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America's New War: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Gives Pentagon Briefing

Aired September 25, 2001 - 12:17   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: The Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, is about to begin his briefing, so we'll join that now.



RUMSFELD: Unless it, too, has a problem, which, after the vetting we've been engaged in, would be a disappointment.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) leak-free vetting it has been.

RUMSFELD: Pardon me?

QUESTION: Any leak-free vetting it has been.

RUMSFELD: Has it? It has. I guess we should take pleasure in small favors. The question as to what it is the name of is a separate issue.


Yet to be resolved. Because, as you know, there are phrases or works that are applied to elements of things, and I would not want to leave the impression that this was the umbrella phrase for the entire effort that's taking place. I think you'll find other names and phrases that will creep up during different aspects of the exercise.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the military's current response to...


... as opposed to the overall U.S. response -- the military's current response to the...

RUMSFELD: For the moment, yes, although there are some sub- phrases that are also pieces that may not have yet been made public.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) section of it, does it?

RUMSFELD: No, I would think of it as DOD-related.

With the president's actions yesterday directed at the financing of terrorists and terrorist networks, the continuing deployment of U.S. forces, the recent announcement by the United Arab Emirates that they were severing relationships with Taliban, and the announcement today by Saudi Arabia that they, too, are severing their relations with Taliban, not to mention the continuing displays of unity and resolve that we've seen in the United States, suggest to me that people in terrorist networks have to begin to take a look at the world in a somewhat different way.

There's no question but that the American people when stirred can be united and purposeful, and indeed relentless. I want to say that later this afternoon Secretary Colin Powell and I will be going up to speak to the -- I don't know which is first -- but the members of the Senate and, in a separate situation, the members of the House. That is a very unusual event. They do not frequently have sessions like that. I can recall doing it only one other time in my lifetime, and that was when we presented the report of the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission in I believe 1998, and we met with all the members of the House, Republican and Democrat, for a classified briefing.

There is no question but that the people involved in the accidents against the World Trade and the Pentagon, had to have hoped that it would terrorize the American people. Instead, I think we've seen a nation come together. And certainly, the Congress has been a source of unity and resolve. And there is no question but that they have responded in a very encouraging way as Americans, as opposed to Republicans or Democrats.

I will be thanking the Senate and particularly Chairman Levin and Ranking Member Senator John Warner for passing the Efficient Facilities Initiative. There is no question but that we do need to transform the military as the president said in his (INAUDIBLE) speech and as I have said repeatedly since January to see that we are arranged to deal with the so-called asymmetrical threats, the homeland defense issues, weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and terrorism.

And if you think of just the issue of force protection, and the need to -- we're all familiar with that phrase in the context of U.S. forces outside of the continental limits of the United States. We don't think of it really as much with respect to U.S. forces inside the continental limits of the United States or indeed, all the 50 states. We've tended not to do that. But certainly, the need is clear and we are addressing those questions.

And if we're able to, over time, reduce the number of bases we have and provide the kind of force protection that is appropriate for the number of bases we need as opposed to the number of bases we have, why that is an important step in dealing with the problems of OPTEMPO, which of course were noticeable prior to this event.

And with all the demands on the Pentagon in the period since, has become even more noticeable. As I've mentioned previously, we are engaged in a very broadbased effort. We do not intend to simply go after one or two people or one or two networks. We do intend to have the entire United States government engaged in this over a sustained period of time. As you know, the president froze the assets of some 27 different entities, including some terrorist organizations and individual leaders and corporations that serve as a front and a number of nonprofit organizations. That will be followed by additional steps on the financial and economic and diplomatic, as well as military side of the equation.

Needless to say, there is not going to be a D-Day, as such, and I'm sure there will not be a signing ceremony on the Missouri, as such. This is not something that begins with a significant event or ends with a significant event. It is something that will involve a sustained effort over a good period of time.

