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Secretary Rumsfeld En Route to Kuwait

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 06, 2004

Monday, December 6, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld En Route to Kuwait

SEC. RUMSFELD:  We are off to Afghanistan first for an event that is enormously important – to that country and to the Iraq part of the world and to the principals that we believe in.  The successful election that took place there for president and the prospective elections in the parliament represent an important step forward for moderates, for principals of fairness to all elements of a couple [Inaudible] country and for [Inaudible] people all elements of people within a country.  I’m pleased to be able to be there with the vice president and the delegations, the [Inaudible] it’s truly an historic development. 

 

We’ll be going to India afterwards and I have not been able to get there for the last year or two and there’s a new government.  Their new minister of defense, they are wanting to spend some time with.  India is an important country.  And as the world’s largest democracy a nation that we have important and continuing relationship with.  If I’m not mistaken, one of my first bilaterals when I came here four years ago is that the unit defense process with the national security adviser in India that I initiated believing that a relationship between India and our country is an important one.  And with that, I’ll be happy to respond to those two questions. 

 

Q:  Mr. Secretary, you’ve already established a record for being the youngest secretary of defense and we hear you want to go for the record as the longest serving secretary of defense.

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  How long is that?

 

Q:  About seven years?

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  My goodness.  Does it have to be consecutive or can it be combined?  [Laughter]  Well, the election’s over and the president asked me if I would be willing to stay on and I told him I would be delighted to do that.  We’ve got a lot of work that’s well along, but some of it’s not finished.  The task of moving an institution as large as the U.S.  Department of Defense is a sizable task.  And it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t happen instantaneously.  Great bureaucracies don’t spin on a dime.  But we have a great many things going on in the department that the president wanted done and he made a Citadel speech and when he asked me to take this job four years ago and we’re making good progress. 

 

The National Security Personnel System gives us an opportunity to better manage the department and we’re in the early stages of that.  The Secretary of the Navy Gordon England and David Chu have been taking the lead there.  The services are in the process of rebalancing the active component with the reserve component so that we get on to active duty the forces we need on a continuing basis and put into reserves some of those skill sets that we need less frequently.  The effect will be to not have to put such demands on the Guard and Reserve. 

 

We are doing something that needed to be done for decades and that is to adjust our force posture in the world globally.  We’ll be bringing home some troops, we’ll be bringing home some dependents, we’ll be shifting our weight in various parts of the globe.  And the emphasis will be not on numbers of things, but on capabilities.  And we’ll be looking less to how many troops or how many tanks or how many planes are located in a certain spot and we’ll be focused more on precision, equipment, speed, agility, as opposed to mass and sheer numbers.  And that’s going to be a hard thing for people to understand.  We are already seeing that it’s hard for some people to understand that.  But that is the reality of a 21st century.  It’s precision and speed and agility. 

 

We’re working on joint concepts of operations so that the services achieve what was achieved in the Iraq war, namely true jointness and not simply de-confliction, one from another, as has been the practice in the past wars.  If we’ve ever learned the truth of the 21st century, we should have learned that back in the ‘90s, but seemed not to, and that is that we’re likely to be engaged not with these large armies, navies and air forces and long multiyear long conventional conflicts.  We’re more likely to be involved in the kinds of things we’ve been involved in now for the past 15 years and these are the kinds of things that come up that are surprises that have not been anticipated or planned for precisely and things that don’t last a year, they last maybe a matter of months like Kosovo or Bosnia, in terms of the conflict part.  And then there’s a post-stabilization part that lasts a longer period. 

 

But if you’re not ready with a joint war fighting capability on day one, and your activity in Bosnia or Kosovo ends in a month or two, or in Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, or in Iraq in a matter of weeks in terms of major combat operations, it means you’re not organized properly, so we simply have to have standing Joint Task Force capabilities so that when at the start of an event, our people know each other and have worked together, exist together, have thought through the kinds of contingencies that conceivable could arise and are capable of doing them.  In the Kosovo air war, for example, when the war was over, the headquarters still was only about 73 percent staffed up. 

