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Secretary Rumsfeld Town Hall Meeting

NEWS TRANSCRIPT from the United States Department of Defense

DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Tuesday, August 6, 2002 - 11 a.m. EDT

(Pentagon Town Hall Meeting)

Rumsfeld: Goodness gracious, look at this! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you very much. And thank you all for coming. Look, they're in the aisles. (Laughter.) Goodness! My gracious! It's a -- well, thank you. I really do appreciate so many of you being here.

On September 10th last year, things were, I guess you'd say, reasonably calm and normal here. On that day, I elaborated on our goal of transforming our capabilities and discussed the need to shift more resources from the bureaucracy to the battlefield. I said that a person engaged in an unnecessary or redundant task is one who could be countering terrorism or nuclear proliferation. That was the day before September 11th.

The future arrived sooner than we expected. We were attacked the next day. The Department of Defense responded with power and with skill. Thanks to the coalition efforts and the remarkable courage of the men and women in uniform, al Qaeda, although still dangerous, is on the run around the world. The Taliban were driven from power in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is no longer a base for global terrorist operations or a breeding ground for radical Islamic militancy. The beatings by religious police and executions in soccer stadiums have stopped. The humanitarian crisis has been averted. Aid is once again flowing. International aid workers and NGO workers are no longer being held hostage. And the Afghan people have been liberated. (Applause.)

Those are truly remarkable accomplishments, and certainly every man and woman, military and civilian, can be proud of making a contribution to those successes. But despite the important progress that's been made, it is certainly no time for complacency. Think back to February 25th, 1993, things seemed pretty quiet that day as well, and the next day terrorists ignited a large bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center. Six people died. Less than two months after the 1993 attack, The New York Times reported that most tenants in the World Trade Center buildings say that life has returned almost to normal.

That was just what the terrorists wanted. And they spent time learning from their mistakes in that first attack. They upgraded their skills, and the next time they finished the job in both towers.

Today, the Pentagon is nearly repaired, and life seems to be returning almost to normal. But that we must not do. Our enemies, without question, are sharpening their swords. They are plotting even greater destruction, let there be no doubt. To prevent that, we have to be stronger, more alert, quicker on our feet. If reducing bureaucracy and waste was important on September 10th, and it was, it is all the more important now.

As we did in Afghanistan, we have to take the war to the terrorists. We have to go after them where they are, capture them, or otherwise disrupt their attacks. To prevent the next attacks, we need to be vigilant. We have to hunt down the terrorists and put them out of business. And to do so, we have to transform our capabilities, the capabilities of our military, as well as the way this department functions.

We need faster, more agile, more balanced, more interoperable joint forces. We don't need services running off in four directions, and then, when the balloon goes up, wondering why they aren't as effective as a joint force as they could be. Or, even worse, why the phone doesn't ring, and they're left behind.

Last week, I visited General Buck Kernan and the Joint Forces Command in Virginia. Their mission, of course, is transformation. They are testing, experimenting, innovating and energizing war-fighters for the 21st century. Buck and his team are doing an excellent job. The importance of the Joint Forces Command, in my view, is going to grow significantly in the months and years ahead as we focus on joint war-fighting and transportation -- transformation, as we must.

And in the spirit of transformation, we developed a new defense strategy last year. We adopted a new approach to strategic deterrence that increases security while reducing our dependence on strategic nuclear weapons. The missile defense research and testing program has been reorganized and revitalized, free of the constraints of the ABM Treaty. We're investing in a range of new capabilities that should help us better defend our country in a dangerous and uncertain period that's ahead.

We also fashioned a new Unified Command Plan and reorganized our worldwide military command structure and strengthened our focus on homeland security. Transformation, as I mentioned, means shifting resources from bureaucracy to the battlefield. Streamlining and modernizing is a matter of life and death, because our job is defending America as well as is humanly possible.

We've asked Congress to let us close excess bases, upgrade our artillery, streamline our bomber forces. We've launched a major effort to modernize the department's business and financial operation and get the department's computers talking to each other for a change. We need every nickel, we need every innovation, every good idea to strengthen and transform our military. A new idea overlooked might well be the next threat overlooked. If we do not fix what is broken and encourage what is good and what works, if we do not transform, our enemies surely will find new ways to attack us, as they did after 1993.

