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Secretary Rumsfeld Meeting with Reporters

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
May 07, 2002

(Meeting with reporters in the Pentagon at a coffee organized by the Christian Science Monitor.)

Moderator: Thanks to our host Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for inviting us to his place. We appreciate it.

Normally, Mr. Secretary, I do a little introduction at the top of the breakfast to give the guests and assembled reporters a moment to scarf down their bacon and eggs, but that seems a bit superfluous this morning. There's no cholesterol to consume and the nation's 13th and it's 21st defense secretary needs no introduction.

I would note that Mr. Rumsfeld made five previous appearances with the breakfast group, the last one while he was director of the Economic Stabilization Program in the Nixon administration. We hope to dramatically shorten the integral between his visits with the group.

Let me briefly cite three of Rumsfeld's laws that are especially relevant this morning.

First, as our host says, "With the press there is no off the record," and we are on the record this morning.

One of Rumsfeld's laws is "When drinking the water, don't forget who dug the well." So thanks to my colleague and breakfast group founder Budge Sperling. Budge and Robert Novak are the only journalists here today who were present for Secretary Rumsfeld's last visit with the group in October 1971. (laughter)

The final law, "Know your customers." Mine are the assembled bureau chiefs and columnists here today who want minimal prologue from me and maximum time with the secretary, and to that end I'll forgo posing questions myself.

If you want to ask a question please follow our tradition of making a non-threatening gesture in the moderator's direction and I'll do my best to call on as many of you as possible and to see that the folks sitting in every corner of the room get recognized. But with almost 40 journalists present it's obvious that not everyone will get a question. I suspect the secretary may view that as one of the rare bright spots in this event.

He has some opening comments and then we'll begin the questioning. The floor is yours, sir.

Rumsfeld: Mike Mansfield could have answered 40 questions in the time allotted. He was a pro.

I will make no opening remarks except to say welcome, we're glad you're here. I appreciate your coming. I'd be happy to respond to questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us a little bit more about the Under Secretary Bolton's remarks yesterday about a biological warfare threat in Cuba and if any anthrax threats have been pinned to that to Camp X-Ray or to South Florida?

Rumsfeld: I cannot. I have not seen the intelligence that apparently led Under Secretary Bolton to make those remarks.

Moderator: Susan?

Q: Staying on the subject of Cuba for a moment, President Carter's going to Cuba in about a week. He's advocating closer relations [and an end to] some of the economic strictures that we keep on Cuba. And President Clinton also has done a lot of foreign travel. He went to the Middle East recently, he was in China twice. I wonder if you think the activities of the former Presidents are helpful or not helpful to the current Administration.

Rumsfeld: I'll tell you, those are questions that are really in Colin Powell's lane and I'd prefer to leave them there. I think as a general comment one has to say that a person who has run for president of the United States and served as president of the United States certainly is able to say and do what they think is appropriate from their perspective. The world recognizes that they are no longer president of the United States, that we only have one president at a time, and it has been a practice of presidents to generally consult with administrations in the process of conducting their lives and that's generally been a good pattern, I think.

Q: I was reminded, you know, Mr. Secretary, reading the paper that President Nixon had a war on terrorism. You may recall that too. But that it ran out of steam after about three months. Is this war on terrorism running out of steam a bit?

Rumsfeld: No. The president made the correct decision at the outset that it would have to take all elements of national power -- diplomatic, political, economic, financial, law enforcement, intelligence, military overt, military covert, and it has. And the pressure that's been put on terrorists and terrorist networks by the use of all of these capabilities and by the cooperation of literally dozens and dozens of other countries have in fact put considerable pressure on terrorists and to the benefit of free people here in this country and elsewhere in the world.

The fact -- we've said from the outset that there will be times when it is more visible and times when it is less visible, but there will not be times where it's inactive, and it is not inactive. People are being arrested all across the globe. Country after country. Bank accounts are being frozen. It is more difficult today for terrorists to transfer money than it was before. It's more difficult for them to recruit than it was. It's more difficult for them to move from country to country. It's more difficult for them to retain people. It's more difficult to plan and execute complex terrorist activities. Is it impossible? No. It's just more difficult.

