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Secretary Rumsfeld Okinawa Town Hall

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 16, 2003
 Rumsfeld:  Thank you very much, Admiral.  [Applause]

 

            Howard Baker.  [Applause]

 

            Ambassador Baker was a member of the United States Senate from the State of Tennessee.  He was one of the leaders of the Senate and is now following a rich tradition that the United States has of sending some of our most distinguished and most revered statesmen to serve in the post of Ambassador to Japan.  [Inaudible] former Speaker of the House Tom Foley and [inaudible].

 

            Now, where are all the people, the professional photographers.  There's one, there's one.  That is David Kennerly, the Pulitzer prize winning photographer who is a world-class photographer.  [Inaudible]  And she is a little bit [inaudible].  [Laughter]

 

            I am very pleased to be here.  I must say that we've been working for a couple of years to think through how our country can best be arranged for the new security environment.  The threats are different, the circumstances are different, and the capabilities, military capabilities of the United States and our friends and allies, and also the military capabilities of potential enemies have changed.  As a result, I must say they changed at a fairly rapid rate.

 

            So rather than being arranged around the world as we were during the Cold War to simply provide a so-to-speak static defense and a deterrent against the Soviet Union, wake up and recognize that the Soviet Union does not exist, that is such a difference and we have to change and adjust ourselves to fit the 21st Century.

 

            That's one of the things that we're thinking about as we are on this visit to Japan and Korea and Guam.  The other thing that we're doing here is this, giving me a chance to say thanks to you.  Each of you are volunteers, I know that.  We appreciate the value of your service.  We admire your willingness to help defend freedom for your country, your families, and our families all across.

 

            It's a tricky little [inaudible].  It only goes on when you're talking so you have to keep talking every single second.  [Laughter]

 

            What I thought I would do is if you have some questions I will respond to them, I'm not saying I’ll answer them.  [Laughter]  I may heave the tough ones to Howard Baker or to one of the generals here who know all the expert answers.  But I'd be happy to respond to questions if some of you have questions.

 

            Who's first?  Don't be shy.

 

            Q:  [Inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:  Should we let the press?  No, no.  We're not going to let the press -- [Laughter]  There are the heads shaking no, don't do it. 

 

            Go ahead, yes, sir.

 

            Q:  [Inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:  Above average.

 

            Q:  I'm Barry Maze.  I'm stationed at Kadina Air Base.  I'm proud to be a sheet metal troop, 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron.

 

            Sir, I just read recently in the papers about Japan's refusal to send troops over to Iraq, and my question was how is that going to affect our troops, and is it going to affect their length of stay there?

 

            Rumsfeld:  It's a good question and it's also instructive in this sense.  How do I say this graciously?  It's Sunday and I want to be nice.

 

            You can't believe everything you read in the newspapers, for openers.  And they have not decided not to send troops.  My understanding is that they have, and correct me if I'm wrong, Howard, but my understanding is they decided to send an assessment team to Iraq to consider the situation.  When I met with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of State for Defense they indicated that the question is open.

 

            Is that, Howard, about right?

 

            Baker:  [Inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:  Use the mike right there, Howard.

 

            Baker:  My understanding, Mr. Secretary, is that the original announcement that the Japanese will send some of their Self Defense Force to Iraq still stands.  They still plan to do that.  What they've backed off of, as I understand it, is a firm date for doing that.  I think it's still very much in their minds.  I think the survey team that's on its way to Iraq now will probably give a recommendation on when, but I think bottom line is that the Japanese will still dispatch a group of self-defense forces to Iraq and probably still this year.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Thank you.  It's an example of things appear in the press and you read it and you think that's the case.  And in fact sometimes the way the headline's written leaves an impression that's a little more dramatic than the facts actually are.

 

            To go to the other part of your question, though, we have about 127,000 U.S. forces in Iraq today.  The coalition countries, 33 countries have, I believe, something like 25,000 or 30,000 total.  The Iraqis now have 131,000 security.  So the total security forces have been growing every week and every month over the past period of months since May 1st when [inaudible].

 

            Our goal is to have as many countries as would like to do it, and that's a help.  It's a big help to us because we can use fewer forces.  It's a help to Iraq because it shows that those countries have a commitment to the success of Iraq.  But at the present time we're in the process of arranging for replacing our forces that are currently there sometime between January and April.  We're going to be rotating in roughly the same number of forces that are currently there.  Those folks will have completed what our current plan is to have U.S. forces serve up to a maximum of 12 months so all of them would be coming out, one would hope, somewhat at or shy of 12 months service, actually boots on the ground in the country.

 

            Question?

 

            Q:  Sir, I'd like to welcome you to Okinawa on behalf of the Army on Okinawa.

