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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability During Visit with Troops at Fort Lewis

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
April 19, 2002 1:15 PM EDT

(Media Availability During Visit with Troops at Fort Lewis, Wash.)

Rumsfeld: (In progress) -- Washington in about 1942 or '3, at a little place that's all gone now. It was a housing project for the shipyard at Bremerton. And my father was waiting for an aircraft carrier -- it was (CD-95 ?) -- that they were pumping out of that Kaiser shipyard, about one a month, back in those days. So I recognize the neighborhood.

Yes, sir?

Q: (Off mike) -- troops here or elsewhere in the region could be deployed to Israel or the West Bank as a peacekeeping force?

Rumsfeld: The subject of the Middle East is a subject that the president and the secretary of State have been working very hard on since coming into office. There are a variety of different proposals from time to time as to the possibility of one or more countries sending observers or sending peacekeeping forces or sending peacemaking forces.

Clearly, there is no peace, so the idea of observers or peacekeepers at the present time is, if anything, premature. But there are no plans in the United States government as yet with respect to that idea, although, as we all know, it's something that gets discussed from time to time.

Q: Do you have the resources to do that in light of all the other stuff that's going on?

Rumsfeld: I'm inclined to let the president and the secretary of State think those things through and not speculate. You can be sure the United States has the capability to -- doing anything we decide to undertake. But I wouldn't want that comment to be suggesting that we might undertake that particular activity because that's something -- (referring to noise) -- What happened back there? (Laughter.) Kind of strange.

Yes, sir?

Q: Mr. Secretary, is anything more known about the incident in Kandahar where the four Canadians were killed, and where does the investigation stand?

Rumsfeld: It is underway. It will be an investigation that will involve U.S. as well as Canadian officials, and they will proceed in an orderly way to sort through what actually took place. It certainly is a terrible tragedy and something that we regret deeply. President Bush has spoken to the prime minister, Chretien. I have spoken to the Defense minister of Canada. And I'm sure that the process will go forward apace.


Q: (Off mike) -- that you saw here today -- (off mike) -- transformation process. Can you -- (off mike)?

Rumsfeld: Sure. The United States Army has been and is currently in the process of a -- the word that's used is "transformation." "Transformation," I think, is quite a misunderstood word, in many senses. What you really -- some people think of that word as a situation today and then you're transformed into something tomorrow. In fact that's not the case. The world isn't static; it's dynamic. That means that transformation is really not from going from one thing to another, but it's a process. It's something that takes place continuously over time.

And all of us find that we're engaged in a lifetime of learning and transforming experience. The transformation, for example, can be a new weapons system. It can transform an outcome on a battlefield. But so, too, you can take three old weapons systems, provide interconnectivity, and create a transformational outcome. And information technology is just enormously important in transformation for the military.

But what the Army is undertaking is a process that they call transformation. It's important. And they have been working on it for some time. And as you are well aware, Fort Lewis is a central part of that activity.


Q: (Off mike) -- here at Fort Lewis -- (off mike) -- that the transformation process is going well and -- (off mike)?

Rumsfeld: Oh, goodness. I've been, you know, being briefed and watching this process since I came back to the Pentagon some 14, 15 months ago, and so I've been kind of keeping up with it as we've gone along. And this is the first time I've had a chance to come out here and actually meet with some of these folks. But there's no question but that they are proceeding roughly on the timetable that they have planned, and it seems to be coming along well.

Q: (Off mike) -- including ground forces. Can you talk about the importance of -- (inaudible)?

Rumsfeld: Sure. I think it is -- I think that the quotation you read was an apt one. And it is important that the United States not simplify the problems for others by saying, "We won't do this" or "We won't do that" and thereby telling the rest of the world that it's free play -- they can go do what they want, because they've been assured by the United States that we won't, in this case, put troops on the ground.

The president and I said from the very outset, when we -- shortly after September 11th -- that we would not rule anything out. And we haven't. And as you suggest in your question, there is no doubt but that putting the Special Forces troops on the ground, embedded in the Afghan forces, dramatically shifted the circumstance and the conduct of that war -- improved targeting; it improved resupplying. It provided connectivity of our forces with their forces in way that enabled us to accomplish a great deal in a relatively short period of time.

Yes, sir.

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: Well, there's no question but that, as General Hill has said, that the meetings that have taken place between the officials in the Army and the various combatant commanders around the world have made clear that, in fact, the new capabilities of the United States Army are needed, and will be used in future activities. When one is -- watches a process that takes time, one always hopes that it would go somewhat faster. And I'm sure the folks here are doing everything humanly possible to do that.

Q: If I could follow up, because there has been some feedback that this type of unit could be very well set for Afghanistan, do you see the -- (off mike) -- when you say in the future -- (off mike)?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I wouldn't want to speculate on that. Those are things that the combatant commander makes judgments on as he goes along, as to what particular, specific capabilities he needs with respect to certain types of activities. There's no question there are still al Qaeda, there are still Taliban forces that, if we turn our heads for five minutes, they'll tend to congregate again and attempt to reassert influence over that country. They're in the mountains, they're in the caves, they're in the villages, they're also across the borders. And so it's important that we keep the pressure on them that we have, so that the people of Afghanistan can go about their business and that country isn't turned into a terrorist-training site and a deployment site again.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: Yeah?