Q: Can I ask a follow-up?

Moderator: Yes, and then we'll go to John Mulligan and Chuck Lewis and --

Q: I wonder if the enthusiasm of the American public isn't flagging though somewhat in this fight against terrorism. I see by the television that Spiderman over the weekend made $114 million, broke a record, and I wonder if we're in the situation we were in in World War II when after a few months even Pearl Harbor didn't seem so important any more and people began to lose interest. Do you see that?

Rumsfeld: No. I think that people in the press from time to time raise that question and they may flag themselves. I was getting questions about whether or not we were in a quagmire in Afghanistan about several weeks after we started the bombing, but the American people? No. I don't detect that at all.

It seems to me that the American people have a good sense and a good center of gravity. They were stunned on September 11th and they're perfectly willing to accept the delays at airports because they recognize there are darn good reasons for delays at airports. They're perfectly willing to have their representatives invest in national security as long as it's being spent intelligently, and for homeland security, because they recognize that in fact free people are vulnerable, and we are vulnerable. It's just a fact of life that a terrorist can attack at any time in any location using any conceivable technique and it's physically not impossible. It's just totally impossible to defend against, in every place against every technique at every time of the day or night. You can't do that. Therefore we have to deal with the problem by going out and finding those terrorist networks and I think the American people understand it.

Q: You don't see any signs of boredom?

Rumsfeld: Oh, my goodness. That's the one word we don't even allow in our family. In this wonderful world of ours with all the things people can do I think boring -- if a person is bored, it's the person's problem. I don't see it.

Moderator: John and then Chuck and then Jerry and then Doyle, then I'll swing over to this side of the room.

Q: John Mulligan from the Providence Journal. Mr. Secretary, and I think my customers would like to know from you whether the submarine is still groping for its post-Cold War missions, or on the other hand has won its spurs as a transformation platform? So can you say something about the significance of the submarine's role in the buildup to the war, battlefield preparation, and in firing some of the first cruise missiles of the war?

Rumsfeld: There's no question but that submarines are an important part of the fleet today and will be prospectively and our proposed budgets reflect that. We see a variety of uses for submarines. And as you point out, in one instance we're making some conversions away from strategic nuclear weapons to conventional weapons, but there certainly is a role for submarines in the Navy of the future.

Q: Some on the Hill is saying that it's a little fizzy in the budget on submarines, [whether you're going to fight] them very hard if they put more money in the budget to build a few more in the FYDP [Future Years Defense Program]?

Rumsfeld: Well, you know, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people say I'm spending a little too much for this and others say I'm a little stingy on that. I suppose that must mean I might be just about right.

The fact is that resources are always finite and choices have to be made, and the choices we're making are difficult ones. They're not easy. I'm sure we're not making them perfectly, but goodness knows, we're trying, and for the first time to my knowledge the Department of Defense is trying to do something distinctively different.

We have been pretty good at balancing war risks and saying a capability with respect to Korea versus a capability versus some other war plan. We can judge that and make a decision that's fairly rational. We can make a decision when you're balancing risk with respect to personnel as to whether a little more pay would be better or a little better health care or a little better housing. So, too, in modernization. We can look at the age of aircraft and the age of ships and the age of tanks and say what do we think there? We can make those judgments. The same thing with transformation. We can look at the research and development budget and the S&T [science & technology] budgets and say would we rather invest now for benefits six, eight, ten years down in this area or that area?

What we couldn't do is make an R&D [research & development] comparison against housing for people or for more airplanes. That is very difficult to do. The systems in this building don't permit it, don't facilitate it. The only way we've known to do it is to get the senior people in the room, civilian and military, spend hour after hour sticking those issues up on the table, forcing them to acknowledge the reality that we don't do that well, that we must do it if we're going to be successful.

