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Wolfowitz Interview with Knight-Ridder

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 15, 2002

(Interview with Jonathan Landay, Knight-Ridder)

Landay: Obviously the issue of the minute is Crusader. I'm just wondering if you can, for me, explain why the decision to cancel and kind of what the alternatives are?

Wolfowitz: It's one of these difficult, tough decisions about how you balance different risks, and Crusader is a good system but it's not a truly transformational system, and what the Secretary has decided and the President is going to recommend to the Congress is that that money be shifted to systems that really will make the Army much more effective, we believe, indeed starting in this decade but particularly in the next decade.

The kinds of things we're looking at putting the money into are systems that would give us greatly improved accuracy in our artillery, a system that would --

[Phone interruption]

Systems that would give us greatly improved accuracy in our artillery, both canon-fired and rocket-fired. Systems that would make our artillery much more mobile and deployable. And in the long term, systems that offer enormous potential for networking artillery fires with other kinds of fires.

I think it's important to say this is not a decision that some extreme air power advocates might like it to be, that we can do without an Army or that the Army can do without artillery. In fact we're going to fight hard to keep all this money in the transformational Army artillery program.

Landay: When you talk about the need to cancel Crusader, how crucial is cancellation to your plans for transformation?

Wolfowitz: I think it is crucial. Resources aren't infinite so you have to make these tough decisions. Some people describe Crusader as an intermediate step toward the future, but we came to the conclusion that it wasn't a bridge to the future, it was really a barrier to the future, and that the money --

[Phone interruption]

Landay: I asked you how crucial canceling Crusader was to your transformation plans.

Wolfowitz: I wish I could get back to where I was in my answer.

Landay: You said it is crucial.

Wolfowitz: I think I was saying that this interim capability we concluded was not a bridge to the future, it was an obstacle to getting to the future faster. And resources are not infinite. We are in for a large budget increase this year but most of it is spoken for for other needs.

One of the things that led to the decision now was that it became clear that the Army had postponed too many things in order to pay for Crusader, and we think rather than postponing those systems they ought to be accelerated.

Landay: If I could just draw an inference from your answer, when you say it is crucial to transformation you are facing a fight against supporters of Crusader on the Hill, not to mention the contracting community.

I take it it's crucial that you persuade Congress --

Wolfowitz: Absolutely. This is not our decision to make. It's our decision to recommend to the Congress. As the Secretary points out regularly, Article 1 of the Constitution is about the Congress, not the Executive Branch, and in matters of defense spending we're the ones who propose but they're the ones who dispose and we have to persuade them.

But they are patriots also and I believe at the end of the day that our logic will be persuasive.

Landay: I know you don't like to answer what if questions, but what if you cannot reach that kind of a resolution? What does that mean for your overall transformation plans, but specifically your desire to possibly cut other systems that -- I mean this is $11 billion, but you're looking at systems that are much much more expensive than that and more politically sensitive.

Wolfowitz: We have got to, as a country we've got to make hard choices unless we're going to increase defense spending to five percent of GNP. It would make it a lot easier on Secretary Rumsfeld for starters, but we don't have that kind of infinite resources. We've got to make those decisions.

If you don't make those decisions then what happens is when you start to run into the fact that you have, you're trying to fit 100 pounds into a 10 pound sack, the result if you don't make those kind of choices is you just start postponing things and buying them in smaller quantities and most of all, as I put it, the future gets pushed off the table.

The systems that have constituencies are by definition ones that are near term. The systems that will create jobs somewhere else in the future but the people don't know where those jobs are are by definition the future capabilities that you want to have and it's not a rational way to approach the national defense plan.

Landay: So if you don't succeed in canceling Crusader you're going to have a much harder time, I take it, with these other systems if those decisions are made here in the building.

Wolfowitz: We're going to have to keep making these hard decisions and hopefully getting the support for them no matter what happens here. But I do think this is an important opportunity for the Congress and the country to think through what is involved in these choices, and hopefully also to understand that this is not about cutting the defense budget. This is about how best to allocate those resources that we've all agreed need to be spent. And I don't think we should think of the U.S. Defense Department as a jobs program, but they're obviously, one of the reasons that these choices are hard is because they do affect jobs.

The point I would make is that on balance, there will be I think better jobs available in programs that have long term futures than those jobs that are in systems that are only going to be around for a little while.

Landay: When you look back at how, over the chronology of how this all happened, do you think you could have done better? It seems to me that in this town one needs to build constituencies if you want to do anything and it doesn't seem like there was much of a constituency-building effort up on the Hill before this decision.

