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Secretary Rumsfeld Remarks at the All-Volunteer Force Conference

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
September 17, 2003
Rumsfeld:  Just here the other day and Dr. Martin Anderson so many folks who have been involved in this process from the beginning and through today.  Congressman Shock it’s always good to see you.  Glad you’re here.

 

     I thought what I’d do is talk for a few minutes and then respond to some questions.  I guess Rudy de Leon and John White were here.  Are they still here?  No huh?

 

     My interest as David said goes back an awful long time, I went to a conference in Chicago at the University of Chicago on the All-Volunteer Army a hundred -- no in (Laughter.) it was in the mid sixties as I recall and my friend Milton Freeman was there and he was such an enthusiastic for the All-Volunteer Force that it was contagious and I think everyone that was there, is anyone here there in that meeting?  I guess most of those people are retired or gone.

 

     Q:  (Inaudible.)

 

     Rumsfeld:  Oh sure where is Walter?  Oh my goodness you were indeed there I remember visiting with you afterwards.  In any event everyone sees the issue and I came back and introduced legislation into Congress as a young Congressman and then I went and testified before the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, which was a rather intimidating thing to do for a Junior Congressman to set there with Carl Vinson and Eddy Abear and Richard Russell and various people and explain to them why the system that they had really wasn’t quite the right system and walk through all the difficulties with it.  Well we did that and then as of course as a young cabinet officer with the encouragement of (Inaudible.) President Nixon grabbed issue and persuaded Congress to approve the All-Volunteer Service.

 

     The men and women in uniform today are as I’m sure the people in this room know without question is the finest military in the world and I would say probably the finest military the world has ever seen.  This concept of an All-Volunteer Force has been a booming success, it works.  I suppose the most enjoyable job I have as Secretary of Defense is to be able to go out and meet with U.S. troops, these young men and women all across the globe and look them in the eye and thank them for the fact that they did volunteer, they did step up and say send me.  They made that choice to serve their country, to put their lives at risk, to preserve freedom in this country and that’s a wonderful thing.  It is a great strength for the Armed Services.  We may have the most precise weapons on the face of the earth and we may have the most lethal capabilities and vast resources to call on but clearly the greatest resource we have is the character and the courage and the spirit of the men and women in uniform.

 

     We’re so fortunate that so many are willing to sign up and they have a remarkable sense of mission.  In the last thirty years our All-Volunteer Force has liberated millions of people, they have won the cold-war, they’ve liberated Grenada, they have removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, they’ve ousted the forces of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, they are helping along with all elements of national power to put terrorist on the run all across the globe, working with law enforcement officers, intelligence people, the Treasury Department trying to close bank accounts and do all the things that are necessary.  It’s different from fighting Armies, Navies or Air Forces to be sure, and it takes some time to adjust to those different responsibilities and roles but in deed they are doing so.

 

     We had to go to one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces in Mosul a week and half ago and in that palace on the front steps something like a 158 soldiers of the legendary 101st Airborne Division re-enlisted as a group I believe on July 4th.  They did so as I say right in the stronghold of one of the world’s most repressive and brutal regimes and they did it on the front line.  They did it because they know that mission is important and indeed it is, it’s important to our country, it’s important to the – needless to say the 23 million people in Iraq, it’s also important to the entire region and to the world.

 

     These are the kind of dedicated men and women that we have in this All-Volunteer Force today.  We’re getting the people we need currently I’m told we’re still meeting all of the targets and goals for recruiting and retention, we have to watch that because we have to manage that force and recognize that there’s a good deal of stress on the force at the present time but, not only are they doing all of the tasks that they’ve been assigned by the country but in addition they’re in the process of transforming themselves into a more agile and more lethal force than we’ve seen.  They’ve been tested again, again and again, there is no test that they have not met and I think that all of us owe a great deal of gratitude to the volunteers.  And today thirty years later I think we can all look back and say that the decision to rely on volunteers was the right one, it wasn’t an easy one, it was a hard fought battle as those who can remember back into that period can recall but my special thanks to those here today who were involved in that early period and contributed to that decision because you can go away from this conference proud of what you did and confident that it was the right decision.

 

     With that I’ll stop and be happy to respond to questions on this or other subjects.

 

     Yes sir?

 

     Q:  Could you tell us what was the biggest change in the Armed Forces and in DoD and specifically perhaps dealing with manpower but in other ways that struck you when you came back to being Secretary 25 years after you were Secretary for the first time?