If you do anything someone's not going to like it, and that's life. My attitude is we've got a good budget and we're going to defend that budget. There are going to be a lot of people who are going to want to try to change it and that's their job. It's not an accident that the Constitution has Congress in Article 1 and not Article 2 or 3. So they'll make their judgments and we make our best judgment and we'll fight like the dickens to get the bill with the balance of capabilities that we believe is appropriate and the one thing you can be certain of, any time you try to change somebody's not going to like it. They're going to resist it. They're going to resist it in this building. They're going to resist it on the Hill. They're going to resist it in the contractor community. And it will be lots of fun for the press people to right about it.

Moderator: Chuck?

Q: Sir, would you share with us your evaluation of Army Secretary White in connection with the Crusader?

Rumsfeld: Would I share what with respect to --

Q: Your evaluation of his performance with respect to the --

Rumsfeld: He's doing a good job. He has my confidence.

Q: If you kill the Crusader are you prepared to fight the Congress to make sure it is killed?

Rumsfeld: Look. Leave the Crusader aside. Any time you decide you're going to discontinue some program that had started whenever it was -- one year, two years, three years -- there's a constituency for that, and you're faced with that. If you're not willing to do that that means anything that's ever been started has to go on regardless. That would be mindless.

Of course in the event the department decides to cancel something we'll simply have to go up and be persuasive. We'll have to tell the world, the country, the Congress, the press, what it is that's going on that leads people to a conclusion -- sincere people, honorable people, people who care about this country and care about our national security -- to a conclusion that this is a better way to spend that money than the other way. And there will be discussions, there will be debates, and that's fine. That's healthy. That's what this country is all about. We look forward to it.

Moderator: Jerry, Doyle and George.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you've made a fairly substantial change in the way the military does its business by creating a unified command for homeland defense of this country. Can you talk a little bit about how long that's going to take to take shape, what form it's going to be when it's there, and what sort of issues you're going to have to deal with in terms of constitutional questions about the military's role at home?

Rumsfeld: That's a big order. I'm going to testify on the subject today and we'll give you a copy of my remarks if you'd like. I will be happy to respond to several of those questions.

We don't see any problem with posse comitatus. We're not proposing nor is the president proposing that the military suddenly involve itself in roles that historically we've not been involved in and which by statute we've been prohibited from being involved in absent waivers. We have no changes with respect to that.

With respect to the Northern Command, we plan to stand it up October 1st. We plan to make an announcement with respect to a commander for that command in the near future. And it will be the assignment of that individual and the individuals that have commands that currently have jurisdictional responsibilities for things that are being transferred into the Northern Command to work out how those details will evolve.

One other thing we have to do is to get a civilian element in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a counterpart to the Northern Command, which we currently do not have as such. We've got an interim temporary situation.

It will be a distinctly different command than other commands. It will have Canada, U.S. and Mexico in its area of responsibility. It will have out to 500 miles offshore. It will obviously have the same call on assets that other commands do and therefore allocation of assets as to whether they would be with the Northern Command or with the Central Command, Tom Franks, or in European Command with General Ralston, would be issues that I would have to decide which is the normal case with a combatant commander.

I think that the world's changed, the times have changed, and it's necessary to have someone who is thinking and looking at those responsibilities on a full-time basis which we have not previously had. NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] will be a part of it, understandably, I think.

Moderator: Doyle, George, and then we'll swing over here to Dick Ryan.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Doyle McManus from the L.A. Times. Let me take one more crack on the issue of Congress and the budget.

You're sounding awfully tolerant of Congress this morning. There are an awful lot of folks who feel they've taken your larger budget past the opening gun in a race to spend money on their favorite projects. Are you concerned that it is about to turn into an open season for wasteful spending up there? And finally, on a specific, have you made the decision on Crusader, and what is it?

Rumsfeld: The decision on Crusader is being refined at the present time and an announcement will be made at some point in the days immediately ahead after the appropriate people have been talked to and discussed, had the subject discussed with them.

