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Rumsfeld Salutes Olympian Effort by U.S. Troops

Aired February 20, 2002 - 12:44   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Back to Salt Lake City, out there, Don Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, visiting the security forces there, and troops stationed for the Games.

We shall listen now to his speech underway in the state of Utah.


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECY. OF DEFENSE: ... somewhat more police- like, rather than the kind of tasks that men and women in the armed services normally do.

So I'm -- what I'm trying to do is to keep the end-strength (ph) hopefully where it is, reduce the number of tasks that we are doing around the world and even domestically that are not truly military assignments and see if we can't take the funds we have and invest in the kinds of transformation and modernization and the pay and benefits and housing that the people in the force need.

And we will not know if we're going to be able to do that, oh, probably for a period of a year or so. It depends on how successful we are in calming down the number of nonmilitary activities that we seem to get drawn into.

Thank you.

Way in the back there in the bleachers.

QUESTION: What kind of measures are we taking to work toward retention and keeping it where it's at right now, stabilize the force?

RUMSFELD: There are so many things -- everyone in this room knows better than I what leads to retention. The first thing people think about is pay, but I don't think pay is really the only thing.

We have had now two pay raises, and there's one in this bill that has just been sent up to the Congress this month, earlier this month, by the president, a second pay raise.

We -- housing, the housing situation, worldwide, has really become unfortunate. And we simply have to put the kind of money into housing that the people in the service deserve.

The various types of other benefits, they're all important. I think other things are important, too, however, and it's the kind of training, it's whether or not people see there are spare parts that are needed that show that we're willing to invest and have the kinds of capabilities that we need to do our jobs, and I think opportunity for people are important.

Everyone of you has things you'd like to learn or like to do or like to be able to contribute, and seeing that a big organization has the -- has the, oh, the deftness to try to treat people as human beings to the extent it's possible and give them those kinds of opportunities, all are important.

One other thing that's important is to feel needed, and goodness knows, certainly, everyone in this room has to feel needed.

So, we're looking at all of those kinds of things.

And at the moment, retention is good and is roughly at the levels that we need to maintain the force, particularly if we're able to, as I say, calm down some of these nonmilitary activities.

Thank you.

QUESTION: The military has continually identified excess in base infrastructure. With that being said, do you foresee another round of base closures under BRAC? And if so, how do you get that past the congressional attitudes of, "You can close a base, but not in my district"?

RUMSFELD: Well, I think we're going to have another BRAC round. You're quite right, we have to. Every one of the members of the Joint Chiefs knows we have about 25 percent more base structure than we need for our force structure. Every former living secretary of defense has agreed to try to do helpful.

We proposed it to the Congress last year. The Congress agreed, but they delayed it, I believe, into 2005. And that's unfortunate, because not only do we have to keep maintaining bases we don't need, but we now have to provide force protection for bases we don't need, given the changed security situation in the United States.

One of the other things that was unfortunate in our budget proposal for this year, we went up, and rather than plusing up infrastructure and military construction and housing, we held housing roughly level and actually reduced other military construction, because you don't know which base you want to go ahead and make an investment in.

So it's been a difficult thing. I'm a former congressman, so I understand that if you've got a constituency and someone talks about closing a base, that it worries you and concerns you.

On the other hand, if you look around the United States, you can find lots of bases that were BRACed and closed, where the circumstance for the economy in that particular town or community has really been quite fine and improved, as a matter of fact, from time to time. So it's a tough issue for members of the House and Senate, but we're pushing hard on it. We hope to get it. We don't have the luxury of having the taxpayers spend that kind of money for things we don't need, because there are so many things we do need. Thank you.


QUESTION: You were talking earlier about total force and how everybody in the room has a stake in what we do. This administration has not supported parity in civilian and military pay raises and benefits. Could you address that question, please?

RUMSFELD: I know what we've done on the military side. I'm not as knowledgeable on the civilian side, because my recollection is that the civilian, which is terribly important -- the civilian work force for the Department of Defense -- but they tend to be treated across the entire scope of the government. And there has been a civilian pay increase, but my recollection is, it has not been at the same pace that the military pay increase has been. Is that roughly correct?

QUESTION: Yes, sir. And I'm wondering if there's anything that can be done to assist the -- if it's a total force, then the civilians are part of it and you can't go to war without us. So how do you intend to -- are there any plans to address the issue of pay parity within the Department of Defense, specifically?

