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Secretary Rumsfeld Telephone Interview with Greg Jaffe, The Wall Street Journal

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

Monday, December 6, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld Telephone Interview with Greg Jaffe, The Wall Street Journal

            Q:  [In Progress]... talk with you real quick about how your view of transformation has shifted as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And in particular, I’ll just start off by asking how has the war changed your and the military’s understanding of what it takes to be decisive or achieve strategic victory?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, I think the construct you’ve posed is not how I would pose it.   The implication is that the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq in the global war on terror have changed our views of transformation.  I think if I were going to pick the single most important fact it would be that the approach to transforming the Department of Defense which the president outlined in the [Inaudible] speech in which I outlined before September 11th in which our QDR addressed, was then faced with a world of post-September 11th.  And the question was could you fight a global war on terror, could you deal with Afghanistan and Iraq and the things you were doing and simultaneously continue the process of trying to transform this enormous department to bring it into the 21st century.  And the answer, I think, was surprising to an awful lot of people.  Not only could we continue transforming, but in fact, the reality is the conflicts have given impetus to everything we’re trying to do. 

 

            Many, many more people are able to see much more vividly the urgency of doing what we’re doing.  If you think about it, we have tasks going forward in the department that are enormous.  The global force posture adjustments that probably should have been done a decade ago are under way and will roll out over a period of time and will significantly affect how our country is arranged in the world and our interaction with our allies and our ability to address the kinds of 21st century and often asymmetrical strength that we’re going to be faced with.  The National Security Personnel System is a significant accomplishment.  It is now in the process of being implemented.  We will have a much better opportunity to manage the work force in a rational way.  The contingency planning process, war plans -- the development of war plans -- was something that took years and years and years to do in great detail.  And when one looked at it, you found that the assumptions in it were stale.  It took so long to do it, that by the time you ever reviewed it at the end, the assumptions were out of date.  And that’s just not good enough for the American people.  We owe the American people better than that.  So we have accelerated the contingency planning process and developed ways to review assumptions so that they’re rooted in reality and are current. 

 

            If you think what the Army is doing on modularity and moving some 33 to 43 or 48 brigades, that is going to move the Army into the 21st century -- the rebalancing of the active force with the reserve components.  The Armed Forces are basically now organized.  They were organized for peace and they were organized for World War III.  And the fact of the matter is we’re not likely to be in World War III, we’re vastly more likely as we’ve seen since the end of the Cold War to be in Kosovos and Bosnias and Afghanistans and the kinds of the things that we’re seeing. 

 

            We’ve accelerated the defense budget process and improved it by going into a lot of detail one year and the next year looking at implementation instead of going back over everything.  We’re focusing more on speed and agility and capability, rather than mass and sheer numbers.  And we’re trying to get the world, our allies, our friends, even our own people in the department, even people outside the department in the United States to understand the critical importance of precision and speed, as opposed to mass and sheer numbers. 

 

            We’ve taken the Special Forces from four years ago and moved the Marines into the game.  We’ve increased the numbers, we’ve improved the equipment.  We have changed them from being simply a supporting command into a command that can be both supporting or supported by other commands.  We’ve addressed a number of programs and the work that was done on the Crusader and on the Comanche by the Army is important. 

 

            There are other initiatives we’ve done, like the Counterproliferation Initiative that came out of the Department of Defense and has been meeting with success around the world to try to address a big problem, the work we’ve done in NATO with a NATO Response Force to try to get it moved into.  So we’ve been working with the multinational, multilateral activities to try to develop capabilities for the world that obviously are needed.  We’re in the process now of doing that with respect to broadening peacekeeping capabilities in the world and trying to assist in training and equipping other countries to do peacekeeping because, obviously, the world needs peacekeepers and it needs post-stabilization capabilities.  And it’s vastly cheaper for the United States to assist other countries in doing that, rather than doing it ourselves. 

 

            Q:  Let me ask--

 

           

SEC. RUMSFELD:  … so there’s just an awful lot going on that got impetus because of the realities that we live in.

 

            Q:  Right.  Well, let me ask you, with regard to Iraq, in particular, both Iraq and Afghanistan clearly demonstrated the core of transformation which is speed, agility, precision, can take the place of mass.  But has it also made us see that other capabilities – cultural, understanding languages – we need in greater abundance, where does it show that we have to shore ourselves up? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Absolutely.  The post-stabilization talents and skills in languages and civic activities and military police and all of those things are clearly lessons from all of this. 

 

            I left out two terribly important things.  One was joint concepts of operation which I know isn’t terribly newsworthy, but if you want to have the ability to use your forces with the maximum leverage, you don’t simply have an Army, Navy, Air Force and a Marine Corps that deconflict from each other.  You have them actually train, exercise and fight in a truly joint matter and you can’t do that if you don’t have standing Joint Task Force headquarters, and you can’t do it if you don’t have joint concepts of operation.  Now that sounds academic almost.  But in fact, they are fundamental to changing how we do things. 

