Stakeout After Senate Armed Services Committee Testimony
SENATOR WARNER: We had an excellent briefing, perhaps 70 Senators present, a very wide range of questions and the Secretary and the General remained until the last Senator with the last question.
It was an especially important briefing with the Senate because this is likely to be General Myers' last appearance before the Senate. And I'll tell you without any reservation, he received virtually a standing ovation by all Senators present.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I'd be happy to take some questions.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how much the war in Iraq and [inaudible]?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We can get you an answer to that, but it varies depending on the numbers of troops, and obviously those are things that OMB works with the Appropriations Committee and provides.
QUESTION: [Inaudible]. Basically what we heard was he continues to be available [inaudible]. [Inaudible]?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I find that -- I'm trying to think of an adjective that would be appropriate.
SENATOR WARNER: In the mean time let me just reply.
Consistently the President has indicated that we went there with a stated set of goals and those goals were to enable the Iraqi people to take back their nation and to do so would require a certain number of trained and capable military. That number is growing. And secondly, to establish their government. That process is taking place with elections to occur on the 15th of October.
All along it's been my opinion and I think those of the majority of Senators, it is unwise to set a rigid timetable with regard to the participation by our coalition forces and other nations for fear that it would give an inspiration to the insurgency to increase their efforts. Therefore I think we answered all the questions up there. That question was raised. There was a response. I think that response was consistent with what I've just said. Is that correct?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Indeed, it was.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you address the question, what concern do you have, why will Shia militias in the south may now, have taken over essentially the security forces there, [inaudible] some manifestations of that in the last few days [inaudible] troops. [Inaudible] that that may be playing out, [inaudible] rivalries there [inaudible] undermine security?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I don't think I would characterize the incident you're referring to as a manifestation of that problem. I think that any time you're in a country where there are tribes and militias of various types that it is always something that one has to be attentive to to make sure that whatever capable forces exist are supporting the government, and ultimately over time controlled by the government.
QUESTION: Do you believe those security forces in Basra now are responsive to the national government in Baghdad? Or are they more responsive to their own militia leadership perhaps?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think that as I said, I have to be concerned about the entire country and General Casey and General Vines address those issues on a continuing basis, and I don't think I'd want to characterize the situation in the south other than to say I think that incident you mentioned is not representative of what you're suggesting it is at all.
QUESTION: Senator Warner, Senator Durbin was saying that Senator Reed was told by the Republican leadership that the Defense Authorization Bill would not be brought up this year. Were you told the same thing?
SENATOR WARNER: I've worked with both the Republican leader and the Democratic leader in the past two days and have not reached that final conclusion just yet. There are means by which Senator Levin and I, informing our leaders, are thinking about how to get that bill up so it's not a closed door.
QUESTION: Can you discuss Hurricane Rita preparations [inaudible]?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Paul, do you know the number of Active Duty in preparation for Hurricane Rita?
This is Paul McHale, Assistant Secretary of Defense.
SECRETARY McHALE: Sir, I don't know the exact number of Active Duty personnel. We have 20 helicopters, a DCO, a Defense Coordinating Officer, and Defense Coordinating Element. The number of Active Duty is relatively small, but there are 5,000 National Guardsmen from Texas on state active duty plus another 1300 National Guardsmen from Texas returning to Texas from Louisiana, so there are over 6,000 National Guard and a smaller number of Active Duty personnel.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: And the Department of Defense's Northern Command under Admiral Keating is very attentive to the risks that obviously portions of that coast are going to face given the power of Hurricane Rita.
SENATOR WARNER: Good day, gentlemen.