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U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace January 12, 2006

News Briefing with Sec. Rumsfeld and Gen. Pace

            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Good afternoon.  Good morning.  I just wanted to see if you were awake.   


            More than 80 years ago, in the wake of World War I, the Marine Corps and the Navy studied the feasibility of designing amphibious landing craft that might be useful in future conflicts.  Those efforts ultimately led them to acquire a thing called the Higgins Boat, making it possible to land tens of thousands of U.S. troops on the shores of Normandy and begin the liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe. 


            In the 1920s, when this idea was first contemplated, no one would have envisioned the type of world war -- the type of world that would really await that new generation of warfighters.  The best security planning recognizes that it's impossible to predict precisely the  character of future adversaries and of future conflicts.  Therefore, planning -- best planning -- is designed to increase capabilities rather than to respond to any single threat.   


            With that in mind this week, the senior U.S. civilian and military leaders, including all of the combatant commanders, met here at the Pentagon to discuss the long war that we face against violent extremists and how to better arrange the Department of Defense for future conflicts, where the only thing we can really be certain of is the unexpected. 


            As we've seen in recent years, our outstanding soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines must act at any given moment as warfighters, civil police, engineers, diplomats, humanitarians.  This range and unpredictability of missions means that theater commanders have to have sufficient authority and capability to adapt rapidly to changing conditions on the ground.  We must continue transforming the department to get better arranged for speed, agility, mobility and precision in most everything we do. 


            This approach guides the decision-making on troop levels, along with the major initiatives undertaken over these past several years: changes to U.S. global defense posture to move from large, static, Cold War bases to more flexible operating sites that enable the military to move quickly to any fight; the latest BRAC round to eliminate waste and duplications in our domestic base structure to shift these resources to the warfighters; and the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, which will be produced in February -- the first QDR that has been conducted during a time of war -- which will set conditions that will encourage improvisation and flexibility. 


            While we can't know for certain what kinds of wars we may be fighting in the decades to come, we do know what our priorities have to be, and certainly they include preparing for unforeseen eventualities from full-scale combat operations to counter-insurgency missions; stability operations and homeland defense; creating the best structured, trained and equipped forces for these missions; continuing jointness and connectivity within and between the services to provide commanders with the greatest possible number of options; arranging the department to conduct a war against agile and unconventional enemies that are tied to no nation state, are unencumbered by bureaucracies, and use terror, propaganda and indiscriminate violence to try to exhaust our will and advance their radical aims. 


            These enemies are often located in countries with which we are not at war.  Some of those countries are friendly countries, and some are unfriendly.  Some of those countries have well-developed military capabilities that can be brought to bear, and some of the countries lack well-developed military capabilities.   


            Some of the countries have a good control over their real estate and govern much, if not all, of their countries, and some of the countries have large ungoverned areas that they do not assert effective control over, and within which enemies travel. 


            Long after World War II had ended, Dwight Eisenhower named the man he believed to have won the war for America, and it wasn't a famous general, but a naval engineer named Andrew Higgins.  Eisenhower said if Higgins had not designed and built those boats, the whole strategy of the war would have had to be different.  One cannot know which decisions made today will make the difference in future conflict, but one can be sure that they'll affect American strategy for decades to come.  Our responsibility is to minimize the limits we place on future strategies, maximize the flexibility we make possible, because tomorrow's threats are certain to be significant and unpredictable.  General Pace. 


            GEN. PACE:  Thank you, sir.  The secretary mentioned the senior leader conference that he hosted the early part of this week.  I wish all of you -- and in fact, I wish all Americans -- could have witnessed the dialogue over those days -- a very free, open exchange of ideas and information between our senior civilian leadership and our senior military leadership.   I've got pages and pages of notes of good ideas that came out of that and I'm really pumped by what came out of that three days of deliberations. 


            Q      We weren't invited. 




            Q      Can we read your notes? 


            (Cross talk.) 