 

            Q:  And we clearly saw the benefit of that in Iraq, I think, too.  Let me ask you -- I’ve been talking with General Wallace who said when he was in Iraq after the regime fell, there was a point where the regime was no longer relevant, no longer pulling the strings and he said:  ‘I was slow to pick up on that and I may have missed an opportunity to engage the Iraqi people.’  Does transformation have to take better account of these transitions and how do we take better account of these transitions? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, it’s like anything else, these transitions, if you think of the circumstance we’re in today in Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re not in a military situation.  The military situation is manageable in each place.  What we’re in is a situation where all elements of our country and of our coalition partners need to be engaged.  It is simultaneously a security issue, to be sure, but not from a military battle standpoint.  It’s a police situation.  It’s a communications issue – set of issues there, in terms of strategic communications and managing perceptions.  That isn’t a Defense Department task, as such. 

 

            But the terrorists, the extremists are doing a much better job than our country is in terms of managing perceptions and persuading people that the coalition forces are occupying forces, which is false, that they’re there for the oil, which is false, that they’re doing terrible things, which is false.  And simultaneously through whatever, they’re able to go on television and chop off people’s heads and intimidate people, so that’s an issue that it takes our entire government and coalition and the world to work on. 

 

            There’s the problems of Syria and Iran and their misbehavior with respect to what’s going on in Afghanistan.  Now, that’s an issue that the – again, our entire government, our diplomatic corps and all of the efforts, the plans, the strategy to deal with those countries so that they recognize that they are hurting themselves and that the damage they’re doing inside of Iraq is killing Americans and that we don’t like it. 

 

            The economic side of it is terribly important.  And we have to find ways to have the skill sets to work with the Iraqi and Afghan people in ways that provide jobs and, again, these are not military tasks.  The military has one segment of it, but it takes the entire U.S. government to work all of these things simultaneously. 

 

            Q:  Doesn’t it become the military’s job, by default, in a lot of instances, especially when the security situation is poor? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, you can make a case that if the political situation doesn’t go forward in a way that gives people confidence that they have a voice in their government, that that contributes to a deteriorating security situation.  So to say it’s a chicken and the egg, you can’t say nothing’s possible until everything’s secure, that’s just false.  I mean, my goodness, El Salvador had elections when people were being shot at and there was a civil war going on and it worked fine.  No, I would disagree with you.  I think you need other departments of the U.S. government and other countries and neighboring countries and the Iraq – and the last analysis is going to be the Iraqi people and the Afghan people.  It’s their country, they’re going to have to have a solution that’s purely Iraqi and we’re there to help create an environment that’s possible for them to do that.  But you can’t do it for them. 

 

            I mean, if you think of what’s been done, the United States has sent our best soldiers and sailors and Marines and airmen over there; their schools are open; they have new textbooks; the hospitals are open; the clinics are open; the stock market’s open; the currency is stable.  In 14 out of 18 provinces, there are less than four incidents a day.  I mean, there are more incidents than that in almost every major city in our country -- in the world.  And in four provinces, it’s reasonably violent.  Now, what’s going to change that? 

 

            Well, the Iraqi people are going to change that.  The Iraqi people are going to decide they’re tired of having their people killed by other Iraqis or by foreign terrorists and extremists; that they don’t think that the world that they see ahead of them with being taken over by people who chop off people’s heads is the best future for them.  And they’re going to provide more intelligence and they’re going to keep signing up for the Iraqi Security Forces and they’re going to assist those people.  And they’re going to grab ahold of their country.  They simply have to do it. 

 

            Q:  Let me ask you about our QDR question.  What do you hope the QDR will achieve and why is this QDR particularly important? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, they’re all important.  It’s helpful to take a look every four years and see where you think you are.  And we’re going to have to make sure in the QDR that we look not at everything, but at six or eight big things and certainly the successful implementation of the National Security Personnel System is important.  We can get 10s and 20s and 30s and 40,000 additional military people freed up who are currently doing civilian jobs, if we’re able to get the right civilians into those jobs and that’ll reduce stress on the force. 

 

            We’ve got a pattern of being organized and having headquarters for peacetime.  So when Kosovo air war comes up, instead of having a standing Joint Task Force ready to fight the air war, they played pickup games and the air war lasts 78 days and we ended up about 73 percent staffed up in the headquarters after the war was over.  Now we owe the American people better than that.  We’ve got to have standing joint task forces that are ready to go, day one.  We’ve got to take joint concepts of operations and train and exercise against them, rather than doing pickup games after the war starts and doing it just through force of personality.  We’ve got to finish this process of rebalancing the active and reserve components, so we’ve got the right people on active duty and not having to overuse the Guard and Reserve because those are the skill sets that are really needed on active duty. 