 

            Rumsfeld:  Thank you.

 

            Q:  I'd like to find out where you see the military going throughout the course of battling the war on terrorism and so far as the end strength.  Do you see it increasing or decreasing over the next few years?

 

            Rumsfeld:  I don't know.  It certainly wouldn't decrease -- end strength.  Overall end strength of the armed forces, it simply will not decrease, that we know.

 

            The question is are there some things we can do to reduce stress on the force other than increasing end strength?  And there are.  In fact we set out about 25 or 30 things that can be done to increase the capability of our force while reducing the stress on the force.  We have the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines all working off this list to see how they can in fact do it better. 

 

            I'll give you an example.  One thing we can do is rebalance our active force and our reserve components.  At the present time we have an imbalance.  We have a number of Reserve and Guard who have skills that don't exist to any great extent on active duty, and yet we have a world we're living in where those skills are needed on active duty.  And so we're making those adjustments at the present time.

 

            A second thing we're doing by way of example is all of the services at the present time are in the process of trying to shorten the period for mobilization and the period for demobilization, and if you think about it, to the extent we can reduce it, that increases the active duty time where our Guard or Reserve is actually in service performing that which they've been called up to perform.

 

            At the present time in a number of skill sets we're getting maybe six or seven months out of a year activation, and the rest is used for mobilizing and demobilizing and deployment which is not a good tradeoff.

 

            A third thing we're doing is, we just very fortunately were able to get about, oh, I'm going to guess 75 percent of what we asked for out of the Congress in terms of the ability to manage our civilian personnel workforce.  For recent years over time what's happened is when people wanted a job done they would reach for a person in a uniform because they can bring them in, train them for the job, have them do the job, deploy them if deployment was necessary, and to the extent that job was no longer needed, they could move them to another job.  In the civilian workforce we weren't able to do that.

 

            As a result, at the present time the estimates from four or five years ago were that we have today probably something in excess of 300,000 men and women in uniform performing jobs that could in fact be performed by civilians.  The reason they're not being performed by civilians is because we can't manage the civilian personnel system the way we can manage the military personnel system.

 

            To the extent we now have that, within the last three days, four days, the legislation passed in the Congress, to the extent we now have greater flexibility one would think that we ought to be able to "increase" end strength if you will by taking a number of the military people who are in those non-military jobs and moving them back into assignments that are true military billets.

 

            As I say, there are probably 25 or 30 other things like that that we're doing that we believe will relieve stress on the force.

 

            The other thing we've got to do is we've got to continue to pull down deployments for some activities.  For example in the last three years we've been able to reduce the number of forces in Bosnia and the number of forces in Kosovo. That's a good thing.  You have to expect that we're going to continue to have deployments like that because the world's a somewhat dangerous and untidy place in many respects.  But once they do that job they ought not to be there any longer than they need to be there. So we have very good work going on in NATO with our Supreme Allied Commander there working with the NATO countries that have the bulk of the forces in the Balkans to see that the force numbers are drawn down and the civilian capability is developed to replace it.

 

            What we're doing for example in Iraq by helping to train and equip and work with Iraqi forces to get them from zero up to 131,000 relieves a great deal of pressure on our forces in terms of security because we're able to do joint patrols with them.  They know the language, they have situation awareness, and they're doing a good job.  They're out there providing security for the Iraqi people to the extent that some 86, 87 of them have been killed in the last four months.  So it's not like they're just standing around.  These Iraqi forces are out there doing important work to try to restore a more secure environment in that country.

 

            But the President is open to increasing end strength in the event that any analysis indicates that that's the thing to do.

 

            On the other hand, we decided that the first thing we need to do is to address these other issues and see if we can't relieve stress on the force that way first.

 

            In the last analysis, if we have to lift up end strength, we certainly would do it. 

 

            Thank you.

 

            Question?

 

            Q:  [Inaudible]

 

            Rumsfeld:   No, no.  Bob.  Bob Burns, he's Associated Press.  When you read these stories and it says AP -- Associated Press.  He very likely is the guy who did it.

 

            Q:  Sir, my name is Lance Corporal [inaudible].

 

            I would like to know what is the final conclusion [inaudible] in Iraq to pull all of our troops out of Iraq?

 

            Rumsfeld:  The final conclusion that the President set out at the outset is that there be a single country, it not break into pieces as some people have proposed; second, that it be a country that's at peace with its neighbors; and third that it be a country that has a system of government that is representative and respectful of the various diverse ethnic and religious elements in the country.  It's a country where there have been differences between the Shia and the Suni and the Kurds and the goal is to have a system of government that is respectful as ours is of different parts of the country and different elements within the country.

