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Wolfowitz Interview with WABC

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 17, 2002

(Interview with John Gambling, WABC)

Q: What's going on? Well, the war on terrorism continues. Where does that war go in the future? We'll ask our next guest. Also the weapons of the future -- the Crusader artillery piece. Is it something we need to spend billions of dollars on? The new Army as seen by Donald Rumsfeld. We'll get answers to those questions and more From Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, next.


Q: Good morning everybody, welcome aboard here if you're just joining us. We are going to move from our viewpoint of New York, our home base here, we're going to open up the vision here and spread our wings a little bit and look around the world and across the country to our defense. We're going to do that, I am pleased to say, with the Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz on the telephone from Washington.

Mr. Secretary, good morning.

Wolfowitz: Good morning. How are you?

Q: I am very very well. I understand that you and the Mayor, Mr. Bloomberg, are good friends.

Wolfowitz: We are. Actually, he was my boss for awhile. When I was a Dean at Johns Hopkins University he was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. A terrific Chairman and in everything else he did.

Q: He had very nice things to say about you just before he left minutes ago.

Our war on terrorism. How do you view that? Is this a war that is going well or have we kind of been bogged down in the proverbial mud here?

Wolfowitz: Oh, no. I think we've accomplished a great deal and I think we continue to accomplish a great deal. Just in Afghanistan alone I think the results have been impressive. We've gotten rid of the Theologian-Taliban, we've basically made Afghanistan impossible for terrorists to organize and operate out of. We've captured and killed large numbers and the ones that are left are on the run.

But Afghanistan is just one of some 60 countries where we're pursuing al Qaeda. In fact it's not primarily a military campaign, it's the intelligence agencies, the FBI, the Treasury Department chasing the money. I think we've had a lot of success. I would be hesitant to say that's the reason why there's not been a major repetition, but we do know that these people have been trying repeatedly since September 11th to kill more Americans. I think we've been winning so far.

Secretary Rumsfeld and the President have said over and over again this is a long and difficult struggle and it's not going to be over quickly, and people should not think that because we've had success to date that therefore it's finished.

Q: We certainly now that the Defense Department, the Pentagon are the people in charge of the actual "physical war" -- the airplanes, the soldiers, the ships, and that. Describe for me if you can how the Defense Department, what role the Defense Department plays in the intelligence scenario along with the CIA, FBI, et al.

Wolfowitz: I think it's a supporting role. We do a certain amount of collection of technical intelligence that gets passed to them, but they really are largely in the lead. But I would say this. I do think that the example of what happened to the Taliban in Afghanistan has been a great encouragement for other bad actors to start thinking about mending their ways, and I think --

Q: Because of the fact that we are going to do something about it and we have the talent to do it.

Wolfowitz: And therefore when the President said you're either with us or against us, people decide it's not a great thing to be against us because look what happened to the Taliban. That leads them to cooperate with the CIA and the FBI in ways that they probably otherwise wouldn't dream of.

Q: Have we seen that in sort of some role reversals in Malaysia, for example? The Philippines as well?

Wolfowitz: Those are different. I think Malaysia and the Philippines are countries that had the will to cooperate in the first place and Malaysia had the means as well. In the case of the Philippines, they've been dealing with terrorists for quite some time and welcomed our help in training their people to do a better job of it.

But I'm thinking about countries like Yemen and the Sudan where we're getting much more cooperation now than we were getting before the defeat of the Taliban.

Q: Let's shift gears here just a little bit. Actually none of this is shifting gears, it's all connected here.

Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has from the very beginning of holding his particular office as Secretary of Defense said that America needs to redefine, reanalyze and redirect resources when looking at the defense of this country in the future. Can you kind of form that up simply and kind of explain to us what he's talking about?

Wolfowitz: Let's start with the fact we have by far the best military forces in the world and they've just demonstrated that again in what they've done in Afghanistan. But things move on, technology develops. On the one hand you have potential new weaknesses. We unfortunately saw one from a national point of view and we never had thought before about what hijackers can do with airplanes loaded with gasoline. And at the same time we have new strengths that we can develop and we're working on, and what he's talking about is how to make sure that our military 10 or 15 years from now has that same decisive edge that we have today. It's very important that we spend those scarce taxpayer dollars as wisely as possible, to be sure.

