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Rumsfeld Well-Recieved by Senate Armed Forces Committee

Aired January 11, 2001 - 10:46 a.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to jump up to Washington right now and take a listen in on the confirmation hearings for Donald Rumsfeld, who is President-elect George W. Bush's nominee to head the Pentagon.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: ... nuclear and ideological standoff with the Soviet Union. Today, the Soviet Union is no more and the world's super powers standoff has given away to a world of expanding freedom, and I would add, expanding opportunity.

The last time I appeared for a confirmation hearing here, the armed forces and those of our NATO allies stood toe-to-toe facing the militaries of the Warsaw Pact, ready to clash at a moment's notice on a battlefield of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany.

Today the Warsaw Pact is no more. Berlin is again the capital of the unified Germany, and Warsaw, Prague, Budapest are now capitals of our new NATO allies.

As one who served as U.S. ambassador to NATO, I must say I find those changes breathtaking and fundamental.

When I appeared previously, American industry was facing industrial challenge from Japan. You'll recall the productivity and competitiveness made American industry look fat in overhead, excessively layered in management, sluggish in confronting change and innovation.

Today, U.S. industry has shaken off those handicaps, in a process that I've had the privilege to witness firsthand, and become a leader and a model for the rest of the world.

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of Soviet military power have brought the 20th century, possibly the most violent and destructive century in human history, to a remarkably peaceful close. U.S. and allied military power was the indispensable instrument that contained the Soviet Union, confronted Soviet power and its surrogates at the geographic extremities of its advance, and provided the shield within which democratic order and economic prosperity could evolve and develop.

When the great struggle that was World War II has passed, this country found itself facing new challenges with the advent of the Cold War and the development of nuclear weapons. Today, the Cold War era is history and we find ourselves facing a new era, often called the post-Cold War period, or possibly more properly the era of globalization. It's an extraordinarily hopeful time, one that's full of promise, but also full of challenges. One of those challenges, one that, if confirmed, I look forward to working with President-elect Bush and this committee and the Congress to meet, is the challenge of bringing the American military successfully into the 21st century, so that it can continue to play its truly vital role in preserving and extending peace as far into the future as is possible.

As President-elect Bush has said, "After the hard but clear struggle against an evil empire, the challenge that we face today is not as obvious, but just as noble, to turn these years of influence into decades of peace." And the foundation of that peace is a strong, capable, modern military, let there be no doubt.

The end of the Cold War did not bring about an end to armed conflict or the end of challenges or threats to U.S. interests; we know that. Indeed, the centrifugal forces in world politics have created a more diverse and less predictable set of potential adversaries, whose aspirations for regional influence and whose willingness to use military force will produce challenges to important U.S. interests and to those of our friends and allies, as Chairman Levin mentioned.

President-elect Bush has outlined three overarching goals for bringing U.S. armed forces into the 21st century. First, we must strengthen the bond of trust with the American military. The brave and dedicated men and women, who serve in our country's uniform, active Guard and Reserve, must get the best support their country can possibly provide them, so that we can continue to call on the best people in the decades to come.

Second, we must develop the capabilities to defend against missiles, terrorism, the newer threats against space assets and information systems, as members of the committee have mentioned. The American people, our forces abroad, and our friends and allies must be protected against the threats which modern technology and its proliferation confront us.

And third, we must take advantage of the new possibilities that the ongoing technological revolution offers to create the military of the next century. Meeting these challenges will require a cooperative effort between Congress and the Executive Branch and with industry and our allies as well.

If confirmed, I look forward to developing a close working relationship with this committee and with the counterpart committees and the House of Representatives to achieve these goals and to fashion steps to help to transform our defense posture to address those new challenges.

We must work together if we're to be able to address the problems of inadequate funding, which has been the case, unreliable funding, perturbations in funding and resistance to change. HARRIS: We've been listening to comments being made here by President-elect Bush's nominee for defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. He's speaking there before the Senate Armed Forces Committee there, a committee full of the lions of the Senate.

Our Carl Rochelle is also listening in.

Carl, the headline here?

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, I think the headline is it's sort of what we expected, that he has been well accepted and well received, Donald Rumsfeld, that is, by the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Democratic chairman, Carl Levin, saying he didn't know of anyone more suited for this job, someone who saw, watched what was happening back during the Cold War, who is aware of the needs of the military.

And, in fact, you are hearing in the remarks Mr. Rumsfeld was making just then, he was saying, he was echoing the comments of both Senator Levin and Senator Warren, who is a -- Senator Warner, who is the ranking Republican, and after the Senate rejiggers itself a little bit will be the chairman of this committee after the inauguration takes place and the Republicans move back in the majority.

So they are welcoming him here, and there has been no question about him, no criticism of him so far. And they are all noting the same thing: They need to modernize the military, they need to make the members of the military service more appreciated, and I think that translates in terms of giving them a raise, trying to get a raise through for them, and they need to worry about the anti-missile defense and about how to defend against terrorism. These are things that they are looking forward to, not unexpected. We expect the confirmation hearing to go very well for Mr. Rumsfeld and for him to take place.

You know, one of the interesting things listening to the opening comments, as Senator Levin said, that he had not only been the youngest secretary of defense they had had ever had when he was sworn in 25 years ago, after he's sworn in this time, he'll be the oldest secretary of defense. And then an aside, he said, that is until we make Senator Thurmond, who you know is 98 years old, until we swear him in as the secretary of defense.

So a lot of good feeling, a lot of good will in this hearing that we are hearing this morning. And unlike some of the president-elect's appointments, which are getting some criticism and some controversy, this one likely not -- Leon.

HARRIS: All right, off to a good start there. Carl Rochelle reporting live from Capitol Hill, thanks much.



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