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Secretary Rumsfeld Town Hall Meeting with Troops at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
April 18, 2002 3:50 PM EDT

(Town Hall Meeting with Troops at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.)

Rumsfeld: (In progress.) You've got a front-row seat, I see there. (Laughter.) You must know somebody. (Laughter.)

I also want to introduce Sergeant Major Tilley, the sergeant major of the United States Army. I think -- (cheers, applause). Is it true this is Happy Birthday for TRANSCOM? Hey, way to go. (Applause.)

And what a job you folks have done ever since, I must say. You've been tested in peace and you've been tested in war. You've proven your worth under very difficult circumstances. You -- I've just been wandering through and getting briefed on how you bridge the continents and move literally anything that needs to be moved anywhere it needs to be taken, almost whenever it needs to be there. So we thank you very much for your service, your dedication and all you do for our country.

Because of all of you here at Scott and your comrades deployed around the globe, America's fighting forces are having the mobility that they need to carry out the important missions that they face. There's no question it is fundamental to warfighting. I know that. I know that everyone in this room knows that. I suspect that there are folks around the world who don't know that, and I think it's important for all of us to help others understand how critically important what you do is. I think it was some wise person who said it all comes down to logistics. And you can seem to never have enough of it, and you can't go to war without it.

This has certainly been demonstrated in the conflict in Afghanistan. A landlocked country, as you all know, everything that went in had to get in, at least in the early stages, by air. The amount of it, it's just overwhelming. I'm told that you folks have delivered from C-17 and C-130 transports some 45,000 people, nearly 90,000 tons of cargo; 54,000 tons of cargo were later moved by sealift and rail. The aeromedical evacuation units, and we had a chance to see the folks who were working on that earlier today, have transported an enormous number of patients. I had the chance to see some of them in Washington at the Walter Reed Hospital -- Americans, other nationalities, Afghans whose lives have been saved.

The need for cumbersome hospitals to be forward-deployed of course has changed because of mobility. Transporting people, equipment, supplies into dangerous territory, often in bombed out runways or, in the case of Afghanistan, some terrible dust situations -- I don't know -- I know a number of you have been there, but you walk around some of those places and you end up -- puffs of dust end up crawling up your leg and hitting your knee because it's -- there might be as much as an inch or two or three of a very light, sooty dust-type. And, of course, that's not the best thing for aircraft.

In taking those risks, you join a long line of warriors who from the earliest days of this country have voluntarily put their lives at risk. Sometimes freedom can be protected with words -- and words are important; they remind us of our duty -- sometimes it can be protected by laws, which help codify its meaning and guard against abuse, and sometimes it can only be protected by fighting. And that, of course, is what all of you are about.

On September 11th freedom was attacked by terrorists. They hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and really attacked our way of life. By going after innocent civilians, the effect is to terrorize people. I think it was Lenin who said that the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. It is to alter behavior by putting enough fear in people that they will not do what they normally do. And, of course, free people are the most vulnerable people to that, because we -- that is what we are about. We're about freedom and going in our every -- daily life just going out to schools and to churches and to work without fear. And to the extent the terrorist is able to terrorize, there's no question but they win. They really cannot be appeased, they certainly can't be ignored, and they must not be allowed to win.

So your mission is a matter of profound consequence. It's not only important for the people in our country; it's important for our friends and allies around the world. And it's also important for the people in nations that are not free but who aspire to freedom.

You can be very proud of what you've accomplished. The country has had some successes since September 11th, if you think about it. We have -- I was reminded that there was no plan, no logistics plan, for the war in Afghanistan. I don't understand, General Handy, why you didn't have one. It's -- (laughter) -- I certainly had one. (Laughter.)

But there was no road map. There was no plan. Who in the world would have thought that the United States -- you know, I was confirmed for the post of secretary of Defense in January of 2001, and not one person asked me anything about Afghanistan. (Laughter.) The word never came up. It's also true that in Dick Cheney's confirmation hearing, he was never asked about Iraq. And it's also true that in McNamara's confirmation hearing, he was never asked about Vietnam.

Now I guess that tells us something about the nature of our world: that we do have to be ready for surprises. We have to be prepared for the unexpected. We have to recognize that we are going to be called upon to do things that we really could not expect, which is one of the reasons we've shifted our strategy -- our defense strategy away from specific threat-based reactions to capability-based strategy, recognizing that it's not -- while it's not possible, necessarily, to know where the threat will come from or who might pose that threat, we can look at the kinds of capabilities that exist in the world and be prepared to cope with and deal with and respond to and address those kinds of capabilities.

