American Forces Press Service

Rumsfeld Supports Army Secretary Over Crusader Flap

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2002 -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today supported Army Secretary Thomas White amid controversy surrounding the fate of the Crusader artillery system.

Rumsfeld and Georgian Minister of Defense David Tevzadze were briefing Pentagon reporters when the secretary was asked if White would leave the Pentagon over rumors that Army staffers had gone over Rumsfeld's head to appeal to Congress to save the embattled Crusader.

"I certainly have confidence in Secretary White," Rumsfeld told reporters. Responding to a reporter's question if he would seek White's resignation, Rumsfeld answered: "No, my goodness, no."

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz recently directed White to provide alternative uses of money earmarked for the $9 billion Crusader program. News reports have alleged that after White met with Wolfowitz, an Army official then faxed information supporting the Crusader to congressional officials, allegedly with White's blessing.

Rumsfeld emphasized White didn't go over his head. "I talked to the secretary, and he had no knowledge or awareness of the talking points," Rumsfeld said.

The defense secretary is awaiting an Army inspector general report on the incident, but emphasized to reporters, "I've spoken on the first piece," regarding White's involvement.

Tevzadze was in Washington to meet with Rumsfeld to discuss the Georgia Train and Equip program, in which military trainers and logisticians from the U.S. and other countries will provide instruction and equipment to the Georgian military to enhance stability in that nation.

Terrorists operating in Pankisi Gorge near Chechnya have concerned Georgian government officials.

Tevzadze provided a firm "No," as he responded to a reporter who asked if al Qaeda terrorists were operating in Pankisi Gorge.

In fact, Tevzadze noted, it has become easier for the country's law enforcement agencies to work inside the gorge, he said. "The situation in Pankisi Gorge has dramatically improved since the (Georgia) Train and Equip program was announced," he said.

Rumsfeld said 26 U.S. service members recently arrived in Georgia to train military staff in the first phase of GTEP. Up to 150 U.S. trainers, he added, will be involved in the second phase in providing tactical training to four battalions. The duration of the program hasn't been announced.

GTEP will involve classroom staff training and tactical instruction, according to U.S. European Command. Military equipment to be transferred to Georgia includes uniform items, small arms and ammunition, communications gear, training gear, medical equipment, fuel, and construction equipment, according to EUCOM officials.

The training program demonstrates the solid relationship between the United States and Georgia, and American support of Georgia's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, command officials said.

Addressing a reporter's question about the fate of the Marine Corps' Osprey aircraft, Rumsfeld noted, "That is a subject, like all weapon systems, that gets addressed in an orderly way.

"The Defense Planning Guidance has some reference to it, but that is a classified document, and I don't know if I want to get into what it says," he added.

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