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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Pentagon Briefing

Aired April 17, 2002 - 11:27   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We have got some more breaking news to get to right now. We understand that the Pentagon briefing is now just getting underway. We are going to take you there now live. It is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld taking the podium.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Good morning.

Chairman Myers and I are pleased to announce the 2002 Unified Command Plan, which realigns and streamlines U.S. military structure to better address 21st century threats. The plan we announce today is undoubtedly the most significant reform of our nations military command structure since the first command plan was issued shortly after World War II.

Chairman Myers and his staff and the OSD staff are certainly to be commended for their work on this plan.

In 1946, the United States faced the challenges and dangers of a new and unexpected era. The first UCP addressed those issues. Today, our country faces an era of the unexpected. We're involved in a war unlike any that our country has ever experienced. We must be ready to win today's global war on terror, but, at the same time, prepare for other surprises and uncertainties that we must will most certainly face in the 21st century.

The men and women in uniform quickly, skillfully and successfully responded to the brutal attack on September 11.

The spread of weapons of increasing range and power into the hands of the world's most irresponsible regimes threatens to create dangers and instabilities around the globe. And we as a country have to be ready to defend against and where possible prevent even worse attacks in the days ahead. The 2002 Unified Command Plan is fashioned to help do that.

It has some historic firsts. This is the first time that the continental United States will be assigned a commander for the Northern Command or NORTHCOM, as we'll undoubtedly call it. The commander will be responsible for land, aerospace and sea defenses of the United States. He will command U.S. forces that operate within the U.S. in support of civil authorities.

Pending the necessary studies, which are required by law and appropriate for such a decision, the preferred alternative for the Northern Command headquarters is to be Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. As you know, the command is scheduled to begin operating on October 1 of this year.

NORTHCOM will help the department better deal with natural disasters, attacks on U.S. soil or other civil difficulties. It will provide for a more coordinated military support to civil authorities, such as the FBI, FEMA and state and local governments.

Some in the past have worried that creation of a command that covered the United States of America could be inward-looking; nothing could be further from the truth. The creation of NORTHCOM means that we now have the command assigned to defend the American people where they live and work and it will be functioning in a supporting role to civil authorities as occasions arise. NORTHCOM complements the other nine regional and functional commands dedicated to defending the United States and our interests abroad, as well as our allies and friends.

Under the UCP, the Joint Forces Command will no longer have responsibilities for homeland defense. NORTHCOM will take up those responsibilities, leaving the Joint Forces Command free to focus on its exceedingly important missions to help transform our military, including experimentation, innovation, improving interoperability, reviewing, validating, and writing joint doctrine, preparing battle ready joint forces and coordinating joint training simulation and modeling.

Another change is that for the first time United States commanders will be assigned responsibility for contingency response and security cooperation in every part of the word, that is to say land and sea. Similarly, the responsibilities of the commander of the European Command will now include Russia, which had not previously been the case.

He will be responsible for such things as security cooperation with Russia and nations in the Caspian Sea region and other countries in that part of the world. The UCP reflects the new defense strategy that was outlined in the Quadrennial Defense Review last year. The QDR's goal was to preserve our security, while preparing for the inevitability of uncertainty and surprise. And we recognize that that is indeed our future.

The highest priority of our military is to defend the United States. To do so, the military must sustain its forward commitments to allies and partners. And to meet emergency challenges, the United States military must transform. The changes made to the unified command plan will help us to defend, to transform, and to stand solidly with our allies and our friends across the globe.

After General Myers' remarks, we will be happy to respond to questions. And then we have asked Dr. Steve Cambone (ph) and General George Casey (ph) of the Joint Staff to respond to additional -- come up and respond to additional questions which I'm sure there will be. It's an important document, and we want to provide as much information as we can to you.

General Myers?

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And good afternoon.

The Unified Command Plan, or UCP, establishes, as the secretary said, the missions and responsibilities of each combatant command within the United States Armed Forces. It's important to just note here that it only applies to the U.S. Armed Forces, to no others' armed forces. And as the chairman, I'm required by law to review the UCP at least every two years and recommend to the president through the secretary of defense any changes that we feel will better serve the nation as we carry out our military efforts worldwide.

And I concur with the secretary -- the two staffs here, the office of secretary defense staff, and the joint staff, as well as our Unified Command staff have done a good job in putting together these changes. This 2002 Unified Command Plan basically does three things.

First, it takes the various homeland security missions being performed by various combatant commanders and some agencies and puts them under one commander. And so, we bring unity and focus to the mission.

Second, it will continue to advance our transformation efforts.

And third, it prepares us for the future by assigning every area of the global to a combatant commander's area of responsibility, thereby streamlining and facilitating our military relationships with respect to all nations.

The following changes will take effect on October 1: As the secretary said, we're going to create a new combatant command, U.S. Northern Command and assign it the mission of defending North America and supporting the military's responsibilities to civil authorities. The commander of Northern Command will also be the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD.

NORAD's mission to deter, detect and defend against air and space threats to North America will not change. U.S. NORTHCOM's geographic area will include, as the secretary said, the continental United States, Alaska, Canada and Mexico, portions of the Caribbean and the contiguous waters out in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, out to a minimum of 500 miles so they can defend in depth.

No new missions or roles are being created here for the Department of Defense in the creation of this new command. It basically does three things: It takes the NORAD mission. It combines it with the joint task force for civil support that currently resides in Joint Forces Command that is responsible to civil authorities for chemical or biological, nuclear, major conventional explosive events. It takes that and moves it under North Command and it's looking at potentially the relationship it might have with the Department of Defense support to natural disasters -- hurricanes, floods and fires.