Let there be no doubt, as well, that there will not be a single coalition, as there was in the Gulf War. The kinds of things we're going to be engaged in will engage some countries on one aspect of it and still other countries on another aspect of it and we will see evolving coalitions that will evolve and change over time, depending on the activity and the circumstance of the country and the mission needs to define the coalition and we ought not to think that a coalition should define the mission.

In this effort, victory means crippling the ability of terrorist organizations to coerce and terrorize and otherwise disrupt the way of life of the men and women in the United States and our friends and allies around the world. There is no question but that some steps will be visible, as in a traditional conflict, and in other cases, they will be not visible.

It will not be an antiseptic war, I regret to say. It will be difficult. It will be dangerous. And there is, as we are aware, the -- and have to regret to say, that the likelihood is that more people may be lost. But what's at stake here is our way of life and our ability to remain engaged in the world And to recognize that that is the underpinning of peace and stability in the world, and being able to live without fear is a worthy cause.

And with that I'll stop and be happy to respond to questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, aside from what you said about there will not be a D-day or defining beginning or ending moment in this, you have deployed forces abroad. Are there now adequate forces in the Gulf, Middle East, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, are there now adequate forces in place and ready if President Bush orders an attack on Afghanistan?

RUMSFELD: Well, let me put it this way, if and when the president decides that there is a specific activity he wants us to be engaged in, you could be certain we'll be prepared to be engaged in it.

But I do not think of it as static. I don't think one ought to think, "Well, you've moved this from here to there and, therefore, that's that." Because it will be a continuum. There will be things changing, as we go along. It is not the kind of an effort that anyone could plot out and say it's going to start here and end there, because it's a matter of using the full force of our government and our friends and allies around the world who are concerned about this problem, in making a series of incremental steps that create an environment that's inhospitable to people who are determined to kill other people through terrorist acts.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, by saying there will be no D-Day, are you saying that the beginning of the military part of this campaign will not be visible in fact?

RUMSFELD: No, I'm just trying to draw a distinction between the vocabulary and the mindset that all of tend to have by thinking through past events or, in the case of younger people, films of past events. I can remember D-Day and the signing on the Missouri.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you help us understand how just the buildup of force has already had an impact, in your view, on some of the diplomacy in the neighborhood, without every firing a shot. Do you feel that you have begun to have an impact just with that buildup? One. Two, the Afghan opposition forces -- how can they help you?

RUMSFELD: Well, I suppose you're right. It is true that forces are deployed, people who have reason to be frightened have to take steps to change their behavior in a way that probably adds cost and adds difficulty to them. And that's not a bad thing.

What was the second part of your question?

QUESTION: The opposition groups in Afghanistan...

RUMSFELD: If you think of what you're trying to do, in Afghanistan you've got a very mixed picture. You have the Northern Alliance in the north; you have the Taliban; you have a number of tribes in the south. And it is not a perfectly clear picture where everyone fits into a nice box. There are many Afghan people who are being starved; who are fleeing for their lives. And it's just a terrible shame, and we have to do everything possible we can from a humanitarian standpoint to see that their lives are made better than they currently are by the Taliban government and by the circumstance they're living in.

They don't support the Taliban. They don't support the Al Qaeda network. Then there people in the Taliban who don't agree with Omar and they don't agree with creating a hospitable environment for Al Qaeda. And then there are people in Taliban who do. And then there's the Northern Alliance that doesn't like any of it. There are tribes in the south that have different views.

And what we need to do is to incrementally take steps that lead, for whatever reason -- and it's a little like a billiard table trying to figure out exactly how it might happen, the balls careen around for a while and you don't know what'll do it, but the end result, we would hope, would be a situation where the al Qaeda is heaved out and the people in Taliban who think that it's good for them and good for the world to harbor terrorists and to foment and encourage and facilitate that kind of activity lose, and lose seriously.

QUESTION: Going back to your transformation, you've gotten a bigger pot of money from the Congress now than you had before September 11. You still have some unfinished business -- weapon systems such as Joint Strike Fighters, Osprey (INAUDIBLE) DD-21. And yet it would seem, based on the current threat, these are not the weapons you need to fight this war on terrorism. Have you changed your approach at all as to the focus of your transformation? And have you made decisions on these weapon systems, have you sped up the process?