I must say that we have been successful in changing the Taliban rule in Afghanistan and freeing those people from a very repressive regime. We have been successful in not eliminating the al Qaeda network because it's spread all across the globe, in 40, 50, 60 countries.

But certainly, we have put enough pressure on them that their life is more difficult. It's harder for them to do what they do. It's harder to recruit. It's harder to raise money. It's harder to transfer money. It's harder to move between countries. It's harder to plan and execute terrorist acts, although let there be no doubt: There will be more terrorist acts. We know that there were just too many people trained over too many years and trained well to engage in terrorist acts. So we have to recognize that there will be additional terrorist acts. But the pressure that's been put on them clearly has them on the run in much of the world.

But our job, of course, does not end with Afghanistan. We have to pursue them. We have to see that we help train other countries. We currently have some forces, modest numbers -- in Georgia -- the former Soviet republic of Georgia; in Yemen. We have some forces in the Philippines who are helping to train and develop capabilities on the part of the local nationals in those countries, so that they can do a better job of preventing other safe havens for terrorists to develop.

And we, obviously, have to work closely with other countries, whether it means freezing bank accounts, sharing intelligence, coalition forces that are helping us in all of our efforts. And of course, the reason we do all this is for very simply to pass on to our children and their children the same legacy of freedom that we have been privileged to enjoy for some 200 years in this country and that has been fiercely guarded by each generation of Americans. Certainly it's a precious thing, this thing we call freedom. It's ours to keep or lose. We intend to do everything humanly possible to keep it.

So I thank each of you for what you do. I also thank your wives and husbands and children. There is no question but they, too, contribute.

Now I'd be happy to respond to questions from the people in front of me and even the people behind me and then, eventually, we'll have some questions from the press, possibly.

There you go. Yes, ma'am.

Q: Mr. Secretary, my name's Phyllis Schaefer (sp) from the TRANSCOM J-4.

Rumsfeld: Greetings.

Q: I'm curious, with the standup of the Northern Command, do you see a dramatic change in our role here at TRANSCOM?

Rumsfeld: I don't. I think that what's going to happen with this new command, which is now in the developmental stage, is that the responsibilities that Joint Forces Command had will be transferred there; the responsibilities that NORAD had will become a part of the Northern Command, and it will give us a better focus. But I can't quite see how it would significantly affect TRANSCOM.

We're not changing roles and responsibilities. The United States is not going to go to a military command over the civil side of our country. We have a law -- posse comitatus -- which we respect. And the military will continue to serve in a supporting role, but we will be able, because of the arrangements and the fact that we will have a single focus of a Northern commander, we will be, in fact, better able to respond in a supporting role in the event that there is a difficulty in the United States of significant proportions, which could happen -- let's face the world we live in.

Questions. Yes?

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'm Lieutenant Colonel Kathy Clothier (sp) working here at TRANSCOM. And there's been debate about increasing the defense manpower top line, and I wondered if you would comment on what you think about the military manpower in light of our new era of military operations.

Rumsfeld: Well, there has been some speculation about endstrength in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines -- if that's what you meant -- people, human beings. And it's not surprising there's been a discussion about that given the fact that we've got some 70,000-plus Reserves -- Guard and Reserve on active duty, who have been pulled away from their jobs and their families and what it is they do normally. We also have another 25,000, plus or minus, active duty who had arrived at the end of their tours and were planning to go off and run a family farm or go to school or do whatever people do when they leave the service. So it's not surprising that that question comes up.

I am very reluctant to increase endstrength, if I can avoid it. It is enormously expensive. It -- resources are always finite, and the question is, would we be better off increasing manpower or increasing capability and lethality? And to the extent I can use the pressure for increases in endstrength to force the United States to stop using military people for non-military functions, I will be a lot happier. So I'm trying to pull in all of these detailees who are spread around the United States, and a lot of them in Washington, D.C., hundreds and hundreds, in fact, thousands of them who are doing things that have really not much to do with the things that they came into the service to do.