Next, U.S. Joint Forces Command will transfer its geographic area of responsibility to the Northern and European Commands. The Joint Forces Command will then change from being a combatant command with geographic and functional responsibilities to a functional combatant command to carry out, as the secretary said, the critical missions of transformation, joint experimentation and joint training.

We think these changes recognize the need to have someone bring a laser focus on transformation and experimentation. If we are to remain engaged in the world and defend our homeland, we must continue to adapt to the rapidly changing security environment. Having a command like Joint Forces Command, with an eye on the future, will allow us to rapidly integrate new ideas and concepts into our forces, into our doctrine and our strategy and our tactics.

And it will help keep the edge we need to quickly adapt to the uncertainties that lie ahead.

European Command will increase its geographic area of responsibility. EUCOM will not include the remainder of the Atlantic Ocean area, from 500 miles off the U.S. East Coast all the way to the shores of the European continent. And additionally, as the secretary said, EUCOM will pick up primarily responsibility for Russia.

Previously Russia was not assigned and most efforts with Russia were handled out of the Pentagon. Russia new status will give them the best of both worlds. They will have a command close by geographically that can deal with our military-to-military relationship on a daily basis and still maintain a dialogue with Washington. This change allows for more cooperation and coordination between our militaries.

I also think it is one more signal that our post-Cold War relationship is improving. I should also note that Pacific Command will assist EUCOM and work issues with Russia that deal with their Far East military district.

Central Command will not change its geographic area, nor will Southern Command, except in those areas of the Caribbean that will shift to Northern Command. At the current time, none of the functional combatant commands will change any responsibilities. Space Command, Strategic Command, Transportation Command and Special Operations Command will all remain as designated in previous UCPs.

We are, however, looking at and into the possible merger of Space Command and Strategic Command. And a study of this idea is under way and those results will be brought to the secretary later this year.

Finally, I think, September 11 showed us the threats we face today in today's world are extremely complex and require changes in the way our military thinks and reacts. The changes reflected in this Unified Command Plan, I think, we believe go a long way into preparing us for the future. And I believe they constitute a very major change.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you first address the reports today that some in the government have come to the conclusion that bin Laden was present in Tora Bora at the time the battle was there in early December? Has he got away? And has this represented a failure by General Franks, not to take the initiative?

RUMSFELD: Well, first, I know -- I knew of, nor do I know today of any evidence that he was in Tora Bora at the time or that he left Tora Bora at the time or even where he is today. We have seen repeated speculation about his possible location. But it has, obviously, not been verifiable. Had it been verifiable, one would have thought that someone might have done something about it.

So that issue it seems to me is a speculation. And I don't doubt for a minute that there are people who will speculate about a lot of things and may even believe their speculation. But in terms of any solid evidence, there wasn't any: there isn't now.

QUESTION: Isn't this supported by remarks made by detainees who've been interrogated about what took place at that time?

RUMSFELD: Not to my knowledge, although I don't doubt that that's the case. We have had three, four or five different stories from the same detainees on any number of instances. They change their stories frequently. It is entirely possible that that is the case that he was there.

And I would not suggest that he might not have been, or that he might not have left. He could still be there, but it's the -- there wasn't any evidence that we had then that would give us a high degree of certainty about it. Now, that being the case, it seems to me that it is entirely possible that we will find from detainees information that we did not know and may not have been knowable with respect to events that occurred weeks and months ago.

QUESTION: What about the assertion that the U.S. should have put more conventional forces, or more forces period, into Tora Bora? Because as you say, there was fairly authoritative speculation. There were a lot of indicators that he could have been there. Were there not?

RUMSFELD: Were there any more indicators that he was there or could have been in some other location? I can't recall that that's the case. We literally see speculation about his location and rumors on a regular basis.

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD: Everyone who watches the intel knows that that is the case.

QUESTION: The assertion was that this was the worst failure of the Afghan campaign. Can you address that assertion?

RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, who made the assertion?

QUESTION: Well, Mr. Secretary, there are senior members of the military in this building who believe that the U.S. blew the opportunity to get bin Laden at that point. And the argument is that whether or not you knew for certain he was there, or thought he might be there, that there was an over-reliance on our Afghan allies and that an introduction of a large number of U.S. troops, so the theory goes, at that point might have increased dramatically the chances of getting bin Laden, if he were there. Can you address this?

RUMSFELD: OK. Sure. Let me talk about it and then maybe, Dick, you'd like to comment on it. First of all, what we're dealing with here is several anonymous people, apparently.

QUESTION: Anonymous to you, but we know who they are.

RUMSFELD: Good.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: That's nice. And I'm sure they know who they are. Yes, that's helpful, when you get up in the morning, to you know that.

You've got people speculating. I don't think there's ever been a battle or a war or a conflict where there haven't been people sitting around in Washington, D.C., or out of the zone, opining on how it was being done. Is that useful? Well, sure, sometimes it is. I hope we learn every day and I hope that all of us learn every day.

Does it mean that because some anonymous person is musing that they think this was an error on the part of somebody, is that possible that they're saying that? Yes it is possible. Is it true that that's been the case in every single battle, at every single war that I've ever heard of, of course? It's true.

QUESTION: Is this just armchair quarterbacking...

RUMSFELD: What would you call it?

QUESTION: ... second-guessing or is it an indication that, in fact, in retrospect, probably a mistake in judgment was made about how to approach this problem?

RUMSFELD: Well, let's go to the word you used "over-reliance" on Afghan forces. You have to begin with the fact and the first fact is if you're not doing something yourself, somebody else might do it imperfectly or in a manner that might be slightly different than you would do it. We all know that's the case.