            GEN. PACE:  You may not, but we'll take other questions.  Yes? 


            Q      Mr. Secretary, what's your view on Major General Miller's decision to invoke his right against self-incrimination in connection with Iraqi detainee abuse trials, and is this suggestive of culpability of senior military officers in the abuse at Abu Ghraib and perhaps elsewhere? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You know, there have been something like twelve major investigations of various detainee activities.  There have been  something like 600 criminal investigations as I recall.  Some 250 people have been punished in one way or another.  And now what takes place is there are various actions -- procedures that people go through.  And I'm certainly not going to inject myself into the middle of any one of those particular activities.  Yes? 


            Q      MR. Secretary, I'd like to ask you both -- since you've both very recently been to both Iraq and Afghanistan -- to what extent are you seeing any kind of migration of insurgents' tactics or techniques, or even insurgents themselves from Iraq to Afghanistan, either directly or indirectly? 


            GEN. PACE:  No clear evidence of that at all, as a matter of fact.  The numbers of events that have been taking place in Afghanistan have remained very low. 


            There have been some IEDs in Afghanistan recently, but as far as individuals moving back and forth or tactics, techniques, and procedures, not a clear link, although clearly I would think that they would be sharing ideas.  But the way you asked the question, no. 


            Q      General Pace, just to come back from the uniform point of view on the General Miller situation, more broadly than that case in particular, can you tell us how unusual it is for a general officer of the United States military to invoke his Article -- or her Article 31 rights, and is it acceptable?  Can you maintain confidence in a general officer who does so?  Is it acceptable for them after being asked to testify or be interviewed in a case simply to say they won't do it?  Is that acceptable? 


            GEN. PACE:  First of all, I have not seen or read his exact statement.  The way it was presented to me was that he said something like I have already testified many times about this, I have already given my statements to multiple investigations; I have said what I am going to say, which if that is true, he's different than the way these two questions have done.  Second, second -- 


            Q      Just to tell you the Army has this morning confirmed he invoked Article 31. 


            GEN. PACE:  Second, the fact that you are a uniformed person, regardless of rank, does not mean that you lose your rights under our Constitution.   


            Third, I fully expect that leaders of every rank will do the right thing at the right time as far as telling the truth as they know it, but we shouldn't be -- I don't know the facts in this case.  I will simply tell you that we expect our leaders to lead by example, but we do not expect them to give up their individual rights as people. 


            Q      One question on the armor issue:  I want to go back -- use your example of the Higgins boats and capability-based planning.  What connects the case of the Higgins boat to this war where up-armored humvees, interceptor vests and side-plate armor?  Obviously there is a controversy now that there is a shortage of that armor. 


            Mr. Secretary, was there any failure in capabilities-based planning in terms of the Iraq war for individual soldier equipment and vehicles; i.e., planning for an unforeseen adversary’s capabilities? 


            GEN. PACE:  The short answer is no. 


            Q      Comment. 


            GEN. PACE:  The longer answer is Higgins boats were designed in between wars, and when it turned out that that was what was needed, the country built a lot of them.   


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  And fashioned a strategy to use them, as I pointed out.   


            GEN. PACE:  Up-armored Humvees and the SAPI protection were designed before the war, and as we got into the war, the Congress of the United States provided the resources, and we have built literally beyond 700,000 flak jackets right now have been produced since the beginning of the war.  There are 40,000-plus armored vehicles.  


            So the fact that you are doing what you should be doing, prospectively looking at potential capacities and having those available doesn't mean that everything you have on the shelf, you should have a world supply of right at the beginning of a conflict before you know that you're going to need those particular things.  So I would tell you the fact that we had the SAV armor, the fact that we had the up-armored vehicles is an indication that we had people thinking about the right things. 


            Q      One follow-up, though.  Isn't this -- you can sort of see how these are evidences that you underestimated not only the insurgency but the extent of an insurgency that is 360 degrees. Soldiers are being attacked in the front lines, the back lines, the sidelines. 