Wolfowitz: Look, I can think of a lot of ways we could have done this a lot worse. We could have come in on January 21st when Rumsfeld was confirmed or March 2nd when I was confirmed and said we don't need any analysis. The President talked about Crusader in the campaign, we're going to kill Crusader. We don't know what we're going to do with the money, but let's kill something just so people will say we're being creative and imaginative.

The Secretary took this department through a very careful deliberative process with hours of meetings with senior military leadership, the senior civilian leadership, first to agree on what our strategy was and this Crusader decision is one that derives from that strategy, not from something that was pre-existing. Then putting together the first decisions on the FY03 budget.

Our first look at Crusader said okay, compared to Paladin it's an improvement. We put it in the '03 budget. But in the Defense Department we're always working on at least two budgets at the same time, and that process of looking at the '04 budget led us to reconsider what we had put in '03.

It would be great to have time to consult with the whole world, but I had a crucial meeting with the Secretary of the Army, and even before the meeting was over somehow, it still beats me how, somehow the word had gotten out to the contractors, to the Hill, to the press, what my meeting with the Secretary of the Army was about. It's hard to have an orderly process when word of your meetings moves with the speed of light.

Landay: How long, and you probably --

Wolfowitz: Let me add one other thing. There's been a lot of discussion and a lot of deliberation not only about the strategy but about Crusader itself. We've heard at great length many people's views. It's not a surprise to us who wants, who on the Hill are Crusader supporters. We've heard from them over the last 12 months.

But at some point you make a decision, and when you make a decision the people who don't like the decision are going to feel that they weren't adequately consulted. I've never been in a case where somebody who came out on the wrong end of the decision said oh, terrible decision but treat process. I was consulted fully. [Laughter]

Landay: You probably answered this question too, but I'm just wondering how long will you now take, will the service sectors take now, taking second looks at Comanche, V-22, F-22 before they come back to you or before you make a decision on those systems?

Wolfowitz: We have a schedule laid out in the Defense Planning Guidance for a number of studies of varying levels of specificity. Some are very specific, we look at this program, look at this alternative to programs. Others are at the other end of sort of vagueness. Here is a problem, what are some solutions to the problem? Those will come together over the course of the summer and the early fall, and those decisions will be reflected in the '04 budget submission.

Crusader has had much more attention given to it and was much closer to the point where we actually felt that it would have been irresponsible to let the Congress proceed on the '03 budget in ignorance of what we were getting ready to do in the '04 budget.

Landay: Stepping back and looking at transformation, the larger picture. Can you explain to ordinary Americans who aren't policy wonks, who don't follow this issue, what is transformation and why is it required? And what are the problems in achieving it?

Wolfowitz: It's a big question, big challenge, but a fair one because we sometimes talk in language that can only be understood inside the Pentagon and we can't get out a sentence without two or three acronyms in it, but let me give it a try.

One of the capabilities that is really transformational is accuracy. I think ordinary Americans can understand what it means to have a weapon that hits the target every time. What they may not appreciate is that for many of our systems historically, hitting the target is an almost random event. If you have a reasonably typical sort of hard target that you might be attacking with artillery it could take 150 of our current artillery shells -- what we call dumb rounds -- to take out that target. With the kind of accurate rounds that we want to build with money that we take from Crusader we could take out that target with three artillery rounds. Well, three instead of 150 has all kinds of effects. Let's start with the benefits for the troops.

It means that you kill it on the first two or three shots if it's an enemy that's shooting at you instead of possibly -- 150 rounds is a lot more than, you'd have to go and reload several times. So it translates into military effectiveness.

It translates into a much smaller logistics supply train. Obviously if you need fewer shells you need fewer trucks to deliver shells and a very large fraction of Army trucks are simply to deliver artillery shells.

That translates into being able to get forces to a theater battle faster because you don't have to bring as many trucks and as many shells with you, and speed can also mean the difference between victory and defeat, between preventing something that's a threat to the country of having it deal with it after it happens.

Then finally, accuracy means that when you're shooting at something in an area that has targets you don't want to hit like a lot of civilians or hospitals or mosques or churches, you do a lot less of what in our jargon we call collateral damage, which is killing innocent civilians. So that is a transformational impact that comes from having accurate systems.

We've seen that in the Air Force. The bombs that we dropped in Afghanistan were over 70 percent precision bombs. In Desert Storm it was only three percent. Our air power has gone through a transformation over the last ten years. We believe that Army artillery can go through a corresponding transformation and it is important to get on with it.

I guess I'd have to say accuracy is just one piece of transformation which is why it's hard to explain it in a short story. But if you think through what it means to hit the target -- Another example.