We made a conscious decision, the United States government, that there were organized Afghan forces on the ground that could be helpful to us. Did we think they would function exactly the way the United States Armed Services organized units would function? No, we knew they would function differently. And we said to ourselves, OK, on balance, how do we feel about that? And the answer was, well, we feel pretty good about it. Let's go ahead and use them.

And how did it work out, all in all? Well, not bad. The Taliban had gone, the Al Qaeda are on the run. It was done with the rather, I would say, effective use of Afghan forces, I would say rather effective use of coalition forces. And all in all, it seemed to happen rather rapidly and rather successfully. Now, is it possible to say that in the totality of everything that took place, there were some things that, in retrospect, somebody might do differently? The answer is yes. There always are going to be things someone might do differently.

Is one of those going to stand out above others? And the answer is, well, probably. People could sit down and give a weight to them and say, gee, this might have been different, that might have been different. And all of those, this is one that I would elevate as being -- I forget how you phrased it, "The most serious mistake or something, error, in the campaign."

My view of thee whole thing is that, until the lessons learned are known and have been developed, they're still being worked on, I wouldn't be able to answer a question like that and it impresses me that others can, from their pinnacles of relatively modest knowledge.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary...

RUMSFELD: Just a minute, I haven't finished. I'm just getting warmed up.

QUESTION: That's what we were afraid of.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: And I think we're going to keep learning more, as we go along. But I really think that, while it really doesn't bother me at all that people make that kind of speculation and it is, however, it has to be put into balance with what actually has taken place. And what has taken place has been, under General Franks, a very successful effort in Afghanistan. And it seems to me that when one is putting things in order, that ought to be pretty high on the list.

QUESTION: I actually have a question that relates to today's event that possibly relates to Tora Bora, that is that one of the criticisms we heard was that the command structure for Afghanistan complicated the Tora Bora problem enormously. You didn't have a joint task force commander on the ground in Afghanistan. The chains of command came 7,000 miles, all the way back to Tampa, and so that nobody on the ground was in a position to make a judgment to quickly say, "We're riding a horse that's no longer underneath us, we need to change quickly here." And it's three days before U.S. forces begin to move. Could you speak to that, please?

RUMSFELD: Sure. Why don't we put it on hold. I forgot to give Dick Myers a chance to respond to the first question and I think it's -- we really did come down to talk about the unified command plan. You all may not know that, but we did. That's why these signs are...

QUESTION: We'll be the judge of that.

RUMSFELD: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: I don't doubt that.

Do you want to comment on the first question?

MYERS: Sure, I'd be happy to. And I agree with the secretary's -- the way he laid this out, and at the street (ph) level, he's absolutely right. I would go on record and say that the operation at Tora Bora -- I think, Jamie, that you used the word "failure" and I would disagree with that. I don't think it was a failure.

All the elements the secretary talked about were in play there. We had an operation -- if you remember that time frame, we were trying to get some toe-holds into some logistic bases where we could stage U.S. troops. The Taliban were on the run, but we still had worries in the Kandahar region and other regions. We didn't want people to escape to the east, the west, the south.

We had a tactical operation in Tora Bora that is in one of the most inhospitable parts of Afghanistan, I think. Throughout history, that's where a lot of the conflict has taken place and where success has not been notable. And so, as the tactical commander and from General Frank's view, you're trying to balance all this, you know. And I think he did a good job of balancing that, and I think the information on what we missed or what we got, certainly what we missed will never really probably be knowable. So to speculate on that, I think is wrong. And so, I disagree with this notion of failure.

I think you have to look at the big picture. I think we've been extremely successful. And you have to understand what also is going on and everything you do, when you make decisions like General Franks has to make every hour of every day entails tradeoffs and risk, and I would say he's done a fine job to date.

RUMSFELD: And he knew the truth and the truth is that the United States was then willing and is now willing to use whatever levels of U.S. forces are appropriate to the task when one balances the advantages and disadvantages that you can gain by maximizing the effort by using Afghan forces and coalition forces.

Now, the command structure question, fair enough. There are time in the past when that charge is made about a command structure being too long. Historically, there have bee many instances where I think one could, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, come to the conclusion that that might be the case.

In this era, there's an awful lot that can be done with communications. And it seems to me, that it is less likely to have validity in the 21st century, given the speed of communications and the number of instances, for example, that General Myers and I and the president fashioned rules of engagement and authorities that were delegated down very, very low.

I read an article by somebody that referenced the fact that there was just a lieutenant colonel on the ground, and that that suggested that had there been a more senior person there that decisions might have been made differently. I have not gone back and addressed that. But a lieutenant colonel is not that junior, in my view. That there were more senior people in relatively close proximity to Tora Bora and there were certainly very senior people in Tampa and up the line in other countries who were available at a moment's notice to make decisions and judgments.

So I question whether that -- when the dust settles and everyone has a chance to look at it and analyze it, I question whether that will be felt to be after the fact a problem.

MYERS: One more tag on to that, and that is, that we've said from the very beginning, I think the president said it and we've said it, that this is a very different kind of war. And you can't take command structures that we've used in the past and put that on the -- overlay that over Afghanistan, expect it to work, like it did even in Kosovo, certainly like it did in Desert Storm.

I mean, that's not what we're talking about there, and I think everybody has a pretty good idea of why this war is different. And so as we were working this different kind of war, you would expect command relationships to be very, very different, at least through the initial portions of that war.

And you can probably expect in the future, that, you know, it might gravitate or might move to something else.

RUMSFELD: I do happen to be a fan of standing joint task forces. So there's no question but that if an event occurs, and there is not a standing joint task force that is organized, arranged, staffed, well coordinated familiar with everybody, available to deal with something, -- which is the case in almost every instance that they're not available as we know throughout history -- but if it is not available, it may not get started quite as fast as it otherwise would.