RUMSFELD: Not that I know of. As I say, my recollection is that civilian employees are treated across the civilian sector of the entire government, including the Department of Defense. And they are dealt with, not through the Armed Services Committees in the House or Senate, but by the different committees that deal with the civilian work force.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

RUMSFELD: Yes, indeed.

Yes, sir?

I guess you folks weren't supposed to ask questions -- behind me.


QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

RUMSFELD: Good morning.

QUESTION: We've seen in the aftermath of the Gulf War where we have maintained a presence in the Saudi Peninsula.

Do you foresee in the extended future maintaining forces in Afghanistan also?

RUMSFELD: It is unlikely that the United States will leave a sizable peacekeeping force of any type in Afghanistan. What we've decided to do is to try to be helpful to the Afghan people by assisting them in figuring out how they can fashion a national army, which they really don't have. They have a whole series of forces that are loyal, not to the national government, but to a variety of military leaders scattered across the land.

We have agreed to try to help them develop a national army. There's no question we will have a mil-to-mil -- military-to-military --relationship where we will be providing training, and various types of assistance.

There is, as you know, an international security assistance force in Afghanistan which is now, I think, up around 4,000 or 5,000 from four or five different countries. We have not participated in it with troops.

We have agreed to assist the international security assistance force with logistic assistance, intelligence assistance, and in addition, we are kind of the backup quick reaction force in the event they get in difficulty. We have forces in the country, special forces who are capable of going in and providing assistance.

The dilemma that the country's facing right now -- Afghanistan -- is what should they do about their security situation. They've got Taliban and Al Qaeda milling around that have blended into the countryside, into the villages, across the borders, and are ready to come back in the event that they feel they have the opportunity. We have a brand new government that's an interim government for six months that's trying to find its way and create the kind of structures so that it can allow a secure environment for humanitarian assistance to come in, food assistance, medical assistance, and the like.

The question is, do you want to put your time, and effort, and money into adding and increasing the international security assistance force, go take it say from 5,000 to 20,000 people? That's -- there's one school of thought that thinks that's the desirable thing to do.

Another school of thought, which is where my brain is, is that, why put all the time and money and effort in that, why not put it into helping them develop a national army so that they can look out for themselves over time?

Because otherwise, the International Security Assistance Force would be the thing providing peace and stability and security in the country, and at some point it would leave, or ought to leave, because it's an unnatural thing. You'd much prefer that countries look out for themselves and have their own force.

So my guess is, it will be the latter that will happen, that the time and money and effort will go into helping them develop their own army, and we will be a part of helping them do that, but not leaving a permanent U.S. force in that country.

QUESTION: My question is, do you foresee how long this mission will last, if it will be between five or 10 years? And through that time, are we going to have help from other nations, military-wise? And how much are we going to receive?

RUMSFELD: Yes, indeed.

Well, first, let me take the last part. We are getting truly wonderful assistance from dozens and dozens and dozens of countries all across the globe today. What we hear about in this country mostly is what the Americans are doing, and what our pilots are doing, and what our ships are doing, and what our soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines are doing.

There are -- I can't quite remember the number, but it's going to be, like, 70 or 80 nations that are helping in a variety of different ways. They're sharing intelligence. They're providing overflight rights. They're providing basing rights and ports. They're providing ships for the maritime interception programs taking place.

At the present time, in Afghanistan, there are more coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan than there are American forces. Now, we don't realize that, but that is a fact. And they've been doing some terrific work.

I've adopted a policy of allowing other countries to characterize what it is they're doing in the war on terrorism, rather than me trying to characterize it for them, because the truth is, a number of countries are doing things for us that they would prefer not be known public. And my interest is having us get the most help we possibly can to deal with the problem of terrorism, and if we can get more help by allowing us to let them characterize what they're doing, then I'm for it, and that's the case.

But we have at least four other countries who have special forces on the ground in Afghanistan doing direct-action operations right alongside of ours.

We have -- oh, we must have at least two, three, four handfuls of countries who are supplying ships and various types of assistance of that nature.

As I said, there are four or five countries that have troops in the International Security Assistance Force. It has been a wonderful outpouring of assistance, and it is truly a coalition effort.

