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America's New War: Informal Briefing by Army Secretary Thomas White

Aired September 20, 2001 - 09:24   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.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us right now at a briefing, Secretary of the Army Thomas White.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

QUESTION: Give us some idea of what percentage of what we are going to see these first orders represent?

THOMAS WHITE, SECRETARY OF THE ARMY: Well, it really depends upon the decisions that the president and the secretary of defense make. The president from a very broad perspective of all the elements of national power, the secretary of defense on the military arrangements, and so it's very hard to say initially what the totality of it will be.

QUESTION: You talk about initial stages? Can you tell us whether a final battle plan, in fact, has been put into place?

WHITE: No, I can't.

QUESTION: I wasn't asking for specifics though.

WHITE: Right. No, I can't, because as a service secretary, I'm not directly involved in the operational plan.

QUESTION: From the army's point of view do you see particular priority of challenges that you want to address now, if you are facing land combat operations?

WHITE: Well, I think very clearly the transformation we're embarked on over the last two years is totally relevant to the security environment post the 11th of September. Our desire to be more strategically mobile, to sustain our lethality and survivability, but become more strategically mobile is completely relevant to where we are headed. Our longstanding emphasis on a balanced-forced structure, heavy, light and special operating forces I think is what this campaign will require. So I think we are well suited.

QUESTION: There are some who say this should not be considered a war, but it should be considered a police action. Help us with that.

WHITE: I disagree with that. I think that if you merely consider a police action, you leave out a great deal of what the country can bring to bare to destroy international terrorism. You can bring the full capabilities of this department. There are economic dimensions to this that are significant. If we're to be successful here, we have to eliminate the financial structure that supports this organization. So I think it is a campaign to be conducted by the nation, not just the police forces of the nation.

QUESTION: Sir, the fixation I think on special operations might be explained by the nature of terrorism, and the nature of the terrain in an area that's becoming more and more likely. Can you explain whether that will mean a more prominent role for the rangers and the special forces?

WHITE: I think the rangers and the special operating forces will play a prominent role in any campaign that we conduct going forward, as they have in past campaigns. That's why in the 1970s and '80s and '90s, we put an enormous effort into the buildup of their the capabilities, post-Vietnam, and the value of those forces I think has been displayed a number of times, and they'll be critical to this campaign going forward.

QUESTION: The Russians had a very bad experience on the ground in Afghanistan. There are a lot of lessons to be learned there. Have we learned them?

WHITE: I certainly hope so. We certainly paid attention to it.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

QUESTION: Speaking of lessons, two years ago, the Army took it on the chops (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Task Force Hawk and the ability to move so rapidly through Albania? Can you give sense of what progress the Army has made in the last two years to mitigate that sort of embarrassment again?

WHITE: Well, it won't be any repeated Task Force Hawk. And when we deploy forces, they are going to be ready to fight when they get there.

ZAHN: You've been just listening to an informal briefing by Army Secretary Thomas White. Among other things saying that it very difficult to say right now what the totality of the operation will be, but leaving no doubt that the administration sees this unfolding military campaign as a war, and not a police action.

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