In this case, the CENTCOM command really was a standing joint task force. That's how it began, not as a CINCdom (ph)? It began, as I recall years ago -- isn't that true?

(UNKNOWN): Rapid deployment (inaudible).

RUMSFELD: As a rapid deployment force, excuse me. The kind with a standing joint task force.

QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up question?

RUMSFELD: The next question is going to be on the Unified Command Plan, and we'll be with you in a minute.

QUESTION: Well, I'm asking questions on command structures. Is there a U.S. commander in Afghanistan for all forces in Afghanistan, Special Forces and regular forces? And if not, does that violate the principle of unity of command?

MYERS: At the current time, the structure is -- it's -- I'd have to review, because there have been some changes made. And with the introduction of General Hagenbachen (ph), there was a land component commander. I think lots of those forces have come under him. I don't know if all of them have at this point. RUMSFELD: But I know some have not.

MYERS: And I think some have not.

RUMSFELD: There's a category that has not, and it's because of the demands that exist elsewhere in the CINCdom (ph).

MYERS: And special responsibilities, so that is -- but it's moving in that direction. But again, it's a different kind of war. You might want to start out different than you wind up for the peace for you're in the training business and so forth. So...

QUESTION: Unity of command? Are we in violation of that now?

MYERS: No, because the commander was General Tommy Franks. And General Tommy Franks was connected real-time to the people that he needed to be connected to.

RUMSFELD: And now most of the pieces are under a single person and a couple of pieces are still with Tom, in what Dick and I have concluded are good and valid reasons for doing that.

Way in the back, on the Unified Command Plan.

QUESTION: Sir, the NORTHCOM that will be created, can you speak in a more detailed way bout the way in which that command will help to develop technologies and systems that can contribute to homeland defense, perhaps, being involved in missile defense and other things? I mean, can you talk about...

RUMSFELD: Well, the missile defense issue has been left for the future since we're not in deployment mode. In terms of technologies that could be developed, they would be more department-wide and they might very well be at the request or the instance of the Northern Command commander. But needless to say, the department has already gotten a good head of steam up looking for various types of technologies that we either have or conceivably are in development stages that might have homeland security implications.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: If your study recommends the merger (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: We don't anticipate the big moves if you're talking about people and buildings and communication systems and that type of thing.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) perhaps, the CINC being in charge of both of those?

RUMSFELD: We have not come to any conclusion with respect to that question, so it's not been fully addressed as yet.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to quote somebody who's willing to be identified.

RUMSFELD: Go ahead.

QUESTION: This morning at VMI, President Bush said that Al Qaeda...

RUMSFELD: He's right.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: ... that Al Qaeda is no longer plotting or planning. Has Al Qaeda been so disrupted that they are no longer able to communicate or carry out operations effectively? Is that what the president is saying?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I didn't hear the exact words. But I suspect what he was referring to is the fact that they simply do not have Afghanistan as a place to do their planning and their plotting and their training of terrorists and their organizing and their shipping people off to the rest of the world.

Are people, individuals, someplace thinking and trying to get ready to do something? I don't doubt that for a minute. And the president certainly knows that well.

QUESTION: And the president also said that Abu Zabaydah would quickly be joined by other Al Qaeda leaders in custody, sometime soon, he said. Is there something he knows that we don't know about this operation and what may be in the planning here?

RUMSFELD: You can be sure he knows a lot more than you know.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: What he is saying is a fact, that every week or so we end up gathering up additional individuals. Within the last week or two, there were some 60-plus in Pakistan. There have been individuals elsewhere. There have been some that have been picked up in other countries.

And I think what he was saying is exactly correct, that given the amount of pressure and the amount of intelligence that's been gathered and the number of nations that are cooperating so fully, we can be absolutely certain that each week, as it goes by, we very likely will be gathering in additional individuals who ought to be helpful in providing information so that we can do a still better job of trying to prevent additional terrorist acts.

But if you were looking for daylight between what the president said in his speech today, which I did not hear, and that which the two of us think, you won't find any.

QUESTION: Well, I was looking for clarification, and I didn't get that either.

RUMSFELD: Didn't you? What would you look for? What would you like?

QUESTION: Well, in terms of Al Qaeda operations, he seems to imply that in fact Al Qaeda has been pretty much dismantled and unable to operate as a terrorist organization.

RUMSFELD: Well, we all know that it's been in 50 or 60 countries, and it will take some time to do that. You can't say what he seemed to imply if I haven't seen the speech. So, I mean, how can I answer a question about what you think he seemed to imply? I can't respond to a question like that.

He knows the facts. The facts are that Al Qaeda is spread around the world, it's well financed. And as he's said repeatedly, it'll take time to get it routed out. And that's what we're working to do.

QUESTION: On the Northern Command, could you all describe in detail how the U.S. responds to another September 11-like attack, if something like that were to happen again, would be different under Northern Command than it would as it was in September? I'm thinking in particularly about the scrambling of the jets, because none of them got anywhere where they needed to be in time to do anything.

And, General Myers...

RUMSFELD: We'll stop there. Let's answer that first.

With respect to the combat air patrols and the AWACS, we've announced, to the extent we plan to announce, how that is arranged, and it is arranged in a way that provides vastly better security than existed prior to September 11.

We are attentive to aircraft flying in and out of this country, we're attentive to aircraft that are moving around within the country. We have radar that enables us to keep track of a great deal. We have aircraft on strip alert that enables us to respond within reasonable periods of time to threats as they are analyzed.

The same organization that did it on September 11 would be doing it today, the NORAD. And the chain of command would be exactly as it was on that day, and it would be through NORAD, to the secretary of defense, to the president of the United States.