 

Well, that’s just not good enough in the world we’re living in today.  So we have another thing we’re in midcourse of and that is revising all contingency plans.  The plans we had took several years to develop and they were developed in great detail.  And by the time they were developed, they tend to be irrelevant, they tended to be based on and rooted in assumptions that where, one, two, three, four years later, inaccurate assumptions.  And we are accelerating that entire process.  The deployment and redeployment process was – sometimes I overstate a little bit, but I mean, it was industrial age instead of information age.  You simply cannot manage that amount of data with 3x5 cards in a shoe box to overstate the case.  I’m not being serious, I’m [inaudible] a word picture of what it amounted to. 

 

So we’ve got a big job to do in the department to continue to see that we are in a process of transforming, which is really a culture, it’s a mindset, an attitude.  And we make good progress on it.  The Army’s modularity approach is important going from 33 brigades to 43 and possibly 48.  We’ve overhauled the defense budget process and are spending one year doing all the grinding of data and then the second year looking at implementation, rather than rebuilding from the ground up.  We’ve got the significant focus on special forces that’s taken place over the last four years.  We’ve increased their numbers, we’ve engaged the Marines.  We have moved them from only a supporting to a supportive as well as supporting role.  And they are obviously an enormously important part of the spear point of U.S.  military capabilities today and more so than ever in history by a big margin. 

 

We have a task of recognizing that it’s vastly more expensive to have our forces in foreign countries where we don’t them and where they don’t want to be than it is to develop the skill sets to train and equip other forces and to assist other countries, having their forces doing peace keeping roles.  So we’ve had a major initiative to improve peace keeping capabilities on the part of nations around the world, to encourage more countries to do it and, where appropriate, for us to provide assistance to them, whether training and equipment of indigenous forces or training and equipment of forces from other countries that will go in and participate in peacekeeping activities.  From a cost-benefit ratio, that’s much better for the taxpayers of the United States.  From stress on the force, it’s much better for the United States.  And it is something that is coming along well.  The Iraqi security forces and the Afghan National Army are cases in point.  The Afghan National Army is receiving uniformly good comments by the Afghan people wherever they’ve participated; they’ve been able to contribute to security in a very effective way. 

 

The Iraqi security forces have been performing very well in most instances.  There is a question of a match between the Iraqi security force and the resistance forces that they’re up against – the extremists.  And if you’re putting up, for example, the Iraqi Army forces that are well-trained and well-equipped and are well-led, against a tough force that’s one outcome--they do fine.  You put up a poorly equipped police force against a well-equipped Iraqi insurgent force and you’ve got a mismatch, as you would with any military.  So we’ve got task of continuing to improve the training and equipping of the Iraqis, so that they can take over the security responsibilities of their country.  We’re not going to do it in perpetuity.  The coalition’s not going to do it in perpetuity.  It’s has to be the Iraqis to do it.  And so that’s a set of skill sets for the Department of Defense and the United States that is different, really, than our past responsibilities and our folks are working hard at it and doing a darned good job.  And the proof, I think, is in the fact that the Iraqi security forces and the Afghan security forces are doing an increasingly better job from a month-to-month standpoint. 

 

Q:  Are you considering changing – perhaps having more people in the Army, more forces in the Army and fewer in the police or you say that there’s some poorly equipped police officers, do you see changing the kind of equipment they have, improving it.

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  We doing it all the time.  We are constantly reassessing the facts on the ground and working with the Iraqi government.  The ministry of interior of Iraq manages some Iraqi security forces, the ministry of defense manages some other Iraqi security forces, we work with both on a continuing basis and we adjust their equipment to fit the circumstances on the ground.  The biggest task is not getting recruits; we’ve gotten a lot of the recruits.  Even despite the fact that a large number of Iraqi security forces have been killed.  The recruits are still there in line, anxious to serve.  The task, and now it’s reasonably easy to equip them.  The more difficult task is the middle-level leadership – the things that aren’t qualifiable as such.  And it’s time together, morale, have they got the right pay amount for people who are living at home, the right pay for people who aren’t living at home, do they have a compensation system to assist families when some Iraqi security force trooper is killed.  Do they have an equitable promotion system, how’s the vetting process doing.  So there are a lot of things – this is not an easy thing to go from zero to hundreds of thousands in security forces.  And there’s going to be some, you know, steps forward and then a step back occasionally, but all in all it’s going extremely well. 