But the most important transformation involves not just dollars or weapons, but people. Smart bombs are useless without smart people. We need motivated, highly focused men and women working in this department, military and civilian, and we have them in abundance. Some are here in this room, and others are listening elsewhere today. We need your ideas. We need your suggestions. What you do is important. Each of you, I know, is here to help, to help make our country safer and better. The American people are certainly grateful for your service. So is the president, and so am I. I thank you for what you do for our country.

And I would be happy to respond to questions. Make the first one easy. (Laughter.) And why don't we try something totally new? When I get questions from the press, all they ask about is Iraq. (Laughter.) So why doesn't somebody ask something else, anything else?! (Laughter.) There's a hand way in the back. Yes, sir?

Q: My name is Dennis Stephens (sp). I work for the Air Force in the Finance Department. I'm curious and concerned about what's going on here for us, the people that work in the Pentagon, as far as the security is going, and especially because the Metro runs right under our building.

Rumsfeld: Well, you are doing exactly what the president suggested, and that is that all of us go about our normal lives but have a heightened sense of awareness. And clearly you do.

I thought the Metro did not currently run under the building. Am I wrong? Is it currently under --

Not distinguishable: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: The answer's yes. Is that right?

Not distinguishable: Yes.

Rumsfeld: Yes. And I will talk to some folks who are involved in that, the chief and others who have set up, as you can see, around the department a whole host of new security activities. But I just was not aware that that's still happening, and I'll ask why.

Q: It goes right underneath the East Wing. In fact, I ride it every day.

Rumsfeld: I see. Fair -- are you looking around you when you're riding? (Laughter.)

Q: To be sure, sir.

Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) Thank you. I'll check.

Well, wasn't it stopped for a while? It was.

Not distinguishable: Just the different rings -- (off mike) -- get off -- (off mike) -- Pentagon -- (off mike).

Rumsfeld: I see. Good.

What else? That was very good. It wasn't about Iraq. (Laughter.) That's impressive.

Right here. Yes?

Q: Sir, my name is Lieutenant Commander Pravska (sp). I'm a Navy JAG. And my question is, would it be possible for you to review the policy to allow military service members to sit in on a space-available basis in your immediate press briefing here in the Pentagon?

Rumsfeld: Is there a policy against that? (Scattered laughter.) Why would I have to review the policy? I think all you'd have to do is walk in.

Q: Public Affairs has said that it's only for media, sir.

Rumsfeld: Is that right?

Q: Yes, sir. (Laughter, applause.)

Rumsfeld: I know that can't be true, because it's for media and guests, and my daughter was there last week. (Laughter.) So the next time you want to go in there, you just walk up and say, "I'm a guest of Don Rumsfeld." (Laughter, applause.) (Chuckles.) And tell Torie Clarke I told you you could do that. (Laughter.)

Yes? There's a hand. Here comes a mike. You know, at the ballpark they just throw the peanuts. Why don't you -- (laughter).

Q: Mr. Secretary, I'm Bill O'Donnell (sp). I work in the Secretary of the Navy's Office. Something we've been wrestling with as a department for over a decade now is what's the right mix of career civilian and contractors in our support area. And I was just wondering what kind of guidance or vision do you have as far as transformation for a balance between career civilians and contracted support?

Rumsfeld: That's a tough question. Let me just talk around it and then land on it towards the end.

The first thing that I've said with respect to the people part of this institution, which is so central to our success, that we attract and retain the right people so that we can run this terrific institution to the benefit of the country, was that I felt that people ought -- in the military, uniformed military, ought to serve in their assignment somewhat longer than they have been. I said that I thought with people living longer, including me -- (laughter) -- I didn't see why people couldn't stay in somewhat longer rather than being moved out when they had hit some X number of years and they're still in their 40s or 50s.

Third, given the pressure on uniformed military, I have tried and am currently trying to see if we can move people in uniform out of things that don't require uniformed people to be doing them. And that can be done by civilians in some instances, it can be done by contractors in some instances. For example, in Bosnia, we have contractors performing any number of the administrative functions in Bosnia, but in the Sinai we have uniformed military people performing exactly the same administrative functions that could be performed by a contractor.

