing about? The long sustained, [knock 'em dead], we'll go in like Desert Storm and do our job and be out in a few days. How is the Army going to be trained and ready for this long operation?

White: I think it (inaudible) very well (inaudible). We're going to submit the '03-'07 program next month, and I want to make sure that we have fully funded in that program both the interim brigades that we have announced, the six interim brigades we've announced, and keep those on schedule; and second, that we fully fund the objective force which is currently in the (inaudible). So I think it's critical that we maintain or find ways to accelerate the transformation and the program that we submit will reflect that.

Q: And the $20 billion that is coming partly to the Pentagon, do you get some of that or something specifically aimed at dealing with this current situation?

White: Yeah, I think you'll see a portion of this earmarked, for example, for force protection of bases and installations.

We have not --

Q: Would that be higher up or --

White: It's going to be a combination of things. I think there will be contract aspects of it, there will be in-house aspects of it, but we have never in the past been able to fully fund force protection requirements and I think it's clear that it's very important that we do so.

Q: Anything else in the $20 billion that you anticipate --

White: I think in addition to that you're going to have a bill for increased operational tempo. The normal things that you would see in a supplemental.

Q: What about restructuring training? That's what some people in the Army are talking about, restructuring training to go after this current threat of terrorism, maybe more mountain training, for example. What can you say about that?

White: We have restructured what we do in the Combat Training Command to represent a far more diverse threat portrayal than we typically did ten years ago. If you went to the National Training Center ten years ago you would have seen a Soviet motorized rifle regiment in all its glory. Today the portrayal of the threat there is very multi-dimensional. A wide range of scenarios. We've completely recast that into a more diverse approach which I think tracks with what you might call this more complicated operational environment that we face.

I think what we're doing in the National Training Center, both at Hohenfels, at JRTC, and at the NTC tracks very well with this new environment that we're in.

Q: Have any of your forces been ordered to deploy (inaudible)?

White: Any who?

Q: Any of your forces been ordered to fly to the (inaudible)?

White: Yeah. That's the same question I got earlier. We will get you the forces that are deploying, that were part of the deployment orders.

Q: Mr. Secretary, it's being dubbed Operation Infinite Justice.

White: Right.

Q: What would you say to the American people about, it doesn't sound like there's going to be any sort of end in sight. What would you say to the American people about that?

White: Well, I think that's why the term infinite as opposed to finite justice.

(Laughter)

White: I think the president's been very clear and I'm sure he'll reemphasize it tonight in his speech, that this will be a campaign. A campaign is characterized by a series of engagements and activities leading up to a common operational objective. That objective being the destruction of international terrorism. The president has been clear that it's just not a single group engaged in this. There are multiple groups, multiple geographic locales. There are financial dimensions to this, there are communications dimensions to it, and if you are going to root out that infrastructure you have to have a broad-based approach of all of the elements of national power engaged. And it's very hard to draw a finite box around those sets of activities and say we expect it to be completed by date X. So I think that the name for the operation is consistent with the way we expect it to play out.

Q: Is there anything about the QDR that is changed for the Army, or DoD in general that you're aware of, in light of the recent events?

White: I think that we spent an enormous amount of time in the QDR talking about asymmetric threats and talking about homeland defense and informational warfare and things that seem to be totally relevant to the post 11 September security environment that we find ourselves in.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can I ask you to follow up on what you were saying about combat troops being ready on a couple of points.

There is obviously a lot of concern about the threat of terrorist chem/bio activity, and of course the anthrax program is sort of non-existent at the moment. What are your concerns about, you said you're ready for sustained land combat operations, but you're going to have an awful lot of troops that haven't had their shots. How are you going to deal with that challenge?

White: I think that's a challenge for the whole department, and I think that you'll see in the upcoming days a more detailed plan as to how we plan to address that. As you know, as you've just said, our stocks are limited, and we stopped the broad immunization program, and that's going to have to be readdressed.

