Secretary Rumsfeld Remarks at Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo.
UNKNOWN: It gives me great pleasure to introduce our Secretary of Defense, The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Have a seat, folks. Thank you very much for that warm welcome.
Well, I am delighted to be here and I stand at podiums a lot in my work and mostly the press is out there, but it’s a particular privilege to have a collection of folks who have been so carefully selected to do such enormously important work for the Armed Forces and particularly in this case, for the United States Army. We spent some time trying to teach me how to drive one of those big trucks in the training this morning and I passed. But of course, that’s not what you want on your record, was it? I mean, you wouldn’t want on your gravestone, “He was adequate” or anything like that. But it was fun and interesting and I know that in the chemical, military police, transportation and engineer schools, I’m told that they train, in some cases, soldiers mostly, but some sailors and Marines and Air Force folks as well. And needless to say, that kind of joint training is going to have to be the rule in the Armed Forces of the United States, not the exception.
As you know well, in both combat training and advanced individual training, the work of the drill sergeant is just critically important. And you’re the ones who are shaping these young people to be warriors, regardless of whatever branch of service they may serve in. I know that our forward-leaning Chief Of Staff General Pete Schoomaker has put special emphasis on combat training and soldiering. He has noted that even with the advances in technologies, the battlefields of the 21st century there are really no front lines. There are no rear areas and we’re certainly seeing that in Iraq. There are no secure garrisons and there certainly are no secure convoys. The soldiers, regardless of their assignment, have got to be warriors and warriors first and specialists in whatever field it may be, second. And I know that you folks train warriors here. I was given the drill sergeant’s creed and I’m told that you’re the ones that are charged with turning young civilians into highly motivated, well-disciplined, physically and mentally fit soldiers capable of defeating any enemy on today’s modern battlefield.
SEC. RUMSFELD: That is a big assignment. I’ve been to a lot of military bases where the folks just coming in the beginning of the process, come in and talk to them and looked at them and to take those folks out of high school frequently or some other walk of life and do what you drill sergeants are going to have to do to turn them into warriors is a critically important assignment and not an easy one. And we all understand that.
I think that if one – how many of you have been in Afghanistan or Iraq? Good grief all mighty. Good for you. Well, thank you. If you think about what’s taking place there, it’s tough. It’s difficult, it is uncertain. Like any aspect of war or insurgency that you’re coping with there, it has its ugliness and difficulties, but I know what the folks there are doing. I’m back and forth over there frequently. And I’ve seen what you folks, with your hands up, have done. I’ve seen the work you’ve done in terms of liberating the country in the first instance.
And second, I’ve seen the work you have done in helping to build schools and hospitals and helping the Iraqi and the Afghan people build a nation that’s free and democratic and is, in each case, pointed towards elections in the period immediately ahead.
It is historic work. It’s noble work. And I suspect that in 10, 15, 20, 30 years you will look back on that and historians will look back on that work and say that your contributions, what you’ve done there, and what the people you’re training will do there will be the thing that has helped to liberate 50 million people and set them on a path towards democracy.
If you think about it, those two countries were both on the terrorist list, not so many months ago. And today they’re both helping -- certainly Afghanistan’s helping – to fight terrorism. And the Iraqi government, the new Iraqi government, is helping to fight terrorism and that’s an important change that’s taken place. So the effect of it is to see that the fighting that takes place, takes place away from this country and that this country continues to be a secure and safer place because of that work. So you folks have my thanks and the appreciation and gratitude of the American people, to be sure.
I’d be delighted to respond to some questions. And I always worry about the first question. [Laughter] You know, someone who wants the first question, he wants to ask that question. So where is the Sergeant Major? There you are. Just in case I need help, I want you to stay close by. Go ahead.
Q: Sir, my name is SSgt. Onstein (sp), drill sergeant school candidate from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. My question is can we maintain our current OPTEMPO with our current troop strength?