Q: With the establishment of Northern Command, is there anything that the average civilian in America is going to see any difference in the way that the military is operated, or is that something that would be just noticed only by those in the military?

Rumsfeld: The roles and responsibilities of the military will not change with respect to the United States. I do believe that the establishment of the campaign -- of the command -- will enable a unity of focus, a capability that will be improved.

The military, as we all know, is not the first line of defense physically inside of our country. We tend to be organized and arranged and equipped to deal with external threats. We're living in a new period where we see internal threats and problems and dangers and risks. So what the -- under the posse comitatus law, what the United States military does is serve in a supporting role to the first responders -- the states, the local governments, the FBI, the police forces -- and we will continue in that supporting role.

The Northern Command will have NORAD and the air defense; it will have the area out 500 miles outside the shores of our country; and it will also include the border areas. But I guess I don't think that anything would be notable by an individual citizen unless there were a very serious crisis, and then one would think because of the organization and the discipline that will be put into the process that we would very likely be able to respond more rapidly, more skillfully, and in a manner that is better connected to the state and local governments, who have been the first responders.

Q: Could you name any particular units that would be responsible if they had to be deployed, any particular -- (off mike) -- or base or --

Rumsfeld: Deployed where? Internally in the United States?

Q: Yeah.

Rumsfeld: Well, we have some distinctive capabilities, for example, with respect to chemical and biological attacks, if there were that type of thing. So those units, obviously, would be available.

The National Guard is available to be called up by state governors. The -- if there were a -- something that required the -- oh, movement of water or sanitation issues or quarantine issues, obviously, the defense establishment has experience in doing those kinds of things. We do it in hurricanes and --

Q: So this is going to come from a variety of --

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Q: -- places, not one particular division or brigade.

Rumsfeld: No. Exactly.


Q: Mr. Secretary -- (off mike) -- the hunt for Osama bin Laden? Can you give us an update on that and what kind of priority that is?

Rumsfeld: Well -- (chuckles) -- that's a question I receive from time to time. You might not know that, but I do, actually. (Soft laughter.) Every once in a while, someone asks that question. And I can assure you that if I knew where he was, I would tell you. And I didn't bring it up, myself, today. We don't know. He's alive or dead. He is in Afghanistan or somewhere else. And we are looking for him, and I suspect, if he's alive, we'll find him, eventually.

How important is it? There are other people who can operate that al Qaeda network around the world. We're putting pressure on them, as well, and we intend to keep it up. There are other global networks besides al Qaeda, and what we need to do is to freeze their finances, make it difficult for them to move between countries, make it difficult for them to recruit and retain people and create an environment that's inhospitable for countries that like to provide haven or sanctuary to terrorists and do everything humanly possible to see if we can protect the people of the United States and our friends and allies around the world and our deployed forces.

Yes, sir.

Q: (Off mike) -- has units operating in the Philippines currently. How successful is that operation? How well is that going? And do you see an expansion of that type of role in that region?

Rumsfeld: With respect to an expansion: Those are questions for the president, and we have no current plans to expand it. The relationship with the Philippines has been a long-standing one. They've requested and we've agreed to provide some joint training, where our forces are there working with them with respect to things like intelligence and logistics and communications and that type of thing. It's going quite well. It'll have a beginning and an end.

At the present time, there's been some mention in the press, I believe, out of the Philippines, to the effect that we're also putting in some construction folks to give a hand with some roads and some various civil-works types things that were needed in that area, from the standpoint of the army, the Philippine army, and so we're going to be doing that for a relatively brief period.

Q: Is that a model that could be used in other places?

Rumsfeld: Well, we are using it in other places. We have some folks in Yemen, a country that has decided it wants to be helpful in the global war against terrorists. They -- we have some people there helping to train them, assisting them with how they manage their ports, their airfields. They have a history of having al Qaeda gather in that area. That's where Osama bin Laden came from -- along the Yemen border there, in Saudi Arabia. And the president has asked for some assistance and some cooperation, and we're doing it there.

We have a relatively small number of folks in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. There again, they've got a problem up on the -- in the Pankisi gorge area, near Chechnya, and so we have some trainers there assisting them, relatively small numbers and for a relatively short period of time, a fixed period of time, that we'll start and end, and then we'll go about our business.


Q: Are the Americans on the ground in Kabul playing any role in keeping Zahir Shah, King Shah, safe, given the security concerns in bringing him back -- (off mike)?

Rumsfeld: There are several things that provide security in Kabul -- the International Security Assistance Force there that the Brits are heading up, and which we assist with intelligence and logistics and quick reaction capability. We do from time to time assist various government officials and others, both Afghanistan folks, visiting dignitaries from other countries, visiting people from the United States, with security aspects, but we don't talk about it much.

Staff: We should make this the last question.

Q: Mr. Secretary, the Stryker was signed into the Army inventory last week, and that's the first vehicle to be signed into the inventory in 14 years. What will that bring to --

Rumsfeld: The first vehicle what?

Q: The first new vehicle to be brought into the Army inventory in 14 years.

Rumsfeld: In 14 years? Is that what you said?

Q: Yes. Yes.

Rumsfeld: Okay.

Q: What will that bring to the Army capability?

Rumsfeld: Well, we'll soon find out, won't we? (Light laughter.) And these folks are the experts, and I'm going to go visit with them about it.

Thank you very much. Nice to see you all.


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