 

            Q:  Do you--

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We’ve got to get longer tours out of people.  We’re not going to be capable and competent in this complex world, if we keep rotating people through important posts and keeping them there, 9, 11, 13 months, 15 months, 18 months would be long.  Heck, you know, you’re just skipping along the tops of the waves, if that’s the amount of time you’re in those posts.  You need to be there long enough to make some mistakes, clean up your own mistakes, develop relationships, learn how to improve things, put priorities in place and be there long enough to see them through to actually make those improvements and we can do that.  We just have to decide it’s more important than running around punching a lot of tickets. 

 

            Q:  One argument I’ve heard is that services are very good at state-on-state war and are very eager to get better at it.  But they’re less eager to get better at unconventional war and irregular war and then sort of the catastrophic terrorist attack at the opposite high end.  Does the QDR have to push them into some of those discomfort zones?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It does, absolutely.  You know, it’s fine.  It’s important and we’re good at it.  We’ve got a department that’s organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies and navies and air forces on a conventional basis and that’s important.  With the world we’re living in, we’re going to be facing a series of asymmetrical threats and the department simply has to become much more facile and agile and organized and designed and trained and equipped to deal with these additional challenges that exist.  We’re dealing with enemies that have brains; they watch us.  And to the extent they see us do things, they then adapt to us.  We do the same thing with them, to be sure.  But it’s important that we do adapt.  And of course, the enemy is operating in smaller cells with every bit as lethal capabilities as we have, but they’re able to turn on a dime.  They can pulse us, see our reaction and then adjust. 

 

            When we’ve got to go to Congress and get something through, or we’ve got to work through a giant bureaucracy to get a change implemented, obviously they can turn inside our circles, our decision cycle.  And we’ve got to find ways to be much swifter, much more adept and to have much greater flexibility with the use of funds.  We, for example, wasted almost a year trying to train the Afghan National Army.  Why,  because we didn’t have a law that permitted us to do that.  And now we are getting some funds for training and equipment and, though a cost benefit ratio, it’s vastly more beneficial to the United States taxpayer to train and equip an Afghan soldier, an Iraqi soldier than to try to train and equip and sustain overseas a U.S. soldier. 

 

            Q:  You didn’t have a law that allowed you to do that and you didn’t have a law that allows you to disburse funds in that way? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, that’s right.  We didn’t. 

 

            Q:  OK. 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  So we had to go tin-cupping the world and we had to use – Afghans didn’t have Afghan money.  In Iraq, we used Iraqi money that was discovered or picked up or found, so we were able to go a little faster.  And after a year or two, we finally got the Congress to agree to train and equip money and it’s enormously important and valuable. 

 

            Q:  With regard to training local security forces, it seems like that’s something we do wherever we go.  Did the services have to begin thinking of that more as a core mission, rather as something that sort of pops up unexpected after each war and actually plan and dedicate troops to that mission? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Absolutely.  We’ve got to focus much more on the post major combat phase and we’ve got to support other countries in their peacekeeping activities, help train and equip them, because it’s clear that the world we’re living in is going to require peacemakers and peacekeepers.  And we can do a good job as a country in helping to train and equip them so that they can do some of these tasks instead of us. 

 

            Q:  How does a QDR drive the services into change on these ways?  How do you envision it happening? 

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, it isn’t the QDR per se.  We have a senior-level review group and each process is a part of it.  What happens is we get the senior people in the department and we elevate some issues and we say these are the important issues.  And the only way we’re going to deal with these important issues is to first agree that they’re important – agree that because of their importance, they merit the attention of the senior people in the department.  And that given the nature of Washington, D.C., and the size of our bureaucracy, the only way we can accomplish anything is if all of us agree on what needs to be accomplished and how it should be accomplished. 

 

            If the Department of Defense goes out into the Congress and into the industry divided and in disagreement as to whether or not something’s important, we don’t get anywhere because it’s so easy in this town for someone to stop something.  You know, anyone in Congress can stop something.  It takes a lot of effort to get something done, but it’s easy to stop something.  Same thing in the contracting world -- the people you have to deal with -- they’ve got vested interest in keeping on doing what it is they’re doing.  And of course, our vested interest to see that the department does what needs to be done, regardless of whether it’s something that’s currently going on or whether it’s something that needs to be done for the future. 

 

            And so what we’ve got to do is get the department internally knitted up.  And we learn from each other, we benefit, we see all of the angles and aspects of it.  Then we come to an agreement and then the department goes out unified and that’s what the senior level review group and what a QDR process – a Quadrennial Defense Review process -- can do for us is to unify the senior-level leadership in the department and then see that all of us get into a harness and go make that happen.  I think we probably wound up here, Greg. 

 

            Q:  OK.