SEC. RUMSFELD: We have increased our troop strength over the past year and a half by something like 20,000. And that’s one way we’ve gotten greater troop strength. The other thing we’ve done is we’ve begun a process of moving out people – military people in uniform from posts that can be filled by civilians and putting civilians in them. And that’s another way that we’ve increased the available troop. Pete Schoomaker is the new chief staff of the Army – relatively new – and he talks about a rain barrel. If you picture a rain barrel with a faucet coming out of it, the faucet the way it’s currently arranged is up here. We’ve got 2 ½ million people we can draw on and we only have 137,000 people in Iraq and a total of maybe in the whole area of responsibility, 250,000. So if you only had 250,000 that you’re using in that task, and you’ve got 2 ½ million you can draw on, it’s pretty clear that if you’re having trouble, it’s because the faucet is way up at the top of the barrel. So you turn it on and you can only draw off the top of the barrel. And we need to be able to draw off all the people in the barrel and that’s why we’ve been systematically undertaking a whole series of steps to see that that happens.
One of the other problems has been that you’ve had certain skill sets, particularly military police, not in a sufficient number on active duty, a larger number in the Reserve and the Guard with the effect being that we’ve got to rebalance the skill sets in the Guard and the Reserve with the active force so that we don’t have to keep calling up the same people out of the Guard and Reserve because they’re the only ones that an do that particular task, if you will.
So we have, I’m told, 43 things going on that will help to move the spigot down on the rain barrel or beer keg, as you prefer. [Laughter] Let’s call it a beer keg. [Laughter] And it is not easy work, but we’re doing it. The Army is in the process of going from 43 brigades up to – correction -- 33 up to 43 and possibly up to 48 brigades and bringing, as you know, some of the capabilities from the division level into the brigade level so that those brigades will be interchangeable, modular, capable of being deployed. And we are doing a significant amount to increase the tooth-to-tail ratio, if you will, of the Armed Forces and particularly of the Army.
In the event that we still need more ground combat capability, clearly, we’ll just keep increasing the number. But the first choice is to make better use of what we have, rather than increasing the number. Thank you.
Q: Thank you, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Question. Yes, sir.
Q: Sir, SSgt. Thomas, Fort Riley, Kansas, currently drill sergeant candidate here. My question is the Army’s currently conducting one-year rotations in the theaters of Afghanistan and Iraq. Other armed services are only conducting six months. I was wondering if there is a plan to reduce the Amy’s rotations to six months as well?
SEC. RUMSFELD: I’ve had two meetings with the Army and two meetings with the Marines on this. And I look at it and I say to myself that doesn’t make a lot of sense. You got seven-month rotation for the Marines, 12 months for the Army. And the Marines argue vigorously that they’re circumstance is that they have many more younger people who come in, serve a tour and leave and that the way they’re rhythm – their rotation rhythm is that they can get seven months and then have those people go back and then get them again – possibly, depending on their tour length – and end up with 14 months during a period when the Army may have had 12.
And then you raise the question, well, -- but isn’t that inefficient. You have to bring them back and bring them forth and they say, well, now we’re doing that with the Army anyway. After six months, we’re sending them back home for two weeks. And then you say, well, isn’t it a little short, seven months to get situational awareness and to really get good at what you’re doing.
And they argue on the contrary, that it works for them. And they say that sometimes when you have a 12-month tour in a combat zone, about the last three or four or five months, your head’s kind of getting out of the game and you’d like to get out of there. So there are pluses and minuses for both arguments. Pete Schoomaker and the Army are absolutely convinced that they’re doing it the right way at a maximum of 12 months. The Marines are absolutely convinced they’re doing it at a seven-month rotation and I am as uncertain of either as I was before I had my two meetings with each of them.
Now that’s – confession is good for the soul. [Laughter] They each make good points. And I am very big for jointness and it bothers me to think that people in the Army will look at the Marine rotating in and leaving after seven months and thinking they’re not pulling their oar. And so it’s that disconnect that worries me the most about it. There’s no plan at present to change it. And I have no plans to have anymore meetings with either of them on this subject. [Laughter] Question. Yes, sir.
