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Stakeout on Capitol Hill with Secretary Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 08, 2001

Thursday, December 6, 2001

(Stakeout on Capitol Hill. Also participating was Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.)

Rumsfeld: We just had a good meeting with a very large percentage of the members of the United States Senate, both parties, on the subject of the war on terrorism, and are headed back to the Pentagon unless one of you may or may not have a question.

Q: Is it necessary for the United States --

Rumsfeld: Am I supposed to look at you or the camera? (Laughter)

Q: Yeah.

Rumsfeld: Just for the answer over here.

Q: Is it necessary for the United States to get Omar, or would it be okay if an international tribunal handles it?

Rumsfeld: We would prefer to have Omar.

Q: (inaudible)

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: We would strongly prefer to have Omar. How's that?

Q: (inaudible) yesterday (inaudible) or some kind of intervention in Iraq. (inaudible) White House. I was curious if the Pentagon, what [take the] Pentagon has on that.

Rumsfeld: I haven't seen the letter.

Q: A couple of hours ago (inaudible) highest state of alert. There were a couple of rounds of mortars, (inaudible). Can you tell us more about that?

Rumsfeld: General Pace is the Marine. I'll let him answer that. (Laughter)

Pace: I have not heard those reports. It would make sense that if they had some indication of pending attacks that they would go on higher alert.

Q: (inaudible)

Pace: That's correct. I do not.

Q: -- QDR in the second year of the administration's four years instead of the first?

Rumsfeld: I'm for it. It is an important -- the QDR is the Quadrennial Defense Review, for those people who don't cover the Pentagon regularly. It is a review that is done every four years to look at the entire defense picture and then report to Congress and to the president any things that seem to be appropriate for adjustment, change, and the like.

When a new administration comes in and is faced with that immediately, it puts a time pressure on it that is not respectful of the importance of the task, and it is particularly bad when the United States of America seems to be so tangled in its sox on appointing people and confirming people that it takes month after month after month after month to get your people in place. We still have at the Pentagon, this is now pushing Christmas and we still have I believe five people that have not been confirmed. There were only two of us for the first period of months. There is no way to run a Quadrennial Defense Review thoughtfully and substantively if you do not have people from the new administration in place. So doing it the second year would be vastly better than doing it the first year.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what (inaudible) to have (inaudible) rules for a possible military tribunal? What do you say to those on the Hill who are (inaudible) tribunals may not be fair?

Rumsfeld: I do not know when we'll have the procedures fully developed for these so-called military commissions or tribunals. The president issued a military order designating the secretary of defense to be prepared to conduct, to see that military commissions are conducted in the event he assigns someone to the department. No one has been assigned to the department for that purpose. We are approaching it in a very careful, measured way, consulting thoughtful people on the subject who have experience in these areas. We're considering the various options with respect to the significant issues that obviously come to light. And there's no doubt in my mind that at that point, if and when we are assigned somebody, that we'll be prepared to do it in a careful and measured way that will be respectful of American values.

Q: Mr. Secretary, (inaudible) $7.5 billion in homeland security defense appropriations. Are you concerned that if successful (inaudible). Have you heard about any delays in the defense appropriations?

Rumsfeld: If the president decides to veto it I'm sure it will be the right decision.

Q: Mr. Secretary, since your noon briefing at the Pentagon have you gained any further information about the negotiations between Hamid Karzai and Omar? Anything that would change your mind or give you a better understanding of what's being discussed?

Rumsfeld: No. There's still a good deal of confusion around that. In fact there's speculation that Omar's now trying to talk to somebody else about the possibility of some arrangement with respect to Kandahar. It's mostly all speculation. If you started chasing every one of those rabbits you'd get very tired very fast. We'll wait until there's something substantive and at the moment I haven't seen anything that I would consider something that one could really sit down and examine and make a judgment about.

Q: Mr. Secretary, (inaudible) about the (inaudible) base closures, or Vieques. Have you got any hints that that might be resolved?

Rumsfeld: No. Congress did not bring that subject up, I did.

Q: (inaudible)

Rumsfeld: I pointed out that, rather than say what I said in the meeting with the senators which was classified as top secret, I'll tell you what I think about that subject instead of what I said, although there may be some correlation. (Laughter)

The defense establishment has something between 20 and 25 percent excess base structure, infrastructure, that is not needed for the force structure we have or are likely to have. That means we're spending billions of dollars a year that we ought not to be spending or need not be spending.

Every former living secretary of defense has supported us in our effort to have a base closing authorization by the Congress. The president wants it. Each member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff including General Pace at my right, the vice chairman, and the chairman, General Myers, all agree that that is the desirable thing to do. The reason they do is because it is the desirable thing to do. I certainly hope that the Congress is willing to give us that authorization so we can proceed.

Thank you very much. And I said that looking right at your camera. (Laughter)

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