            GEN. PACE:  No, because you have tanks and Bradleys that were clearly available to us and had been available to us since the beginning of this conflict.  What was different was that the commanders on the ground believed that tactics, techniques, and procedures were better to not have our guys in those kind of huge armored vehicles to be able to interact with the populace, and therefore something different was needed for this different kind of war.  The different thing was the up-armored humvee that was available from the stockpile, but not in the numbers that we eventually needed. 


            Q      Mr. Secretary, the question I was going to ask based on what's happening in Iran, and the fact that the United Nations will probably not act -- is it time perhaps to seriously consider invoking the military option.  But I'm not going to ask that, because if you want to answer it you may, but based on your opening remarks, I call to your attention an article by a British brigadier in the U.S. Army Journal where he says that the U.S. Army is culturally ignorant of Iraq and Iraqis, that we are given to unwanted and unwarranted optimism, and that we are guilty of institutional racism, which he claims has added to the growth of the insurgency.   


            I guess his bottom line, however, in all of this is that perhaps the United States is fighting insurgents improperly.  Under your transformation of this recent meeting, are you going to revise your tactics instead of going in with massive troops and armies and navies to fight insurgents in future battles? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I've not read the article that this individual apparently has written, and it -- just from your characterization of  it, as imperfect as it may be -- or perfect as it may be also, yeah -- it seems to me that one would make a mistake to think that one size fits all, that there is one way to do something and only one way or that the nature of the situation on the ground in Iraq, for example, is identical in all sections of the country, which it is not, or that the situation on the ground in Iraq is identical to what is taking place in Afghanistan, which it is not, and broad, sweeping generalizations of that type need to be supported by information, and I've not had an opportunity to read it so --  


            GEN. PACE:  Sir, can I interrupt? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Sure. 


            GEN. PACE:  One very important point about that article is it was published in a U.S. Army professional journal, a journal that was designed exactly for the opportunity for individuals to express their opinions and get dialogue going in the community. 


            So for this individual to write what he wrote, for the Army to publish it, and to get that kind of debate going is very, very healthy.  If only 1 percent of what he said turns out to be something that needs to be adjusted to, then we're all better off for it.   


            One thing he did say that I disagree with is he characterized central decision-making as a particular problem for the United States Army.  The truth of the matter is is that we have central planning, but it's our lance corporals and corporals and lieutenants and captains operating on the battlefield, making decisions as they go that carry the day. 


            Q       I'll ask the Iran question.  What are your thoughts on the latest developments inside Iran, and can the U.S. -- can the world afford to let Iran get a nuclear bomb? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  The subject of Iran is something that the president is addressing and the Department of State is addressing, and they've both commented on it.  It's an issue that the nations of the EU have banded together to work with Iran on it, and have thus far not been successful.  And I'll leave it to the foreign policy experts. 


            Q      We got word that the German, French and British foreign ministers say it should be referred to the U.N. Security Council.  If economic sanctions don't work, is the U.S. prepared for military action against Iran? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I'll leave those questions to the White House and the Department of State. 




            Q      Mr. Secretary, in response to questions about General Miller's situation, you've cited that there have been a dozen or so investigators doing inquiries into the treatment of prisoners by the U.S. military.   


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Major investigations, yeah. 


            Q      Are you confident that there was no officially sanctioned and/or ordered abusive treatment of prisoners or overly aggressive interrogation tactics ever at Guantanamo, and are you confident that none of those tactics, if they existed, were then somehow transferred to this situation at Abu Ghraib?   


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Of the various -- of the 12 major investigations, several addressed issues of that type and they concluded that that was not the case. 


            Q      And you are confident in those conclusions? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We have also looked at the situation, and what took place at Guantanamo is a matter of public record today, and the investigations turned up nothing that suggested that there was any policy in the department other than humane treatment.  And it is also clear by the very fact that some 250 people have been punished in one way or another that there was behavior that was inappropriate.   