RUMSFELD: No. We'll deal with those in the order that I have suggested in previous press briefings. The ones that are coming down a track and have to be dealt with, we'll deal with.

But as we have said for many, many weeks and months now, the United States has to recognize that at this point in history we do need to transform this institution, and we need to move it from an institution that was capable of dealing with a host of conventional problems in the world -- armies, navies and air forces -- to an institution that is perfectly capable of dealing with those because they are important from a deterrent standpoint and the threats that exist, for example, in North Korea and the DMZ are very real.

And there is no question that Saddam Hussein has not suddenly turned into a benign leader of that country. He still has appetites for Kuwait, for Saudi Arabia and for some others of his neighbors.

And so we have to be vigilant, and we have to be prepared to deal with those kinds of threats. But we simply must recognize that there are asymmetrical threats that are much more advantageous to most of those potential individuals or organizations or enemies or states that would try to threaten the United States.

And by that, I mean terrorism and cruise missiles and ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. They are the capabilities of choice for nations that know that it's not in their interest to try to fashion armies and navies and air forces to compete and contest with Western countries.

And that means that the funds you're talking about, that are coming in to the defense establishment need to be focused in ways that enable this institution to improve our intelligence, to see that we have arranged it in a way that we can track people who previously had been of less interest, because they seem to be of less immediate threat. Although we have tracked these, I don't mean to suggest we've not been tracking the Al Qaeda network because indeed the intelligence community has and has done a good job.

But we have to see that those funds go in, in a way that we're able to live in this 21st century and go about our lives in freedom.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you know, the QDR is due to Congress in a matter of days. And since this document is supposed to define the mission and the shape of the military, I'm wondering how confident you are that this document prepares us for what we're about to be engaged in?

And secondly, very quickly, you've talked a great deal over the past year about the asymmetric threat...

RUMSFELD: Wait a second, let's do them one at a time, you folks. I'm going to have to start making notes if you're going to have three- and four-part questions.

On the QDR, I spent an enormous amount of time on it. In retrospect, the work that was done on that and the defense planning guidance, as well as the fiscal guidance, interestingly, and I would say fortuitously, while not prescient, at least addressed the problems of homeland defense and the problems of asymmetrical threats rather well.

Now, the truth has a certain virtue. I have not read the quadrennial defense review as yet. It's been on my desk for about a week and a half, and I'll have to get to it. But knowing what it was the last time I looked at it, prior to September 11, I suspect that I will find it close. We'll make some tweaks, talk to some people about any remaining issues that have been worked out among people who had different views and that we will, in fact, send up what we will consider the quadrennial defense review roughly the way I've indicated previously, with a couple of big pieces that may take 6, 8, 10, 12 months, particularly in the personnel area, and a piece in the Guard and Reserve, which is something that merits a great deal of thought and attention by itself.

And I think we'll probably come back to Congress later, next year sometime, with more thoughtful pieces that address those issues and possibly one or two more.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a report from Moscow today quotes -- from the Interfax News Agency (ph), quotes your counterpart, Defense Minister Sergeyev, as saying that Tajikistan will offer the airport in its capital city for possible strikes. The direct quote is from Ivanov, and it says, "Dushanbe airport may be offered to the U.S. Air Force to carry out a retaliation strike, if the need arises."

How significant is that? And have you been in discussions with Ivanov about other Russian support for U.S. military efforts?

RUMSFELD: The United States has in fact been in touch with Russia on a number of occasions with respect to a number of aspects of this, as well as any number of other countries.

And as I have said earlier, my strong instinct is to allow other countries to characterize their assistance and rather than for us trying to interpret it and then have a word or two different and cause a political problem in their country. So I'm going to let them speak for themselves, but the answer is, yes, we are discussing things with Russia as well as any number of other countries in that part of the world and elsewhere. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, going back to your D-Day issue, is that a way of warning the American people -- don't expect to initially a massive military strike at first? And also the name Enduring Freedom (ph), is that going to be an endurance test for their patience?