I'll give you one silly example. We've got a bunch of wonderful people in the Sinai. They went there in 20 -- 22 years ago. There's hundreds of them. Some three or four hundred of them are simply cooks and doing administrative things which could be contracted out. We could have those folks doing military functions somewhere else in the world, A. B, the idea that we have to leave people in the Sinai for 22 years seems to me to be a reach. To the extent that there are roles that military ought to play of a peacekeeping nature, that's fine. But it ought to be temporary, and we ought to have a plan to have them stop doing it within some reasonable period of time, and the civil side fill in, whether it's police or Border Patrol or whatever is necessary.

We have been asked during the period since September 11th to put some folks into Border Patrol, into Customs, into INS. And the pressure to do it was real. And the need was a real need. And military people are organized, they're capable, and when the president says 'let's go do that,' we say 'Fine.' I said 'Fine.' I'm not stupid. (Laughter.) But I also said By golly, I'm going to get a memorandum of understanding with the INS and Customs and the Department of Transportation so that these people are going to do it for 30, 60, 90, 180 days, whatever it is, and then they're going to stop doing it. And in the meantime the responsible agency that has the real responsibility for doing those things -- Customs, INS, Border -- they ought to get about it hiring civilians to do those jobs and train those people and get it done so we can get our folks back doing what they joined the armed services to do, which is not Border Patrol, INS and Customs.

So I'm -- rather than just caving in and rolling over and saying 'Fine,' let's raise end strength, I'm going to try to get us balanced back so we're not doing so many things around the world we don't need to be doing, or around the United States. So if you hear some squealing, you'll know it's my fault. (Laughter.)

Yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Sgt. Getts (sp) from TACC. Going back to your question on logistics, does this mean that the upgrade in the C- 130s and the procurement of the next generation of tankers will receive a higher priority?

Rumsfeld: (Pause, laughter.) Everything I know about this subject I learned from Handy (sp). (Laughter.) And if I mess it up, you've got one person you can talk to, and he's sitting right down here.

We recognize that we've got a need for improving the airlift capability in this country. We look at what we're doing, and when all the requests and all the demands get sorted out, it's pretty clear that we have got to address that in an orderly way. Exactly which way -- right now we're developing the defense planning guidance and starting the budget bill for the -- this is '02 -- it would be the '04 budget -- '04 plus six years, I guess, now. So it will -- to '09; '04 to '09. And it will be in that process that those questions will be answered -- one would hope, very skillfully. (Laughter.)

Questions? Behind me. There you go. Yes, sir? What did you do, put people behind me that don't ask questions? (Laughter.)

Q: My name is Fulton Allen (sp) and I work in Air Mobility Command, director of operations. And my question is, in 1997 the Aviation Troop Command closed in St. Louis, which put a dent in this economy in the St. Louis metropolitan area. And Scott was spared. And now the BRAC question comes up again.

Rumsfeld: I'm pushing it. (Laughter.)

Q: A lot of us are worried, will that dent become a hole if Scott has to move? And are anything -- are questions in the back room being talked about to save Scott? (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: I am -- I am -- on this subject, I am as pure as driven snow. (Laughter.) (Applause.) I know the truth, and -- truths, plural, and there are several. One is that for the most part, people don't like BRACs. Second, it is almost criminal for the United States of America and the taxpayers of America and the Department of Defense to tote around 20 (percent) to 25 percent more base structure than we needed, and to do it year after year at the cost of billions and billions of dollars that are not going into the kinds of things for improved housing or for modernization or for transformation. And we've simply got to stop doing that.

Now, because I'm pushing BRAC, I have to be totally without an opinion as to which bases ought to be favored over the others. And I want you to know that I am totally without an opinion, other than that we simply must get down some 20 to 25 percent of the base structure that we've got, because we don't need it. The money can go for something vastly more important.

And I looked at a report the other day that showed that in towns where there were BRACs and where bases were closed, within a relatively short period of years, those economies were as good or better off than they were before, that life goes on, people find that there are other things that can be used for those bases and that land, and the fear and apprehension that gets generated about base closings, it seems to me, is in large measure misplaced, although I can certainly well understand the apprehension that some people can feel.

That's the best I can do. (Scattered laughter.)

Question? Yes, sir?

Q: Mr. Secretary, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Kennedy (sp) from the TRANSCOM staff. Transformation has been one of your key issues since you came into office, and we wondered today if you could talk to us -- where the department stands on looking at integrating under a single manager our defense logistics structure, our wholesale supply, with strategic distribution.