Q: When you say that the Army is ready to conduct sustained land combat operations, but given that you're going into this at this time of year when certainly winter is already approaching, how do you deal with that? In Kosovo, of course, which was potentially a very limited land combat operation, you had a buildup period that you were going to have to address for some period of time. Can you tell us your thoughts on that?

White: We have to deal with a lot of conditions, and we have a great deal of experience with cold weather operations. We've been in Germany a long time. We've been in Kosovo through a winter. We've been in Bosnia through several. So we are experienced, and we've got troops stationed in Alaska and at Fort Drum, New York, so we are used to operating in adverse weather conditions.

Q: But what about the pace of being able to build up, to do what you want to do?

White: Certainly it will be affected by the weather. No question about it.

Q: Just timing?

White: And consequently, if weather becomes a factor, like in any other operational theater there is the potential for the pace of operations to slow because of the weather.

Q: But is there any place that you can conceive that this fight would take us into sustained ground combat? We're certainly not going to go in and try to fight a sustained combat in Afghanistan. Two centuries of history have proven the futility of that, and we should have no reason -- where would the Army have a sustained land campaign in this kind of operation?

White: Well it depends upon -- again, the president said the focus here is terrorists and governments that support terrorists. So a lot of this really depends upon where the intelligence comes out, what the focus of the campaign turns out to be. On the one hand if the intelligence indicates that these people are operating independent of host nation support you get into a style of operation to deal with that. But as the president's very clearly said, we consider those that harbor and support international terrorism as a part of the crime. And to the extent that those governments continue or that we deem them to be a threat and a part of this and choose to conduct operations against them, then you could very well have sustained land combat operations. So I don't think you can rule out anything at this point.

Q: Including Iraq?

Q: Our society has come to expect casualties, a war with minimum casualties.

White: Right.

Q: Obviously it's hard to do in any kind of land operations, particularly sustained land operations. Can you address for our readers how this is going to be different?

White: Again, the president has been very clear that in the conduct of this campaign there will most likely be casualties. That's the nature of the beast. And I think it's unreasonable for us to think that we can conduct a Kosovo-style air campaign at very high altitude without accepting the potential of casualties. I think the president's been very clear about that and I would suspect that he'll address that tonight.

Q: General Zinni who knows this neighborhood pretty well from his time in CentCom had two points to make. He said first of all he thinks it's a bad idea to treat the terrorists as warriors which we're in a sense doing by going to war against them. He said they should be treated more as just common criminals and maybe the diplomats and law enforcement and others should be taking the lead here. That the military should maybe have a minor role.

He's also wondering what will happen down the road once we do get into say Afghanistan. Does Special Forces link up with a Northern Alliance to take out the terrorists, to take out bin Laden and maybe some of the Taliban? And then where does it head from there? Do you march to Kabul with the Northern Alliance and then install them as a new government? Then pretty soon they're your boys.

There are a lot of people saying where is this heading once you get in?

White: I would say first of all on the general's first point, this is not a police activity, per se. We have treated it as a police activity in the past. This is war. The president has very clearly said we're at war with international terrorism, which means to me a much broader use of the full capabilities of the country to include what law enforcement can do, but also the strength and power of the military organizations, our economic resources.

Clearly one of the things that you're going to have to dismantle as a part of this operation is the financial network that supports the activity.

So we have to bring all the elements of national power to bear, not just that portion that deals with criminal conduct and activity. So I think the approach has to be much broader.

As to how the campaign plays out in any specific theater... And again, I think we should all be clear that while there is a lot of discussion right now about bin Laden and the fact that he appears to be in Afghanistan and focusing on that one small region, this is a global issue that we have to deal with.

Q: But clearly all the movement now is pointing towards Afghanistan. It's not pointing towards --

White: Well, in a very initial sense. But again, the president has said this is a campaign, this campaign's going to go on for awhile, it's going to have far-reaching implications. And I have no idea how the specifics of this will play out when and if the president decides to actually conduct a combat operation in Afghanistan or the Persian Gulf. It's hard to predict.

