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DoD Newsbriefing: Wednesday, May 8, 2002

DoD Newsbriefing: Wednesday, May 8, 2002

Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense. DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Wednesday, May 8, 2002. Also participating were Army Secretary Thomas E. White and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon.

First, I'd like to note that on Saturday last, the Pentagon unveiled an impressive interior memorial that honors both the 125 military and civilian members of the Pentagon family who died in the September 11th attack, but also the 59 passengers of the hijacked airline. The memorial features the names, the pictures, the biographies of all 184 who died here. Its location is in the A Ring, third floor, at the intersection of Corridors 9 and 10.

About 500 family members joined us on Saturday for the opening ceremony. And I encourage all of you to see it. It's exceedingly well done. The project was overseen by the Washington Headquarters Services. And I certainly want to thank Doc Cooke and those who had a hand in making it happen: Lieutenant General John Van Alstyne, who has worked so closely with the families through the Family Assistance Center; Kathleen Brassell and Julie Tabone.

A couple of comments about the Crusader program. Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Secretary of the Army Tom White are here and will be available for additional comments on the subject after I leave the podium.

After a good deal of consideration, I have decided to terminate the Crusader program. Even as we continue to prosecute the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, we are learning lessons that are important. One lesson, of course, is that we must be prepared to adapt to an ever-evolving set of challenges and circumstances. Thus, transformation is certainly important. Our country needs an Army that is mobile, lethal and deployable across a wide range of future contingencies. We need joint, integrated approaches to battlefield challenges. We need weapons systems capable of producing the precise and timely destruction of enemy targets.

This decision is not about any one weapon system, but really about a strategy of warfare, a strategy that drives the choices that we must make about how best to prepare our total forces for the future.

This decision reflects the reality that with finite resources, which is always the case, it is necessary to make choices, and in doing so, to try to balance among the various near-term, medium-term and longer-term risks. And needless to say, these choices are not easy. We have an obligation to ensure that U.S. forces will overmatch the capabilities of any potential adversary now and into the future.

Finally, I'm pleased to announce that today, the president is nominated General Ed Eberhart of the United States Air Force, who's currently commander of the U.S. Space Command, to be the first commander of the United States Northern Command. And as I have briefed previously, the Northern Command will go into operation on October 1st of this year.

In his present position, General Eberhart is also commander of the North American Air Defense Command, NORAD, which will be reassigned, to the Northern Command. In his new capacity -- in his current capacity, really, he's been very involved in the discussions involving the activities that the new Northern Command will have as its responsibilities. He has been very important with respect to airborne warning and combat air patrols over the United States during the period since September 11th.

His nomination, needless to say, is subject to Senate confirmation. And I'd be happy to respond to some questions before I ask Secretary Wolfowitz and Secretary White to come up to the podium.


Question: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: Oh, Charlie.

Question: Mr. Secretary, Secretary Wolfowitz, I believe, started calling members of Congress this morning to inform them of the decision to cancel.

Rumsfeld: Mm-hmm.

Question: Some members of Congress, notably those from Oklahoma, where Crusader is assembled, have been vociferous in their opposition to this. In fact, I think J.C. Watts said today that this whole matter has been handled, as he put it, unprofessionally. Do you think -- do you think that opposition on the Hill is widespread in support -- in support of this cancellation, and that perhaps the opposition is just vocal minority? What do you think about the opposition?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think that when members of the House and Senate express their view, as they have every right and reason to do, that it's perfectly understandable. And I've never seen a decision made that receives unanimous approval or unanimous opposition. And in this case, I think it's very clear that we will be successful with respect to the decision, and that I can understand the concern.

I think that the -- this subject has been under study for, what, five or six years. It is not something that is a new debate or discussion or issue. It is a -- there is not even a prototype. So it isn't as though it's an inappropriate time to make a decision like this. It's a quite appropriate time to make a decision like this. And one would always hope that everyone would agree, but clearly, as you point out, there are some folks who are not going to agree, and that's the nature of difficult choices such as this, and we understand that.

Question: Mr. Secretary, if I could just follow up --

Question: Mr. Secretary, a follow-up?

Question: Mr. Secretary if I could just follow up on Charlie's question.

Question: Two follow-ups.

Question: With the friends of the Crusader marshalling their forces on Capitol Hill, do you see this -- prevailing in this decision as a test of your ability to transform or reform the Pentagon? I mean, if you can't kill this program, how are you going to make any progress in transforming the Pentagon?

Rumsfeld: Jamie, you're trying to draw the battle lines, it sounds to me.

Question: Well, the battle lines have --

Rumsfeld: With your question, mind you.