QUESTION: So nothing will change?

RUMSFELD: Well, a great deal has changed since September 11. If you're asking what would change, Dick Myers explained what would change.

QUESTION: No, I understand that. I was saying...

RUMSFELD: And the head of NORAD is now going to be the head of the Northern Command.

QUESTION: So is this just an organizational reshuffling, or do you expect something tangible to come out of this with regard to homeland defense? To somebody just sitting at home... MYERS: Sure.

QUESTION: ... watching this...

MYERS: Yes. I would go back to the (inaudible) focus on the issue of how we respond. Let's take the NORAD situation, and the secretary explained that, and let's set it aside, and let's look at the other support that the Department of Defense provides to civil authorities.

I think that's going to change pretty dramatically, because today it's done by various agencies. Probably, if you look back at how the department responded to needs up in New York after the World Trade Center, you might find that, while not confusion, there was not good unity of effort in that case. There was a lot of well- meaning folks trying to do things and do the right thing.

And I think in this case, we'll have a focus on that that will allow us to provide what's needed at the right time to the right federal agency or perhaps the state agency, as the case may be. But that's where I think you'll see the difference.

Also, you know, we have trained certain units to respond to chemical and biological attack. A lot of those are in the reserve component. With this new command, they'll take a look at that more broadly. They'll say, "Well, what else -- what other kind of training do we have to have out there in specialized units, perhaps?" I mean, the implementation plan's not done yet, so we're still working on that.

But what other things might we want to train for and so forth to be ready for other events? So that's...

QUESTION: What other things? Chemical, nuclear, biological. What else?

MYERS: It could be just quarantine. You know, let's say you have a quarantine situation. I mean, this can go on and on and on to support the civil authorities and where they need expertise, where they need manpower and so forth.

QUESTION: May I follow up on her point? Basically, if you were to try to make this unified command relate to the average person out there who wouldn't have a clue what you're talking about when you say "unified command," can you make this plan relate to them of why they should care about it, particularly since the September 11 attack? But why should they even understand this or be interested in this?

RUMSFELD: Let me take a stab at it. It is an organizational issue, and organizational issues tend not to have a great deal of interest broadly out in the public. They can make an enormous amount of difference internally, and I thought that General Myers' response pointed that out.

If you think about it, historically, in modern decades, we have been looking out, we have been oriented to the outside world as the way to defend the United States of America. On September 11, things happened inside the United States that were dramatic and involved the death of thousands of people.

Immediately the phone call rings at the Pentagon, even though the Pentagon's job had been to look out, not to look at internal threats, but to look outside.

So our radars were pointed out; our eyes were looking out. And the people looking here were the state and local law enforcement officials, the FBI, the various first responders, the FEMA and the other organizations of government, HHS and so forth.

But when an event occurs in the United States, however, while everyone knows that the Pentagon is not in the business of providing an armed force for the United States, but when an event occurs, we get the phone call. And why do we get the phone call? Well, because the Department of Defense is considered the "department of defense." They know that they've got troops, they've got people who respond, they're organized, and they can be of assistance. So when the phone call comes in -- Department of Defense is not in a first-responder role, it's in a supporting role to whoever needs that.

Imagine, that there is an event in city X, and it involves the need to deal with large numbers of people -- water, sanitation, quarantine, as Dick said, movement of things for whatever reason. The call would come here. And the first responders would say, "Who can give us a hand?"

And in this new organizational arrangement we will have a four- star military person, who will be the northern commander, who will be responsible for being ready to function in a supporting role and assist all of the other elements of the federal government, as well as the state and local governments, to see that those assets and those capabilities that are distinctive and unique to the Department of Defense are, in fact, promptly put into play to be of assistance to deal with that crisis in city X, if and when that occurs.

MYERS: It's just like this: Today we have at least three entities responsible for the sort of the things the secretary was talking about. We are going to have one entity. That's why we say, unity of focus, unity of command, very important in this case.

QUESTION: You said that you see speculation cross your desk every single day on where Osama bin Laden is. It seems a little implausible that there aren't some of these reports that you would not have given more weight to than others of them.

So if you can't be specific on time, date and place, can you at least tell us, do you feel that the United States, over the last seven months, has ever come close to understanding where he is, even if you cannot tell us time, date and place? Has it all just been rampant speculation, or is there anything that you have taken more seriously than others, in terms of weight and credibility?

RUMSFELD: Yes, I am sure that the answer to the question is yes. There have been things that I've given more credibility to than others. Does that mean that that was well-placed on my part? No. It may very well not have been. It may have been that I was young and foolish...

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: Hardly, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

I'm serious.

In the early stages of something, you tend to look at it and follow it, and you may respond more with greater interest early on. After you've been through it for month after month after month and you've seen all of these things and they haven't been actionable, they haven't been provable, they haven't resulted in our ability to track something down and actually do something about it, which is the case -- and let's be honest. I mean, that's the fact. The fact is we've been looking and we haven't found him.

Now, as I've said, if you're chasing a chicken around the barnyard and you haven't got him, were you close sometime? I don't know, maybe you were, maybe you weren't. But we don't know. And I'll keep saying that.

RUMSFELD: I'm not ashamed to say we don't know. We don't know.

QUESTION: So for the last few months, your feeling is you have -- you said, you know, none of it's been actionable recently.

RUMSFELD: Recently? Period, it hasn't been actionable, or we'd have him. It has not been actionable.

And there are constantly people saying, "Gee, maybe this, maybe that. Person from another country, a local person, a neighbor. Someone heard something. Someone thought something. Someone has a scrap of intelligence from this country or that." If it had been good, we would have been there. It hasn't been.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, getting back. Was the analysis of the Tora Bora fight...