            And so I think that responds to --  


            Q      I guess the question would be, while there may have been no policy in the department, are you confident that military leadership, either at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, did not sanction and/or order abusive treatment or overly aggressive interrogation tactics of prisoners? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  If you go back to those investigations, I believe all or most are a matter of public record, are they not? 


            STAFF:  There are one or two that have not been read out yet. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  What they indicate is that to the extent abusive or improper conduct by military people took place, that it has been investigated in every instance, and where appropriate it has been punished, and it is not suggested that there have been policies that authorized or approved of that. 


            Q      Mr. Secretary, back to Iran.  Is there a military option, or have the Iranians done a good enough job of hiding their facilities, protecting some deeply underground -- that taking out their capability the way the Israelis did in Iraq in 1981 simply isn't an option? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I don't think my discussing that subject is useful --  


            Q      Mr. Secretary --  


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  -- so I shan't. 


            Q      There is a new study that suggests the cost of the war in Iraq could run to $1 (trillion) to $2 trillion when you include permanent lifetime care for vets and replacement of equipment.  Can you just respond to that?  What do you think of that? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I haven't seen it. 


            Q      But surely you've got some --  


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I haven't seen it. 


            (Cross talk.) 


            Q      Mr. Secretary, I was wondering if you'd seen Mr. Bremer's new book and if you've had a chance -- and wonder what your reaction is. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You people ought to get a life.  (Scattered laughter.)  I mean, goodness, gracious, the questions you ask.  I haven't seen it. 


            Q      Well, apparently he says in the book that he thought there should be more troops in Iraq. 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Just before he left he sent a memorandum to me indicating that he thought there should be more troops, and it was within a matter of weeks before he departed.  And I took that and sat down with General Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and said, this is a reasonable proposal from a reasonable person; let's look at it.  And he took it down into the Joint Staff and the tank and had the chiefs -- and they spent several weeks in making evaluations with respect to it, and at some moment came back to me -- I acknowledged receiving the memo from Jerry Bremer when I received it, told him what I was going to do with it, giving it to General Myers. 


            When they came back to me -- by the time they came back to me -- it was several weeks later -- Bremer had left his position, and their recommendation you might want to comment on. 


            GEN. PACE:  Sir, we did a very thorough analysis of that recommendation and when we got done, all the chiefs agreed with the commanders in the field that the numbers of troops in the field then, as now, was appropriate to what we were fighting. 


            Q      Do you remember what the number was at the time and how many he thought should be there? 


            GEN PACE: I know he recommended two additional divisions and I don't recall the exact number that we had at that time.  I would have to go back and look. 


            Q      Ambassador Bremer says you never responded to him -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I did.  I have copy -- of the memorandum I sent him.  And in terms of the substantive response, that occurred after he had departed, so he may not have seen General Myers's response to me, but needless to say, when I receive something like that from a person of position of responsibility, I show it to the president, make him aware or it, gave it Myers, Myers took it to the tank, gave me a response.  I went back to the president and showed him the response, and the president, as he has consistently, said that he preferred to go with the judgments of the military commanders on the ground. 


            Q      Could you recall what you said to Bremer in the response? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Sure. 


            Q      Would you be willing to repeat that? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I thanked him for his suggestion and said we would look into it and we did.  And by the time he left he was, you know, no longer in a position where it would be appropriate to have given him the outcome and he never asked that I recall.  So it's no big deal. 


            Excuse me.  Go ahead. 


            Q       Sir, with regard to the meetings here this weekend at the Pentagon, General Pace, with the exchange of views.  I am wondering if you can just kind of describe, without going into details, about what decisions are made necessarily.  How substantively were things changed because of this feedback and the input that you got from the combatant commanders in terms of the overall product that will come out in another few weeks? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  We talked about the QDR to be sure and we talked about the circumstance in each of the combatant commanders' areas of responsibility.  But more important, and I think what General Pace was referring to, we had an extremely thoughtful set of discussions about the global war on terror, the long war, about the department, about the processes that drive this institution. 


