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Our Goal is to Strengthen the War-fighting Capability

Our Goal is to Strengthen the War-fighting Capability

Washington D.C. -- Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense: DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Sunday, September 9, 2001 - 9:00 a.m. EDT. (Interview with Tony Snow, Fox News Sunday.)

Snow: President Bush wants to remake the military and move missile defense from the drawing board to reality. Here to explain how the president intends to do it all is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Secretary, at the beginning of the year, you were talking about getting $38 billion in additional defense expenditures. Now you're scrambling to get $18 billion. What happened?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think we'll get it. I really do.

Snow: You think you'll get the 18 --

Rumsfeld: I do.

Snow: -- but you're not going to get the 38.

Rumsfeld: Well, I've never known any department of government that didn't hope for more funds. We're working hard, and I think we can get some savings which will help close some of that gap. We have a base closing proposal, and the Senate committee supported it on a bipartisan basis, 17 to 10. Senator Inouye last week came out very strongly for the full 18.4 billion increase.

Snow: Now, do you know exactly which bases you're going to eliminate?

Rumsfeld: No. No, that's something that our base closing commission would review, and --

Snow: And when should they come up with those recommendations?

Rumsfeld: That would be probably after 2000 -- at the end of 2002, or the end of 2003. It takes a while to do that. But there's no question. We have 20-25 percent too many bases. And we need support in the Congress and the country to -- and no company would do that. No organization would do that, carry around 25 percent excess baggage.

Snow: And you're going to cut civilian jobs.

Rumsfeld: Well, we may very well cut some civilian jobs. Our goal is to strengthen the war-fighting capability, and to reduce the size of the so-called Taylor Support piece of things.

Snow: Now, we're talking about a military force of 1.3 million. Is that too small?

Rumsfeld: Well, it looks at the moment as though our current force size is close to being about right. It is -- we've done some war games and some testings and some sensitivities. The strategy that has existed for the last five years, of course, we have not had the forces to fulfill. And therefore, we're in the process of making some adjustments to that force size and construct.

Snow: When you say making adjustments, what you're saying is we shouldn't have troops in so many places.

Rumsfeld: Well, that's part of it, although that's inevitable. We're going to have -- the United States of America, during this time in history, is going to have to contribute to peace and stability. That's what underpins our economy, the world economy. And so we'll have to do some of that. But we have to be very careful about it.

Snow: Now, during the campaign, the president and Republicans criticized Bill Clinton for sending troops to a number of theaters of war abroad. But we're not pulling out of any of them, are we?

Rumsfeld: Well, no. Yes, indeed. We've reduced some troops in Bosnia. We have a major effort going on now in Bosnia and Kosovo to try to strengthen the civil side, so that the forces that are there over time can be adjusted downward.

Snow: Well, we keep hearing that. When are American troops going to be out of Bosnia?

Rumsfeld: Look, the Clinton administration said they'd be out in a year five years ago. What I'm saying is we went in together with our NATO allies, we'll come out together with them. What we need to do is to strengthen the civil side. And that work is underway. I cannot predict exactly when that will happen. But you don't want to pull things out in a way that injects an instability into the situation.

Snow: So the same in Macedonia. We're in there for a while.

Rumsfeld: Well, we're not in there. We have some back office things for Kosovo in Macedonia, basically in the airport area -- some intelligence gathering and logistics. But we are not in there in the sense that we are in Kosovo or Bosnia.

Snow: Right. Now, missile defense is obviously a controversial topic. Carl Levin, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, pushed through a bill the other day which I gather by and large you like. Correct?

Rumsfeld: I did not like the $1.3 billion --

Snow: But the rest of it. I'm just trying to give us an overall picture of this.

Rumsfeld: Sure.

Snow: For the most part, you liked it.

Rumsfeld: For the most part. Yes.

Snow: Now, he did cut $1.3 billion out of your $8.3 billion request this year for missile defense. How are you going to persuade him to give it back?

Rumsfeld: Well, it's not a matter of persuading him. He's chairman of the committee. But the whole Senate has to vote, the House of Representatives has to vote. There will be a conference. And I must say, I have trouble with the idea that defending the people of the United States and our deployed forces overseas and our friends and allies from ballistic missiles -- I have trouble understanding why that's a bad idea.