RUMSFELD: Getting back to what?

QUESTION: My question. You went to another question.

RUMSFELD: Oh, OK.

QUESTION: Was the analysis of the Tora Bora fighting the reason, or part of the reason, for the change of strategy to rely less on Afghan forces?

RUMSFELD: I don't know. You'd have to -- I mean, General Franks is the combatant commander. He is the one that is making those calibrations. We talk to him every day once or twice, Dick and I do.

What has led to him fashioning each element as he's gone through the last seven months, you'd have to ask him. He's available from time to time.

QUESTION: But do you believe that factored in?

RUMSFELD: I would hope that everything that has gone before has been factored in and has improved and informed our work as we've proceeded.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, going back to Osama bin Laden, sir, might be the best of the best...

RUMSFELD: Did you say Unified Command Plan? No, you...

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Sir, the mighty, the best of the best, military in the world, still again we do not have Osama bin Laden.

Now last week, when I ask you, sir, that why you are not talking anymore about Osama bin Laden, and your answer was that because we do not have anymore tapes from him. We have not heard about him or from him.

Now, we had a tape this week which is maybe a speculation or not...

RUMSFELD: Well, first let me say that...

QUESTION: But sir, may I ask a question, sir, is that you think somebody is holding in somewhere in that part of the world, and they are misleading you and the United States, and when the time comes, they might bring it to you?

RUMSFELD: Well, first, you said I'm not talking about UBL much. It seems like that's all we've talked about in here.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: I admit that I don't come in each day and say, "Today, I'd like to make a few remarks about Osama bin Laden." I don't. If I ever have anything to say about it, I'll bring it up. You can be sure of that. And I haven't yet.

With respect to the tapes, I don't know that your characterization is accurate.

RUMSFELD: I don't know that those tapes are recent tapes. My impression of them, from what I've been told -- and I've only seen a little bit of one, and I don't understand Arabic, so I'm not your authority on those tapes -- but there is nothing in any of the tapes I've seen or heard of that suggests that they are current with respect to UBL, even in this year. That is to say, they are all seem -- anything involving him seems to have preceded this year. Now, why people might be doing something, I don't know. It may be that some people decide to put out those tapes because they wanted people to think he was alive and he isn't. It may be that they put out the tapes because they wanted people to think he's alive and he is alive. It may be that he put out those tapes, as opposed to some people. I just don't know.

But all I can say is I've not seen any evidence in recent months that persuades me.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is going to be the relationship between Northern Command and Tom Ridge's office? Who's going to have the bigger say, I guess? Or how are you going to...

RUMSFELD: Well, there wouldn't be any relationship between the Northern Command and the Homeland Security Council, because it is a combatant commander, and the way statutes are written, and laws, the president, the secretary of defense and the chain of command is to the combatant commander and there's no intervening people or events except for the chairman, who gives military advice.

The Department of Defense will -- has had, is having and will continue to have a very close relationship to the Homeland Security Council and Tom Ridge. I mean, there's meetings every day; we're constantly linked. But the linkage, very likely, would continue to be as it is, at the civilian side, as opposed to the combatant commander.

QUESTION: So then, how would that work if you have Northern Command that's supposed to be in charge of, you know, homeland...

RUMSFELD: No, it's not in charge of anything.

It is a supporting activity, as any activity that the Pentagon does today is a supporting activity. We are not the people responsible for any of these things in the United States, in the first instance. We are a -- well, there is one instance there where we are. And I won't get into it; it's a detail. But calibrate what I said. Almost is every instance we are not the first.

And our relationship is extensive with the Homeland Security Council but it tends to be at the civilian level in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Northern Command commander and the National Guard?

MYERS: They'd have to be very, very close, because that's where a lot of our first responders are today, and that's where they're trained. So that relationship, it will be defined. Like I said, we've started the implementation planning, but we've not finished the planning. It's being worked by many people right now.

But since the reserve component, both the Reserves and the Guard, would probably play a major role in any response, there would have to be a very close relationship there.

RUMSFELD: When Dick said "our first responders," he was using the term...

MYERS: Yes...

RUMSFELD: ... in a totally different way than I was using it.

MYERS: ... civilian...

RUMSFELD: He's talking about the Department of Defense's people who would respond in a supporting role to support the first responders for our country, who are federal, state and local but not military, for the most part.

MYERS: Right.

QUESTION: Well, when National Guard units are federalized, would they then come under the Northern Command command?

MYERS: Well, it would probably be on a case -- it would be on an event-by-event basis. And so, they are still going to have the capability to be, you know, federalized or under state authority.

RUMSFELD: Sometimes they're under the federal government; sometimes they're under state authority.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can I ask you a quick question? A related issue that's current to the Tora Bora debate about whether enough U.S. troops were used is the question of whether enough U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, given the instability there. Given the Tora Bora experience, do you have any second thoughts about your opposition to having a larger U.S. presence?

RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, let's get the facts straight. I don't have opposition to a larger U.S. presence.

QUESTION: Pardon me.

RUMSFELD: I haven't from the beginning. We've decided, as I've said repeatedly here, that the president of the United States, the secretary of defense and the combatant commander are perfectly willing to put in as many U.S. forces as is necessary to get this job done in the most efficient and effective way. And we have been doing just that.

And if at any moment it looks like it would be appropriate to put more in, we are ready, willing and able to do that, as is General Tom Franks.

QUESTION: Maybe I did a bad job of formulating the question. I was talking about peacekeeping -- for peacekeeping.

RUMSFELD: Ah, peacekeeping. Well, I noticed there was an editorial today that opined that this department has been opposing an expansion of the International Security Assistance Force. That is not correct.