Q: That's the concern some of these people have. Once you go in, it's going to be like the KLA. Beforehand we're trying to keep them separated, then we go in, suddenly they're our buddies, you know? With the Northern Alliance you could have the same thing.

White: It's a complicated situation.

Q: But my question is, has this been thought through? Once you go in, then what happens? Has someone thought about linking up with the Northern Alliance, or are they just going to be --

White: I would just say we're not going to share operational details, but clearly people are considering all of the implications of the operational environment.

Q: Not to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but given that this will be a sustained campaign, are you reexamining your request for base closures?

White: We have asked the Congress, as you all know, for base closure authority. We submitted the legislation. It will play out with decisions to be made on our part between now and 2003, a commission in 2003, with final decisions being made in the latter part of the year. That's the current plan, and no one's changed that approach.

Q: May I ask you a question about the budget? Whatever we're talking about here, we're talking about something that's pretty expensive. $20 billion is going to be a down payment.

White: Right.

Q: The [build] for the 2003 POM had basically just started to get intense when this happened. Are people throwing out the window any concept of needing to limit the military budget? What do you think the POM is going to look like now? Because you're going to have to be building an Army the likes of which we have not seen since World War II possibly, potentially.

White: I would say that the '03 POM build will have things in it that we intended in our transformation to emphasize anyway because they are totally relevant to the post 11 September environment we face. The SecDef talked a lot about long range precision strikes. That is... The secretary of Defense talked a lot about ballistic missile defense.

So you will see transformational technologies that we think are directly relevant to this asymmetric threat environment, and they'll be front and center in the POM development. That's why we think the work that was done on the QDR with its emphasis on asymmetric defense, homeland defense and so forth is entirely relevant to where we're headed. You'll see bills that we may not have paid fully like force protection and chemical defense teams, other types of things that are unique to say the homeland side of it, they'll generate more interest than perhaps they would have been compared to other things.

Q: Just to follow up, I understand what you're saying, that you're not changing direction dramatically, that you felt you were going in the right direction anyway when this happened. What I'm asking is this. When you people put your budget together, is the whole consideration of the economy and saving money now basically out the window?

White: No. Let me be very clear, that we have a bunch of initiatives on better business practices that we as Service secretaries, in particular, as the business managers of the departments, are pushing hard on. So what you should not interpret the whole exercise as we are now at war and therefore we can be fiscally irresponsible. We have to drive the business case, to squeeze every last dollar of inefficiency out of this if we're going to buy the capability that we think is necessary.

Q: Do you think you might be accelerating any of your acquisition programs? Either from the '01 supplemental or the '02 budget?

White: That could be, but we haven't made any decisions on that yet.

As we, I think, talked about all the major acquisition programs are under review, and for each one of them there are options that range from let's accelerate it and do it faster to we'd rather not have this going forward. The SecDef deferred beyond the '02 summer time discussion a review of those major programs, but that will be done this fall as a part of formulating the '03 budget.

Q: (inaudible) there were several things underway, acquisition reform, and --

White: Right.

Q: -- headquarters renovation.

White: Right.

Q: What was before kind of the day-to-day [vision] of the Army, is it going to be put on hold, or are you going to simultaneously move --

White: We're going to move it forward. I'm glad you brought that up. We are going to go forward with a reorganization of the Army headquarters that basically combines the secretary and the Army staff in a far more efficient organization than has been the case in the past.

I think the challenges that we've faced since the 11th of September make it clearly necessary, that it has shown the value and the merit of the plan that we have put together, so we are not going to lose the momentum that we generated in putting those things together. We're going to get on with it, and we'll be able to talk to you about that shortly.

Q: -- past that you didn't believe force structure cuts would be as wide placed in the Army.

White: Right.

Q: There is still (inaudible) on the table in the Army (inaudible) budget. Is it off the table now?

White: No. I think because the secretary of Defense and the president have not made any choices on the '03 budget yet, you'll have to say those things are still on the table. I will make the argument once again, that at least in the near term the operational requirements that confront the Army require an Army of the size we have because the personnel tempo is already higher than we'd like it to be.