Q: Is the Crusader, which is an artillery weapon for those that aren't familiar with it, a high tech artillery weapon, which the Secretary has said we don't want, put a line through that one?

Wolfowitz: That's right, but it's not because he said we don't need artillery. He said I'd rather spend those scarce taxpayer dollars on accurate artillery rather than what the Crusader delivers which is a lot of artillery.

We've seen that when you're accurate you can make do with much smaller quantities and you're much more deadly much more quickly.

Q: We are talking with the Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz this morning here at 77 WABC.

The nuclear treaties between Russia and the United States, there's been a lot of conversation now over the last couple of years and it looks as though those are going to be modified. Our actual numbers of active warheads on both sides reduced I think to approximately the 1500 level, something like that?

Wolfowitz: Yeah, about 1700, and it's a reduction of about two-thirds from even the reduced levels that we reached in the 1990s.

Q: Do we still need that many, in your opinion?

Wolfowitz: I think that's a prudent level. Believe me anyway, it's going to take both us and the Russians awhile to get there, but we are significantly reducing not only our numbers of nuclear weapons but our dependence on nuclear weapons. But I think we also want to make it clear to any aspiring nuclear powers that this is not a good business for them to get into and I think that's about the right level to do it.

Q: How many countries that don't have nuclear weapons today will very shortly, in your estimation?

Wolfowitz: We worry a lot about those countries that the President identified in his State of the Union message in what he called the axis of evil -- North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and in fact what is most concern to us are those countries that have made clear their hostility to the United States, that have a record of supporting terrorism and that are pursuing or may already have weapons of mass destruction. That includes chemical and biological as well as nuclear weapons.

Q: Is there one of those that worries you more than the other?

Wolfowitz: I think all three of those countries the President mentioned are concerns, and frankly, there are some others that are a little less clearly in that category, but we see countries like Libya and Syria also pursuing nuclear and chemical and biological weapons.

Q: Our defense against that, is it as much from the intelligence community as it is from the Defense Department, and militarily?

Wolfowitz: I think it's everything. I think even our diplomats have a role to play because some of these problems can be solved by negotiations, we think. But what we can't do, I think what the President made clear is we can't keep postponing addressing these problems and say well we'll live with them for another 10 years or 20 years the way we lived with al Qaeda for ten years to our great cost.

Q: Paul Wolfowitz, let me ask you one more question that kind of ties into that. What's the biggest threat that you see from your office? The biggest threat in the future, in the next 10, 15, 20 years. Does China fall into that, for example?

Wolfowitz: We've actually tried to move away from focusing on a specific threat to thinking about what people, where our vulnerabilities are, what people might attack us with. So we identify terrorism and homeland security as one of our biggest concerns.

We've identified the danger to our ships on the surface of the seas from highly accurate missiles as another concern.

I think if we address things that way, frankly, we'll be able to prevent threats from developing because people will see that we're not vulnerable.

Q: How about the wild card, the Middle East?

Wolfowitz: The Middle East is a huge challenge but I think we're making progress. I think Secretary Powell's trip out there really did help to diffuse the situation and prevent it from becoming a wider war with Lebanon and Syria. I think he not only saved a lot of lives, but I think he set us on the road to getting, solving that problem in Ramallah with Arafat and the problem in the Church of the Nativity, so at the moment it seems to me we're on a road of progress, but let's be realistic. This is a difficult problem that's been around for 50 years, and you're going to make three steps forward, two steps back if you're lucky.

Q: I've got to jump back one step here because I forgot to ask you and I wanted to, I've got it written down in my notes here.

Secretary Rumsfeld, as we've discussed, talking about resources and allocating them in the right way, has wanted to shut down significant numbers of military bases, Air Force and otherwise. The politics of Washington have not allowed him to do that. How would you describe the frustration level?

Wolfowitz: Well, we got through last year, thanks to a presidential willingness to veto if we hadn't gotten it. We got a bill for what we call BRAC which is Base Realignment and Closure. It's a process which now has got a well established pattern to make these very difficult political decisions in a way that distributes the pain. That process will begin in fiscal year '05. We would have preferred to start it a couple of years earlier, but we're on track to get that work done. It's important.

We have, we think, some 20 percent more bases and facilities that we need to have and that's overhead. No business would carry that kind of overhead and the Defense Department can't afford to either.

Q: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, this morning here at WABC. Mr. Secretary, I appreciate the time.

Thank you very much.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

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