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Rumsfeld Addresses Reserve Officers Association

Aired January 20, 2003 - 10:59   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go to Washington, D.C., where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is speaking before the Reserve Officers Association.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... mass murder today. But as President Bush has made clear: Iraq poses a threat to the security of our people and to the stability of the world that is distinct from any other.

Consider their record: Saddam Hussein possesses chemical and biological weapons. He's used chemical weapons against foreign forces and his own people; in one case killing some 5,000 innocent civilians in a single day. Iraq has invaded two of its neighbors and has launched ballistic missiles at four of his neighbors.

He openly praised the attacks of September 11 against our country. His regime plays host to terrorists and has ordered acts of terror on foreign soil. His is the only country in the world that fires missiles and artillery at U.S. and coalition aircraft on an almost daily basis.

His regime is paying a high price so that he can pursue weapons of mass destruction, giving up literally billions of dollars annually in oil revenues.

He is determined. His regime has large unaccounted for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons including VX, sarin, mustard gas, anthrax, botulism and possibly smallpox.

And he has an active program to acquire and develop nuclear weapons. His regime has violated some 16 United Nations resolutions, repeatedly defying the will of the international community, without cost or consequence.

As the president warned the United Nations last fall, Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. It's a danger to its neighbors, to the United States, to the Middle East and to the international peace and stability. It's a danger we cannot ignore.

In recent weeks, some have raised the question about the differing approaches between Iraq and North Korea that the United States has adopted.

Why, it is asked, is the United States threatening military action against Iraq while pursuing diplomacy in the case of North Korea? It's a fair question. And the answer is that the two cases really are different. Iraq and North Korea are both repressive dictatorships to be sure and both pose threats. But Iraq is unique. No other living dictator has shown the same deadly combination of capability and intent, of aggression against its neighbors, pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, the use of chemical weapons against his own people as well as against his neighbors, oppression of his own people, support of terrorism and the most threatening hostility to its neighbors and to the United States as has Iraq.

In both word and deed, Iraq has demonstrated that it is seeking the means to strike the United States and our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction for a reason, so that it can acquire the territory and assert influence over its neighbors.

North Korea by contrast is a country in many respects teetering on the verge of collapse. There's starvation. It's history has been one of attempting to use weapons programs to blackmail the West into helping stave off their economic disaster.

North Korea is a threat to be sure, but it's a different kind of threat. One that, for now at least, can be handled through diplomacy and differently. Above all, it is a proliferation problem for the world as the world's leading proliferator of ballistic missile technologies. And to the extent it is successful in pursuing its dual nuclear programs and to the extent it then has nuclear materials or even nuclear weapons that it considers excess, it could proliferate those, as well.

For more than a decade, the international community has tried every possible means to dissuade Iraq from its weapons of mass destruction ambitions. Think of it: We've tried diplomacy; economic sanctions; embargoes; positive inducements, such as the oil-for-food program; inspections and limited military efforts, including the northern and southern no-fly zones. Each of these approaches have been unsuccessful.

Now, in the case of Iraq, we're nearing the end of the long road, and with every other option exhausted. With North Korea by contrast, that is not yet the case.

We're pursuing the diplomatic route with North Korea. We have robust military capabilities in northeast Asia. They have, as the people in this room know well, successfully deterred in the past and they are deterring today.

It should be noted that biological weapons, which Iraq and North Korea both possess, can be as deadly and arguably a more immediate danger because they are simpler and cheaper to develop and deliver, and are even more readily transferred to terrorist networks than would be nuclear weapons.

The recent Dark Winter exercise, conducted at Johns Hopkins University, simulated a biological attack in which terrorist released smallpox in three separate locations in the United States. Within two months, the worse case estimate indicated that up to 1 million people could be dead and another 2 million affected. Biological weapons must be of major concern, let there be no doubt.

Since driving the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, we've already seen a change in behavior in certain regimes. The disarmament of Iraq, whether it be by diplomatic pressure, which is our hope, or if necessary as a last choice, by the use of force will make clear to other terrorist regimes that pursuing weapons of mass destruction will make them less secure, not more secure.

The United Nations resolution did not put the burden of proof on the United States or the United Nations to prove that Iraq has these weapons. the U.N. resolution put the burden directly on Iraq to prove that it is disarming and that it does not have these weapons or if it does, it is willing to give them up.