So the question I always raise is, if you want to take brigades out of this rotation that we have into Kosovo and Bosnia and the Sinai since Camp David and so on, if you are pulling brigades out of that rotation, my first question is what do I get to stop doing and when? Because if you look down in the trenches, the 3rd Infantry Division, which is currently coming out of Bosnia, the 29th Division, a National Guard division, going in, if you look at the number of days those people are spending away from home, they'll vote with their feet if we don't do a good job of managing this deployment business. And of course we are about to enter a campaign which is going to require further deployments.

So I will argue the case that the Army shouldn't get smaller. But the secretary of Defense and the president of course have the right to make decisions as they see fit.

Q: Do you feel in light of recent events though, that that possibility is much...

White: You would think so.

Q: Speaking of forces, there's been a lot of talk about this campaign going on for years, and special forces are leading the way here. Rumsfeld suggests we may need even more.

Do you think there will be a need for additional Special Forces, special operations troops?

And some folks at West Point are suggesting that maybe the interim brigades, you might want to put some Ranger elements attached to the interim brigades. Are you looking at either increasing special operations --

White: On the latter point, we have never been terribly successful over the years in mixing conventional and unconventional expertise. So I am more comfortable with the structure as it currently sits which is dedicated special operating forces, some of them present in a standing joint headquarters, JSOC. I think that has served us very, very well over the years.

The question then becomes is the structure adequate enough as you look at the demand for this campaign that we're launching into, and we'll just have to see what that looks like.

Q: The first point as far as additional Special Operations forces?

White: I don't know. It depends upon the requirements of the campaign as it plays out. I think it's too early to tell --

Q: -- those guys --

White: Clearly they have a critical capability in this asymmetric type of warfare.

Q: Secretary White, are we going to continue with established training schedules with our soldiers overseas and so forth while we're in this high state of ready for war, or not?

White: Yes. Because those training cycles reflect the ability to hone the edge and sustain readiness. So units will go to Grafenwoehr, units will go to Hohenfels. The normal European rotation units will go to the National Training Center. And if units are deployed and break their cycle then we'll deal with it when it happens. But the maintenance, the readiness is critical to the Army being able to support the campaign.

Q: Has the administration decided exactly which terrorist we're going after? Is it the perpetrators of (inaudible) or is it also the Islamic separatists in China as well as the Chechnyan terrorists, and -- how far is the reach here?

White: I don't know how definitive the administration has been beyond broadly -- the administration has been clear, I think the president's been clear that this problem is broader than Osama bin Laden, but I don't think they have precisely defined how broad it is and it would be inappropriate for me as an intelligence matter to do so. But clearly international terrorism is a very broad and very complex challenge.

Q: Might you use your experience in Vietnam to look at psychological aspects the home front and the international?

White: Right.

Q: We lost the war in Vietnam on the home front more than we lost it on the battlefield.

White: Right.

Q: The American people are seemingly unified now, fall behind the president and the administration. But if this thing is going to drag on, if it does, year after year, month upon year to year with all the homeland inconveniences and the trickle of casualties that follow, can we ever sustain this one? How is this one different from Vietnam? And can you sustain the homeland support?

White: Well I think the obvious difference from Vietnam is that Ho Chi Minh never attacked the World Trade Center and never killed 5,000 of our inhabitants. So I think just the opposite is the case here. The fact that the war can be brought home to any neighborhood, any community in this country with devastating potential impact I think tends to focus the public mind on the need to conduct these operations. And the inconveniences to our average every day lives as we process through airports and all the other things that will change for us, and the price to be potentially paid to remove this threat to our existence... I think that's been very clearly brought home to us, and we have unified behind the president in this cause, and we will stay unified.

I think the challenge is entirely different than with Vietnam.

Q: The other challenge that becomes similar is the hearts and minds issue. You're operating hopefully against a small group of people, but they swim in a sea of somewhat sympathetic folks -- the Muslim world as a whole. Isn't there a serious problem of a collateral damage issue, both physical and psychological and political? Where if we kill too many of the wrong people we end up with more enemies than we started with.

