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Press Availability with Secretary Rumsfeld and Adm. Keating from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Commander NORAD and Northern Command Adm. Timothy Keating
May 31, 2006

          MODERATOR:  (In progress) -- of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD, and he has some brief remarks.  And then, he'll introduce the secretary, and then we'll have some time for some questions.

 

            We -- in terms of your being able to hear things today, we ask that you -- we have two mics positioned around the room, roving mics, and we ask that you use those and that you tell us who you are and your affiliation.  That'll help make things go smoother.

 

            Over to Admiral Keating.  Sir?

 

            ADM. KEATING:  Thank you, Mike.

 

            Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  In the immediate aftermath of the 11 September attacks, President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld had a vision for our country.  America's safer today because of their vision, which led to the creation of the United States Northern Command, a fully functional regional combatant command responsible for the defense of our nation.

 

            Secretary Rumsfeld's transformation efforts are a reality for us here at United States Northern Command.  We're very proud to have him visit our headquarters to receive operational updates and most importantly to meet the remarkable young men and women who safeguard our nation.

 

            As you all know, the 2006 hurricane season starts tomorrow.  We've just briefed the secretary on our efforts to prepare for this summer to ensure that we're ready to respond when he or the president direct us to participate in the efforts to save lives, reduce human suffering and help restore critical infrastructure.  Secretary Rumsfeld is a leader who appreciates the commitment and sacrifices of military service members and their families and the great citizens of our country whose enduring support will help us win our long war.

 

            Mr. Secretary.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Thank you very much, Admiral Keating.

 

            I've had a terrific day.  I was at the Air Force academy, as you may know, and had a chance to shake hands and thank some, I guess, 889 graduates who are from the class of 2006, who are off to their careers for the most part in the Air Force but a couple in the Navy, one in the Marines, and I think a couple in the Army, and there were some foreign students as well.  And it's gratifying for me to have a chance to thank them for their service to the country and for stepping up and volunteering to serve our nation and to help defend freedom.

 

            I've had a good visit with Admiral Keating and his staff.  The progress that's been made here at Northern Command is truly impressive in a very short period of time.  I was briefed on the plans in the event of a disaster, whether natural disaster or man-made disaster, by the staff and the work that's been done to coordinate with the other federal, state and local agencies.  The kinds of capabilities that the Department of Defense is able to bring to problems are unique and distinctive, and we're part of a complicated network of responders.  Obviously, we are only in support, and the Department of Homeland Security has the lead responsibility after the state and local governments, who are in fact the first responders.  But it's helpful for me to have this update, and I'm delighted to be here.

 

            And I would be happy to respond to some questions, and if they're too tough, Tim will respond -- (laughter) -- to the questions.

 

            Sir?  Who is -- who'd like to -- yes.  Go ahead.

 

            Q     I'm Eric Whitney from KRCC Radio.  I have a question about Army training needs.  Fort --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Army?

 

            Q     Army training needs.  Fort Carson is studying a potentially pretty large expansion of their training range, and I'm wondering if you can tell me, in general, does the Army have enough acreage to train on?  And how does the Department of Defense feel about using eminent domain to acquire land for training needs?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Yeah.  I'm afraid that's a question that generally should be directed straight to the Army.  It -- the answer to the question is that it varies around the world.  It is an enormously important part of Army life to be able to train and to be prepared and, by so doing, be able to save lives.

 

            We work with local communities all across the world, and we cooperate in training arrangements with other countries.  We find that very often there's encroachment.  If the military is some place, and there's a training area that's terrific, we find people moving near it.  And over a period of five, 10, 20, 30, 40 years, then there can be kind of difficulties, on occasion. 

 

            But I'm not knowledgeable about using eminent domain for a training area at all.  I've never even heard that thought expressed here in the United States.

 

            Frequently, it's just the reverse.  It's the pressure the opposite way, to -- for us to give up training areas and find other places we can train, because of pressures from the civilian community, as opposed to the military community pressuring out and using eminent domain.

 

            So I think that's -- I just don't have any knowledge about that at all. 

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, my name is Tom Livingston (sp).  I'm with the NBC affiliate in Casper.  I wanted to ask you, as far as the reduction of the Minuteman 3 missile ICBM force reduction by 50, up in -- has it been decided where those are going to be --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  There's been no announcement on that --

 

            Q     Okay.  My question --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  -- other than the desire to move down by 50, as part of the general approach that's been taken to move from many thousands of deployed warheads down to, as I recall, 1,700 to 2,200, over some period of time -- a decade or so.

 

            Q     With the nuclear capabilities of North Korea, and then Iran pursuing those as well, is now the right time to do that, or is that still part of the START I Treaty, or is that a continuation of (inaudible)?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, it is not connected to those two countries' activities with respect to nuclear programs.  It is a decision we've made that we look around the world, and we signed a treaty with Russia that each country would pull down from some numbers of multiple thousands down towards 1,700 to 2,200, as I recall, within a decade.