Thus far, Iraq has been unwilling to do so. Its declaration was false. The cooperation that the inspectors has been, by the inspectors' definition, has fallen far short of any time, any place, which had been the understanding.

We continue to hope that the regime will change course. No one wants war, but as the president has said, Iraq will be disarmed, and the decision between war and peace will be made, not in Washington, D.C., and not in the United Nations in New York, but rather, in Baghdad. It is their decision: Either they will cooperate or they won't. And it will not take months to determine whether or not they are cooperating.

As we continue to press Iraq to disarm, we will need continuing support of the men and women of the Guard and the Reserve. At this time of call-ups, alerts, mobilizations and deployments and uncertainty, please know that the American people are counting on you and have full confidence in you.

We can all live our lives as free people in this dangerous and still untidy world and in this new century because brave men and women like you voluntarily put your lives at risk to defend our freedom.

I thank you all for your selfless service. God bless you all and let me see if I can organize this.

I was told that, because we didn't have enough mikes, I couldn't take questions and answers. I vetoed that.



RUMSFELD: Now, I'm told we've got mikes here that work. And I don't see any reason we can't put them somewhere down about a third of the way in each aisle and let folks come and stand up behind the mikes and ask a question. I'm happy to do that. I'm going to go out to Walter Reed a bit later this morning to see some of the folks who've been injured in Afghanistan. But I would be delighted to respond to questions.

What you need to do is just stand up, walk up behind a mike, raise your head. The lights are kind of bright here, so I can't see where you are, and someone just start talking, maybe.

Who's got a question? Yes, sir?

QUESTION: We have seen a trend over the past 10, 15 years of a growing transition of logistical capacity, specifically in the Army into the reserve component. And by default, that sometimes has created a dependence on mobilizations of the reserve components earlier in the process than traditionally. I don't necessarily know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I think a debate about that is important. And I was curious about your comments and if you have any vision for changes in that process over the future?

RUMSFELD: Captain, thank you. I do have some thoughts on it. I know that Assistant Secretary Tom Hall is here, and there are lots of experts that are on your program this week that can answer the technical questions. I'd be happy to weigh-in on a question like that, however.

Apparently after the Vietnam War, there was a feeling that it would be wise to put critical, early-needed skills into the Reserves. The theory being that way we would never have a conflict unless the Reserves were mobilized and the country was supportive and it could be sustained.

The problem with that is that, we have with a wonderful all- volunteer military, we have a terrific total-force concept. But the reality is, people in the guard and reserves do, in fact, have jobs and are not signed up to be full-time. They're signed up to be part- time. They're signed up to be helpful when needed.

And my personal view is that, I've got a group of folks reviewing the current arrangement, because my instinct is that it doesn't make sense to have the people who are required very early in a conflict in the reserves. I think we need to have those skills on active duty, as well as in the reserves. And we need to be able to live in the world we're living in.

Here we are: We've got some activity in Bosnia. We've got some activity in Kosovo. We're training some folks in the country of Georgia. We're helping out in the Philippines. We have force deployments in Afghanistan. There's no question but that this buildup for Iraq is a serious one in support of diplomacy.

My view is that we need to come up with a proposal where we shift some of those skills and see that we have on active duty people who may be needed, for example, in an instance like this where it's not clear what's going to happen, and instead of having those critical skills only -- only -- in the reserves.

And that's my bias, that's my preference. I think that's where we'll end up, but until I sit down with folks who are a lot smarter than I am and worry through all of this, I won't know precisely how it'll shake out.




QUESTION: I'd had the privilege of serving with the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and a few civilian agencies of the United States government. During World War II, I was seconded (ph) to the British service. In 1943, I was in London and in other parts of the United Kingdom.

And I saw the part that old duffers from the first World War played in their security system, the Old Guard, other elements of their homeland security. Would you say a few words, please, sir, about military support of homeland security? And what role do you see for us, retired fellows, what can we do to help out?


RUMSFELD: Good for you. And God bless you. I love old duffers.



RUMSFELD: I have to.

We are thinking those things through right now. The homeland security circumstance of our country is so totally different today and this year and last year than it was four or five years ago, that it is going to take some careful thinking through. And the new Department of Homeland Security is going to be stood up pretty soon.