Rumsfeld: If I'm not mistaken, the -- and Ed Giambastiani's here -- if I'm not mistaken, there's going to be a piece of defense planning guidance that addresses that question and looks at the relationship between the Defense Logistics Agency and TRANSCOM, and I've forgotten precisely the number of weeks that they're supposed to report.

Staff: About two months.

Rumsfeld: About two months. So if it's slow, talk to John Handy. He'll help. (Laughter.)

Question? Way in the back.

Q: Yes, sir. I'm Major Sean Houlihan (sp) from TACC. I'd like to know if we will draw down from Afghanistan before we fully engage another country. Thank you.

Rumsfeld: I don't know. There is a -- we have a task to do in Afghanistan, and that's to see that we root out the remaining al Qaeda and Taliban folks that are there and that are just over the border, and we don't allow that country to be taken back and become another haven for terrorists.

We've now got plus or minus 4,500-5,000 people in that country. We also have roughly the same number of coalition forces. And we ought to keep doing what it is we're doing and try to get other coalition forces and the Afghan national army and border patrol and police force built up sufficiently, so that they can provide adequate security in country and keep al Qaeda and Taliban from reassembling and attempting to take back over.

It seems to me that that task has to be done. And it is not a -- it is a big task, and it's an important task, but it is not so manpower-intensive that we're not capable of doing something else at the same time.

Question?

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Sir, I'm Lieutenant Gwen Till. I'm an Air Force reservist here at TRANSCOM. I hope you're not disappointed; I do not have a question about the war in Afghanistan. But I would like to ask you --

Rumsfeld: Well, give me an easy one. (Brief laughter.)

Q: Yes, sir. I would like to know what you think the most important quality in a leader is. And I have a second part to this question, as well. (Soft laughter.)

Rumsfeld: What's the second part? (Soft laughter.)

Q: My husband is getting his commission as an Air National Guard officer next Friday, and it would be an honor, sir, if you would sign this book as part of my gift for him. (Laughter, applause.)

Rumsfeld: How do you spell "Rumsfeld"? (Laughter.) I am happy to do that. What's his name?

Q: Scott (sp).

Rumsfeld: It's just Scott (sp). Okay. (Signs document.)

Done. (Laughter, applause.)

You know unless you're a Mozart or an Einstein, most of -- and you go off in a room by yourself and do something brilliant, most of the rest of us, whatever it is we do, we do with other people. And it seems to me that I don't pretend I know the formula for leadership, but things that strike me as enormously important, if you're kind of like I am, anyway, is you better find very, very talented people and put them around you, who you can learn from, and then help them figure out the best and most important priority. And if you've got people who are smarter than you are and have integrity and energy, and you get the right priorities and get the right direction -- it doesn't have to be perfect; you can always calibrate after you're going -- but you've got to set some standards out ahead and say these things are more important than other things. And a lot of people don't like to do that. They don't like to say that's the direction because someone's not going to like it, they're going to disagree with it. And, of course, if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.

But you can also have the right direction and not have the right priorities as to what's important in terms of achieving those goals or moving in that direction. And there again, it requires choosing. If you're going to say this priority is more important than that one, you've said no to something that's not unimportant because you've decided that this is more important. If an organization does not know basically the direction and what the three or four top priorities are for that organization, it probably is not going to accomplish great things.

So I would think those two things. And I'd add one other thing: Good luck doesn't hurt! (Laughter, applause.)

Yes, sir?

Q: Sir, my name is Lieutenant Commander France (sp), Naval Reservist that's been mobilized.

Rumsfeld: I used to be a Naval Reservist! (Laughs; laughter, applause.)

Q: In the medical device business too.

My employer has been very supportive of my activation and mobilization to serve here in Enduring Freedom. I was wondering if you're seeing the same thing from other American companies in their support for their reservists.

Rumsfeld: We really are. It's just been a wonderful, wonderful reaction around the country. It's been almost spontaneous that people have been accommodating and willing and indeed enthusiastic and helpful. It's a wonderful thing about this country. And I'm glad that's your experience. And I must say I have heard it and seen it many, many places across the country.

Question. Way in the back.

Q: Sir, Major Boone (sp) from the Doctrine Division in the Air Mobility Command. I had planned to ask you where Osama bin Laden was, but I was advised that wouldn't be the best question. (Laughter.) So I'll go to my backup, and that is, how did --

Rumsfeld: Why ruin a promising career? (Laughter, cheers, applause.)