Question: The battle lines have already been drawn. I'm just asking you, how important is victory?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think that -- (laughter) -- I think that when the dust settles, that we'll find that the Crusader has been ended and a -- some alternative approaches to develop greater precision munitions and to meet the requirements that appropriately do need to be met will, in fact, be the outcome.

Question: But doesn't this illustrate how hard it is to transform this big institution?

Rumsfeld: Well, we all know it's hard. We know change is hard for everybody, that it's hard for any big institution, whether it's the executive branch or the Congress or the contractor community, the press corps -- no, that wouldn't be fair. (Laughs.) (Laughter.) And that's the nature of it. And what we have to do is marshal our arguments and be persuasive and be willing to engage in that dialogue and debate and to recognize that things tend not to be black and white in life. There are choices that have to be made, and one would wish that you didn't have to make any choices in life, but you do. And this is a good choice. And we're pleased with it, and we will see it through to the very end.

Question: Mr. Secretary?

Question: Mr. Secretary, in Afghanistan, Brigadier Roger Lane with the British forces told reporters today that the fight against al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan is all but won. And he said the need for offensive operations is beginning to dwindle and will be completed in a matter of weeks. Do you share that view?

Rumsfeld: Well, I didn't read his full statement, so I really can't address his comments. As I recall, he's been involved directly with Operation Snipe, which is just coming to a conclusion. And I'm sure his comments are appropriate to that operation. There's also no question but that, given the nature of the porous borders around that country and the fact that we know there are al Qaeda and Taliban yet to be dealt with, that we are some distance from effectively finishing the task of seeing that the interim government in that country is able to survive, is able to hopefully provide the kinds of civil services that are going to be important for the enormous numbers of refugees that are coming back into that country at the present time.

Question: But without contact of the enemy in a number of weeks, direct contact, large contact, is there a timeline here -- an endgame that you see for U.S. forces there in Afghanistan?

Rumsfeld: I am -- I'll repeat what I said. There are still al Qaeda and Taliban in the country and in neighboring countries. They still intend to do what they can to destabilize the Karzai interim authority. We intend to see that that doesn't happen. And we have no intention of announcing an end date or anything of that type. It would be fundamentally inconsistent with what I've been saying.

Question: Mr. Secretary --

Question: Mr. Secretary, can I do a follow-up on --

Question: Mr. Secretary, may I ask a question on the Mideast? You obviously have strong views on that. As you know, there's been another suicide bombing in Israel. As you know, Sharon is heading back there, preparing for what Powell is calling a self-defense action. And Arafat has also made a statement saying that he had wanted the Palestinian Authority to take action against terrorists, but he is also asking them to plan against any aggression against Palestinians. What are your thoughts about the Mideast situation?

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't think anybody -- any human being -- can look at a suicide bombing and the death of dozens of people -- innocent people who are not combatants at all and not just feel terrible about it and heartbroken for those people.

If one thinks about it, Israel is a small country. And I believe if you took the number of people that have been killed in the last year or two in that country and took it into the proportion for the United States of America, it would mean that we would have lost something in excess of 10,000-20,000 people dead, and very likely multiples of that wounded in these long series of suicide attacks that have taken place on a population that is really very small. And I think that that has to be taken into account.

Question: Mr. Secretary --

Question: Should the -- should the U.S. allow Sharon to go ahead and take defensive action?

Rumsfeld: I think -- I think we'll do one question, and --

Question: Mr. Secretary, can I follow up on Jamie, which is a follow- up, if you will, on Charlie, if you can bear with me, there are many people -- beltway bandits and in the defense industry -- who will sort of echo what Undersecretary Aldridge told us last week, which you just said, sir, that canceling a weapons system is very, very difficult to do. And Pete also said that every other major weapons system we've been discussing is on the table: F-22, Commanche, V-22. Do you feel without going to war that this is really a test case that if you cannot get Congress to go along and cancel the Crusader, that it's going to be almost impossible to modify or cancel any of these other weapons systems?

Rumsfeld: I know it would be a delight for some to -- if we could have a great battle, a pitched battle take place between the executive and the legislative branch, and -- hurling words against each other. But you've got the wrong guy.

(Laughter.) I'm sorry to let you all down. What's going to happen is we are going to do exactly what I said: we're going to cancel the Crusader, we're going to make our case persuasively with the Congress. We will persuade as many people as we need, but not all, given the nature of life. And it will end up being cancelled.

(Cross talk)

Question: Mr. Secretary, originally you talked about a 30-day review on the Crusader. And I think --

Rumsfeld: I don't, did I?