Q: Sir, SSgt. Kutmore (sp), currently a drill sergeant candidate and a Reservist from the state of New Hampshire. What role will Reservists and National Guard members continue to play in the war on terrorism?
SEC. RUMSFELD: A significant role. You know, we are arranged and organized so that the total force concept is what makes it all work. We have 1.4 million active force and then we have the Guard and Reserve, the Selected Reserve, plus the Individual Ready Reserve and we need both.
The homeland security problems that we have are such that more and more, they are looking at the Guard and Reserve -- and particularly the Guard – for homeland security responsibilities. Clearly, if there were a chemical or a biological or a nuclear attack in the United States, the first responders – it’s not the Department of Defense – the first responders are the sheriffs and the state police and the various hospitals that are civilian.
And only if specifically directed by the governor or the president, do the Guard or Reserve or the active forces get involved. Now we know they do. When there’s a fire that needs to be put out, we call up the Guard and Reserve and they help do that. When there’s a hurricane, we’ve done that. When the Olympics were in Utah, we helped there. And so there are -- always been things that the military do at home. But because of the increased threat to the homeland, there’s thinking going on about what kinds of Guard and Reserve capabilities ought we to have available for governors and the president in the event that there is attack in this country.
Set that aside, we plan to rebalance the Guard and Reserve with the active force, so that we will continue to use the Guard and Reserve for the same skill sets that they currently have. But we will not have to take certain skill sets, like the MPs and the civil affairs people, and call them up repeatedly, excessively to the point where they then feel that that isn’t what they signed up for. They signed up to be a civilian and help out when needed. But if “when needed” becomes every two, three years, then that changes the circumstance for them and that’s not necessary. And as you know right here, they’re training artillery units to do MP work in the Guard and Reserve today, which is the right thing to be doing. So there’s a big role.
Q: Thank you, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet. Question. Yes, sir.
Q: Sir, SSgt. McGan (sp), drill sergeant candidate in Fort Carson, Colorado. Can you explain the Army’s stabilization plan as reported in the Army Times?
SEC. RUMSFELD: What plan? The Army’s?
Q: The Army’s stabilization plan, the three to seven years towards that current duty stations.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I can’t do it as well as the Sgt. Maj. could [Laughter] and will sometime for you. What my concern has been or a concern of mine has been that people serve too short a period in positions. And as I looked at people, the non-coms and the officer ranks, the leadership of this great institution, often I look at their tour lengths and their tour lengths are down around 12 months, 18 months, 24 months and they’re constantly being transferred and doing other things and getting other experiences and punching other tickets.
I don’t think people learn enough in 12 or 18 or 24 months to get really good at it, myself. I think that people need to be in those positions longer. I think the other thing is the old cliché that we recruit soldiers and sailors and Marines, but we retain families is also true. And today we’ve got a force that is largely married, largely with children, spouses work today and kids go to junior high school and high school. And to the extent they have over a career somewhat fewer permanent changes of station, it is less stressful on them, it is less stressful on their families, it is cheaper, because you have fewer permanent changes of station and the individuals get good at what they do. They learn their business. They’re around long enough to make decisions, establish priorities, put the priorities in place, work those priorities to see if they’re the right ones, calibrate them when they’re wrong, make mistakes like we all do, clean up their own mistakes, rather than skipping along the tops of waves and being gone and having somebody else happen to clean it up. So it is – the stabilization concept is, in part, that. And in part, the idea of being connected to units and developing that unit integrity. But the Sgt. Maj. will give you the refinements some other day. All right. Questions.
UNKNOWN: On your feet.
SEC. RUMSFELD: I’m getting the hook. [Laughter]
UNKNOWN: We thank you for coming.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you, Sgt. Maj.
UNKNOWN: We appreciate this honor to be coming out here and talking to us today. The drill sergeant school will cherish this for the rest of their time being here and I’m pretty sure the rest of their time being in the Army. Thank you very much.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.