Q: Under that advisement, sir, how did September 11th affect your vision that you had for transformation when you first took office?

Rumsfeld: Well, we had put at the top of our priority list homeland security months before September 11th and had begun the process of shifting from a threat-based strategy to a capability-based strategy. John spent hours and hours and hours and hours in the room, as the vice-chief-of-staff of the Air Force, and we got the senior civilian leadership, the senior military leadership, and we just kept at it until we all found that we knew what the other person was thinking and what they meant when they used certain words, and how we as a group could in fact try to move this enormous institution, a wonderful institution, but enormous, and not easy to move; how could we get traction with it. And I must say that in large measure, the discussions that we had prior to September 11th are what led to the strategy, what led to the transformation goals.

The big issue after September 11th was something that a great many people -- there's two issues. One issue was, how in the world can you fight a war and be messing around with transformation? Don't you have to keep your eye on the ball? Don't you have to set everything else aside and get at that task? And that's compelling. That's a persuasive argument. It happens to be flat wrong, in my judgment.

The time that you can make changes is when you need to make changes. And there is no question but that we as an institution simply must recognize that we've got to be much faster, swifter, more deft, we have to collapse the planning processes that take place in this institution. They're too long. Every day I get up and I go into a meeting and someone starts telling me about something that started a year and a half ago, two years ago, three years ago; a freight train got filled and it's coming across the country, and here it is right now, and you get to look at it, but you can't change it because it was loaded two and a half years ago, and it's going to keep going just inexorably. Nah, that's nuts! We have to be able to recognize that times have changed and circumstances have changed. So we systematically said we're going to take the traumatic effect of September 11th and see that that becomes the impetus for getting this institution to do that which it must do if we're going to be able to cope with the circumstances that exist in the world. And we've got, I don't know what they are; I should -- it's probably classified and I shouldn't say anyway -- (light laughter) -- let's say a lot of handfuls of plans in this department. (Laughter.) Sometimes I understate for emphasis. (Laughter.) And they probably take, oh, you know, two years to develop? And they probably get reviewed every couple years. And they're all there on the shelf. And their relevance to what our country's facing today -- (laughs) -- is about zero. And what we have to recognize is, people have to stop and say Fair enough, this is a different circumstance; how can we fix it, how can we collapse the time lines, how can we shorten the period that it takes to go from the beginning of an idea?

You know, when I was secretary of Defense a quarter of a century ago, the -- for the sake of argument, the period between the beginning of a weapons system and the deployment of a weapons system might have been eight, 10, 12 years. In the meantime, it's elongated out to 20, 25 years from the beginning of a weapons system to the deployment of a weapons system.

What's the F-22? Twenty-five years, it's been around, 20 years?

Staff: I deal in mobility.

Rumsfeld: You deal in mobility, yeah. (Laughter, applause.)

And during the period that that's doubled in the last quarter of a century, what's happened in the rest of the private sector? I mean, the cycle time for new technologies have collapsed from 10 years down to 24 months. So we're ending up, almost invariably, putting things out that are well, well beyond the amount of time that one ought to be able to do it, and we're putting things out that in fact are out of date, pretty much, when they arrive. And that's not good enough. We have to fix that. And the first thing I'm going to do when I get back home is figure out why it takes so long for deployment orders to get through. (Applause.)

What else? I don't know what's wrong with this crowd behind me. I don't -- (laughter) -- there you go. You don't need a mike. Sing it out!

Q: Mr. Secretary, Major Mac Thessmer (sp) from Headquarters AMCCOM. (Laughter.)

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.)

Q: (Off mike.) Sir, how have your views of things changed from your first term as secretary of Defense?

Rumsfeld: Well, I'll tell you -- (pauses) -- the most important thing is what hasn't changed, and that's the men and women in uniform. And some of the weapons systems. (Laughter.) I'm the guy who approved the M-1 tank. I was there -- (laughter) -- I was there for the F-16 rollout. The B-52s preceded me, if you can believe that.

So a lot of the weapons systems are the same, but everything has gotten slower. The process has gotten slower. It has gotten -- the institution has become more rigid and less flexible than it was, in my view, and more bureaucratic than it was, I think. Maybe you just -- maybe it's that I just don't remember quite how bureaucratic it was. But it seems much more bureaucratic to me, and I think that we've got to do something about it.