Question: Yeah. And Crusader supporters thought that that meant --

Rumsfeld: I was hoping that was Wolfowitz. (Laughter.)

Question: I'm sorry. Your deputy said that --

Rumsfeld: I think I -- I think I've got it right. And --

Question: I was on vacation -- (off mike) --

Rumsfeld: You -- as they used to say here, you misspoke yourself. But --

Question: Well, now, some Crusader supporters are saying the 30 days are not up and this decision is being made. Could you explain --

Rumsfeld: Paul will clarify the portions of that question that need to be clarified.

(Cross talk.)

Question: Mr. Secretary, will you recommend to the president -- will you recommend to the president that he veto any legislation from the Hill that has money in the Crusader, has language that says you have to go forward?

Rumsfeld: I do not discuss my advice to the president.

(Cross talk.)

Question: Sir, on Afghanistan --

Question: Could you say what you plan to do?

Question: Mr. Secretary, the secretary of the Army has been very public about his support of the Crusader program. He's been very publicly trying to save it. And of course some of the people who work for him got into some trouble with you over the handling of contacts with Congress to try and save this program.

I'm a little bit confused or mystified about the bureaucratic battle that took place here. What do you expect from -- what are "Rumsfeld's Rules" for your secretaries? What do you expect from the secretaries of the Army, Navy and the Air Force and the Marines? Shouldn't they be expected to try and save programs and have their people save programs?

Rumsfeld: That's a good question. That's a good question. And I wish I'd developed a polished answer to it, which I haven't.

But let me just say this. What do I expect of secretaries or people in the department? Secretary White is here, and you can ask him yourself as soon as I leave the podium.

But what the president, who runs for president and is elected president and -- has every right to expect is people that he appoints and names to support his policies and his budget. And he asks certain people to take certain responsibilities for portions of it. That's why we have Cabinet departments and elements here. And Secretary White was supporting the president's budget, and the Crusader was part of that president's budget, until it wasn't. And today it no longer is.

And what reasonable people ought to expect is that people support the budget while that's the budget, and if an amendment to the budget is made, a change is made, a decision's made with respect to weapons systems -- which happens all the time; this is nothing new, this isn't -- we're not breaking new ground here for the United States of America -- at that point, they get behind the president's decision and the secretary of Defense's decision and support it. That's how life works. That's how I do it. I mean, I'm in -- constantly in that position in the interagency process, where there are discussions that take place. Different people have different views, they make their recommendations. The president makes his decision, establishes a policy. People pick up and go on with that and support the policy.

Question: And does the secretary of the Army pick up and go on and support the policy in a timely manner?

Rumsfeld: Well, you'll have a chance to see him --

Question: I want to know your opinion. In a timely manner --

Rumsfeld: Oh, do you think I would have invited him up to the podium if I -- and offered him an opportunity to oppose the president of the United States? Not a chance! (Laughter.) Not a chance! My goodness gracious!

Question: Mr. Secretary --

(Cross talk.)

Question: Mr. Secretary, a terrorist bomb in Karachi today killed about a dozen French nationals. French intelligence says they have evidence that al Qaeda is behind that attack. Does the U.S. have any evidence or information to indicate that al Qaeda perpetrated this terrorist attack in Karachi?

Rumsfeld: I don't know if the U.S. does. I don't at this moment.

Question: Mr. Secretary --

Question: Sir, on Afghanistan, the threat to stability in Afghanistan right now seems to be coming not necessarily from al Qaeda and Taliban but from factional fighting. And apparently, U.S. forces are around Khost, helping to train some Afghan fighters to take on some of those factions in that region. Is the United States going to become militarily involved in those internal battles, or is it going to remain just in the training capacity?

Rumsfeld: The -- I don't agree with the premise of your question. The premise, as I recall -- I don't want to misstate what you said, but it was something to the effect that the real problem in Afghanistan today is not al Qaeda and Taliban; it's factional fighting.

Question: I'd say one of the real problems today is factional fighting, and U.S. forces have been on the receiving end of a number of rockets from factions within the Khost region that are opposing Hamid Karzai.

Rumsfeld: Okay. I'll say what I said. I do not believe that the threat to Afghanistan today is from factional fighting. Indeed, the reality is that in the bulk of the country the armies, the militias, the forces that exist there, almost all of which have U.S. Special Forces involved with them and advising them and participating, are by their presence contributing to stability -- the very stability that is leading refugees to the conclusion that it's better to be back in than out and internally displaced people coming to the conclusion it's better to go back where they came from rather than staying in these internal camps.