The important thing to think about of the International Security Assistance Force is that it exists. It is currently be headed by the British. They have asked to no longer head it. That is their choice, and they have announced that, and they said that from the very outset. They've done a wonderful job of heading it up.

We looked far and wide for someone else to head it up, and the Turkish government has announced that they would be willing to do it. They have also announced that they would not be willing to do it if it's going to be expanded to other cities. A number of terrific countries have stepped forward and offered up people to serve in the International Security Assistance Force, close to 5,000 people overall in, I'm going to guess, five, six, seven countries. And God bless them for doing it, and they're spending their money to do it.

Now, the people who are talking about increasing it dramatically, to 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 people, and going to six, seven or eight more cities, haven't offered any troops, they haven't offered any money, they haven't offered to lead it. And therefore the excuse, because it hasn't happened when some people would like it to happen, the excuse is, well, somebody's opposing it. But I'm not opposing it.

If the International Security Assistance Force wants to be expanded, fine. If it wants to go to other countries, fine. Who's going to lead it? Who's going to pay for it?

All I've said is that the Defense Department -- and it's not my decision anyway, it's the president of the United States' decision, and he is where he is, and it's exactly what I'm saying.

Our first task is to try to find the terrorists and the terrorist networks.

RUMSFELD: And we've got some 70,000 men and women in the Reserve and the Guard that we've called to active duty, pulled away from their families, pulled away from their normal jobs. And they're serving our country because they voluntarily decided to serve in the Guard and the Reserve.

We've got some 30,000 or 40,000 people -- I don't what the number is today, but it's something in that neighborhood -- people who we've stopped from getting out -- maybe it's 25,000. They were people who served. Their time was up. They were going to go off and run the family farm, and they were going to go to law school, they were going to do something else, get married. And we said, "Nope, can't get out." We're stopping them from getting out.

Now, we've also got forces that have been deployed for long periods. We've got a situation where we are doing a lot in the world. And if additional peacekeepers are appropriate, International Security Assistance Force, then it seems to me that it's important for the people who believe that they're important to come up with the troops, come up with the money.

We're happy to help. We're happy to cooperate. We're not against it. And it's a misunderstanding and misinformation for people to suggest to the contrary. QUESTION: So it's not that U.S. troops would be just targets for terrorists in Afghanistan if you added more? It's just a matter of not having the resources?

RUMSFELD: No, we've got the resources. If we need more people tomorrow, they will go in. It would be a misunderstanding to say, we don't have the resources. We do.

And we are putting in the number of people in warfighting tasks that we believe are appropriate, that General Franks believes is appropriate, that the president and General Myers and I believe are appropriate. I'm afraid there's some misunderstanding here.

QUESTION: But it would seem that the United States, then, is one of the countries which you're saying is not willing to commit money or troops to this.

RUMSFELD: Oh, we are. We're in the process of spending money right now. We've committed to help the International Security Assistance Force. We have a memorandum of understanding with the Brits. We have been supplying intelligence. We've been supplying logistics. We've been assisting with quick reaction forces in the event they have a problem. We've agreed to take a memorandum of understanding with the Turks when they take over.

And even beyond that, the United States is in there helping to train an Afghan national army, which is what the Afghan interim authority has indicated they would like to have done.

So what are we doing? We're in there helping them. We're paying our taxpayers' money from the United States helping them develop their own national army.

QUESTION: You know the arguments of many Afghans, that they want more international peacekeepers, at least until this army is trained. It sounds like you're saying you feel that is not appropriate. Why is it not appropriate?

RUMSFELD: No. How could I be any clearer?

QUESTION: You just said, if it was appropriate, you'd do it.

RUMSFELD: You're talking about if it were -- I said if it's appropriate to put in more forces for warfighting tasks, the United States will do that.

QUESTION: Warfighting?

RUMSFELD: Yes, and there's a distinction. We've got a lot we have to do in the world to track down terrorists. And there are plenty of countries on the face of the earth who can supply peacekeepers.

And for the United States, with all we're doing, to in addition to providing all that assistance to the International Security Assistance Force, in addition to trying to help Mr. Karzai develop a national army, and we're training people if not this week, in the next week or two...

MYERS: By early May.

RUMSFELD: By early May, which is in the next week or two.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: Happens to be the same thing, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: I guess what I'm asking is, do you think it would be useful to expand the peacekeeping force if a way could be found to do it? Or are you rejecting this strictly on the grounds of practicality, that there's no country to do it? Or is this something that should be done?

RUMSFELD: I don't know. It seems like we're ships passing in the night.

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: I have said it would be fine to increase the International Security Assistance Force.

QUESTION: But it is advisable? Is it your opinion that it should be increased? And if somebody would cough up...

RUMSFELD: That is a decision for the Department of State. It's a decision for the president of the United States. Peacekeeping is an issue that's being discussed in the U.N. It's being discussed in the EU. It's being discussed in Afghanistan. And as far as I personally am, I would be just perfectly fine if countries stepped forward and decided they wanted to increase the International Security Assistance Force.

If you say to me -- if the president said to me, "Gee, do you think we ought to put more -- we ought to get more people out of the Guard and Reserves and put them over there? We ought to put more people who want to get out of the service or are scheduled to be out of the service and stop them from getting out of the service and put them in as peacekeepers?" I would say, "Gee, I'm willing -- I'm eager to do that, if we want ground forces in Afghanistan. I'm happy to do it if we need trainers in Yemen, or trainers in Philippines, or trainers in Georgia, or if we are faced with going after Al Qaeda in some other country. We need to do that. That's what we do best."

Now, when I say stop and I don't say another word, are you going to come back and say to me, "Does that mean you're against peacekeeping in Afghanistan?" And the answer is no, we're helping the peacekeepers in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: But, sir, you're against...