At the time that the private sector has been flattening out because of the availability of technologies and having fewer layers, we seem to defend every single layer that exists. And I just can't believe that's necessary.

But the dedication and the energy and the industriousness and the desire of the people in uniform is the same as it's always been, and we've got a wonderful country. (Applause.)

Who's next? Yes, sir?

Q: Sir, Chief Mungeon (sp), Headquarters AMC. I'd like to talk money. January --

Rumsfeld: Yours or mine? (Laughter.)

Q: Mine, sir.

Rumsfeld: (Chuckles.) Okay.

Q: (Without microphone.) January saw a pretty good change in the compensation package. What do you support for the future? And also, sir, do you see a change or a possibility of going away from the bonus system --

Rumsfeld: What's the bone system?

Q: -- the bonus --

Rumsfeld: Bonus system.

Q: -- to a graduated payment over a period of time?

Rumsfeld: I don't know the answer to the latter. Dr. David Chu was asked last year to complete a study on compensation. He's the head of Personnel and Readiness. It's due soon, in a matter of months. The president has proposed, and one pay increase has passed. One portion of it was flat, others was targeted -- portion of it was targeted. A second pay raise has been proposed by the president, and I think it has not been passed.

But my -- the reality is, if we're going to not use the draft and conscript to force people to serve, instead we're going to go out in the marketplace and attract people to serve, then in fact the compensation simply must be sufficiently flexible so that we can attract and retain the people we need to do the increasingly complex jobs that are required in the armed services of the United States. And if we don't, we won't have those people and we have no choice but to see that we have the right -- that the environment we create for the men and women in the service and, I would add, the civilian side, has to be sufficiently hospitable and attractive that they're willing to come in and stay and make a commitment to a career in the service.

I don't know enough about the details to respond to the second part of your question.

Question? Yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Lieutenant Colonel Tim Ringdol (sp) from TRANSCOM. This sort of piggybacks on his question in the sense of, you know, all of us military folks are here to defend the country, we know that. All we ask is to be used judiciously; to be allowed to do the job, once tasked; and to be equipped to do the task. We appreciate the efforts of the Bush administration, yourself, in meeting those expectations, pay being one of those; equipment, I know there's a long way to go. Don't really have a question, sir. I just wanted to make a comment that I see morale going up, sir, and I think it's because people appreciate everything that the Bush administration has been doing for us, and I think that's where the rousing reception you received came from.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you very much. (Continued applause.) Thank you very much.

You should have saved that for the last question! (Laughter.)

Yes?

Q: Sir, Lieutenant Colonel Jones, J-6, Acquisition Corps officer. You've made comments about the life cycle of weapon systems and different systems. Is there a Tiger team that you have identified so that we can stop the bureaucracy so that we can get the capabilities out on time when we need them?

Rumsfeld: Well -- you've asked if we've got a Tiger team, and the answer is, we do. And the goal is to do what you have said -- namely, to see if we can't move these things through a process in an orderly way. They're using something called "spiral development," where they -- instead of waiting till everything's perfect, they go ahead and move along and then add as they get things out.

One of the problems that I've sensed in the short time I've been back is that the -- something gets started, and then everyone wants to add something to it. And the longer it's hanging around, the more technology evolves, the more they want to add to it, and the longer it takes to get it done, and the more it costs, and the fewer copies you can buy. And it seems to me that there needs to be a balance between that and making a discreet decision that you're going to have a specific capability, you're going to get it out with a specific -- within a specific period of time, and you're going to be comfortable with that and even though, in the intervening period, things might change modestly, and that then, in later iterations of it, you will make those changes. Whether Pete Aldridge, who's the head of acquisition for the Pentagon, will be able to do that, I don't know. I do know that he's an enormously talented guy, and he's determined to do it, and he's working very hard at it.

Question. Yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, my name is Dave Dyess (sp), on the TRANSCOM staff. I wonder if you'd comment about the planning and programming and budgeting system in your view, and how well that works in the department.

Rumsfeld: (Sighs.) (Laughter.) Well, it's an antique, and it works poorly. (Laughter; applause.)

Are there questions from the press?

Yes, ma'am.

Q: Sherry Gretch (sp), Fox News Channel. I know the investigation is just underway in regards to the friendly-fire incident that killed four Canadians, but in your mind, is there a problem with communication from ground to air?

