Secretary Rumsfeld’s Interview with Melissa Kerr & Bill Tole, KTSM-FM (Sunny 99.9)
TOLE: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld was sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense on January 20, 2001. He was a former Navy pilot. Also served as the 13th Secretary of Defense back with Gerald R. Ford, the White House chief of staff. He also was a U.S. Ambassador to NATO, U.S. congressman and chief executive officer of two Fortune 500 companies. Secretary Rumsfeld is responsible for directing the actions of the Defense Department in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Mr. Rumsfeld attended Princeton University on academic and Navy ROTC scholarships. He was a U.S. Navy aviator and flight instructor and he went on to serve as an administrative assistant to a congressman back in the late 1950s. And then he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois in 1962 at age 30. And then he was re-elected in ’64, ’66, and ’68. Mr. Rumsfeld resigned from Congress in 1969 during his fourth term to join the president’s cabinet. In August of 1974, he was called back to Washington, D.C., to serve as the chairman of the transition to the presidency of Gerald R. Ford and he became Chief of Staff of the White House at that time and a member of the president’s cabinet and then served as the 13th U.S. Secretary of Defense – the youngest in history – from 1975 to 1977. And then up until 1985, he served as Chief Executive Officer, President and then Chairman of GD Searle, worldwide pharmaceutical company. The successful turnaround there earned him awards as outstanding chief executive officer in the pharmaceutical industry from the Wall Street Transcript and Financial World. And Mr. Rumsfeld also served as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Instrument Corporation.
Before returning for his second tour as secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld chaired the bipartisan U.S. Missile Threat Commission in 1998 and the U.S. Commission to Assess National Security Space Management and Organization in 2000.
UNKNOWN: Yes, please stand by. I want to put you on hold and transfer you right now.
TOLE: OK. Thank you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Hello.
TOLE: Hello, Secretary Rumsfeld. It’s Bill and Melissa here at Sunny 99.9. We’re very honored to have you visit Fort Bliss in El Paso today.
TOLE: Well, thank you, Bill and Melissa. I’m delighted to join you.
KERR: Welcome to the home of the Patriot. We’re happy to have you here.
SEC. RUMSFELD: Thank you.
TOLE: Now, Mr. Secretary, we understand that you were with the President earlier today. How did that go?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, it was excellent. We went – flew down to Crawford this morning and spent about four hours with him there and had a opportunity to, oh, be involved in a secure video connection with General Abizaid and General Casey from Baghdad and reviewed the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and had very good meetings and then we brought some people down and discussed several other subjects with the President. And it was excellent meetings and I enjoyed being there.
TOLE: Well, we certainly hope it was a productive day. Your experience as a private-sector CEO seems real instrumental in this current reshaping of our military. We’re kind of wondering how, of course, it will affect Fort Bliss. And how do you perceive our global posture changing as a result of these reassignments that are being talked about?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, what we’re doing, basically, is we’ve decided that the Cold War is over, that the Soviet Union’s gone and that it’s time to readjust our footprint or our posture around the world not for the 20th century where we had static defense, but for the 21st century where we need to have agility and flexibility and the ability to use our forces as needed. We’ve been working on this for about three years. I feel very good about it. We’ve consulted extensively with our allies and friends and everyone understands what we’re doing and why. And when this is completed and it’ll probably take, oh, two or three or four, five years to roll it out. When it’s completed, our country will be in a much better position to provide for the security of the American people. And I also would add that the men and women in uniform will have a better circumstance because there will be somewhat fewer numbers deployed permanently overseas and there will be therefore fewer permanent changes of station and there’ll be less disruptions in the lives for the spouses and their children in school and the like.
KERR: That’s good news. Secretary Rumsfeld, we know that at least 3,800 will be coming to Fort Bliss in 2006, we understand, to train to be sent to Korea.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I think the way to think about it is that the force posture subject is one thing. And what you’re discussing is something quite distinctively different. What we’re doing simultaneously is we’re increasing the number of brigades in the Army from 33 to either 43 or 48, depending on circumstances. And it is one of those brigades that I believe is to be assigned at Fort Bliss.
KERR: And you’re about to address our troops here at Fort Bliss. What will you tell them?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, I’m going to talk a bit about how much we appreciate the wonderful job they do in uniform and how grateful our country is and ought to be for the fact that they volunteered and stepped forward and have the support of their families and then respond to all kinds of questions that they have. I enjoy doing it; it give me a chance not only to say thank you, but to sense and test what’s on their minds.
TOLE: Is there anything that you can share with us, Secretary Rumsfeld, on what the future may hold for Fort Bliss and the El Paso community? Do you anticipate that our base may grow larger here or smaller or?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, you know, this process we have under way called the BRAC is, by law, requires that the commission – this BRAC Commission analyze those questions and then make proposals. And almost by law, I have to wait until they’ve made their recommendations to make comments on them. And all I can say at this stage about I can’t imagine -- I can’t put myself in their shoes and say what they’re going to recommend, but I can say this – we certainly are darn grateful to the people of El Paso and the surrounding area for the wonderful support they provide to the Fort Bliss and the military communities in this region and this neighborhood.
KERR: And Secretary Rumsfeld, I want to know does your wife still turn to you when she wakes up and asks you, “Where is Osma?”
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, you are a funny lady, Melissa. [Laughter]
KERR: A little pillow talk, huh?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: She does. She often says to me, “Where is Osma?” And we’re going to find that fella. And I’ll tell you, if he’s still alive and healthy, he’s awfully busy trying to avoid being caught. And there’s a lot of pressure on him and we’ve got wonderful cooperation from a number of nations. And it’s hard to find a single human being in this big world of ours, but we’ve got a lot of fine people working on the problem and they’re putting pressure on the al Qaeda network and they’re making it much more difficult for them to engage in terrorist acts.
TOLE: Well, Godspeed in that endeavor and all of the duties of you and all of our military. And Mr. Secretary, we are just so pleased that you called and shared that information with us today. And welcome to the great Desert Southwest.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you. I’m delighted to be here. I appreciate it.
KERR: Thank you, sir.