You say I'm sounding tolerant. It seems to me I'm sounding respectful of the Constitution, not tolerant. I'm a realist. I used to serve up there. I was one. And I like them. They're good folks and they've got a job to do and I've got my job to do. And I intend to do mine. What I'll do is work with the president to fashion what we believe, and the military services, to fashion what we believe to be the best possible defense budget. It happens to include a reserve of $10 billion, which we know of certain knowledge we're going to need for the war on terrorism. There is some speculation that folks would like to take the ten and disburse it out through various accounts which we don't believe should be done because if that's done then we won't have it to conduct the global war on terrorism which we know we're going to need. We jumped off that bridge when we made the budget last year and presented it to OMB and to the president.

So we're going to go up there and tell them exactly what is in the budget and why we believe it's right and hope that they will respond favorably.

The pattern over the years has been to change something like oh, 8 to 12 percent they'll discontinued, and 8 to 12 percent they'll add, moving money around to things that the Congress feels they'd like. The net of that is that they end up shifting somewhere between 15 and 21 percent of the budget year after year, which means that it comes back to us not balanced the way we had gone in.

Now does that mean that they're always wrong? No. If you go back through history you'll find in some cases they had some pretty good ideas, and indeed, some programs were pushed by Congress that should have been pushed by the Department of Defense and weren't.

Do I think we've made any of those mistakes this year? No. But I don't reckon the folks before did either.

So what we'll do is we'll try to be persuasive, we'll try to make our case and then we'll look at the bill at the end and make a decision as to whether we think the president ought to sign it or veto it.

Q: Mr. Secretary, George Condon with Copley News Service.

The Pentagon has asked to be exempted for training purposes from environmental and endangered species laws. A group of senators later today --

Rumsfeld: That's not correct. There have been six or eight or ten or twelve instances where the Department of Defense has requested that the Congress provide some relief from a series of different laws, but we did not -- the building and the department did not go up there and ask for total exemption from a series of laws.

Q: In those instances there's been controversy on the Hill. A group of senators later today is going to object to it. Do you expect that to be a tough sell on your part?

Rumsfeld: I think they're all tough. We've got so many things going on at once it's unbelievable. But here we've got a problem where a judge has said we can't train on an island that has no people. Someone here who knows what they're talking about correct me if I'm wrong. Ed or Larry or whoever is here. An island where no people live that we use for training and bombings, I think it's bombing or gunfire. Gunfire. And there apparently are some waterfowl, I think, that from time to time get killed and apparently to kill waterfowl you need a permit and we didn't have a permit. I don't know what the resolution of that will be, and that's just one example.

These are not silly things. These are laws that exist because the American people decided they were concerned about waterfowl. Or they were concerned about, there's another one that involves the inner ear of a whale that is a concern and it involves some underwater noises that the Department of Defense makes from time to time for good and proper reason.

Now I care about the inner ears of whales also, and waterfowl. So these things aren't black and white. But what we've got to do is go up there and explain that if we want to be able to train and properly equip and defend the country that we have to be able to exercise and fire off weapons and we have to do it some place. And we just have to do a good job of making that case.

It doesn't surprise me a bit that somebody doesn't agree with us. That's true of almost everything anyone does.

Q: Mr. Secretary, Dick Ryan with the Detroit News.

A two-part question: Were you upset by the lobbying that went on by the Army about the Crusader up on the Hill after the decision here had been made.

Rumsfeld: I don't get upset. I was very unhappy.

Q: And to go on with that theme, you said a moment ago that you had full confidence in Secretary White.

Rumsfeld: I do.

Q: Do you expect he'll be around for the rest of this year?

Rumsfeld: Oh, I do. There's no reason why he shouldn't be. He's doing a good job.

Did somebody in the congressional relations or somebody get way in the dickens out of line? You bet your life they did. Do I think they'll do it again? No.

Q: Secretary White had nothing to do with that?

Rumsfeld: Secretary White has advised me that he had no knowledge of those talking points at all and that's the end of that, as far as I'm concerned. We've got an Inspector General's report coming out today or tomorrow. I'll get a look at it and find out who did have a role to play in preparing those remarks and then we'll see what happens.

Q: I just wanted to follow that up, Mr. Secretary. The story in USA Today today says Secretary White is leaving.

Rumsfeld: It's wrong.

Q: To your knowledge --

Rumsfeld: To my knowledge.

Q: However you want to say it, it's wrong.