Snow: Well, but Democrats --

Rumsfeld: It's defensive, it's not offensive.

Snow: Democrats say it is in fact a terrific idea. But at this point, they don't want to get into territory that might involve getting out of the ABM Treaty, and therefore are talking about such things as submarine-launched missiles that would capture enemy ballistic missiles in the so-called boost phase, before they get up to full speed, before they're harder to knock down. What's wrong with that?

Rumsfeld: Well, what's wrong with it is that what we need to do is to look at a variety of ways -- and that's what we're doing through research, development and testing -- to be able to provide a limited defensive capability against ballistic missiles. The way you do that is you look across the spectrum of ways that that might be done. And when you figure out the architecture that makes the most sense, then you go forward and deploy it. There is a hard core of people who, for whatever reason, are determined to kill missile defense. And I just don't believe that vulnerability of the American people to ballistic missiles is a rational policy. I don't think it is.

Snow: All right. You may be creating a straw man, though. Both sides say they support missile defense, they just disagree on the particulars. Let's talk a little more about what the administration has in mind. There is talk of trying to do consultations with President Putin of Russia.

Rumsfeld: Well, that's not talk. We're doing it. The president's met with him, Secretary Powell has met with him.

Snow: And you're going to be meeting with the defense secretary, Sergei Ivanov, sometime soon.

Rumsfeld: Indeed.

Snow: The question is do you think the Russians this year are going to give their approval to America's -- at least some sort of nod, some sort of sign - that they will support the president's bid simply to walk away from the ABM Treaty as the treaty allows?

Rumsfeld: It's not knowable. All we can do is engage in those discussions. The president has, and Secretary Powell has. I have. I'm going back over to meet with Minister of Defense Ivanov later this month. And it is entirely possible that we will be able to find a framework that we can establish between our two countries that is not Cold War-oriented.

Snow: And if they don't, will we proceed with plans -- that is, we, the United States -- proceed with plans to construct a missile defense facility in Alaska that may or may not run into the ABM Treaty?

Rumsfeld: The president has said repeatedly that he intends to provide missile defense capability against a limited number of ballistic missiles. We are doing the testing and research and development for that now. It's the president's call. If we're not able to find a framework that can be appropriate for our two countries going forward between now and the end of the year, the president has indicated he'll have to give consideration to giving a 6-month notification for withdrawal. But whether or not -- when or how he'll do that, or whether or not we'll be able to find a new framework, is really a matter for the discussions.

Snow: But if we find ourselves in that position, won't it be feasible that maybe that 1.3 billion that comes out of the budget isn't going to be spendable next year anyway?

Rumsfeld: No, that's not correct. It is clearly spendable. And we need it. And as the opening clip said, we need every nickel of it. And you're assuming that that money is coming out of the budget. I have found, over time, that the American people care about their national security. They understand its importance. And that the Congress tends to be supportive. So I think that a presumption that what came out of the Senate committee will necessarily end up as the final decision, may very well prove to be wrong.

Snow: Is it your understanding that the president would veto the bill if it doesn't have full funding for missile defense?

Rumsfeld: One of the problems with the amendment is that not only did it move 1.3 billion out of the Senate committee's proposal. In addition, it put some limitations on requiring approval from the House and the Senate for going forward on various aspects of our test program. And I certainly would recommend a veto to the president. What he'll do is his call. But I would definitely recommend a veto.

Snow: Do you think that that involves constitutional problems?

Rumsfeld: I think the problem with it is we're engaged in discussions with the Russians. And that type of an amendment basically ties the president's hands in the discussions with the Russians. It says to the Russians that there are those in the Senate who are not willing to give the president the freedom to go forward with a test program that he intends to go forward with. So it's important that that be defeated in the House and Senate. [Phone ringing in background.]

Snow: I'm trying to determine whether that's the president on the other line on that phone. [Laughter.] Let's talk about some hot spots around the world. There was a bombing again this morning in the Middle East, and a retaliation by the Israelis. Is it your view that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority are harboring terrorists?