Rumsfeld: I think that I'm old fashioned. If there's an investigation underway, as there is, it seems to me that it's appropriate to let it run its course, and I think to try to take a question relating to that terribly tragic accident and off the cuff make a judgment about it would be inappropriate.

Question. Press? Yes. Hello.

Q: I'm John Mills from KMOV TV, here in St. Louis.

Rumsfeld: Hello, John.

Q: I still wanted to try to get your thoughts. The Canadian prime minister was quoted as saying there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.

Rumsfeld: There always are.

Q: Can you just give me your thoughts on the F-16 bombing of the Canadian forces, please?

Rumsfeld: Sure. Sure. I talked to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dick Myers, late last evening about it. And I called the minister of defense of Canada, Art Eggleton. And I talked to the White House, and President Bush called Prime Minister Chretien. So there have been a number of conversations.

The early reports that one gets are always changed. They're always wrong. And we heard first from the U.S. aircraft, that had not even landed; and then we heard from the chief of the Defense Staff of the Canadian Armed Services what his reports were from the ground, which were notably different in terms of numbers and circumstances. And what is very clear, at least -- I shouldn't say that. Until there's something in writing and people have gotten together, the Canadians and the U.S., and actually proceeded -- and we're going to have Canadian observers in the investigation, so it will be a joint activity. Until you actually proceed in an orderly way to look at something like that, it is not fair to anybody involved -- the families of the people that were killed, the people who were involved from the United States.

And I've got so many things in my mind that normally one would say are facts; the way they were delivered to me, they're facts. How they will shake out after 24 or 48 hours, I don't know. What we do know is, some very fine coalition partners of ours from our neighbor to the north in Canada were killed, and they were killed by one or more bombs that were dropped from an F-16 -- or one or more F-16s that were in the flight. And people died and people are wounded. And beyond that, my instinct is to wait till all of the details are out, and we will then, of course, know what we'll know. But we don't know for sure now.

Questions. Yes?

Q: Hi, Mr. Secretary. I'm with the Associated Press. My name is Susan Lu (ph).

Rumsfeld: Hello, Susan.

Q: Do you have any plans to suspend military-to-military operations -- or exercises -- excuse me -- with Venezuela after the coup? Number one. And number two, would you be satisfied at the end of this -- whenever any end comes to our war on terrorism, if we never do find Osama bin Laden?

Rumsfeld: With respect to the first question, we have not discussed changing our military-to-military relationship with Venezuela.

With respect to your other question -- (laughter) -- the situation is that al Qaeda is a worldwide organization. If Mr. Osama bin Laden died or was captured today, there are four, five, six, eight people who could run that operation, would run it; they know where the bank accounts are, they know the terrorists who have been trained, they know how to train people. they've been involved in operations, and it would continue. Whether or not it would have exactly the same degree of charisma at the top that he apparently provides, whether the fund-raising would be more or less, no one ever knows, as leadership changes and evolves. But the thought that we should personify this or personalize it in a single individual I think is a mistake, and have felt so from the outset.

The second thing I would say is that the armed forces are not in the "needle in the haystack" business. We deal with armies, navies, air forces, and large activities. Finding single individuals is not easy. If you'll recall, after World War II there were Nazi war criminals who were not found for 20, 30, 40 years, and finally they turned up some of them in Paraguay and some of them in Uruguay and different countries. The fellow who was involved with that explosion in Georgia, they're still looking for somewhere in the mountains of Georgia. Afghanistan is a country that goes from Washington, D.C. down to the bottom of Texas. It's enormous, and it's a difficult place, and they've got borders with five or six countries; people move back and forth; they have for hundreds of years.

I haven't heard -- I don't even know if UBL is alive, let alone where he is. He's either alive or dead, and he's either in -- (laughter; applause). Seems reasonable to me! And he's either in Afghanistan or he isn't. (Laughter.) The one thing we know of certain knowledge is that he is busy; he is busy, he's on the run, he's hiding -- if he's alive, he's hiding. And he's having a more difficult time today than he was some months back. And we intend to keep the pressure on, on him and his fellows, and make life still more complicated, and hope and pray that we can put enough pressure on them so they have a dickens of a time trying to kill any more innocent civilians.

Yes, sir?

Q: Patrick Clark (sp), from WB-11 News. Earlier in your conversation you mentioned that there will be more terrorist attacks. Do you think this will be on the same scope as the World Trade Center, more or less?