 

     Rumsfeld:  The biggest change. What didn’t change, was the people, the professionalism and the talent and the dedication, that was the same.  What changed was I suppose one of the changes was the Defense Authorization Bill went from like 58 pages to 950 pages and I sense that the time it takes to acquire a weapon system doubled at a time when the changes in technology were being cut in half, we were taking twice as long to do anything.  The number of people in the Department in terms of everyone who has to chop on something -- the bureaucracy of it, the time it takes to get a piece a paper from here to there.  Gold waters nickels big change, big change in some respects on the other hand the relationship I had with General Brown, George the Chief of Staff today the Chairman of the Chief, it was such a good one that good people can make things work regardless of what the structure might be but I guess also the world changed.  You know you think back to the cold war and you kind of say to yourself the good ole days (Laughter.).  You know you (Inaudible.) the war you spent 20, 30 years looking at them, thinking about them, worrying about them, understanding how they did things, we weren’t always right but by golly if you focus on it enough over time you begin to get it right and here we’re dealing with a much less tidy world, it’s a dangerous world, it is untidy we don’t have to focus on one thing, we’ve got to focus on a number of things.  The task that the intelligence people face today is vastly more difficult in my view than it was then.  We are dealing with closed societies that have developed all kinds of skills in denial in deception, we’re dealing with societies that have benefited from size and problems we’ve had in the release of classified information about how we do things, which makes denial and deception much easier for others.  We we’re dealing in a period with the end of the cold war the relaxation of people and the feeling well -- the threats are gone we can now go ahead and open up trade and all these things, see you’ve got technologies -- very dangerous technologies that are being moved around the world, being traded among rogue states.  They’re not only trading technologies for powerful weapons they’re also trading technologies and knowledge about how to deny and deceive.  With the circumstance that’s complicated for us, they have access to all the technologies we develop, they couldn’t develop, you know emails and pagers and cell phones and wire transfers and all kinds of advances that they are able to take almost right off the shelf and use against us to make our lives more difficult.  You ask for one thing I gave you five or ten I’m sorry.

 

     Questions?

 

     Yes sir?

 

     Q:  Well I’d like you to if you could in this untidy world that you just described talk just a little bit about how you see the reserve components fitting into that fight?

 

     Rumsfeld:  Busy.  They’re just doing a great job they really are, it’s amazing but we’ve always said that we believe in the total force concept and that we recognize that we had on active duty capabilities that enabled our country to do certain things but for us to do the totality of the kinds of things we conceivably could be called upon to do we needed more than the active force, we needed the reserve components.

 

     What we’ve seen with the nature of the world today we’ve got activities going on in Bosnia and Kosovo, we’ve got a MEU (Inaudible.) down and off Liberia, we have what’s taking place in Afghanistan and in Iraq, we have -- I just saw an email from somebody who spent a month or two in the Philippines and was reflecting very positively on what our folks did there last year in Barcelonan Island.  I guess they call it Balikatan II the activity where they were in their assisting the Philippine people and helping to train the military.  Enormously (Inaudible.) positive he spent two months there as a author was so positive so if we’re going to live in that world where we have to do all these things we darn well have to have a reserve that is ready, capable and available.  Now, how do we do that?  Well I’m afraid we’re going to have to make some shifts in the reserves, we’re going to have to rebalance the active and reserve force, we’ve got too many people in the reserves and not in the active force who are the kinds of people we need today on a fairly regular basis and that we need at the outset of an activity like Afghanistan or Iraq.  So we’re going to have get some of those skill sets back on active duty and some of the skills sets we have on active duty probably back into the reserves so that there’s a better balance.

 

     The other things we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to -- and I don’t have the answers, the folks that are working these things in the Department are working on them now.  We’re going to have to find a way to shorten the period it takes to get someone from a reserve unit into a position where they’re functioning and doing what needs to be done in Iraq or in Afghanistan.  We can shorten that period, we can do it by whatever it takes.  If once they get called up and told they’re mobilized if it could take you know instead of 3 months it could take a matter of a month to get them training that they need depending on their specialty, that would be a good thing.   If they already had they’re teeth fixed and medical checks and those kinds of things that’ll be a good thing.  Same thing on relief in place, you can’t shorten it too much but there ought to be a way to shorten that period.  Same thing with respect to demobilization, we ought to be able to reduce, instead of calling a person up for 12 months and getting 6 months value on station out of the 12 -- if you take a 30 day leave and add that in there, we ought to find a way that we can get some slightly larger value out of the total period it seems to me.

 

     The planning tools are really crude and kind of mindless.  Our system basically was either it was off and it was peace or it was World War III and we pulled the switch and everything happens, everything goes and that’s just not the way this world is working today.  The President was engaged in diplomacy up at the U.N. and he wanted to manage the force flow in a way that it would be supportive of that diplomacy hoping that there would not be a conflict in Iraq but the TPFD the way it was arranged didn’t allow us to do that so they ended up disaggregating it in a way that was complex and we’re developing much better planning tools and I think we’re going to do a better job.

 

     The other thing we’ve got to fix is this business where you got all 3 – 4 services dealing with their people and you’ve got Joint Forces Command and then you got forces out in some of the Combatant Commanders and each ones doing their own thing with it, that doesn’t work.  The signals going out to people -- one thing people in the reserves want is certainty they want to know what the drill is and they can live with that if they’re told once this is what’s going to happens but if you’ve got 4 or 5 different people saying this is going to happen or that’s going to happen and then somebody changes their mind and then someone rephrases in a way and then they get ticked off, we don’t need that.  We’ve got to be able to attract and retain the people we need for this force and you’re not going to do it if you don’t treat them right and you can’t treat them right by sending them mixed signals.  Furthermore some of our people I discovered to my utter amazement the Army for a period was down to 4 days notification before call up, well that’s not fair to employers, it’s not fair to families, it was an average of 4 days, that means some were less.  We can’t do that to people, that’s just jerking them around.  Same things true with the active force a degree of certainty there makes sense for them.  We can do a whale of a lot better at this and we will.