The mix between contractor and civilian employees is something that I have not gotten to as a thought. I do know that the civilian employees in the department, I've been told by David Chu a high number are moving in towards the retirement area, quite a substantial fraction, and that we have to be attentive to see that the mix of people we have is appropriate to the tasks, and that as that happens, we don't lose some of the critical skills that we have to have without figuring out ways to take care of it. But I don't know that I've come to any conclusions about the mix of contractor and civilian. Each has advantages and each has some disadvantages, in my view. And I suspect that what has happened over the years is water finds its level, and that for the most part, at least with respect to the 20th century, people made a series of judgments about what could be contracted.

For example, right now I'm told that we can't contract for force protection in the continental limits of the United States. I think that's ridiculous, and I think we ought to be able to contract for force protection inside the United States. People do it all over the place. And yet, for some reason, we can't. So we're going to try to get the law changed to do that. But maybe that's the next piece of the puzzle that I ought to think a bit about, and I'll make a note to do it.

Questions? If someone behind me has got their hand up, someone out there tell me.

Q: Sir? Sir, can you hear me here?

Rumsfeld: We have a question in front, and then we'll go in the back, if that's where that voice came from. (Laughter.) I see the hand, but you're a little too urgent; it scares me. (Laughter.) I have a feeling I'm not going to like it. (Laughter.) Go ahead.

Q: I'm Gary Robinson (sp) with the Army Secretariat. And as a follow-up to that civilian-contractor mix, I think one of the important issues is continuing government oversight of contractors and therefore keeping some level of skilled civilians on duty, knowing the functions. When we contract out functions broadly, we can miss that. And for the same matter, there's the issue of military career development that goes along with that, too. We want to keep a certain level of senior officers available to oversee our government interests.

Rumsfeld: I think that's a fair point. There's no question but that any large institution that does use outside contractors has to have an internal competence so that that external assistance can be properly managed. That's true in a corporation as well as in the department.


That's true in a corporation, as well as in the department.

The problem is senior military people are -- they tend to be in their jobs 15, 18, 20 months, and they move through them so fast, the extent to which the supervision really takes on the civilian employees and the contractors is debatable in some instances. And I've, for whatever reason, started looking at the number of months people -- average number of months military people have served in their posts since they were through their training period as young officers, and the average is right around 18, 19 months. That's really short. I mean, you spend a few months going around saying hello to everybody, "Hi! Nice to see you. Glad to be here." And then you spend a few months doing the job, and then you spend a few months saying goodbye. (Laughter.) I like people to be in their jobs long enough so that they can see their own mistakes and clean them up themselves -- (laughter) -- and learn something from them. (Applause.)

Now, I'll screw up my courage and -- (laughter).

Q: Sir, thank you, thank you very much for being here with us today. I'm Colonel Mike Cospey (sp). I work in the NMJIC. I have a question on Saudi Arabia.

Rumsfeld: You work where?

Q: In the NMJIC. The National Joint Military Intelligence Center.

Rumsfeld: Right. Right.

Q: And I have a question on Saudi Arabia --

Rumsfeld: I thought you said you were a ninja. (Laughter, applause.)

Q: I do have a black suit on, and actually -- I think I forgot the question. (Laughter.) No, but, in all seriousness, the -- my question is on Saudi Arabia, a nation that, of course, has been historically a friend for many, many generations. Several of us today were discussing the article in the Washington Post today, the front page of the Post, pointing out that there was a briefing here at some point to the Defense Policy Board, or Defense Review Board, whatever we call it. And it looked like there was a distancing between ourselves and the Saudis to some extent. And I pointed out that there are briefings here that go on every day that do not always constitute policy. And my question really is --

Rumsfeld: That's the understatement of the morning. (Laughter.)

Q: My question really is, why do we have such divisive approach on the part of the media to issues that are as critical as the relationship with key elements, friends of ours, in the Middle East? And I just wanted to see if there was anything you wanted to say about that.

Rumsfeld: Well, I saw the article, but I was so busy this morning I didn't have the time to sit around discussing it with my co-workers. (Laughter.) Just kidding. I'm just kidding. (Laughter.)

Apparently what happened was the Defense Policy Board, which is made up of, oh, people who have worked in this department or have a great deal of knowledge or competence in government or the policy issues from the defense establishment -- a number of my predecessors serve on the Defense Policy Board, for example -- they have a meeting every period of months and they have briefings by people. And people come in and this apparently was a person from the Rand Corporation who was giving a briefing, and he briefed on Saudi Arabia, and it ended up in the newspaper, which is unfortunate. He had an opinion, and of course everyone has a right to their opinion. It did not represent the views of the government, it didn't represent the views of the Defense Policy Board. Clearly, somebody decided that it was a good idea to take something that was that potentially controversial -- I almost said "inflammatory" -- and give it to a newspaper, even though the meeting was a classified meeting and a closed meeting of the Defense Policy Board.