 

            We have -- our people, our Joint Chiefs of Staff, our Strategic Command in Omaha have all looked at this very carefully and concluded that it's appropriate for us to do that, that we can do that without any risk or any weakening of our deterrent capabilities.

 

           Yes?

 

            Q     (Off mike) -- from CNN.  Just to switch gears for a second, when did you first hear about the allegations in Hadithah?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't remember.  Recently.

 

            Q     And --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And I was briefed by General Pace and, I believe, General Hagee, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the commandant of the Marine Corps, some days ago.  But it was within a recent period as opposed to an earlier period.

 

            Q     And what does what happened there mean for the larger mission?  And if Abu Ghraib was bad, is this worse?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, there are two investigations going on.  One is to determine what happened, and the second is to determine what happened after whatever happened happened.  And the Marines are working diligently on that, and at the appropriate time when they have gathered the facts, they'll make them available to the public and then we'll know more and we'll know answers to questions like that.

 

            Q     Do you accept responsibility in a similar way that you did for Abu Ghraib or  --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We don't know what -- quite what happened there yet, and it strikes me that it's appropriate to get the facts and see what took place.  We in the United States hold our forces to a very, very high standard, and it's proper that we should.  And General Hagee is out meeting with the Marines and talking to them about this subject.  And I don't know that I could add anything else. 

 

            Furthermore, it's not proper for me to discuss these types of things since I'm in the chain of command, and there is a legal phrase called "command influence," which if I say something by mistake, it could adversely affect the outcome of a trial, for example, in one way or another, either favorably to a defendant or unfavorably to a defendant.  And I wouldn't want to be involved in anything like that, so I am not going to get beyond what I've suggested.

 

            Q     And I have to ask, any plans for resignation?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Oh, you didn't have to ask! 

 

            Q     (Laughs.)  (Laughter.)

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Really!  CNN didn't call you up and insist, did they?  Did they threaten your job, anything like that?

 

            Q     No, no threats.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, why'd you have to, then?

 

            Q     Gotta ask.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Do you really?  Well, you could --

 

            ADM. KEATING:  Might have been wondering about my intentions, Mr. Secretary.  (Laughter.)  I have no intentions to resign.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q     Marshall Zelinger, KRDO, the ABC affiliate in Colorado Springs.  The Pentagon's quarterly report to Congress --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Not bad.

 

            Q     Not bad.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Not bad.  I like that.

 

            Q     Fewer American soldiers killed in the last 18 months, despite facing the most attacks, I think, in a week, 600-plus per week. 

 

            But locally, Fort Carson has faced a lot of soldier deaths.  What can you say to this community and the military families about the future of the soldiers and what they'll continue to see over the next year or two?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, this part of the country, of course, is -- has been and is today wonderfully hospitable to men and women in uniform.  We have tens of thousands here, and it is a terrific location, and we benefit by having the support of the communities in this part of the country.

 

            The situation in Iraq is essentially this -- that the Iraqi people attempting to prevail, the violent extremists in Iraq -- a mixture of Sunni extremists and Shi'a extremists and insurgents of various types and criminals -- tried very hard to stop the election a year ago January, and they failed.  They tried to stop the drafting of an Iraqi constitution, and they failed.  They tried to stop the referendum on the Iraqi constitution, and they failed.  They tried to stop the elections on December 15th, and they failed.  Not only did they fail, but on each one of those elections and referendum, the number of Iraqis going out to vote increased by a sizable amount.

 

            They're now trying to stop the formation of the new government under that constitution and -- as a result of that December 15th election, and they're going to fail there as well.  The government's pretty well put together with the exception of a couple of security ministries.  Their hope is to announce those sometime in the period immediately ahead.

 

            I think the important thing to remember is that 25 million people are free in that country, that the economy is growing, the currency is stable.  In the overwhelming majority of the number of provinces -- you know, 14 out of 18, the levels of violence are very low.  Most of the violence that's taking place in that country, a very high percentage is in Baghdad, which is where the international community is and where the press is, and it's there for a reason.  It's there so it'll be noticed because they understand, the terrorists, that they can't prevail in this conflict. 

 

            They can't win battles or win wars.  All they can do is win a test of wills back in the United States, so they calibrate what they're doing, they calculate it, and they try to engage in things that will be attractive to television and attract it to press and be discouraging to the American people and discouraging to the coalition countries, and that is in fact why it is a test of wills.  And they're very good at it.  They have media committees, and they get up in the morning and plan -- how are they are going to manipulate the press in the United States?  That is what they do.

