Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky
SEC. RUMSFELD: Every once in a while, I get the chance to get out of Washington, DC and talk to the troops and tell them how much we appreciate what they’re doing for the country and how well they’re doing. Today’s one of those days. I was at Fort Leonard Wood first and then here this afternoon at Fort Campbell. Every time I’m able to do this, I leave with so much confidence in our country. And, I’m so grateful that we have a generation of young people that are all volunteers. Every single one put up their hand and said, “I want to serve the country,” and they’re doing it brilliantly. I’d be happy to answer some questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, in the last year the entire 101st Airborne Division has been deployed to Iraq, previously many members were in Afghanistan. My question is how in the next several years, will the global war on terror most affect this Division?
SEC. RUMSFELD: It’s hard to know because the Army manages the Army forces and it’s also hard to know because the circumstance in the world is, unfortunately, uncertain. We can’t know with certainty what’s going to happen. Things are going well in Afghanistan. I do expect the level of violence to go up between now and the elections later this year. On the other hand, they’ve made enormous progress. The refugees are coming back in the country and their government’s functioning efficiently. The election is over -- in terms of registration. It’s way over any of the highest possible estimates, estimating, four, five, six million and they’re up to 10.5 million -- 41 percent of them are women. In Iraq, I also expect the level of violence to go up between now and the end of the year, as we get closer to the elections. And the folks that we’re up against are extremists and they’re determined to try to take back that country and the Iraqi people, I don’t believe, are going to let them do it.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Secretary Powell -- Secretary of State Powell, recently on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said that he found – wanted to set the record straight once and for all. There were no weapons of mass destruction and he found no correlation between 9/11 and the former Iraqi regime. My question to you, sir, is do you agree with that statement?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes.
Q: … and are other administration members in concert with that as well…
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. Sure.
Q: … [Inaudible]?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. I mean we know Saddam Hussein was offering $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. We know that Iraq was on the terrorist list. We know Iraq was shooting at the U.S. and U.K. aircraft, patrolling the northern and southern no-fly zones and we know that the United Nations had concluded that he had filed a fraudulent declaration to the United Nations, with respect to his weapons programs. But it’s a clear fact that the deposits of weapons of mass destruction have not been found since the end of the war – end of the major combat operations.
Q: What was the reasoning for the fighting of the war, to release an oppressed people? Is that the reasoning?
SEC. RUMSFELD: At least what?
Q: To release an oppressed people?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, I think there are many reasons for doing something. The Iraqi government had flagrantly violated and flaunted 17 United Nations resolutions and had been asked to declare a correct resolution. The intelligence of the United States and the United Kingdom and the international community, even the countries that were not in favor of enforcing the U.N. resolutions, was that he had active weapons programs. That was the conclusion of everybody. So, that was clearly one of the reasons. The fact that it had used weapons of mass destruction against its own people and against its neighbor in Iran, previously, lend credence to that intelligence.
And in addition, this is a country where the leadership of the country was imprisoning people and cutting off their heads and cutting of their hands and shoving them off the tops of buildings. You’ve all seen the video of what the kind of government he was running. He was a threat to his neighbors. And, this world is a lot better off without Saddam Hussein in power. Yes.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I’m John Dunn from Fox 17 in Nashville. I’d like to ask you: Can the Army continue to survive as a volunteer force with the emphasis you’re putting on growing the military?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Absolutely. We are a country of, what, 275 million people and we need 1.4 million on the active force. Let’s say we increase at some number. 1.4 out of 275 million, we have no need at all for a draft if that’s the thrust of your question. The idea that this country has to use compulsion when we have so many volunteers. Recruiting is going well, our retention is going well and we have been increasing the size of our force. But most important, we’ve been taking a series of steps to better manage the force so that the burden of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and the global war on terror is more evenly spread, but it’s going well. The Chief of staff of the Army, who’s very forward looking, Gen. Pete Schoomaker, and doing an excellent job.
Q: Mr. Secretary.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Yes, ma’am.
Q: My name is Chantal Escoto with the Leaf-Chronicle, a local paper here. I’ve talked to a lot of soldiers and families and what they want to know, they don’t mind fighting for their country, but they just want to make sure that they have the equipment and the necessary means to do their job. And, I just want to know what kind of promises or commitments are they going to get from the Pentagon to, you know, of uparmed humvees, body armour, etc?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Up-armored humvees and body armor and so forth, sure.
Q: … and the equipment that they need?
SEC. RUMSFELD: They’re going to have the equipment they need. They do have the equipment they need. The Congress has provided the money and the executive branch has been investing in ways. Now what happens sometimes is something new comes along in the middle of a conflict and at that moment, it’s still developmental and at that moment, it’s still in short supply because it wasn’t new. It didn’t exist -- it’s new. And at that moment, people start saying, well, there aren’t enough of them – whatever it is. Take a Predator, an armed Predator, that can protect people and can help us do intelligence work and we started out with very few and we’ve been increasing production consistently and improving the firepower of the armed Predator in the intervening period. But this outfit here, these people will find that they will be well-equipped, very well-equipped. As a new piece of equipment comes along, it will be produced as fast as it can be so that it will be available. But, it cannot be instantaneously available because it has to be tested and what have you before it’s distributed.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I’m Specialist Day with the Fort Campbell Courier. Welcome to Fort Campbell.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.