Normally, we've used the word coalition singularly. We have said we have a coalition that's engaged in Desert Storm, or it's engaged in the war on terrorism. In this situation, we haven't done that. And the reason we haven't is because each country is a little different, each country has a different circumstance, lives in a different neighborhood, has a different history, and we don't ask every country to participate with us in every aspect of what we're doing on the war on terrorism.

So it's a set of floating coalitions, and in one project or task, it may be six, 10, 12, 15 countries, and in another project or task, in another part of the world, it might be ten or twelve totally different countries -- or half of them might be different. And the effect of that is that we're getting the maximum amount of assistance. There's a phrase that I think makes an awful lot of sense. To the extent you have a single coalition, you have to get everyone's agreement to do everything you do. And the effect of that is to go down to the lowest common denominator; it's to do the very least that that total group is willing to do. And you dumb down the mission. So my view is you have to let the mission determine the coalition, and you don't let the coalition determine the mission.


How long will it take? My wife Joyce is here. Every once in a while in the morning, as I get up about 5:00 and get ready to take a shower and head for the office, she says, "Don, where is he?"


I tell her that if I want to bring up Osama bin Laden, I'll wake her up and bring it up myself.


There's no way to know how long.

It is not days, weeks, months. It's years, for sure.

The goal is to be able to live as free people. And there are a lot of people who have been trained in terrorist training camps in three, four, five, six, seven, eight countries, trained very well, financed, who are determined to kill innocent people in large numbers.

And it's our task to see that we work with other countries so that those folks have trouble raising money, they have trouble recruiting, they have trouble keeping the people in that they have, they have trouble moving from country to country. And their lives are difficult.

And we keep chasing them and running them to ground and rooting them out and dealing with the countries that harbor terrorists until such time as the world's a safer place. And I think it would be a misunderstanding of the complexity of the task to think that it can be done in a month or a year.

How long it will take, I think, it remains to be seen.

But we have arrested an enormous number of people in country after country across the globe. And those people are being questioned. Those people are being interrogated. The intelligence information from those people is being brought together in a fusion cell. And the effect of it is, we've been able to stop terrorist attacks.

You've read about the ones in Singapore. Information found in Afghanistan in a relatively short period of time stopped major terrorist attacks in Singapore, because of the ability to take this kind of information and move it around fast, in a prompt way. So I don't know how long it will take. I will say this, finding Omar and Osama bin Laden would be nice. But the network under -- in the Al Qaeda organization, there are nay number of people who could pick up for UBL and go on the next day and manage that network and continue to commit terrorist acts. So it's a mistake to personalize it and think of it in terms of just a single individual. It's a big task, but we're going to do it. Thank you.


Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. I have three questions. RUMSFELD: You should be in the press


QUESTION: They'll be short.

RUMSFELD: And then you've got four follow ups, I bet.


QUESTION: The first question is, do you perceive -- how long do you perceive the (inaudible) program continuing for?

RUMSFELD: And the answer to that one, I'm going to do it one at a time...

QUESTION: Yes sir.

RUMSFELD: ... is I've got a bunch of mikes on my belt. The reason I'm pulling my britches up is because they're pulling my britches down.


There we go. It's impossible to know. What we're going to do is, we're going to end that as soon as we can, because it is terribly difficult for people. I understand that. It's been enormously stressful on our force to have the amount of activity that we've been forced to have since September 11.

But I can't -- I cannot tell you how fast we're going to be able to do that. I am working on six, eight, 10, 12 projects to reduce down the demand on the men and women in the armed services. We're starting to pull in military detailees from all over the government in Washington, D.C. There's hundreds and hundreds of them who work in different places around Washington, and it's a nice thing that they've done it.

But we need those people, and we need them doing military jobs. And we're working, as I said, on four or five other things around the world as well.

Second question? QUESTION: Second question. Do you foresee us pulling out of Saudi Arabia, and if so, do we have any alternate locations to support that region?

RUMSFELD: Well, we're constantly looking to adjust our footprint in various parts of the world. And we've had a very long relationship with Saudi Arabia. We have some very helpful support and assistance from them, and have had for any number of years even preceding Desert Storm.

We also have, as you know, various activities in other countries in the Gulf region, at least four or five other nations in that general area where we have various types of assistance. My guess is that that footprint will continue to be adjusted as time goes on in a variety of different ways, but we don't have any major plans to adjust it at the present time.

QUESTION: My third question and last question. We have American forces, Special Forces in the Philippines. Do you see us playing a bigger role in the Philippines?