 

            Now, what can I say to the families, you asked?  I can say this -- thank you very much for volunteering to serve our country.  We appreciate it.  Your folks are doing a superb job over there, and our country is very deeply in their debt and in debt to their families, who also sacrifice.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q     Chase --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Why don't you ask Admiral Keating something hard?  He's right here, he's cocked, he's ready, he's good at it.

 

            Q     But he's always here.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  (Laughs.)

 

            Q     Chase Squires from the Associated Press.  In light of some reports that there'll be some troop movements from Kuwait into Iraq, maybe adding 1,500 troops there, how does that affect the potential for a troop drawdown in the coming year?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  It doesn't.  General Casey and General Abizaid and I talk several times a week about this.  We've been as high as 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq; we're now down at 130,000, 131,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.  We have gone from zero Iraqi security forces up to 267,000 Iraqi Security Forces trained and equipped.  And General Casey has various forces in the Central Command Area of Responsibility, and from time to time he'll call forward a battalion or two battalions for one reason or another, and move them in or move them out. 

 

            The issue of troops levels in a macro sense I think should be looked at this way.  The new government, when it's formed with a minister of Defense and a minister of Interior, will sit down with General Casey and our ambassador and will have a discussion about the pace at which we can pass over responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces and the rate at which we can close bases or transfer bases to them, or responsibilities.  When we've done that, we very likely will take a look at the conditions on the ground and recognize the trajectory up that the Iraqi security forces are on, and the capability increasing regularly, and we'll come to some understandings as to how we believe we can reduce forces over the period ahead.  And at some point, after talking to the Iraqis and talking to President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and the other coalition countries, if there's something to announce, it will be announced.  But it is a process that's been in place, it's been well understood, it's a very clear plan forward.  And our goal is to be able to reduce our forces.  The Iraqi government's goal will be to enable us to reduce our forces by having Iraqi security forces take over more and more responsibility.  That's a good thing for them. 

 

            You know, there's a tension between -- with respect to the number of forces in a foreign country.  It's unnatural to have foreign forces in a country.  And to the extent you have too many and you are too intrusive, you can feed an insurgency and contribute to people supporting an insurgency.  To the extent you have too few at any given time, the political process can't go forward, and the economic progress can't go forward.

 

            I think one of the big events that up ahead of us is the fact that the prime minister designate, al-Maliki, has said that he intends to fashion a reconciliation process and to work out with all the elements in that country an event that will permit people who were on the opposite side of the government to become a part of the government and a part of the society and not people who were part of Saddam Hussein's bloodletting and putting hundreds of thousands of people into mass graves -- but give everyone in the country a feeling of the other people, that they have a stake in its success and a stake in its future.  And I think that will be important in taking some of the sting out of the insurgency.

 

            Q     Some kind of election --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I would -- it would not be an election.  It would be a set of decisions that would be -- I would -- first of all, it's not the U.S. that would be doing it.  It would be the Iraqis.  How he might do it, I don't know.  But I know he has announced he intends to, and I know to be successful he would have to work with the Shi'a and the Kurds and the Sunnis and come to some understanding as to how people can nod their head and say, "Fair enough.  That constitution will protect us from each other, and we're willing to get in that rowboat and start pulling our oar and make it a success."

 

            And I think that that process of reconciliation, it's been the case in a number of countries over the years where you've seen this happen, and it can have a very salutary effect.

 

            Admiral Keating?

 

            Q     Not yet.  But a NORAD question.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You're warming up to it.  Why would you ask me a NORAD question when he's the expert?

 

            Q     Well, I want to know if you're satisfied that NORAD has been able to make the adjustment, as it was originally a Cold War creation.  Is it appropriate for today and the future and the threat that exists now from terrorists?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think that most institutions and organizations that were fashioned for one purpose, the Cold War or World War II, had to change and evolve from World War II to the Cold War.  And most institutions have to evolve and adjust and change to fit the 21st century, and the fact that we're faced not with nation-states contesting with big armies and big air forces and big navies, but we're faced with networks of violent extremists who are determined to end our free way of life, who are determined to overthrow moderate Muslim regimes in that part of the world.  As they say this, it's on the Internet; people could read it.  It never gets written about, but anyone who wants to understand it can go find out what they're saying and write about it.

 

            It is a a serious threat.  It is a threat that's going to persist over a sustained period of time.  And clearly NORAD, as other organizations, has to adjust to fit that.  And I think they're -- under the leadership here, they've been doing a good job in making those kinds of adjustments.

 

            STAFF:  Sir, we have time for two more questions.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Two more questions -- for Admiral Keating.  (Soft laughter.)  Admiral Keating, you have just --

 

            Q     Mr. Secretary --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You could do it.  You can do it. 