RUMSFELD: I don't know that I was trying to really be subtle or warn the American people about anything other than the truth, and the truth is that this is a broad, sustained multifaceted effort that is notably distinctively different from prior efforts. It is by it's very nature something that cannot be dealt with by some sort of massive attack or invasion. It is a much more subtle, nuanced, difficult, shadowy set of problems.

Now, you did the same thing to me -- what was the other part of it?

QUESTION: Enduring?

RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. I think the answer is yes. Enduring suggests that this is not a quick fix -- it's not something that all of us who like to have things immediately over -- it isn't that way. It is not going to be over in five minutes or five months. It'll take years, I suspect.

And I have no -- I mean, listen -- in my view, you never bet against the American people. I think that they will have the patience, and they will recognize the importance of it and that we'll find that over time other countries will also be able to demonstrate a purposefulness that one might say tends to be not a characteristic of people.

We all tend to think we have relatively short concentration spans. But I suspect that a problem this severe, and it is very severe -- it is a very serious problem, given the power of weapons today and the degree of proliferation that exists in this world, let there be no doubt this is a very serious matter.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, sort of following up on this thought, you take every chance you get to talk about the fact that this is very long range in nature. But let's talk short range for a moment, and I'm sure you would agree there is a discernible desire in the United States for some sort of retaliation now, some sort of military revenge, if I may say so. What can you say to those people who might get impatient for that?

RUMSFELD: The truth. And the truth is, this is not about revenge. It's not about retaliation. This is about self defense. The United States of America knows that the only way we can defend against terrorism is by taking the fight to the terrorists.

And they do not sit in a big country with big buildings and big armies and big navies and big air forces. They live in shadows. They're all across the globe. They're in dozens and dozens and dozens of countries. And they're getting help from an awful lot of people who ought not to be helping them. And that is what we have go to do. QUESTION: Sir, if I may follow-up. There was an attack on the United States by an organization that we are repeatedly being told has now been quite clearly identified. Will there be some sort of retaliation against that attack?

RUMSFELD: I would say that the United States fully intends to defend itself by going after the people who engaged in the terrorist attacks on the United States of America and on other terrorist organizations that have been involved in other acts of that type.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, over the weekend after the Taliban said that Osama bin Laden had turned up missing, you said publicly that -- you dismissed that and said the Taliban knows exactly where he is. How can you be so certain of that?

RUMSFELD: Deduction. If a country opens their arms to an organization, allows them to come in, creates a very hospitable environment for them, permits them to move among their people, bringing things in, bringing things out, forging passports, buying things, selling things, doing what they wish, holding press conferences, and if the Taliban knows their country as well as I know they know their country, you'd have to believe in the tooth fairy to think they don't know where he is.

QUESTION: Is it correct that yesterday you terminated efforts by the administration to start an information operations campaign related to this? And can you assure that there is no information operations campaign targeted at the news media?

RUMSFELD: Well, you can be certain there is no campaign targeted at the news media. If that's...


RUMSFELD: I had a meeting on the subject, and I was my normal self. I offered a few opinions about things. But, no, I think that would be a misunderstanding of what took place. And there is no question but that the United States is, as you know, giving a great deal of thought to handling public affairs with respect to this. It has to be handled not just here, but across the government.

I have a proposal from Torie Clarke that I've looked over this morning for the first time that I know is a result of a series of discussions she's had with you and with other people from outside the government who are in the media and who think about these things, and I suspect we'll have that available soon.

But what we do have to do as a government, needless to say, is make conscious decisions about what we say and what we don't say. And one of the things that it strikes me has always been a hallmark of the United States is the effort to achieve a reasonable degree of care in fashioning declaratory policy. And that means, what it is you say publicly that is designed to best characterize what it is you're about, and what it is you'll accept, and what it is you won't accept, and what it is you might do, and what it is you might not do.