RUMSFELD: No, I don't. The Philippines have a constitution that prohibits -- I'm not a lawyer, so let's pretend that the words are within 10 percent.


Which is not bad for government work.


They have a constitution that has some restrictions with respect to foreign forces being involved in combat in their country. So the forces we have in the Philippines are assisting, currently at the battalion level, providing various types of military advice and training, some communications assistance and various other things, to -- and it's a matter of a few hundred -- to the Filipino forces in that part of the Philippines which number 4,000 or 5,000, I believe.

They have a terrorist problem in the country, and they've been working on it for a period of time. There are still two Americans that are being held hostage in the Philippines. But the heavy lifting is being done as their constitution provides -- by the Philippines forces -- and we're there with relatively small numbers providing advice and assistance and training.

We also have a separate thing that may happen somewhere in the Philippine that I believe the ministry of defense of the Philippines has discussed, and that would be some sort of an exercise at some point, but it's disconnected from the activities in Basilan Island.

QUESTION: I'd like to know your vision of how you intend to expand the role of unmanned aerial vehicles in the future.

RUMSFELD: Well, thank you. We are proposing to the Congress that we invest something like $1 billion in a variety of unmanned vehicles for the coming fiscal year. I think that suggests that our country has to be serious about taking advantage of the opportunities that exist there.

To the extent we can develop a range of these capabilities, both armed and unarmed, and connect them with a host of other capabilities, as we've been doing in Afghanistan, there's no question but that we will be able to do a much better job in our tasks.

So I think that what we've seen in Afghanistan is an example of the beginnings of how these capabilities can be used, and I suspect we'll be seeing more and more of it in the weeks, months and years ahead.

QUESTION: I have a question. I've read where the Arab countries, specifically Saudi Arabia, will not support us in a strike against Iraq. How do you foresee us executing a mission against Iraq without the help of the Saudi government?

RUMSFELD: Well, let me say this about that.


I think that you're right, you have read those things.


That doesn't make them so. You may have noticed that I'm taking my time answering this.


I'm afraid the people in back thought I'd gone to sleep, but I haven't. I'm thinking.

The first thing I should say is that, a lot of the reports that have been circulating in recent months about the opinions of various people in Saudi Arabia are not being validated by our diplomatic contacts and military contacts. We're seeing things that are being reported anonymously, without attribution, that are somewhat different than the actual discussions that are taking place at the diplomatic and military levels.

Second, with respect to Iraq, what you have there is a country that is on the terrorist list. It is a country that has developed weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological and had a very active nuclear program for a number of years. It's a country that invaded it's neighbor, Kuwait. It's a country that has threatened and called illegitimate many of its other neighbors. It's a country that has had wars on both sides of its borders. It's a country that's used chemical weapons against its own people, as well as its neighbors.

I don't know anyone who would describe it as their first choice for a neighbor. But what any country would do, with respect to the possibility that you've posed, is something that I think it's not a subject that I'd like to get into, because are those decisions that presidents make and those are -- what would happen depend on so many different variables that it's difficult to discuss and it's impossible to discuss publicly. But it's a good question.


Yes, sir?

QUESTION: With the events of 9/11, we've seen a lot of reaction, force protection, safety and security of our personnel here. I was wondering now that we maybe address some of the issues that should have been addressed years ago, if we're going to be more proactive in the future than rather than reactive, like we've had to be now?

RUMSFELD: Give me an example of proactive.

QUESTION: Just looking ahead and seeing what type of possible threats we're going to see and making sure the money's there to be spent to protect all of our assets and personnel at Nellis.

RUMSFELD: Oh, at Nellis you're thinking of.

QUESTION: At all the bases.

RUMSFELD: At all the bases. Well, it would seem to me that, if one thinks about it, a terrorist can attack at any time, at any place, using any conceivable technique.

You and I know it's impossible to defend in every single location, at every moment of the day or night, against every conceivable type of technique. It can't be done.

That means that the only way you can deal with terrorists is to go after them. The only defense against terrorism is offensive; it is preemption, it is finding them, and rooting them out and stopping them; and it's dealing with the countries that harbor them.

I was Middle East envoy back in the 1980s for President Reagan and was involved with the conflict in the Middle East and Lebanon. And you may recall that we had 241 marines killed in the marine barracks at Beirut Airport, where a truck bomb came in -- suicide, drove into this building, blew it up, killed 241 marines. They also hit the embassy and killed folks there.