 

Q:  Let’s go back to your decision to stay.  Was there ever a point where you thought you would resign and also Bob’s question, do you see yourself staying through an entire second term?

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Certainly, there are days, but I’m not going to get into this staying long.  He asked me to stay and I said I would stay and I said I would do it enthusiastically.  Why would I say that?  Well, first of all, I enjoy working with him.  He is a good leader, he’s an excellent executive.  And second, we have a lot of tough challenges for our country and the Department of Defense is a part of that.  I feel that it’s important to try to be helpful and to contribute to that.  And, indeed, I would go so far as to say I feel fortunate at this point in my life to feel I can contribute to working on these important problems.  I also would have to say that while there are pluses and minuses to this job, one of the enormous pluses is being able to work with the men and women in uniform.  They are absolutely amazing.  They are amazing, whether they’re out in the field, they’re amazing when you go visit the hospitals at Walter Reed, Bethesda or elsewhere.  The confidence they have in themselves and in their professionalism, the confidence they have and the work they’re doing and it’s important historically, and it is important historically.  So it’s a thrill for me to be able to work with them. 

 

The other thing I’d say is I’m fortunate.  I have good health.  I don’t have young children.   I’m able to do this, as a lot of people aren’t able to do it, so here I go.

 

Q:  Don’t mean to dominate, just one last question.  [Cross Talk] Can you look back at your first term and think of anything you would do different, particularly as it comes to Iraq.  Just reflect a little bit on what was important to you, mistakes you might have made when you look back? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Of course, the two things that stand out, one is the fact that one of the basis for going into Iraq that the administration articulated was the conviction that they had weapons of mass destruction which would be findable and that is, of course, why our forces put on chemical suits all the way up from Kuwait into Baghdad everyday because everybody believed that to be the case.  And at the moment, that has not turned out to be the case.  It may later, but at least at the moment it hasn’t.  So that’s clearly a disappointment.  And there are many, many reasons to do what was done and the Iraqi people and the world is in a vastly better place today with Saddam Hussein and his crowd out and the idea of turning over to that country to people who go around chopping off heads is not a happy thing to think about and that’s a dark picture. 

 

A lot of things in the intelligence that existed and people speculated about the fact that oil wells would be burned, and they speculated on a humanitarian crisis, and they speculated on mass refugees, and they speculated on the bridges being blown and there was some speculation that there would be some insurgents, and we saw some degree of that when coming up from the south, as you’ll recall, where the Fedayeen Saddam prohibited people from going out and assisting the coalition and shot them in the back to the extent they tried to do that.  But I don’t think anyone would say that the intelligence left anyone with the impression that you’d be in the degree of insurgency you’re in today and resistance on the part of a mixture of Baathists and pro-dictatorship, pro-Saddam people, mixed in with some foreign terrorists and extremists. 

 

The big debate about the number of troops is one of those things that’s really out of my control.  I mean, everyone likes to assign responsibility to the top person and I guess that’s fine.  But the number of troops we had for the invasion was the number of troops that General Franks and General Abizaid wanted, the number of troops we have had every day since has been the number of troops that the field commander thought appropriate.  They have not been increased or decreased over the objection of any of the field commanders and, indeed, I don’t believe that there’s been a request by Abizaid or Franks or General Casey that has not been agreed to.  So those who go around constantly saying that there’s too few troops or too many troops are saying basically that they believe they know better than the people on the ground who are responsible for deciding the number of troops.  My personal instinct is to go with the people in whom I’ve got great confidence, or they wouldn’t be asked to do their jobs.  And I think that what the debate and discussion ignores is the reality that there is a tension between not having enough troops and having too many troops.  By having too many troops, you have to provide force protection for the troops.  There are that many more targets that can be shot at.  There’s that many more troops that could be hit by an IED and you very clearly have to have a darn good reason for having them.  You have to have support for them, the force protection for them.  And so, you need to know precisely why you want them and what it is they’re going to do because it puts a very heavy footprint and it creates much more an impression of occupation.  This is a poor analogy, but in Afghanistan, the Soviets had somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 troops and lost and we have 17,000 and won.  So a fixation with sheer numbers, it strikes me as a 20th century phenomenon more than it is the 21st century phenomenon. 