White: I think that's why the Secretary of State, Secretary Powell, and the president are working so hard to build a coalition of support both in the Arab world and with our NATO allies and all other countries, so that this is not just a U.S. only action. This is a world response to a threat to all civilized nations regardless of whether they're Muslim nations or Christian nations or whatever the ethnicity of it is. And that that building of that support base and the sustainment of it I think is critical to the success of the campaign.

Q: Can we get philosophical for a second?

White: Philosophical.

(Laughter)

White: -- poisoned something --

Q: Terrorism is obviously not a place or a person, it is a tactic, and it is the only available tactic to someone taking on a power as strong as the United States, it has to be asymmetrical.

So how can you defeat a tactic? Is this a war that can ever actually be won, and how do you know when you've won it?

White: Well, I suppose the philosophy of it is that you have to attack the root causes of why terrorism exist. Is it economic, is it political, is it religious? What causes --

There's a distinct shift here in the profile of who you're dealing with. It's one thing for a Palestinian to wrap a bomb around his or her body and show up in a pizzeria in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, who lived and grew up in a refugee camp, who is impoverished and has a view of the world that is enormously, and the opportunities it provides is enormously different than ours.

It's quite another to find people who you would define I suppose broadly as middle class, who have been university students, who have traveled parts of the world, Europe and the United States, who have lived among us, and then somehow convinced themselves that they should be a part of something horrible and evil as transpired on the 11th of September.

So I think we need eventually to go to the root cause of how this could happen, and we have to attack those root causes if we're ever going to completely eliminate them.

Q: What are those root causes?

White: I don't know. I'm not an expert on the subject. It's a great question to ask because I read the press as you do, and looking into the backgrounds of these people, some of them didn't appear to be deeply religious, some of them, you know, so why did they do this? I don't think anybody knows. And certainly there are a lot more people that are expert on this than I.

Q: Can you quickly, where are you with the reserve call-up since the president gave you the authority to do it?

White: The president gave the authority and we are selectively calling up reserve units, mainly combat service support elements that augment force protection and things of that nature.

Q: You have called up some?

White: Yes.

Q: Can you identify them? We keep asking and nobody gives us a list.

White: We'll get you not only the federal reserves that have been called up and the numbers associated with that, but also the National Guard, virtually all of which are still under state control.

Q: How long? I'm hearing at least -- I know it's up to two years, but at least a year.

White: Okay. Hang on -- yeah, that's fine. I don't know the answer to that question. But Larry will pass you whatever we can release...

Gottardi: We know what are being called up now are mainly the Quartermaster folks involved in recovery. There are others to come, but I don't have -- I'll find out what I can and --

Q: -- they are not actually doing any call-ups until --

Gottardi: There's a misnomer. A lot of times, what we're under right now is TTAD, which is Temporary Tour of Active Duty. That's not technically a call-up. I need to be careful, because if you're in the reserve component community, each one of these statuses describes something that's very, very different.

Q: Right. We want to know --

Allen: You define call-up differently than the reserve component guys do.

Q: (inaudible)

Gottardi: You have units, we started out -- We have no PRSC, so you have units whose capabilities you needed, so what you did is you put them on TTAD status, which is Temporary Tour of Active Duty, which is not technically a call up. You say that, but a Guard and Reserve guy would say oh, no, no.

Would anybody be interested in somebody who can sit down and talk to you, this is what this means and this is what that means. I can get somebody --

Q: (Multiple voices)

Gottardi: -- Quartermaster and 54th --

Hoehne: On their web site they have a full list of Army...

Allen: We've got a couple of companies, the MP brigade or the MP company from Maryland has, but they're all on the web site.

Hoehne: It's all listed on the web site, they're updating it twice a day.

Gottardi: The way we stand right now, we can confirm (inaudible) deployment order...

(Multiple voices)

White: I have no objection to that.

Thank you very much.