(Media Availability, Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Fla.)
Wolfowitz: Let me just share a few impressions with you and then I'll be happy to try to take some questions.
One thing that always impresses me enormously when I visit Navy units is how much stress the sailors put up with and their families put up with with these extended deployments and confinement on a small ship space and small place [inaudible]. That is really fantastic.
Another thing that impresses me, especially on the Gettysburg is just how much very high tech complicated equipment there is. It's just amazing how much these young people [inaudible] masters.
The third thing [inaudible] one of these ships. In fact I mentioned to some of the sailors I had lunch with that some years ago when I was Ambassador to Indonesia I took some senior Indonesians go visit the USS Carl Vincent and the thing that impressed them the most was not the technology, it was the teamwork of 5,000 pretty young people on the whole managing incredibly dangerous operations with incredibly expensive valuable equipment and human lives in the balance constantly and doing it all so smoothly and effectively. That kind of teamwork is obvious here on Gettysburg as well. It's just the terrific strength of this country and we need it now and we're getting it and I kept telling them everywhere I went that I know the country really appreciates what our men and women in uniform are doing now and I know how deeply the President and Secretary Rumsfeld personally appreciate it.
So it's a privilege to be working in the Defense Department these days and it's a lift to meet these young men and women and to see their pride in the work they do.
Wolfowitz: Well, I learned that they have some pretty sophisticated questions about the war on terrorism.
Q: Such as?
Wolfowitz: Well is the tape real or not real? What's the relation of Iraq to the war on terrorism? What's the problem of terrorism like in Indonesia and the Philippines? These are all questions that came from the sailors.
I confirmed what I know which is that deployments away from home are tough. I guess about one in four of the sailors I was visiting with had families and made no secret of the fact that it's hard on their wives, but they sound like they have supportive families. I learned that the families at least seem to feel that Mayport is a hospitable home to be here as a Navy family, so that's good news.
Wolfowitz: If you want me to answer a question about BRAC -- Let me say very clearly, we have authority at the beginning of fiscal year '05 to do a base realignment and consolidation effort. We have to do it because frankly we still have something of a Cold War base structure with a post Cold War force. But exactly which facilities are going to be absolutely vital and which ones are ones that we need to think about changes is something we're really not ready to do yet. And in fact I imagine we will be learning a lot as we have learned a lot over the last year, over the next couple of years about what the shape of the 21st Century military really should be like.
September 11th was kind of a wakeup call in a way for the country that we're going to have to remain strong militarily for the indefinite future, but also I think our experience of the past year is a demonstration that military strength in the 21st Century is about different things than it was in the last century. That's the nature of things. And we want a base structure that supports that kind of military.
Q: Do you have a concern as we move toward Iraq that we could see more terrorist activity, certainly they've raised the question of chemical warfare not only in Iraq but here as well. Do you believe that's a real threat at this time?
Wolfowitz: The threat of terrorist activity is real. It's been real. In fact it was real before September 11th. September 11th was a wakeup call.
We've been lucky basically in the 12 months since then, not completely lucky. That bomb in Bali was terrible. It killed almost 200 people. We lost some people in Kuwait. We are constantly at risk and it would be a terrible mistake for the country to think that sometime quickly we're going to get to the point where we don't have to worry about this problem any more. That's why the President and Secretary Rumsfeld have emphasized over and over again that this war against terrorism is going to be a long war and it's not going to be like any war we've fought before.
But dealing with Iraq is part of that war on terrorism. And we are hopeful, that's what the whole purpose of going to the UN was, we are hopeful that perhaps finally Saddam Hussein will understand that he has to give up these weapons of mass destruction and stop trying to build more. That we can achieve, because of the kind of capability that backs us up, the kind of capability that's in these ships, that we will be able to achieve a fundamental change of attitude on his part and achieve a peaceful disarmament of Iraq. I think what the President has made clear is one way or another we are going to disarm Iraq of those dangerous weapons, and I think that success, one way or another, will contribute in important ways to the longer term goal of eliminating these terrible terrorist networks and the state support for them.