I don't -- your question really ran more to the media, why does the media carry those things. And I suppose -- I don't work for the media, and as my wife tells me, "Don" -- when I go to work she says, "Don, don't forget, you have your job and they have theirs." (Laughter.) And they're different jobs. And I can't imagine why -- I focus more on the people who give out things from closed meetings to the press. I just think it's a terribly unprofessional thing to do and clearly harmful. It's harmful in this case, for example, because it creates a misimpression that someone then has to figure out a way to correct.

There was some outsider came into the department, gave a briefing, left, and the impression is left that that is some sort of a policy decision on the part of the government, or that there's a view that that's the dominant opinion.

And, of course, Saudi Arabia is like any other country; it has a broad spectrum of activities and things, some of which, obviously, just like our country, that we agree with and some we may not. It is, nonetheless, a country where we have a lot of forces located, and we have had a long relationship. And yet it is correct, as apparently somebody said in the briefing, that a number of the people who were involved on September 11th happened to have been Saudi individuals and that there's those issues that Saudi Arabia is wrestling with, just as other countries of the world are wrestling with them.

But I don't know what the solution to it is. I think that something like that ending up out is kind of undoubtedly by somebody who wanted to make themselves feel important that they knew what was going on and that, therefore, they would tell someone else. And no lives are lost.

On the other hand, when classified information is released that could affect the lives of men and women in uniform, that could inhibit and make more difficult the task of the United States of America in tracking down terrorists and, in fact, actively assist terrorists in figuring out what it is we're thinking and doing, I think it is criminal. (Applause.)

Question? Yes?

Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. My name is Dave Winmiller (sp). I'm with the Joint Staff J2. And I'd like to focus back on your concept of transformation. And primarily I'm looking at transformation within the intelligence community, which has, of course, been given quite a bit of press of late. And I know that there is the national intelligence community and also defense intelligence. And predominately, I'm interested in where we're going in the future with defense intelligence, with the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and what your vision is for transformation within defense intelligence to better assure our security in the future as we move toward an entirely new future with defense intelligence.

Rumsfeld: Well, thank you. We're currently, of course, interviewing folks for the post of director of defense intelligence, and hope to have a nominee for that post soon.

I was asked in my confirmation hearing what worried me the most when I went to bed at night, and my answer, very spontaneously, was intelligence. The concern I had in January of 2001, just prior to coming to the department, the concern I had about the fact that we have a big world, a complicated world, a world with a lot of closed systems that are very difficult to get at where there's -- proliferation is pervasive, where the denial and deception techniques that were developed by countries watching how we do things have been now proliferated around the world as well, and a lot of dual-use technologies, which have enabled people to burrow underground and find ways to prevent the rest of the world from knowing what it is they're doing, particularly when they're up to things that are to harm other people.

So I do worry a lot about intelligence. Unfortunately, I have not -- we have not made many strides since I've been here in improving the intelligence take. A lot of good things have been done, but it just seemed to me that what we -- we're thinking about now and talking with the Congress about is the possibility of having a somewhat more senior person overseeing the -- those aspects of intelligence that are in the Department of Defense, for a couple reasons: one, to see that the focus is a bit more laser-like than it tends to be, and second is to see that we interact with the other intelligence agencies and with the director of Central Intelligence in a way that is more effective and more responsive and more constructive.

Where that will shake out over the coming weeks it's not clear to me, but it is quite correct that we are looking at it hard.


Q: Sir, Navy Lieutenant Matthew Duffy (sp), also from New Trier. Sir, my question --

Rumsfeld: That's New Trier High School. (Laughter.) That's a -- that's a --

Q: Sir, my question is what you think the administration's policy should ultimately be with regard to the West Bank settlements, for the Middle East peace process. (Pause.)


Rumsfeld: You obviously never finished school, did you? (Laughter.)

Q: No, sir, I just got by.

Rumsfeld: What do I think the U.S. policy ought to be with respect to the settlements in the occupied areas?

Q: Yes, sir.

Rumsfeld: Is that roughly the way you phrased it?

Q: Yes, sir.