We have an assistant secretary that's been nominated or close to being nominated for homeland defense. We have Ed Eberhart, who's the commander of our Northern Command, which never existed in our recent history. I guess, probably Ulysses S. Grant was the last...


... maybe George Washington. But we haven't had one in an awful long time, somebody who has as his area of responsibility, the United States of America. And what we do need to do is to think through the role of not just the guard and the reserve and the Coast Guard, but also the other kinds of capabilities that we have as a country.

And you're quite right, what took place in England was an important incremental addition to the manpower they had available. So we're at a stage where in the weeks and months immediately ahead, we'll be worrying those questions through.

And thank you for the good question.

The other day I was speaking to the Foreign Press Club, and I had about three months before and I got up there and they said, "You haven't called on a single man throughout the entire process." And I know, here, I haven't called on a single woman. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in the civil affairs community and the psychological operations community of which many civil affairs officers also are qualified, there's unprecedented call-ups because of our civilian skills that cannot be replicated in a large, robust active-duty segment.

This leads me, sir, what is your feeling about age 55 retirement with 30 active years of service for those in the Reserves, especially in the communities that have intense call ups because of our civilian skills? Thank you, sir.

RUMSFELD: Thank you. First let me say that the process in the Department of Defense -- and I'm sure this will come as a shock to all of you -- the process for calling people up, alerting, calling up and deploying is imperfect.


I have been very unhappy in recent weeks and months as these things have come up to me kind of in giant lumps that had not been disaggregated, had not taken into full account the sensitivities involved. If we want to have a total force, and if we want that concept to work, we have to be respectful of the fact that people in the Reserves and in the Guard have jobs.


And they're perfectly willing to be called up, but they only want to be called up when they're needed and for something that's a real job.


And they'd prefer not to get jerked around and called up two or three or four months before they're needed and then found they're not needed and sent back home with a sorry about that.


So I've got General Myers and Pete Pace and the Joint Staff doing a lessons learned on the call up process, and we're darn well going to figure out a way to get the -- at the present time, forces are managed, if you will, in about six locations: the four services, the Joint Forces command and the combatant commanders who have an area of responsibility and forces assigned.

Therefore, when a combatant commander, like, in this case, General Tom Franks who, and I must say, is doing an absolute superb job.


We are darn lucky to have him where he is.

When he needs forces and a deployment order comes in, it is not managed skillfully in a single place so that the threads come up through the needle head in a way that's respectful of the circumstance of the Guard and Reserve, and frankly, it's not even particularly respectful of the active duty forces, because it moves people in big lumps, meaning it's going to be imprecise as to who is needed where, when.

So we're going to have a very careful look at that subject and do it a whale of a lot better next time.

Now, with respect to civil affairs, generally, it is enormously important. That is a set of skills that we're going to have to have both in the reserves because the competence there is so terrific, and on active duty because we're going to be called upon to do these things around the world. And we have to be ready and capable of doing it.

Now, with respect to 55 years old and 30 years service or whatever you said...


... I'm also unhappy about the way we do that. I think that the United States armed forces make a terrible mistake by having so many permanent changes of station by having so many people skip along the tops of the waves in a job and serve in it 12, 15, 18, 24 months and be gone. You know, if somebody does that, they spend the first six months saying hello to everybody, the next six months trying to learn the job and the last six months leaving.


I like people to be in a job long enough that they darn well know -- make mistakes, see their mistakes, clean up their own mistakes before they go on to make mistakes somewhere else.


So what I've got Dr. David Chu and Charlie Abell and the P&R (ph) office doing is looking at how we can get the benefit of people in a specific job longer and how we can have people increase the number of total years they serve if they want to.


I believe that's important for a couple of reasons. It's important because of the skills and the capabilities and the talents that people develop while they're in the service. The idea that they then should be up and out and shoved out and we should be denied the benefit of those capabilities, it seems to me is a mistake.

The other day I was at a retirement ceremony. And in comes this senior enlisted in one of the services, terrific guy, at the top of his game. I said, "What's this about?" He said, "Oh, I wanted to get a picture." And I said, "Well, why?" He said, "Because I'm retiring." I said, "How old are you?" He said, "47." I've got a daughter 47.


RUMSFELD: What in the world is going on? Why would we -- and he said, "It's just the way it is." He says, "We got to make room for the next guy."