That signal is a powerful one that refugees are voting with their feet. The only place -- I shouldn't say that -- the principal place where we are seeing some threats of dust-ups is in the Gardez area -- in the southeast-of-Kabul area. That is one area out of an entire country. The United States' role is to go after al Qaeda and Taliban. The United States' role is to help train the Afghan army. The U.S. role is to be supportive of the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force], which we are doing. It is to help encourage other coalition countries to bring humanitarian assistance in and to participate in helping to train the army. And the Germans, of course, are helping to train the police force. And other countries -- the French are helping with the army. In addition, we are contributing to a stable -- more stable country by our participation and presence in Bagram, to the north of Kabul, and Kandahar to the south.

The Interim Authority has military forces. It has -- does not yet have a national army, but it does have forces. Fahim Khan has forces. His vice-minister or chief, Dostam, has forces. Other organizations and elements, militias that are connected to the Interim Authority have forces, military forces. And the calibrations that leaders have to make -- that is to say, in this case, Mr. Karzai -- is the blend, the balance that they have to undertake as to whether they use political persuasion, diplomacy, the kinds of things that governments can offer -- positions, cooperation, humanitarian assistance -- all of these things that are part of what a central government might or might not do for a region or force. And it's really their call, but it is not really our call, as to what they do. We're not part of the Afghan administration. That's their call. And as I say, we're really there to do the job that I've defined very precisely.

And we'll make this the last question.

Question: Mr Secretary, why wasn't Crusader terminated prior to the FY '03 budget submission three and a half months ago? What has happened between February and now to make the difference?

Rumsfeld: Well, it started, I suppose, as a follow-on to Powhatan, say, five, six, seven years ago, and it has been coming along, like most things. It doesn't exist. And an equally good question would be, why wasn't it done the year before that? Why wasn't it done still a year before that, or any one of the six or seven years since it's been under consideration?

And I guess the answer is that what one does is, you come into office, you attempt to find out what you believe the strategy ought to be and what kinds of threats you think you're facing and what kinds of capabilities you think you're up against, and then you work through and look at not one service, but you look at the effects you think you're going to need to deal with various types of challenges that you'll be met with. And you look at all the services. And there's no question but that there is an important role for each of the services. And as you begin to blend all those, it's not simple, it's complicated, and these aren't black and white choices. If they're easy choices, obviously you made it the day you walked in.

It's just as possible it could have been made a year from now. But at some point you have to make it. And there's always going to be someone says, "Why isn't it later when you know more," or "Why isn't it earlier, for whatever reason," or "Why wasn't it done this way or that way," or "Why wasn't there more consultation or discussion with this person or that person?"

But the fact is, there is no good time to do what we are today doing.

Question: But you could have avoided, perhaps, some of the conflict with the Hill if you have terminated prior to the submit and didn't have many four-star generals and the Army secretary testifying during the budget hearings in support of the system.

Rumsfeld: Oh, and think if we'd announced it three years ago; we would have had three years of that we would have saved. On the other hand, if we waited till next year, would have been still one more year of that.

Question: Wait, wait, wait. Is there something specific that you learned in the last three months? What did you learn between the budget submission and now? Or what changed in the situation that finally tipped the balance?

Rumsfeld: Well, I think I explained that partly just in my last answer, and partly the last time we visited. What you have in this department is a whole series of competing needs: personnel needs -- pay versus housing; modernization needs -- new ships versus new airplanes; transformation needs -- this investment in research and development versus that investment. The task -- war risk needs, what do you need a little bit more in this theater, a little bit more in that theater. We balance those within each category pretty well. We don't balance them across ways very well. And it is not something that is easy; it is very hard; it is multi-dimensional, it is not simplistic, it is not one-dimensional. It cannot -- there's not a bumper sticker that will satisfy a headline writer in a newspaper as to how these decisions are made. It is complex, it takes time.

We have had the senior civilian, the senior military people, we've thought about it a great deal, and the net of that process is that the judgment is today being made and announced to make this decision. It is the product of a great deal of thought and discussion. And it would be, I think, a misservice to suggest that there is a single thing or a new scrap of information or something that came along that was determinative because the process doesn't work that way.

And now you have the opportunity to visit personally and directly with Dr. Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary --

Question: Can I just have one more --

Rumsfeld: -- and the secretary of the Army, Tom White. They are ready. There's water here. (Laughter.) There's a powerful microphone.

Question: A referee? (Scattered laughter.)

Rumsfeld: The crowd is warmed up.

Question: Thank you.

Question: Come back and see us.

This transcript was prepared by the Federal News Service Inc., Washington, D.C. Federal News Service is a private company for other Defense related transcripts not available through this site, contact (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).