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Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with the Washington Post

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
February 27, 2003

(Phone interview with Bradley Graham, Washington Post.)

Q: Hello, sir. It's Bradley Graham.

Rumsfeld: Hi Bradley, how are you?

Q: I'm fine, thank you.

Rumsfeld: You're doing something on Dick Myers?

Q: Yes, I'm doing a profile of him and I've heard you say more than once about how closely you and he work together, and I believe it. By all accounts, that's what I hear.

Where you could be most helpful for this piece is in providing some more specificity to some particular incidents where the Chairman has, where his influence has been particularly felt in either changing your mind or causing you to see something a different way. Cases where if it weren't for him maybe a decision or an action might have gone a different way.

Rumsfeld: I made a couple of notes. Someone was figuring out how I'm spending my time and they told me that Dick and I and Pete Pace have probably had something like 1400 to 1500 meetings. And something in excess of 1,000 hours. We meet in a given day probably between three and four times. And that's probably six days a week. And the four of us, including Paul Wolfowitz, have kind of gotten into a rhythm where there are very few things in this department that we aren't engaged in together. It's been really a wonderful working relationship.

If you think about him, he has a lot of good experience. He's, needless to say, an outstanding Air Force officer, but he also was head of the Space Command. He was Vice Chairman for two years before becoming Chairman. And as the military advisor to me and to the President he has been, he comes with a perspective that has been exceedingly helpful.

Because of his Vice Chairmanship role and his seniority, he's got a 360 degree perspective as opposed to a service perspective which is something that's critically important in the job he's in.

He was still Vice Chairman when September 11th hit, and General Shelton was on an airplane somewhere coming up from the south as I recall, he was not here from whenever it happened, at 9:00 in the morning, until almost five or six or seven in the evening. Dick Myers was absolutely superb. He made a substantive contribution. He created a presence that was solid and rooted. We had to do a lot of things on the fly like develop rules of engagement for incoming aircraft that were squawking hijack or who weren't responding to communications from air traffic control, and the two of us just sat down and fashioned the rules of engagement. All in all, I would say it would not be possible to have handled oneself any better than Dick Myers did. He's solid as a rock.

He also has a very good sense of humor which helps if you're going to work 12 hours a day together. It's preferable that you enjoy the people. He's intelligent, he's quick. I'm trying to think about your question where -- There's so many things where he adds value on --

We work people together, and all four of us consider that our principal responsibility is picking the right people for the important posts in this department.

Q: He's of course also quite modest and reluctant to talk about his own role behind the scenes. But one of the arguments for him keeping a lower profile and keeping confidence is that it only adds to whatever influence he does have. But there have been a couple of incidents that I'm aware of. One where he played a particularly critical part, and maybe this will help job a few memories. One was in the question of the application of the Geneva Conventions in the war in Afghanistan where General Myers took a very strong position and my understanding is was able to persuade you and the President of the dangers of not applying laws of armed conflict to what might happen to U.S. soldiers in the future in other conflicts. The role he played in shaping, reshaping the Pentagon's command plan, particularly Special Ops Command.

Rumsfeld: Let me take one at a time. He and Pete Pace both were enormously helpful on the questions of detainees and military commissions. They brought a military perspective to it that was critically important and in the interagency process were particularly effective. So that is certainly correct.

What is the second one you mentioned?

Q: The other one is helping reshape the Pentagon's command plan, the expansion of Special Ops Command and the establishment of Northern Command. These are a few of the examples that have been cited. I was hoping you might have a couple of other cases where --

Rumsfeld: There again, you're right. We have made probably the most major changes in the unified command plans that have been made in his career he says, and we did. We had Steve Cambone and he and Pete Pace and I spent an enormous amount of time, and he was bold, which is appropriate if you're in a new security environment. We have not only made a lot of changes but we have several others that we've been in the process of thinking through after those, the unified command plan was signed and issued, and there may still be some more changes coming on.

Q: But is there any other sort of major issue where you remember having, approaching it first thinking about it one way and you can credit General Myers with causing you to think about it a different way, that's made a major difference?

Rumsfeld: Most decisions don't start out one way and end another way, at least the way we work. It is much more of an iterative process and it's a learning process for everybody in the room.

We had, if you take the new national defense policy and the new force-sizing construct, that resulted from a group of us sitting in a room and talking probably 10, 12, 15 times for one to two hours at a time. And talking and discussing. And what about this and what about that?

He has had a significant effect on every one of the major, probably every one of the major decisions that have been made in this department and there have been -- I could list 10 or 12 really significant things that have happened. The nuclear posture changes, the dramatic shifts in reduction from many thousands of strategic offensive nuclear weapons down to 1700 to 2200. He was intimately involved in that process.

The new defense strategy, the new force-sizing construct. There isn't a single big thing that we've done, and we've done eight, ten, twelve, that he hasn't been a continuing contributing significant partner. And this period of two years has been a period of enormous change in the department.

I'm sorry, I'm not terribly anecdotal. But --

Q: But you are about Winnetka so someday we'll pursue those.

Rumsfeld: Thanks a lot.

Q: Thank you, sir.