And so, thinking that through clearly, is something that I am engaged in as is the rest of the government.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if I could just follow up. Will there be any circumstances, as you prosecute this campaign, in which anyone in the Department of Defense will be authorized to lie to the news media in order to increase the chances of success of a military operation or gain some other advantage over your adversaries?

RUMSFELD: Of course, this conjures up Winston Churchill's famous phrase when he said, don't quote me on this, OK. I don't want to be quoted on this, so don't quote me. He said, sometimes the truth is so precious it must be accompanied by a bodyguard of lies, talking about the invasion date and the invasion location, and indeed, they engaged not just in not talking about the date of the Normandy invasion or the location, whether it was to be Normandy Beach or just north off of Belgium, they actually engaged in a plan to confuse the Germans as to where it would happen. And they had a fake army under General Patton, and one thing and another.

That is a piece of history. And I bring it up just for the sake of background.

The answer to your question is no. I cannot imagine a situation. I don't recall that I've ever lied to the press. I don't intend to. And it seems to me that there will not be reason for it. There are dozens of ways to avoid having to put yourself in a position where you're lying. And I don't do it. And Tori won't do it. And Admiral Quigley won't do it.

QUESTION: That goes for everybody in the Department of Defense?

RUMSFELD: You've got to be kidding.

QUESTION: Well, I'm just asking.

RUMSFELD: Everybody in the Department of Defense? My golly, I don't even know everybody in the Department of Defense.

QUESTION: I'm just asking what the policy is. I'm not asking whether everyone is (INAUDIBLE)

RUMSFELD: The policy is that we will not say a word about anything that will compromise sources or methods.

We will not say a word that will in any way endanger anyone's life by discussing operations. And anyone that does talk to any of you about that is breaking federal criminal law and should be in jail, and we won't do it.

QUESTION: But when they do...

RUMSFELD: Responsible people won't do it. People that know anything won't do it. But that's a very different thing from coming out and actively telling a lie. That is not going to happen by this individual or by people who are representing me at this podium.

QUESTION: Even if it would help you in the psychological operation?

RUMSFELD: I have already said that there are plenty of ways of avoiding being in that position. And I -- all I can say is -- I suppose you never say never -- but all I can say is I cannot imagine a situation where we would be so unskillful that we would be in a position that we would have to do that to protect lives.

And my fervent hope is that we will be able to manage our affairs in a way that that will never happen. And I am 69 years old and I don't believe it's ever happened that I have lied to the press and I don't intend to start now.

QUESTION: Given that verbal scenario that you've said in the beginning about this an extended campaign, do you foresee any possibility in this extended campaign, that you'll have to go back to the draft, number one, and what do you see as your biggest single challenge in drawing up the blueprint you just sketched out?

RUMSFELD: Everyone's got a two-part question -- totally unrelated. I think I'm going to start answering one question per person, and I'll take the draft. That is not something that we have addressed and it is not something that is immediately before us. There's no question, but that we may have to make additional call-ups, under the emergency authority.

The numbers of demands that are being made on the department are continuing, and there are a lot of them. But as those things happen, we will certainly announce them and I, at the moment, don't foresee a need to do that.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in about a month the Pentagon is going to award the biggest military contract in history, the JSF. There's some concern now among some members of Congress that the current winner-take-all strategy would lead to a weakening of the industrial defense base in a way that in a few years you might only have one company who are able to build jet fighters. And so those people are saying that there ought to be some rethinking now in the current security environment of that winner-take-all strategy. Does that make any sense to you?

RUMSFELD: I have not addressed that issue, and I'm sure that those kinds of considerations will be taken into account by Pete Aldridge and others who will be addressing it and making recommendations.


QUESTION: I want to take you back to the QDR for a second. The latest draft does talk about retaining forces to deal with two overlapping conflicts and deal with small scale contingencies.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening to Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld say just then he doesn't foresee a need to reinstitute the draft in the United States. Just quickly recapping, he says doesn't a need ever to lie, and will never lie to the American people about military operations underway, and gave us new name for the fight against terrorism. He says it wil be called "Operation Enduring Freedom." He says it won't be quick fix. It could take longer than five years.



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