Pretty soon, they started draping -- first they did -- they put these concrete barriers around buildings, you've seen them, so that trucks couldn't get in and blow up the buildings. So the next thing they did, they started firing rocket-propelled grenades over the tops of those barricades. So then, pretty soon, they started draping the buildings with a wire mesh to bounce off the rocket-propelled grenade. And of course, then they started going for soft target; they started getting people going to and from work. So the point is, it is not possible to spend your life -- you'd have to hide all day long if you decided the way to live with terrorists was to try to be defensive against them. You can't do it.

Therefore, we must be proactive, we must do a whole host of things. And I would characterize what President Bush has done and is doing in Afghanistan as proactive.


And there's no question but that the war on terrorism cannot end there, because there's just too much to do. Thank you.

No questions back here?

There's one.

Yes sir? We'll make this the next to the last question.

QUESTION: I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate what you guys have been doing up at the top in the Bush administration, the pay raises that we've received. I myself have a nice bonus to stay in; you can count on my reenlistment, and I just wanted to let you guys know that there are some people out here grateful for what you're doing.

RUMSFELD: Thank you so much.


Well I'm not stupid. That was the last question. Thank you very much.


HEMMER: Nellis Air Force base there in Nevada, the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on a bit of western swing. Earlier today, he was in Salt Lake City, some rather interesting comments there, and certainly questions from the troops gathered there in Ellis, but at one point, about 10 minutes ago, Donald Rumsfeld says his wife asking him the same question every morning, "Don, where is he?" referring to Osama bin Laden, and as this really launched into his assessment right now of what's happening on the ground in Afghanistan.

The secretary of defense saying there is no way to know how long it will last, years for sure, in his words today. We have arrested, he says, an enormous amount of people related to the Al Qaeda network, and the effect, he says, we've been able to stop major terrorist attacks, and then he added any number of people in his words can fill the -- can pick up, rather for Osama bin Laden.

With that as a backdrop, back to Salt Lake City.

Rusty Dornin standing by live where Donald Rumsfeld was there earlier just a few short hours ago, with his visit there for security and other things. Hey, Rusty, good afternoon.

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, as you know, the number of military security forces here in Salt Lake City actually outnumber the athlete by more than two-to-one.

Secretary Rumsfeld did come through for a whirlwind tour, had a chance to tour the Olympic village yesterday, and met with some Olympic athletes, and even saw the women's hockey team beat Sweden, and saw Derek Parrah win the gold in the 1,500-meter speedskating event.

But this morning, he did go by the Olympic task force, one of the places where the troops are housed, and fed have a little place to recreate that's on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. He did a little meet and greet there, didn't do anything quite as formal as what he did at Nellis Air Force Base, but it was a chance for him to get up close to the troops.

Now when he was asked about the fact that $310 million has been spent for security here in Salt Lake City, he was asked whether that could be something we would be seeing in the future, that much money spent for security, and he said there's -- at this point, the amount of security that we're doing right now, that it's unlikely we will see an end to that.


RUMSFELD: I would not think that the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City would be characterized as the ending of having to invest in security, homeland security, or in the war on terrorism. This is an important world event. And you're right, we have more people in Utah participating in this joint task force Olympics and various aspects of it than we do in Afghanistan. And we have that, because it's such an important event, and because we want to make sure it's a safe event for the world.


DORNIN: There are about 400 troops that are living in this abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. They're from the Air National Guard, the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves, and for troops there, his visit was very brief. But it meant a lot to them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's very important that they get down and see the soldiers, see what we're doing, same with in Afghanistan and all around the world, to see, you know, it builds morale, it's good for the guys, it's good for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, it's very important. It shows that this mission really is important to our nation. And that he would take his time to come and talk to us is really a big boost.


DORNIN: Now, it was really a whirlwind tour. He only spent about 45 minutes at that outpost there in Salt Lake City before he was off to Nellis, and within about an hour and a half, he was speaking to the troops there. So a quick visit for someone who also apparently was an aspiring Olympic athlete. We understand Secretary Rumsfeld did try out for the Olympics as a wrestler -- Bill.

HEMMER: Yes, we heard that at the end, said he's got that wrestler's neck, can't turn around without rotating the entire body.

Hey, Rusty, thanks. Rusty Dornin, in Salt Lake.




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