Rumsfeld: The story is -- I shouldn't say that. I didn't read the story and if the author is here I apologize. I can't say something's wrong.

You said the story said that, and I'm saying what you said is wrong as opposed to the story which I've not read.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'm Peter Copeland with Scripps. I want to change the subject to warfighting.

Now that you've had a chance to really use the military in action I'm curious about when you first opened up the tool kit and saw the kind of capabilities we had that have developed since you've been gone. Were you surprised? Was it good? Was it bad? Was it able -- were the proper tools there in terms of equipment and people and training and mindset to fight this kind of war?

Rumsfeld: That's a good question. Let me take a minute on it.

I have stayed in touch over the decades with what's going on in the department. You can't stay in as close a touch as if you're here, but I've served on a lot of commissions and boards and advised various pieces of the government in connection with defense and intelligence matters, and I'm interested, so I kept track. So I wasn't surprised.

What we found was, the reality is that almost anything anyone does during their time in office doesn't benefit them at all. The effect of it is two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, twenty years out. I mean if you think about it, I was at the rollout for the F-16. We're still flying it. I was the one who approved the M1 tank. That was in 1975 or '76. The B-52 preceded me by a lot of years. A lot of the weapons are the same or roughly the same, but they've been altered by precision weapons, they've been altered by interoperability, they've been altered by interconnectivity, they've been altered by the greater use of satellites and global position systems.

So what we found, however, was that the department had gone through what the department called a procurement holiday. We ended up on a trajectory on shipbuilding that would take us well down below 300, down into the low 200s if we continued on this trajectory, and we can't. We need more than 240 ships for this country. We need something in the 300-plus range and we're currently I think at 310 or something, and what we're going to have to do is we're going to have to find the money to invest in ships, and the question is what kinds of ships and arranged in what ways and that's something we've got to do. Our first two budgets have been budgets that have been low on that.

We also find that the aircraft are aging and it's like your car. The longer you drive it, you may fall in love with it but the fact remains you're going to have to take it into the repair shop more often and it's going to cost you more to keep it going and at some point you've got to start driving back down the age of our aircraft fleet.

So we found that the, oh, in the private sector I'm told that 47 years recapitalization is about right for infrastructure and we're up at about 190, 180 years in a lot of our infrastructure. So that means that if you don't fix a sewer and you don't fix a house, you don't fix a hangar, you don't do something like that, then you can get by with it and that's what happened for a period of years after the end of the Cold War. The department got by with it, just didn't do it. At some point you have to pay the piper.

So we've got a pile of money we have to spend by way of catch up, just to get back to some acceptable level that doesn't show any benefit to anybody. All it does is it gets you back up to where you need to be so that you're not really damaging the force.

We've had to compete for a different kind of people. We need to attract and retain the right kind of people to run a modern force and that means we've had to have two pay raises. Across the board plus targeted pay raises in the lower, correction, the upper enlisted grades, where these people were thought of as no college education. Now most of these folks have two, two and a half years of college and the competition outside for them is real.

So what we found is a mixed bag and what we're doing is trying to put it in better shape than we found it which is the responsibility of everyone who comes into government.

Moderator: Bob Novak and then Jim --

Q: Mr. Secretary, there are several media sources that quote government officials as saying that there is now no evidence that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi secret service official in [Bonn] or any other place. Can you tell us whether you know that to be true, whether there's any other evidence of a connection between Iraq and 9-11, and whether such a [inaudible] has any significance as far as you're concerned?

Rumsfeld: First, I don't know whether he did or didn't. Two, I don't discuss intelligence information. And three, I don't know how to answer it because if you have a nation, if you take the countries that are on the terrorist list -- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, I suppose North Korea. I may have forgotten one. Many, if not most of those countries are actively engaged in developing weapons of mass destruction. They're testing them and they're weaponizing those capabilities. They're at various stages. They deal with each other. And they're sharing each's comparative advantage in different types of weapons of mass destruction and the ability to deliver them.

That is a problem for the country and that is a serious problem for the country.