Rumsfeld: Well -- (laughter) -- let me say this about that. (Laughter.) First of all, that's a matter for the Department of State -- (scattered laughter) -- and the president. Second, the U.S. policy, I think, ought not to be on a particular, isolated piece of that puzzle. I think to pull out one thing and say our policy on this ought to be X and our policy on some other issue ought to be Y -- I think that's unhelpful.

The -- those problems have been going on since the country was established in the late '40s. It is a complicated set of issues. And it has been -- it has tended over time to have been dominated by a couple of facts. Several. One is periodic warfare. Second is the fact that the surrounding areas from Israel have preferred that Israel not be there.

And third is that the people that Israel has been trying to interact with and find as an interlocutor have, for whatever reason, not been an effective interlocutor. That is to say, they have not had a structure and an accountability that would enable them to make a deal or keep a deal. And Barak made a proposal that was as forthcoming as anyone in the world could ever imagine, and Arafat turned it down.

If you have a country that's a sliver and you can see three sides of it from a high hotel building, you've got to be careful what you give away and to whom you give it. If you're giving it to an entity that has some track record, that has a degree of accountability, that has the ability to enforce security that's promised in whatever arrangements are made, it seems to me that's one thing. If you're making a deal and yielding territory to an entity that cannot or will not do that -- and there is no question but that the Palestinian Authority have been involved with terrorist activities, so that makes it a difficult interlocutor.

My feeling about the so-called occupied territories are that there was a war, Israel urged neighboring countries not to get involved in it once it started, they all jumped in, and they lost a lost of real estate to Israel because Israel prevailed in that conflict. In the intervening period, they've made some settlements in various parts of the so-called occupied area, which was the result of a war, which they won.

They have offered up -- successive prime ministers have offered up various portions of that so-called occupied territory, the West Bank, and at no point has it been agreed upon by the other side. I suspect it will be, even in my lifetime, that there will be some sort of an entity that will be established. Maybe it will take some Palestinian expatriates coming back into the region and providing the kind of responsible government that would give confidence that you could make an arrangement with them that would stick. It may be that the neighboring countries, Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia and others, will have to assist in providing a degree of accountability.

But certainly everyone has to hope and pray that there will be something that could be an effective interlocutor so that they could make a deal.

The settlement issues -- it's hard to know whether they're settlements in portions of the real estate that will end up with the entity that you make an arrangement with or Israel. So it seems to me focusing on settlements at the present time misses the point. The real point is to get an effective interlocutor. The real point is to get a condition so that you can have a peace agreement. And those are exactly the things that President Bush and Secretary Powell have been working on, and indeed, working particularly with Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Yes, sir?

I thought it was gracious that he didn't mention that I'm a former Middle East envoy who failed to solve the problem. (Laughter.)

Q: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. I'm Lieutenant Commander Jack Law (sp). My question is, does the current environment with regard to defending America require decision-making with a decreased reliance on the consensus of other nations? And if the answer to that is yes, or even if it's no, how does that affect your job?

Rumsfeld: Well, that's a very good question. There is no question we are in a distinctly different security environment in the 21st century. There is also no question that it takes time for all of us -- the American people, the Congress, the executive branch, as well as other countries -- to kind of navigate or migrate over so that we have our head properly wrapped around the new security environment.

I think that there is a great deal of hype in the press about U.S. unilateralism and independent decision-making, which is really inaccurate. If you think about it, the United States has a coalition going in the global war on terrorism in less than a year that has something like 90 nations involved. We have something like 18 countries engaged in Afghanistan. Tom -- General Tom Franks, who is doing a terrific job in Central Command in Tampa, has 37 nations represented at the one- or two-star level in his command as liaison people. We have -- as Saddam Hussein would say, "the mother of all coalitions" -- (laughter) -- going on. And yet, we see these burbles in the press implying that it's some sort of a unilateralist approach. It is not.

What we have said, and I think it's terribly important, is that we've got a big, complicated world, and the mission has to determine the coalition. And you must not fashion a coalition and then let it determine the mission. To the extent you do that, you end up dumbing down to the lowest common denominator. And it seems to me that we can't do that.

So, what we have to recognize is that we need all the help we can get in this world, and like-thinking nations with us need all the help we can get, and what we ought to do is take it on the basis that others are willing to do it. If they want to cooperate with us in a coalition to achieve this particular goal, terrific. But if next week we have a goal that we're also working on and they don't want to participate in that, fair enough. That doesn't mean we shouldn't let them in this one.