RUMSFELD: Wait, let me -- I want to make sure we really run this to ground. (LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: We can try this one last time. I mean, is it a failure of our allies to come up with more troops to do this?

RUMSFELD: Look, every one's a sovereign nation. They can make their own decisions. I don't know. Is it a failure because Germany's helping to train policemen and border guards in Afghanistan? No. By gosh, they've stepped up and they're doing that, they're doing a good job. Is it a failure because the Brits are heading up the ISAF? No. They're doing a very good job. I think a lot of countries are doing a good job.

There is a gap, and the gap is that there are people on editorial boards and people in international organizations who think there ought to be an expansion of the International Security Assistance Force. And that's fine, everyone ought to have their own view. The problem is, they don't have troops and they don't have money, at least that they're willing to spend, on international security assistance forces. And when somebody who has money and troops steps up and says, "By golly, I think we ought to expand it," then we all say, "Terrific. Come on. Let's do it." How's that?

QUESTION: Sir, you are against U.S. troops as peacekeepers in Afghanistan.

RUMSFELD: No. I said four times that's a presidential decision, and if I'm going to give advice, I will give it to the president.

MYERS: Let me just add one thing to this debate.

RUMSFELD: Although I think you've got a hint.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: In the conversations that I've been around or that I've had personally with Chairman Karzai, his number-one priority has been training the Afghan national army.

I've never heard him say, or any of his folks ever say, that a priority was to expand the ISAF. Now, I may have missed it somewhere in the fine print, and it's possible, but I've just never heard that requirement.

I have heard loud and clear on several occasions, both in his country and in this country, that he wants this Afghan national army for security.

QUESTION: Can I also ask a question about the unified command, believe it or not?

RUMSFELD: Before we do, is there anyone who thinks that we're against expanding the International Security Assistance Force?

QUESTION: Certainly with U.S. bodies.

RUMSFELD: That's a different issue.

QUESTION: OK.

RUMSFELD: I didn't say what I felt about...

MYERS: And he hasn't given his opinion.

RUMSFELD: That's right.

QUESTION: You raised the issue of a quarantine as the situation where a lot of U.S. ground forces might be required. I'm assuming -- tell me if I'm wrong -- the scenario you're talking about is maybe someone uses smallpox as a weapon, maybe you have to seal off an area or a city, and a lot of troops are involved.

Are you saying the NORTHCOM CINC is going to be the guy who's going to be in command of an operation like that? Is that something...

MYERS: No. We've said all along -- can I take it?

RUMSFELD: You bet.

MYERS: We have said all along...

RUMSFELD: I started shaking my head right off the bat.

MYERS: Yes. We have said all along -- and this should not be misunderstood -- there is no change to the roles or mission of the Department of Defense, which means we are in support of civil authorities.

OK? So there will be no -- the person in charge of that event will either be a state entity or a federal entity. They'll be in charge, they'll be in command, to use a military term.

QUESTION: That part is understood.

MYERS: OK.

QUESTION: The NORTHCOM guy is the guy who would actually get the resources...

MYERS: He figures out who's going to go, who ought to go and respond and that sort of thing, yes.

QUESTION: But in every circumstance, he would be underneath a state or local person? A governor of Indiana would give him orders or something like that?

MYERS: Could be, yes.

RUMSFELD: No, he wouldn't give orders.

MYERS: Oh.

RUMSFELD: The only orders that a CINC will ever get will...

MYERS: Come through the chain.

RUMSFELD: ... come from the president or me.

QUESTION: So the governor of Indiana would ask the federal government to intervene, and the federal government...

RUMSFELD: As is always the case, they all say, "We need some assistance in this regard." And the military then, in a supporting role, offers up what assistance we have.

What's different is we have a focused capability and competence in the Northern Command that will be prepared, trained, exercised, and equipped to do those kinds of things in a supporting role.

Now, for example, we had a lot of troops into Salt Lake City. We did not take over the state; we did not take over the city; we were not in charge of the Olympics. What we did was, there were civil authorities in that region that asked for our assistance. That assistance was offered up and it was done in coordination with them in a supporting role.

QUESTION: Was that a command failure?

(LAUGHTER)

RUMSFELD: Seemed to work out pretty well.

MYERS: I think we've about exhausted...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) didn't tell us. You said the one -- there's one exception...

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD: Oh, I'm sorry. There is -- I can't pull it out, but there's one instance.

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD: The answer is, I think -- my vague recollection is that there is an instance in the national capital district where, in the event there's a chemical, biological or nuclear even that the Department of Defense...

QUESTION: And is a federal district?

RUMSFELD: ... and it is a federal district, and in that instance we are a first responder, I believe. And you can clean up any inaccuracies in what I've said.

(LAUGHTER)

All right. That was a marathon. Golly.

QUESTION: Did you enjoy it?

RUMSFELD: I did. These are...

(LAUGHTER)

These are getting much better.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Marathon indeed. Much longer Pentagon briefing than normal. General Richard Myers and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrapping up the daily briefing there.

A lot of questions raised over the "Washington Post" article that came out today, did Osama bin Laden escape?

The main question, reporters just peppering both the general and the secretary of defense over this article, stating that the Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year, and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its greatest error in the war against al Qaeda. This is directly from the article.

Further more, saying that the intelligence community is persuaded that bin Laden slipped away in the first ten days of December. This is the article from the "Washington Post." Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld saying this is all speculation. No matter what this article says, he is sticking by his word that this is speculation, and sticking by the fact that he says he does not know -- that no one knows where Osama bin Laden is. Our Barbara Starr was at the briefing, we will have more from her later on when she briefs us from the Pentagon there.

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