Our margin for error as a country with those two big oceans and two friends on the north and the south has been substantial over our lifetime. And it doesn't exist any more as a big margin for error.

If we think back to September 11th there were thousands of people, a couple or three killed, men, women and children, all religions, all races, all nationalities, all sexes, and they're gone. If weapons of mass destruction fall into the hands of terrorist networks that we know of certain knowledge are perfectly willing to use them then you're talking not about thousands, you're talking about tens of thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands of people.

Now the question for the country is what do you do about that? The answer is, it seems to me, you do what the president's doing. You highlight it. You let the world know that that's a fact. You let the world know that that's the risk that exists. You work on proliferation problems. And you attempt to find a variety of ways that conceivably those countries would decide it's not in their interest to do that. Those interests, those ways run the full spectrum of governmental possibilities.

Moderator: Torie tells me we've got time just for the two last ones that I've already called on. Jim Landers and Anne McPheters. Jim?

Q: Mr. Secretary, the president after he met with Crown Prince Abdullah said that the Saudis have agreed to seal off the border with Yemen so that no more killers would be coming across and what not. It sounded as if there's some sort of an anvil for a hammer blow that is in prospect. Are we doing anything with Yemen to try to hunt down al Qaeda operations in that country?

Rumsfeld: Yes. We have some folks there that are helping to train them. We've been sharing some intelligence and we've been encouraging them and they have been very responsive in their efforts to find ways of capturing and detaining al Qaeda operatives.

We know that that location along the Yemen-Saudi border was kind of the birthplace of bin Laden and a lot of al Qaeda and to the extent that the Saudis are able to prevent the free flow of folks across that border from Yemen, and to the extent Yemen can be successful in its effort to try to find the al Qaeda, obviously the world is advantaged and there will be fewer of them and there will be more pressure on them.

The trouble areas that exist, if you think about it, there are a lot of them, and the Afghan-Pakistan border is one, the Afghan-Iranian border is one, and the northern borders can also be a problem. We know what Pakistan and India discuss about the border problems in Kashmir, we know the problems that the Russians talk about in Chechnya and Georgia, in that area in the Pankisi Gorge. Any time people can advantage themselves by moving across borders which tribes in Afghanistan of course have for hundreds of years and so too in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, being able to deal with that is a help. So we're pleased with the cooperation we're getting from Yemen.

Moderator: I got a dispensation from Torie for one more, so we've got --

Rumsfeld: She's not in charge of this meeting. (Laughter)

Moderator: I live in fear of her because she's my gateway to you. (Laughter)

Ann McPheters and Mary McGrory, then if the Secretary wants to go, we'll keep going.

Q: Ann McPheters of Pittsburgh Post Gazette --

Mr. Secretary, Warren Buffet says that it's inevitable that the U.S. will be subject to a nuclear attack. Do you agree?

And also, could you go into comparing this Administration with previous Administrations on the nature of internal squabbling and differences, i.e. reports that you and Colin Powell --

Moderator: We know how much you like multiple questions from watching your briefings.

Rumsfeld: I have not seen Mr. Buffet's statement. I think that if there are a number of countries -- first of all one has to take their hat off to humanity that we've had nuclear weapons since the 1940s and they've not been fired in anger for what, 57 years. I don't know that there's ever been a time in the history of mankind where a weapon has existed, a dangerous weapon, and it has not been used. That is notable.

The longer they're around I suppose probabilities would suggest the greater likelihood they might be used. I don't know that that's necessarily true. I can't analyze why Mr. Buffet said what he said except the reality is there are a number of countries developing nuclear weapons. They are countries that have demonstrated that they have a desire to impose their will on at least their neighbors and to the extent possible others. They also have relationships with terrorist networks and we know terrorist networks are perfectly willing to fly airplanes into buildings and kill hundreds of people.

The nuclear weapon itself, just to put a little granularity on the subject, is somewhat more difficult to develop, maintain and use than for example biological weapons. If one thinks of biological weapons and the problem of contagions, it seems to me that that is a concern that the world ought to have in their minds. I would elevate the biological risk myself.