 

            What does that mean?  That's success, if I were to describe success.  The President said we will stay there as long as is necessary and not one day longer.  Our goal is not to be there.  Our goal is to get them on a path so that their essential services are improving, so that they we've transferred responsibility for security to Iraqis as opposed to coalition countries, and that we've passed sovereignty back to the Iraqi people in an orderly way so that they can then continue and take back their country.

 

            It's not an easy thing to do.  The country lived under a vicious dictator for decades and it has to be scarring to the people to live in a repressive dictatorial system with a command economy where everything was controlled out of Baghdad, where they did not have a free market system in any sense.  A political system that was dictatorial where they were only allowed to do the things they were told they could do and everything else was prohibited and suddenly it's turned upside down and now anything that's not prohibited, they're free to do.  That takes a while for people to develop the confidence to make decisions.

 

            At the present time there's been good progress.  We have a Governing Council that was appointed.  They then selected Minister for the Iraqi Ministries and they selected a terrific group of people, very knowledgeable, educated, talented people.

 

            They have a new currency, they have a central bank.  The schools are open, the hospitals are open.  Yet there is a low intensity conflict taking place and people are being killed and wounded by virtue of the fact that there are foreign terrorists in the country and there are remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime that are out killing people.  They're killing a lot of Iraqis but they're also killing coalition members.

 

            Our goal is to continue to put pressure on the criminals and the terrorists and the Ba'athists and continue to pass that responsibility off to the Iraqi security forces.

 

            How long that takes, no one can know.  But it's interesting because on the one hand you can actually measure progress and see it.  On the other hand there is the reality that there are still people being killed, it is a tough, dangerous business. Most of the problems are occurring in the Baghdad area and the area north of Baghdad, about 95 percent of the problems, but there are still incidents that are taking place in other parts of the country.

 

            It's a tough business but it's an important responsibility. I just say when I visit the troops out there, they are proud of what they're doing.  They're confident that what they're doing is the right thing.  And they recognize the importance of succeeding.  I do believe we will succeed.

 

            Question?

 

            Q:  Good evening, sir.  Staff Sergeant Smith, the 31st Fire and Rescue Squadron here on Kadina Air Force Base.

 

            Sir, my question for you is how do you see the global war on terrorism here in the backyard of the Pacific, i.e. the Philippines and what we plan on possibly doing in a more direct role down there?

 

            Rumsfeld:  The global war on terrorism is exactly that.  It is global.  Anyone who looks at the intelligence can't help but sense that it has no respect for regions of the world or areas of responsibility, for U.S. commands -- Central, Pacific, what have you.  It has not respect indeed for borders at all.

 

            What we did in the Philippines, as many of you know, is to try to assist the Philippines army with some training and some assistance and some equipment and to do some additional things in the communities where there were this terrorist organization called Abu Sayyaf.  And it was helpful.  There's no question but that it was helpful.  The Philippine troops got better at it by becoming better equipped and better trained.  People in Basilan Island where most of the work was done came away grateful to the United States for the fact that wells were dug and roads were built and communication was improved.

 

            If you think about it, the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize.  It's to make people fearful and to alter their behavior.  The one thing we're about as a people is free people.  That's what we are.  So to the extent we're terrorized, then we're no longer free.  There just is no way that the United States of America could simply hunker down and think we could defend against terrorists.  We saw that on September 11th.  A great deal of damage can be done very rapidly by people who are willing to kill innocent men, women and children as they did -- 3,000. 

 

            And I think that the terrorist attacks have been prevented in places like Singapore.  Terrorist attacks successful in places like Bali and [inaudible] part of the world.

           

            I think what we have to do is be patient, recognize it's a long-term process, and continue to improve our capability as a country to do something other than simply be highly successful against big armies, navies and air forces because that's what basically everyone here was organized, trained and equipped to do.  But it's a different world today.  We have to become much more agile.  We have to be able to move in hours or days instead of weeks or months or years.  We have to have a mindset that is willing to continuously go to school on the terrorists just as terrorists are going to school on us, and watching what we do and we've got to be able to move inside of their decision cycles and react sufficiently fast given the difficulty of intelligence.

 

            We talk about the proliferation of ballistic missile technologies, for example.  The other thing that's proliferating is the techniques to deny and deceive and effectively operate against the United States and coalition forces.  And as that information is communicated to others we have to continuously get better at what we're doing and be able to do it faster and more successfully if we're going to continue to be successful.

 

            Ladies and gentlemen, I am told that we should probably adjourn.  You've been terrific to come out on a Sunday. I appreciate it.  I thank each of you for your service and I wish you well.  I hope we'll have other chances to see you and encourage you.

 

            Thank you.  Thank you so much.


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