Think what it means to have forces that can get to the battlefield in airplanes instead of spending a month or two to go by sea, and then when they land at a seaport they have to drive miles, possibly, across very difficult country to get to where you want to have them. If you can fly them into the region and then fly them to an enemy airfield and take it over, that's revolutionary. That's a transformation.

Landay: There's an argument within some of the uniforms that you increase the near term risks that are still out there by leaping ahead of things like Crusader. And they point out Iraq is still there, North Korea is still there. How do you deal with those near term risks while you're sort of moving ahead --

Wolfowitz: It's a good question and it is a fair comment because this is a judgment about how to balance risks. Since you can't do everything if you invest more in the future it's going to come at some expense in the present.

But the fact is in the present we have enormous capabilities in every branch of our military and particularly when they're combined and joint capability. That's the kind of judgment the Secretary of Defense has put in his job to make and the Commander-in-Chief ultimately is the one who decides. We recommend to the Congress it's a judgment that it's much more important to reduce some of those future risks, which are by definition, because they're in the future, harder to define. But that we have a sufficient confidence level in our ability to deal with what's in the near/medium term with the very capable forces we have, that we can afford to make that judgment.

Landay: Obviously you're still looking at Afghanistan and drawing lessons from that for transformation, but are there any lessons that you've learned from Afghanistan, I guess aside from the accuracy and the precision fires, that you would like to see made a priority that's not a priority now?

Wolfowitz: I have to preface it all by saying that it would be a mistake to tailor our forces to Afghanistan. Afghanistan was unpredictable. The next theater we have to fight in is just as likely to be unpredictable. We are trying to have forces that are based not on predicting specific threats but having a combination of capabilities that we would need.

I think we did see in Afghanistan the importance of being able to deploy forces over long distances without seaports and when people say to me as they do, well Afghanistan wasn't very typical because the Afghan army is nothing compared to the Iraqi army, let's say. That's true, which is why I want more capability than we had in Afghanistan. We've got to be able not just to deploy a few special forces at long distance. We want to be able to deploy effective Army forces at longer distances. That is what General Shinseki and the Army are trying to achieve with Army transformation.

We have our disagreements about balancing risks, I guess, but there is no disagreement about the importance of moving the Army in the direction that General Shinseki I think very courageously a few years ago set the Army to going, the direction he set a few years ago.

Landay: Can transformation be applied to the new strategic planning that's going on in terms of reduction in nuclear forces? Is there some aspect of transformation that will affect nuclear forces? Whether it's greater precision using smaller payloads or, how do you apply transformation there?

Wolfowitz: This is going to go back 25 years, but in some ways one of the early developments of the transformation that we're, that I believe is coming to a culmination over the next ten years, one of the earliest developments of that was the Tomahawk cruise missile which started --

[Phone interruption]

Landay: Let me ask this last question on transformation and that was how do you apply it to the nuclear, the strategic force? Are they included? In what way?

Wolfowitz: A very important step that we made already in the '03 budget was the decision to fund the conversion of four Trident nuclear submarines to become cruise missile carriers. In other words, convert them from a Cold War nuclear mission to a 21st Century conventional mission. It precisely makes use of that ability to hit a target with great precision from long distance with a platform, a ship that is under the sea and that enemies can't take out.

It's interesting to me and it's an example of transformation, that when I was in Hawaii just ten days ago talking with the commander of our Pacific Fleet submarines, he was talking about the opportunity this new converted submarine would give them to experiment with a whole range of new applications for submarines, because they've never had a submarine this large before to work with. So we'll not only get a conventional cruise missile carrier out of it, I believe, but we will probably get from it some applications of submarines that we've never had before.

That's an example of how the real transformational changes aren't just introducing one piece of hardware for another, but getting people to think differently, to come up with different doctrine, different ways of operating. And ultimately it's a kind of change in the military culture. Submarines itself was a transformation. Years ago if you were in the Navy you were on the surface of the water. Now we have three kinds of naval forces and they all work together. I think we're seeing something of comparable magnitude today.

Landay: Are you looking at transformational programs in terms of land-based ICBMs that carried nuclear weapons and --

Wolfowitz: Oh --

Landay: -- nuclear weapons.

Wolfowitz: I'm going to give you my bias. I think the direction which we're going is reduced emphasis, reduced reliance on nuclear weapons. What fascinates me is the opportunity by strengthening our conventional forces to reduce to the absolute minimum the possibility that we would ever need to use those terrible weapons.

People are always thinking, they always have ideas, but I think the creative, exciting ideas here are in the conventional area.

[Remaining comments removed in accordance with established ground rules.]

Landay: Thank you very much.

Wolfowitz: Thank you.

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