Rumsfeld: One can't know. The concern that I have is that if you look around the world, there are six or eight or 10 nations that have been on the terrorist list for many years. A number of those countries have been very active in developing weapons of mass destruction. They test them. They weaponize them. And those countries, not surprisingly, have relationships with global terrorist networks, in varying degrees. The concern I have, and I think most people have, and the thing that lends great urgency to everything we're doing, is that we experienced the death of several thousand people on September 11th. If one imagines that weapons of mass destruction come into the hands of terrorists, we have to know they're going to be willing to use them. Let there be no doubt about that. Then you're not talking about thousands of people being killed, you're talking about tens of thousands, you're talking about potentially more than that. And it is terribly important that we recognize that. This country and free people had a -- particularly our country.

Look, we've got wonderful neighbors on the north and the south. We've got oceans on the east and the west. We've had a wonderful opportunity to grow and prosper and to behave as free people relatively free of threats. Today the power and reach of weapons is so great and the nexus between terrorist networks and terrorist nations that have weapons of mass destruction is so close, that our margin for error has suddenly shrunk. And we need to be wise enough and to recognize that terrorism is not something that you can hunker down and defend against and hope that it all works out. A terrorist can literally attack at any time, at any place, using any technique. And it is physically impossible for any country to defend at every time in every location against every conceivable technique.

Now, if you're talking about conventional weapons, we know that they can kill a lot of people. But if you're talking about weapons of mass destruction, they can kill a lot more than a lot of people. So we have no choice but to go after those terrorist networks. We literally have no choice. We must do that. And that is what we're about. Do I know what's going to happen in the future? No, I can't look around corners. But I do know that our policy of putting pressure, using all elements of national power -- financial; economic; diplomatic; law enforcement; overt, covert military efforts -- are the single best thing we can do. And it is that pressure and creating an environment that's not hospitable to terrorists and creating a situation where it's uncomfortable to be a haven or a sanctuary for terrorists -- if we do that and we do it well, we will have done everything we can.

Let's go back to this one for the last question again. (Laughter.) One last question! Who is it?

Yes, sir.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I'm Major-Promotable Don Hindle (sp), also here at the TRANSCOM J-3.

Rumsfeld: Has anyone ever said "Major-Not Promotable"? (Laughter.)

Q: (Laughs.) Hopefully not, sir!

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.)

Q: I, too, as are several others in this room, a mobilized reservist. Recently legislation's been introduced in Congress to lower the age for which reservists can collect retirement income. Currently it's 60. Legislation was introduced to lower it to 55. Are you supportive of this legislation? And if yes, will you help to promote it and pass it through Congress? Thank you.

Rumsfeld: You're welcome. I've never heard of it. And I don't know quite what I think about it.

I will tell you one thing I think about numbers of years: I am troubled by the fact that when I look at promotions, particularly for senior officers, I find they've been in their jobs 10 -- average of -- forgetting the first four, five, six years, where they're in schools and doing things like that, another 20 years -- they have an average number of months in jobs of 12 months, 13.6, 14.5, 18.7. A real stretch is 21, 22 months per job. I think that's nuts. You've got to be around long enough in your job to see your own mistakes and have to clean 'em up! (Laughter, applause, cheers.) This business of taking people and saying they're going to skip along the tops of the wave and punch every ticket so that they've got all the right tickets to go on and go onward and upward, I think is mindless. You simply can't do and learn a job and do a good job if you're in it for 13, 14, 15, 16 months. You just spend the first two months running around, saying hello to everybody, the next couple of months making mistakes, and the last few months saying goodbye -- (laughter) -- getting out of there before you can find out all the mistakes you made.

Second, maybe it's just because I'm old, but I'm 70 this year, and I think it's just plain nuts to take people, bring them in at the bottom of the intake, train the dickens out of them, value their work, watch them grow and learn, and then when they're 46 or 47, they're gone. I just don't get it. I think that people ought to have longer tours, and I think that people ought to be able to stay in longer if they want to. It's not mandatory. But I think that we ought to be able to have a system that allows people to stay in the military for longer than the period of years that we now seem to be shoving them out the top, at a point where they've got all the ability and all the dedication and all the skills that one would want.

So I don't know how that fits with your question, but at least you gave me a chance to say what I had on my mind. (Laughter, applause, cheers.)

Thank you very much. (Applause continues.)

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