We need, for example, intelligence sharing from everybody in the world who's like-thinking. We need people to offer base rights and overflight rights from as many countries as possible. We need people who are willing to help us track down terrorists.

Sure, we also would like people to join the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. But at any one time, we can only get about six or seven. We shouldn't reject them if -- and we also have coalition forces where we have many more than six or seven countries. But because those many more won't participate in the ISAF doesn't mean we don't want them in the coalition.

So, I think that it may be fun for some European parliamentarian to stand up and play to his constituents by saying that the United States is a unilateral state and should be listening more to what we're saying, it's nonsense when they say that. We are deeply involved with countries all across the globe, in NATO, in other alliances, and the cooperation in this coalition and the global war against terrorism is breathtaking in its size and in its depth and in its value.

So there! (Laughter.)

Yes, sir?

Q: Good morning, sir. Colonel Myers (sp). I'm an Army reservist. I have a question with regards to op tempo. In the last couple of years, in fact probably go back as much as six years, the op tempo of the military has been steadily increasing to the point of -- it's getting strained. I think that strain has been shown recently in the unfortunate events at Fort Bragg and elsewhere. And I was wondering, what are we going to do to reduce the strain on the military and maybe allow people to be in places longer than 18 months?

Rumsfeld: Well, they're allowed to be there longer than 18 months now. It's been a bias and preference in the system for people to skip along on the tops of the waves punching tickets that's caused that short cycle that you're referring to and that I mentioned earlier.

I worry a lot about op tempo. It was high when I came in. It's higher today. We still have, I suppose, something in the 20,000 of stop-loss people who are in the service who had indicated a preference to get out, who we've asked not to. We still have, I don't know what it is, 60(,000), 70(,000), 75,000 reservists who are on active duty who were called up. Interesting -- I've asked for the number and I've not seen it yet -- but I'm told there's a significant fraction of the 70-plus-thousand that were called up who were voluntarily. That is to say, their units may have been activated, but they activated those individuals who found that it fit their circumstance in life to do that. And therefore, I think it would be a misunderstanding to suggest that all the 70,000 are being activated against their preference.

Third, I would say that we are higher than our pre-national- emergency authorized end strength. We've flexed up to -- for an average of about 2 percent, I think. One service is slightly over 2 percent, and I think one service is very close to its end strength. So we've allowed it to rise to meet the demand.

The other thing we're doing is, we're trying to use the pressure that op tempo presents to do the things I mentioned earlier: to get more military people stopping doing things that aren't military jobs and get them back into jobs that are needed by uniformed folks, to have more things be done by contractors, more things be done by civilian employees, to find things we can stop doing. If you're in a global war on terror, you don't have to keep doing everything you've been doing all along. It's a different world. We can stop doing some things. And we ought to find things we don't need to do.

I am a realist. If we need more people, then we ought to 'fess up to it and say let's lift the end strength and do it on a normal basis rather than trying to patch it with Reserves and stop-losses for extended periods. On the other hand, doing it too quickly relieves the pressure on moving people out of non-military jobs and into military jobs. And we do an enormous number of things, and I -- there isn't a week that goes by someone doesn't walk up to me -- in fact, I had lunch yesterday with the secretary of one of the services, and he said, "We just found 600 people doing this, and we didn't have the vaguest idea they were doing that, until you put the pressure on us to look and see what our people are doing." And we're pulling every one of the 600 out of that, which they need not be doing, should not be doing, a military person need not be doing, and it may be that nobody needs to be doing it. Horrors.

So I think that, you know, at least from where I sit, which is not a perfect perspective, I'll have to concede, my impression is that an awful lot of good things are happening because of that tension.

Second, I must say, as I go around the world and meet with troops, their morale is high, and they're doing a great job. And they're proud to be doing what they're doing. And we've -- (applause) -- and I think the real thing we've got to be careful about is that we don't create sufficient stress on the system that, for example, we're not able to attract and retain Reservists, because we activate them and keep them on way longer than they intended.

Fortunately, in this instance, a number of the people who were activated -- for example, for airport duty, Customs duty, Border Patrol duties -- on a temporary basis, I insisted there be a memorandum of understanding so that that ended after 30, 60, 90 or 180 days, and we were not trapped into doing a civilian function permanently.