But I don't know that, for me, I think Mr. Buffet can say what he wishes. I don't think for me to be saying something like that is a useful thing. I think what I say is the truth and it is that these weapons are proliferating. Countries are developing them. They are very powerful. It is in our interest to see that they are not used against us and our friends and our allies and our deployed forces. And we know that to the extent they get in the hands of the al Qaeda and other global networks that they would not hesitate a moment. We already know Saddam Hussein's used chemical weapons in conflict.

Moderator: And squabbling?

Rumsfeld: Squabbling. I think, first of all Colin Powell -- I don't see many of these articles that you're talking about. There was a little while early on in the Administration where I think a lot of people in the press were hoping that would be the case and there was some woman who kept writing it out of the State Department. I forgot her names. It was the New York Times, I think. Where are you from?

Q: Not that.

Rumsfeld: Oh. But about every six weeks there would be another article like that and I don't know where it came from. Colin and I talk to each other on the phone two or three times a day, we meet together several times a week. I respect him, he's a friend, and we don't squabble. We differ on things like anybody differs. I differ with my wife from time to time, not very often but occasionally. These are serious --

Q: -- basic different approach then.

Rumsfeld: These are serious, responsible people. The president, the vice president, Condi Rice, the secretary of state, the director of central intelligence. We have a very good, healthy professional relationship and I think that the -- I've been around this town off and on for an awful long time and I've seen open warfare. So I don't even think that discussing the word squabble in this administration is appropriate.

Q: Mary McGrory, Washington Post.

I wanted to ask a specific question about Middle East policy. For instance, the secretary of state believes that the settlements have to go. Do you agree with that?

Rumsfeld: It's not for me to agree or not agree, Mary.

Q: Oh, yes it is.

Rumsfeld: It is not. It's a State Department issue, a presidential issue. They are working on those issues and it seems to me that -- I don't know that your characterization of Colin's position is necessarily accurate. I've heard what he has said but let me see if I can add a dimension to it.

I noticed that there seems to be a difference -- the press -- I didn't see either Colin or Condi on Sunday. The press played it as they were different. I was on the phone Monday morning with them and they were going back and forth being amused about it because the difference in what they said was a difference in the use of two different words that are not quite synonyms but very close.

The truth of the matter is with respect to settlements, I believe, that once lines are drawn, those kinds of issues disappear. There's two aspects to settlements. In fact I don't even want to talk about this because it isn't my business. It's the State Department's business. I'm not involved in it.

[Section deleted due to ground rule.]

Moderator: Do you want to take one more quicky or --

Rumsfeld: Sure, I'd be happy to. I've got about one more minute.

Did we get 40? How many have we gotten? Have you kept track?

Moderator: I have not, but we've gotten a lot of them. You're doing really well. Thank you, sir.

Q: (inaudible) Business Week.

If the commander-in-chief came into possession of information that would require a military assault on Iraq within six to nine months, given the state of smart munitions, drones, questionable basing rights, could you with confidence execute that mission?

Rumsfeld: Do you mind going off the record again? If you don't like it, I won't.

Q: Colleagues, would it be useful for you to get this off the record, or do you want to just -- yes. So we'll take the following off the record as an exception to our rule. Or can you give us an on the record version that you would be happier with?

Rumsfeld: I'm thinking.

Q: Make it background.

Rumsfeld: I'm trying to engage my brain before I open my mouth here.

[Section deleted due to ground rule.]

Q: Ben [Ralston, Chicago].

Again on the Mideast, what's your view of sending monitors or observers over there as I believe Powell is suggesting he might do in a Middle East settlement? Do you think that's a quagmire --

Rumsfeld: I'm not sure Powell did suggest that. I've seen several people suggest and I've seen Powell acknowledge that other people have suggested that.

Q: What's your view about it?

Rumsfeld: It is not a subject that's been discussed inside the Administration, and therefore until I hear other people's views and develop my own thinking I'm without a view.

Moderator: We want to thank you very much for taking this time with us, sir. We appreciate it. Hope to see you again.

Rumsfeld: Thank you. Thanks for coming in. Sorry I broke your rule.

Q: Thank you.

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