 

     Yes.

 

     Q:  I just read Mitch (Inaudible.) biography of you and I’m curious, I wanted to asked you if you’ve ever made money buying watermelons from your boss and selling watermelons in the same neighborhood.  But that’s not what I want to ask you.

 

     Rumsfeld:  (Inaudible.) that book is out.

 

     Q:  In draft form yes, yeah Donna has seen it. 

 

     Rumsfeld:  And I did not.  (Tape muffled.).  I didn’t do it I don’t think and if I did I shouldn’t have.

 

     Q:  My question is you (Inaudible.) like your four predecessors arrived in office determined to reassert civilian control at least reportedly that was how reporters described some comments you had made and I was wondering now after several years in the post if you’ve learned new things about civilian control civil military relations or whether its confirmed (Inaudible.) that you had from your last tour?

 

     Rumsfeld:  I guess the fact is I don’t know that I agree with the premise that I arrived determined to assert civilian control it never struck me that way in my head, it wasn’t in my mind, of course I didn’t know what was going on in the department when I was outside and I arrived and maybe I’m old fashion I always believed that under the constitutions people run President, someone gets elected, he decides who he wants for Secretary of Defense and then he works with the Secretary of Defense and gives him some clues as to how he’d like that department to get headed.  If you think back to what the President said when he was running for public office he say he wanted to see a transformation in the Department.  There already was a lot of transformation taking place but he wanted that process of transforming to continue because he believed the 21 Century was a different security environment and he asked me to be an instrument for change in that regard.  I don’t think of that so much as civilian control as an awful lot of people in the military who agree completely that the process of transforming is important so I didn’t think of it as civilian versus military.  The other thing that I told the President before I accepted the job was I said I was personally of the opinion that it was a (Inaudible.) for our country if the world believed that every time we got our nose bloodied we’d tucked in an came home and that you know the old story in Chicago you act like a door mat people are going to wipe their feet on you and my feeling was that I wanted him to know if I was going to accept this job that the first time that we got our nose bloodied I will not be leaning back and asking to tuck in I would be leaning forward and asking him to lean forward with me and I don’t know that there again that that is civilian control so I don’t know quite how to answer the question other than the way I have.  I’ve found that there are not neat packages that separate civilians from the military in that department it’s -- you know we think about the command structure and the Department does work, if you told somebody to do something unlike many departments of government that they’re most likely to do it and the problem isn’t that they’re not going to do it, the problem is that you might tell them to do something that you in retrospect you wished you hadn’t.  But you don’t lead by commanding as the Secretary of Defense you lead by persuasion, you lead by discussion and understanding and so I don’t think of it as civilian control I think there’s a responsibility on the part of civilian leadership to lead the civilians and the military in terms of surfacing ideas, discussing them, understanding what you know and what you don’t know and goodness knows there’s an awful lot more I don’t know than what I do know.

 

     We’ve developed something in the Department that is interesting and it is the senior level review group where we have the Chiefs and the Vice Chiefs and the Senior Civilian Leadership and we sit in a room and we tackle tough issues and we stay there until we’ve got them figured out and we just keep coming back at them until they’re sorted through.  It’s kind of like if you think of the budget process, you don’t develop a budget to then go implement a budget you develop a budget as vehicle for discussion for establishing priorities and for understanding what other people think and finding out what they know that you don’t know and then you take that plan if you will, and then it hits reality -- the rubber hits the ground and you begin adjusting and modifying and changing it as you have to but the benefit of it was that you went through that process of learning what each of these senior people, the senior military people who know their business.  You don’t get four stars like General Vessey got by accident you have to be an enormously accomplished person to do that and so I must say I suppose what we’re doing in the department probably may look strange to some people who are retired or out, civilian or military but from the standpoint of a senior level review group the Chiefs and the Vice Chiefs and the Chairman, the Vice Chairman and the Under Secretary’s and the service Secretaries I think there’s a pretty broad understanding that they probably have a voice and role in policy in that department that hasn’t existed previously quite to the extent it does today.

 

     Q:  Sir, I know you have to go back, I want to thank you for --

 

     Rumsfeld:  I feel like I’m getting the hook.  (Laughter.)

 

     Q:  I do want to thank you for taking time to share some good thoughts with us this morning.  I now recognize that we probably should have of a momentum gotten a copy of the draft book that Russ (Inaudible.) mentioned to you.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Do you have it with you I’d like it.

 

     Q:  It’s back in my office.

 

     Rumsfeld:  I’m petrified.

 

     Q:  But I do have here for you the Oath of Office that every enlistee takes when he or she joins the military.  I hope that you might accept that from us Sir as a small thank you for your leadership and what you’re doing for this country.

 

     Rumsfeld:  Thank you, good to see you.