Q: As you know, your Defense Department has taken some criticism on the stop-loss program. Your boss’ opponent, quote, unquote, “back-door draft.” What, if anything, is your Pentagon doing to stop the stop-loss program and how do you answer such criticism?
SEC. RUMSFELD: The Army has had stop-loss for decades. Everyone in the military, the active, the Guard and the Reserve, all are volunteers. And when they enter, they all know about the stop-loss policy that exists. And the stop-loss policy is rooted in reality that if you have a unit and the unit is trained and ready to go, and someone in that unit who knew about the stop-loss policy when they joined the unit is due to go over, they go, even though halfway through that tour, they were supposed to be getting out. But they knew that if they were in that unit and the unit was mobilized and the unit was deployed, they would be required to stay in that unit somewhat past the normal period they would have gotten out.
Same thing if they’re already over there. If they’re already over there and their time to get out comes, rather than stripping the unit and leaving everyone else without the kinds of capabilities that are needed -- the unit integrity -- they have a stop-loss that keeps them in the unit until the unit is no longer deployed. It is not a surprise. It is not a backdoor draft. Critics simply don’t understand it or not sufficiently familiar with how the Army works, but it is no big deal. It is no surprise. It’s not new and it’s working fine and it has nothing to do with a backdoor draft.
Yes. Young lady.
Q: I’m Brook Davies from Lawson Middle School, Student 34 News. In your opinion, what does the future hold for the children of military families?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You know, the old cliché is that we recruit soldiers and we retain families. That is to say that we bring in a single person, but before very long, we are dealing with a person who’s married and has children. And it’s important that the Armed Services of the United States recognize that and that we manage the force in a way that’s respectful of those families.
We’re in the process of lengthening the tours of people. That is to say, trying to arrange so that they stay a longer period of time in a position and at a post. To the extent that happens over a career, they will have fewer permanent changes of station where they have to uproot their families and that means there will be fewer times in a military career where their kids will be pulled out of high school in the middle of high school fewer times where the spouses will have to leave a job and then try to see if they can’t find another job. It is in the process of being put in place. It’s important that we do it. It is important that we be respectful of the families, of the spouses and the children. And it’s critical if we’re going to be able to attract and retain the kind of talent that the modern 21st century Armed Forces have. It’s critical that we do that and that we do it well.
UNKNOWN: You have time for two more questions, sir.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Way in the back.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you comment on Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and at what point do diplomatic attempts fail and give way to military considerations?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Clearly, the use of force is everyone’s last choice. The president and the Congress and the country, with respect to North Korea have been embarked on six-nation talks with North Korea trying to get them to discontinue their nuclear weapons programs. They are a country that is on the terrorist list, that is proliferating ballistic missile technologies, that’s involved in counterfeiting, it’s involved in illicit drug trade. It is a country that has people starving up there. And our hope is that by having all their neighbors – Russia, South Korea, Japan, People’s Republic of China and the United States -- all working to get them to try to see the light that it’ll help over time. It might, it might not. Time will tell.
With respect to Iran, the European countries are simply going to have to stop. They’re going to have to work with the international community with the IAEA and the United States and we’re going to have to get Russia to work with us more closely to stop assisting Iran in the opinion of the international atomic energy community is a – or a nuclear weapons program. There’s a lot of work going on, a lot of effort under way. I suspect at some time that’ll be thrown into the United Nations Security Council, but you can’t know that for sure. One more question.
Q: I’ll ask you another one, Mr. Secretary. Are you conscious – the 101st certainly sustained a lot of casualties in Iraq and has throughout the war on terror. Are you conscious of that when you’re talking to these soldiers…
SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, you bet.
Q: … their families?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet.
Q: Does that play on your emotions at all?
SEC. RUMSFELD: You bet it does. I met a young Army captain, a woman whose husband was killed today and visited with her. I know I go to Walter Reed and visit the wounded soldiers out there. And you cannot be involved, as I am and not see the heartbreak of lives that aren’t going to be lived, of lives that are going to be lived very differently because of the loss of limbs and eyesight. And the thing that is just amazing and wonderful to behold is the personal courage, the spirit, the determination on the part of the wounded to get back to their units, rejoin their units and to the pride of the families, the parents, brothers and sisters and loved ones in what their soldiers and sailors and Marines and airmen have done. And it doesn’t leave your mind very often.
We’re a fortunate country that we’ve got, once again, a generation of people who understand that there are things that are worth fighting for and that the task of defending and protecting the American people has to fall to someone and that they’re willing to raise their hands and say “send me.” God bless ‘em. Thank you very much, folks.