 

Q:  Sir, could you talk a little bit about the mix [Inaudible] of Iraqi security forces on the ground.  Of course, there was another attack on Iraqi contractors yesterday.  The insurgent strategy seems to be in the run up to the election increasingly a campaign of intimidation.  What can American forces on the ground in conjunction with Iraqi security forces do in terms of trying to abate that? 

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, the last analysis, the Iraqi people are going to have to do it.  And it’s pretty clear for all the people fussing about the Iraqi security forces, it’s reasonably clear to me that the extremists have decided that the Iraqi security forces are a danger to them.  Else wise, why would they be running around trying to kill so many of them.  They have to have decided that they’re effective.  They have to have decided that that’s a threat and therefore, they make it a point to try to kill policewomen and Iraqi soldiers.  And the Iraqi security forces have lost considerably more people killed in action than have the coalition forces in recent months. 

 

Now, how is it all going to end up?  Well, it’s going to all end up with the country being belonging to the Iraqis and the Iraqis are going to have an Iraqi solution and the Iraqi security forces are going to have to be able to provide security in the country.  It’s a violent part of the world.  It’s a violent country.  It has been in the past.  It very likely will be in the future.  People talk about how can you have an election coming up in January.  I was just down in El Salvador where they had an election.  People were shooting at each other.  The election worked out fine and they have a country that’s a democratic country today.  So it’s been done before and the test ultimately will be, as in any case like this -- and it is a test of wills – there’s no way the terrorists extremists can win battles.  They can go kill innocent men, women and children.  They can kill some Iraqi security forces and they can kill some of our folks – and they have – but they can’t win-win.  All they can do is try to outlast.  And the question is, is the future one where people who go on television and chop off people’s heads, is that the future for the Iraqi people,  for the 25 million people there.  Or is the history and the great sweep of the history for human freedom and will the people who would prefer not to have their heads chopped off and not to be living that kind of a life prevail ultimately and decide that they’re going to continue volunteering for the security forces and continuing giving intelligence information.  Now, 14 out of 18 provinces, the number of incidents per day is down to four or less, I’m told.  That means the basic problem’s in four provinces.  The schools are open, the hospitals are open, the clinics are open, the stock market’s open.  This currency is stable, an awful lot’s going well.  People are killed by the hundreds every year in every major city in the world, but they’re not on television for some reason. 

 

Q:  Do you believe that before the end of your term that U.S. troops will be out of Iraq?

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Do I believe that by the end of this term—

 

Q:  Your term

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Four years?

 

Q:  [Inaudible]

 

SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I’m try to be precise, as always to help [Inaudible] somtimes.  She didn’t need any help.  You know, I’ve avoided for four years setting arbitrary deadlines because in many cases, it’s not knowable.  I would certainly expect that would be the case and would hope that would be the case.  But the answer to your question is not that.  The answer to your question is that the president has said they’ll stay as long as they’re needed and not a day longer.  And one would believe as the Iraqis have elections and develop great confidence in their government, feel they have a voice in their government and in their future, feels that there is at least a possibility that piece of paper called a constitution will give sufficient protection to the minorities in that country, that they can accept that.  And at that point, the flow of intelligence into the government will be greater.  By then, the structures of government will be more mature and developed – better developed, the chains of command, the interactions between the ministries and their people.  And when that happens, the U.S. forces and coalition forces don’t want to be there.  They want to be out and that’s where they should be and they will be.  But you know, I remember listening to a former secretary of defense come to Chicago when I was a civilian and explain that we’d be out of Bosnia by Christmas and that was 10 years ago.  So why do that?  I don’t need to do that.  All I can say is what I’ve said. 

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