In any event, I got so concerned about this that I said, "Let's start showing me precisely how many months each person has served in their job when they come up for a reassignment or a promotion." And so on the left side of the folder if someone's going to be getting promoted or going along they now have a number. And it shows, after their training, how many different assignments they had and what the average number of months was. I mean, I haven't tried to drop a plumb line through it, but I'll bet it's about 17, 18 months, some of them are down 13.2, another was 15, a long one would be 24 months.

I mean, if you ran a company like that, you'd go broke. You could not do it, just constantly churning people in and out.

We have to do something about it. We've got folks looking at it. I'm well aware of the fact that you don't tear down what exists without recommending something better. And I'm also aware of all the ricochet shots that happen if someone stays in a job a little longer and in a post a little longer, and I understand that. And we're going to look at it carefully. We're going to try to figure out a way to take the advantage of somewhat longer, total service and somewhat longer time in post. And I am convinced it will improve the capabilities in the warfighting ability of our country.

LIN: All right. Our secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, addressing The Reserve Officers Association, their mid-winter conference, and we saw classic Donald Rumsfeld, funny, serious at times, sensitive, and definitely inclusive, wanting to hear from the men and women who are going to be taking a lot of time out, as much as anywhere from six months to potentially two years leaving their families to go on duty, should there be war with Iraq.

Our -- CNN's Nic Robertson has been standing by in Baghdad -- Nic, via the miracle of satellite technology, you were able to listen in on the secretary of defense's remarks. And certainly, he was taking no quarter with Saddam Hussein. He seems determined, as is the Bush administration, that there may very well be some sort of military action. He's still citing lack of cooperation.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is still citing lack of cooperation, and one of the issues he's putting forward there is that it will take -- or the discovery of whether or not this new improved cooperation the U.N. inspectors have been able to get here, he says that -- he has indicated he feels that the United States will be here to judge just how cooperative Saddam Hussein is going to be in the next matter of months.

He indicated that could be judged relatively quickly. Now, the U.N. inspectors today have got ten new points of agreement with the Iraqi authorities. One of the key issues there that scientists, Iraqi scientists will be encouraged by the Iraqi government to have private interviews with U.N. inspectors. That has been something the inspectors have been looking for.

Another thing the Iraqi authorities saying that they will do will be to set out an investigative team, their own investigative team to find out if they have any more chemical warheads lying around the country like those discovered earlier in the week.

Now, the U.N. inspectors came here with a lot of points that they wanted to have addressed. The list of ten points that they've got addressed many of those issues and for Hans Blix, the U.N. weapons chief, he feels relatively confident that the Iraqi authorities will follow through on what they've agreed to.


HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I have no doubt that also this will be respected. There are, of course, other issues in the air which we have discussed, and while we have not reached joint conclusions but we register what we have agreed upon.


ROBERTSON: Now, one of the things that hasn't been agreed upon is the fact that the U.N. wants U2 surveillance flights to fly overhead of Iraq in support of the inspectors on the ground. There was no agreement on that. Certainly, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who came here with Hans Blix, he feels confident that the current inspection mission is working.

He thinks that the framework will stop the production of more weapons of mass destruction in the future, but both men have to make that key report to the U.N. in a week's time, and they're both looking to see -- or despite their confidence, they're both looking to see Iraq really make good in that short space of time so that they can reflect it in that report -- Carol.

LIN: Nic, one of the things that the secretary of defense pointed to as the Bush administration has, all weekend long, this constant drumbeat that the Iraqis are still not accounting for large quantities of VX and sarin and other chemical and biological weapons. They keep pointing to the report that the Iraqis turned in, saying that it's full of holes. Did the Iraqis address that with Hans Blix?

ROBERTSON: They did. Now, what Iraqi authorities have said up to now was all those outstanding questions that have been outstanding when the last U.N. mission left here in 1998 that were still outstanding. When they made this new declaration, they said they would answer those when Hans Blix came to Baghdad. Well, there wasn't time for that. Hans Blix said they didn't get into those nuts and bolts of the chemical agents, of the anthrax issues, but what he had -- did say he got agreement with with Iraqi officials was that that would be discussed, those issues would be discussed in the coming weeks and months -- Carol.

LIN: All right, but they may very well be running out of time as this report -- this last report is due a week from today. All right, thank you very much. Nic Robertson reporting live in Baghdad. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT

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