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Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld Answers Questions

Aired August 23, 2001 - 13:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Reporters have begun asking questions of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon amid the controversy over the reviews that he's been conducting of U.S. military and his proposed reforms within the Pentagon. Let's listen for a few minutes and see what the secretary has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The president can obviously as president decide whatever he wishes and make those proposals and see what can be discussed with the Russians, but it's not for me to open options or close options in that regard.

QUESTION: Regarding your reviews of the military going on these many months, what do you say to those have concluded that you've been forced to scale back your expectations for transforming the military?

RUMSFELD: Well, I would say that to be able to scale back your expectation one would have to know what my expectations had been and where they are now. Neither of which have been publicly revealed, because I was still developing my expectations, and have not gotten to the point where scaling back is appropriate.

What I tried to do the other day was to describe what transformation is, and what I think it not to be, and as I indicated, it can be a new platform, something that's totally distinctive, like a satellite, was a transforming event. It also can be something totally different than a platform. It can be sets of connectivity and interoperability that totally changes outcomes and capability, not because you have new platforms, but because you have fundamentally changed how the platforms function and what the ultimate effect of them is. When I explained that last week, some raced off and wrote articles suggesting that that is scaling back one's appetite, or interest or expectation for transformation, which it wasn't at all. It was an effort to describe what transformation can be.

As I think I said, the blitzkrieg, the transformation estimate as to what was actually transformed in that force is somewhere between 12 and 14 percent, and that behind it were horses and buggies, and figuratively, possibly even literally, and yet the effect, the outcome, was transforming, and that was the point I was trying to make.

No, I think I know what my expectation are, and I think they have been at beginning realistic and they are realistic today, and they certainly have not been scaled back.

WATERS: Secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. If you had trouble following that he was answering the questions if not his expectations have been scaled back in regard to planned reform of the Pentagon, scaling back of the U.S. military. You heard him say he is still developing his expectations, so it's a little difficult to discuss what his expectations were.

We have Michael Duffy, a reporter for "Time" magazine who's written a story for the recent "Time" magazine, a story of how you say how Donald Rumsfeld tried and failed to conquer the Pentagon. So you must have some idea of Donald Rumsfeld's expectations?

MICHAEL DUFFY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I think you have to gift secretary a huge amount of credit for trying something no one has tried in a long time, no Democrat would attempt, to take on the military, Capitol Hill and the defense contractors all at once. This is only something a Republican can try.

But it's worth noting that he really said to the whole Pentagon at beginning of the year, let's try to remake everything in this building for the next century. That was a huge undertaking. What he's discovered, Lou, is the Pentagon doesn't want to go along; they would like to keep doing things the way they've done them.

WATERS: Because?

DUFFY: It's really great if you know you are going to have 12 carrier battle groups and 10 divisions and so many fighter squadrons; that's what the Army and the Navy and the Air Force kind of count on year to year, and Rumsfeld is saying, do it with less; we can pay people more, we can maybe spend a little more on health care, and we can have money for missile defense. That's sort of at the core of what's Rumsfeld is attempting.

What's happened in the last month, very quietly, but it's happened, is that the military, along with their allies on Capitol Hill have said no thank you.

WATERS: They -- the secretary seems to be treading water here. We just flashed across the screen here, as you were speaking, that Donald Rumsfeld is a consummate political operator. You allude in your story to certain stumbles he's made along the way in attempting to turn the Pentagon around. What are they?

DUFFY: I think you've got to give Rumsfeld credit for taking so much time for reporters, being available to reporters all the time. It's really great that he does this every week, but he launched this review without really telling people on Capitol Hill what was going on. He met with them a lot, but he didn't tell them what was going on. He did a lot of these reviews with people outside the Pentagon, didn't really turn to the folks in uniform until fairly late in the game. And he just kept a lot of folks in the dark instead of sort of co-opting them, instead of bringing them into his reform the way -- he mentioned Melvin Laird a few minutes ago -- the way he did when he tried the same thing about 25 years ago. So it's been an unusual eight months for a man who really was a consummate inside operator during his years in the Ford administration. He hasn't had as much thought as a lot of people thought.

WATERS: So the bottom line Michael is, we're at the point, where the Pentagon wants more money. They've asked for $38. The White House has cut that in half. We know about the surplus budget projections. There isn't enough money. So what now? Does Rumsfeld get his military reform, and what will that reform be?

DUFFY: I think he's going to come out with a document in the next month sent to the White House and sent to Capitol Hill which will lay out goals, bit when it comes to actually making the changes and changing the way they buy things, he, like all the other agencies in Washington, are forced into a much harder crunch, and that is going to restrict ability to do the reforms, however worthy they may be.

WATERS: Michael Duffy of "Time" magazine, appreciate it.

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