The president said we needed it done fast. We can do that, and we did it. But we're systematically getting out of them.

We're drawing down in Bosnia and Kosovo. I talked to General Ralston two days ago, and you look at the chart, it's going like that. We're -- with all NATO countries. We've put more pressure on fixing the civilian side and get those folks down. We've had meetings this week about how we can start to begin to pull some of the folks out of the Sinai that have been there for 22 years. Seems a little long to me. (Laughter.) So we're working the problem.

Yes, sir?

Q: Sir, my name's John Trahir (sp). I worked for you on the Pentagon renovation. And as an exception, I was wondering if -- I would be honored if you would sign my (hardhat) -- (laughter, applause) --

Rumsfeld: (Inaudible.) There we go. There you go. (Continued applause.) Thank you. Thank you.

I was up looking at the renovation and telling the folks what a wonderful job they're doing. And someone asked me to sign their helmet and I started to sign it, and I looked and there was "Bo Derek." (Laughter.) And I looked at that and I said, "She's a 10." (Laughter.) He said, "You're an 11." (Laughter.) I said, "You're blind!" (Chuckles.)

Yes, sir?

Q: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. My name is - Hal (inaudible). I'm a naval aviation requirements officer. My question deals with weapons of mass destruction. And specifically, DOD has many priorities. Where does the chemical and biological threat for our forces overseas stand amongst your priorities -- (off mike)?

Rumsfeld: Well, it has to be high, and there's no question but the Defense Planning Guidance, which was completed a few months ago and is now being, the good Lord willing, bled into the budget-build process and the studies that have been made, so that the '04-'09 budget will reflect those priorities, clearly addressed that subject.

You're right, it is a world where these capabilities have proliferated. They are available to people and countries and terrorists that want them. We have to recognize that our country has to not only be able to deal with those things to the extent it's possible here in the United States, but also with respect to deployed forces overseas. So it is a real threat.

If you think of what anthrax did in terms of people's concerns here in Washington, and anthrax is not contagious, you just have to take your mind over and think about a contagious agent that could infect so many more people so much more rapidly to understand the importance and the priority that it must have.


Q: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. I'm Major Rob Landers (sp). I work here on Air staff. I had the honor -- this is kind of a follow-up on this from a bigger scale. I had the honor of working on the national missile defense program and --

Rumsfeld: On the what?

Q: National missile defense program, sir. And I'm just curious, where are we going with that? I've kind of been out of the program for two years now, and what your perspectives are on that, sir?

Rumsfeld: Well, when I came in, it had been locked in a mode that it could not look at or think about or dream of anything that would violate the ABM Treaty. We're now beyond that. And the treaty has been set aside; the sky did not fall; Russia is -- was met with kind of a yawn when it finally happened. And despite all of our concerns that were expressed out of Europe that they didn't believe that was a good idea, they now are comfortable because Russia was comfortable.

So, that program is now focused very much across the spectrum in attempting to look and find ways that we can defend against missile defense, missiles, ballistic missiles. We also have to worry about cruise missiles, to be perfectly honest. And it is, I believe -- I'm due to be briefed on that sometime in the next 20-30 days to get current. And they're moving towards the point where some decisions are going to have to be made, because after you do a research and development and experimental -- in that mode for a period, at some point, you begin to get a sense of what's working and what's not working, in which case you want to move some of the funds from the things that have less prospect into things that will have greater prospect of success. And I think we're very close to that time.

Last question. Yes?

Q: Good morning. I'm Debbie Wagner (sp), and I work with (MNR-8 ?) on G-1. And my question is, what words would you impart to several of the families of the victims and their friends on the upcoming 9/11 anniversary? What words might you give us on -- many are coming into town.

Rumsfeld: Oh, I know.

Q: And I'd like to know what you might say to those people.

Rumsfeld: Well, I think the single thing that I found as I talked with them was that they simply did not want this building, the people here, the government to forget. And I'm not sure of all the details of what's going to take place on September 11th, but there's no doubt in my mind but that the memorial that's been built in this building, that I walked by coming down here, is -- testifies to the fact that we've not forgotten. I know that the memorial services that are going to be held, I believe, here, in the Towers in New York, and also in Pennsylvania, will also send that same message. So, that would be the message I would leave, that we have not and will not forget. (Applause.)

Q: Thank you.

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