Rumsfeld: Well, if one reads the statements of various elements within that community, there's no question but that there are terrorists, and that they even brag and take credit for their terrorist acts. The dynamics between Mr. Arafat and the various elements within that community is a complex one. It's not clear to me that he controls every aspect of what takes place. But there's no question but that the terrorist acts and the killings that are taking place there, and the responses to those terrorist acts, are creating a very difficult situation in the Middle East.

Snow: Is Israel justified in retaliating?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think that any time people are doing suicide bombings and blowing up your people at bus stops and in restaurants, you certainly cannot sit there and tolerate that. You have an obligation to your people to take action to try to reduce that level of violence, or to eliminate it, if humanly possible.

Snow: Yasser Arafat will be coming to the United States when the United Nations opens its session later this month. Should the president meet with him?

Rumsfeld: That's a decision, of course, that Colin Powell and the president will be considering in the period ahead. You always want to do what you can to try to stop violence in a region like that, and get people talking again. And there are a variety of proposals on the table, and arrangements, the Mitchell Report and CIA Director Tenet's arrangements. I don't know. It depends on what takes place, and it depends on what the private discussions indicate might bear fruit. But the United States has to do what we're doing. We have to try to work with the people in the region to see if we can't reduce that.

Snow: Isn't it the case that every peace breakthrough, at least every hopeful development since Camp David has been engineered not by a secretary of state or a secretary of defense or a National Security advisor, but by a President?

Rumsfeld: There's no question but that throughout the entire period, presidents getting involved have had -- and this president has been very involved. He has been meeting with various elements of the equation out there. He has been on the phone, as has Secretary Powell. And there's been a pattern of that.

Snow: There are reports now that Iraq is reconstituting its military manufacturing capabilities. Is it time for the allies to step up efforts against Iraq, and would it be legitimate to go after those manufacturing facilities?

Rumsfeld: Well, that's a call for the president and the coalition partners as to at what point it would be appropriate. But you're quite right. There's no question but that Saddam Hussein and that regime is an outlaw regime. They have an appetite to impose their will on their neighbors. They have an appetite for weapons of mass destruction. They have been, every period since they've been able to get the inspectors out of there, working diligently to increase their capabilities in every aspect of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology. And as they get somewhat stronger, the problem becomes somewhat greater.

Snow: It's widely agreed that chemical and biological weapons -- big threat in the future. How do we fight them other than simply to bomb factories?

Rumsfeld: First of all, it's very difficult to find them. They do a good deal underground. A biological capability is not something that takes enormous facilities. They've been weaponizing, other countries in the region have been weaponizing chemical and biological weapons. And that problem, particularly biological weapons over the coming decade, is going to be an increasingly serious one. It will have to be attacked from a whole range of methods. Bombing -- trying to find -- some of them are mobile. They can move them. They're in vans. So, it is not a simple thing. But it will have to be dealt with using a variety of techniques.

Snow: Let me read a quote that appeared in the Washington Post earlier this week. It was in a column by Al Kamen. It says, "There's been talk on the Hill, generated no doubt by Rumsfeld's detractors, a fairly large generating source up there, that he might be on the way out soon."

Rumsfeld: Not likely.

Snow: Not likely? How long are you in?

Rumsfeld: Well, listen. I'm having a terrific time. It is an important assignment, and we've got some wonderful people working on it. We've managed to get very broad agreement on the military and civilian side with respect to our strategy and our force-sizing construct. And we are doing things that are going to have a significant effect on the defense establishment.

Snow: Have you been undiplomatic in recent months? Have you learned a few things about diplomacy in the new Washington?

Rumsfeld: Goodness. You know, I hope I'm learning every day. But it is not easy to come into those posts and have no one there -- no confirmed people with you. And for months, we have been working with just a handful of people. Fortunately, now we've got about two-thirds of the people in. And I feel we're going to be able to then generate the motion that will move us forward.

Snow: Great. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, thanks for joining us.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

Transcript by Federan News Service Inc., Washington D.C. (202) 347-1400.



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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).