 

            Q     Thanks.  (Chuckles.)  I'm Laurie (sp) with KKTV, a CBS affiliate down here in the Springs.  Now, I know in the past that you've said that you can't set a timetable as to when American troops will completely pull out of Iraq, since we have to wait for the Iraqi government to become stabilized. 

 

            But my question is that the violence has continued.  It's been strong for the past three years.  Is there anything that you can tell the troops here in this community as to when we will be completely out of Iraq?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Your question began accurately and ended with an inaccurate conclusion.

 

            Q     Well, maybe --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  How did you manage to get there?  You said you know I can't answer that, and then you said:  What's the answer?

 

            Q     I know you can't give a specific timetable per se, but can you give some kind of rounded-off number?

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Everyone who's ever tried to estimate or speculate or predict the length of a conflict, the cost of a conflict or the number of casualties in a conflict has been wrong.  And it's foolish to try to do it.

 

            There are so many variables.  There's so many moving parts.  How are the Iranians going to behave?  Are they going to keep sending in explosively formed projectiles?  Are they going to keep infiltrating into Iraq people who are unhelpful?  What about the Syrians?  How are they going to behave?  Are they going to serve as a point in Damascus where people can come in and then move in to contribute to the insurgency in the country?  How much money is going to continue to flow in to the insurgents?  How fast will the Iraqi government be able to complete a reconciliation process and provide assurances? 

 

            This is not a military problem, in a sense that it could be looked at and say, "Oh, it is purely a military problem."  It simply isn't.  An insurgency, by its very nature, is political, it's economic, and it's law enforcement, and it is military.  And all of those elements go into determining the pace at which insurgencies are suppressed.

 

            I don't know -- history -- if you took all of the insurgencies one could think of in modern times and added them all together and dropped a plumb line through it and say, "How long have they lasted," well, they'd probably lasted, you know, at the short end, maybe five, six years; at the long end, 12, 15-plus.  Maybe there's an average of eight, 10, 12, 13 -- I'm guessing at this -- that's -- don't take that to the bank. 

 

            How do they actually end?  Well, they don't end by military force, in engaging in land battles or sea battles or air battles.  They end, finally, when the population is so supportive of the government and the feeling that they have a right to an opportunity to participate in it, and they get tired of seeing innocent -- in this case, Iraqis -- women and children get killed by terrorists.  They get fed up with it.

 

            So you look at all kinds of indicators.  One indicator is the number of tips we're getting.  Tips have gone from a few hundreds up to thousands we get today -- not we, the Iraqi Security Forces as well as coalition forces -- from people in the community who say, "Hey, there's some character down here putting an IED out on the street and you ought to go find it and you ought to catch him because we're tired of having our kids killed." 

 

            So as that tipping point comes, that's what ends an insurgency.  And it will end -- be ended not by the United States military, and it won't be ended by the coalition forces, it will be ended by the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people getting fed up with it and deciding they're going to grab hold of their socks and pull them up and run their country and make it a success.  And they've got a fabulous opportunity to do that.  They've got intelligent people, they have industrious people, they have oil money, they have water, they have the agricultural potential that dwarfs the rest of that region, they have a significant history.  There is no reason in the world why they can't be an enormous success.

 

            Tim Keating. No?

 

            Q     Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  Richard Randall (sp).  You talked about the Doolittle raid earlier today at the academy.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Can you believe there were three people from that raid in the audience at the academy?

 

            Q     I can believe it, sir, and I've interviewed two of them.  And I'm asking you this --

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well good for you.

 

            Q     -- tell me about the little child, Donald Rumsfeld, how he reacted, how the nation reacted, and why it's important for this generation and future generations to know those men's stories.

 

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well thank you.  It was -- my dad was out in a carrier in the Pacific in World War II, and we were living in Coronado, California.  But we lost battle after battle after battle -- nothing worked right at the beginning of World War II.  It was a tough time for this country.  And when Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle put together this band of aviators and air crews, and they stuck land planes on an aircraft carrier, knowing they could not land back on the aircraft carrier, and took off and flew over Tokyo and bombed, it was the first -- I'm almost sure it was the first big event that went right for the American people since Pearl Harbor.  And it was electric in our country.

 

            They ended up landing in three or four different countries.  All were captured.  Every plane went down because they couldn't go back to the carrier, and they couldn't reach a safe airfield.  And it is a story of heroism and ingenuity, and it's worth our remembering people like that.  And the fact that three of them were there was exciting.  And for me, I mean, heck, I was -- I'm going to guess I was probably 10, 11 years old at the beginning of the war.  I was born in '32.

 

            So, years later, to get to know Jimmy Doolittle when I was -- had been secretary of Defense and he had been retired for any number of years, was quite a thrill.

 

            So thank you.

 

            Good to see you, folks.

 

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