            It was -- everyone contributed, military and civilian, chiefs as well as combatant commanders.  And the outcome was that General Pace and I each came away with, you know, 12, 15, 20 pages of notes, of things that we believe were either needed to be thought about or needed to be taken into account in one way or another. 


            I will give you just a couple of thoughts that stuck in my mind. The subject of intelligence was a subject that was discussed extensively.   


            And the reality that this department has responsibilities to find and to fix and to finish -- to use the phrase -- in terms of dealing with threats and enemies to this country, and a recognition that we have a great deal of ability to fix and -- correction, to finish -- in an operation and much less ability to find and fix, and the importance of seeing that our department over time recognizes that imbalance and does everything humanly possible to see that we find ways to link -- we are the biggest user of intelligence -- this department is -- and we need to see that there is an intimate relationship in proximity and time between intelligence and operations.  And that kind of a discussion was something that was examined at great length. 


            Q     How do you do that without adding many more people to the intelligence community because the technology has outraced the ability analyze it all? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  There certainly are people being added in the intelligence area.  Yes? 


            Q     Secretary, looking back on your notes, how would you characterize the gap between where your combatant commanders think this department ought to be and where you are today if you could take a snapshot, and what's your own personal sense of urgency about closing that gap? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  You might mention -- 


            GEN. PACE:  If I might speak for the combatant commanders, they did not identify a gap.  What we had was, for example, in the war on terrorism, we had a really, really good discussion about what's working, what's not working.  Will it continue to work in the future? What needs to be changed?  How might one commander reinforce the efforts of another commander?  How we can assure information across boundaries and make sure that we're doing this as effectively and efficiently as possible.  So it was very much focused on where are we, where are we going, and what's the best way from the lessons we've learned today to get to where we're going. 


            Q     Then if I could rephrase the question, what's the distance between where they want to get to and where you are today, and what's the urgency about getting there? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  I think everyone in the room feels an enormous sense of urgency.  We recognize the nature of the enemy.   


            We recognize the appetite that the enemies facing our country and free people everywhere on the globe -- that they have for weapons of mass destruction and increasingly powerful weapons, and the dangers that that poses.  We recognize the difficulty of defending in every location at every moment against every conceivable type of asymmetric attack.  We recognize that it will be -- the threats are asymmetric and irregular and not conventional.  And we recognize that the bureaucracies that we all have to live with our interagency process, the international system, which it requires the full cooperation of many nations in the world for us to do almost anything in this global war on terror effectively. 


            It requires sharing intelligence, it requires working together from the standpoint of shutting off bank accounts to terrorists, it requires a cooperation internationally that is not something that somebody snaps their fingers and achieves.  It requires the same thing with respect to the interagency process.  And that is a time-consuming thing because of the structure of the committees on the Hill and the structure of the subcommittees on the Hill, and the structure of the bureaucracies that mirror that situation on the Hill, and the amount of energy it takes and time it takes.  We all feel a great sense of urgency. 


            I should say one other thing.  We looked at -- I mentioned the process or the processes that produce things in this department.  Many of you are intimately familiar with them.  One of the things obviously is the issue of contingency plans.  That tends to be the beginning of the process that then leads to requirements and appetites and desires for the ability to accomplish something, and capabilities to do those things.  And if you think about the way we've been structured historically, those contingency plans tend to be quite conventional. And here we are in a global war on terror and the demand -- pull that a contingency plan causes in this department is real.   


            It goes into the budget process.  Anything that is new does not have that type of an organized, systematized demand-pull, and therefore we have to find ways to substitute for that.  I don't want to get into a whole lot of bureaucratic detail, but the kinds of discussions we had were at those levels, as opposed to things.   


            What time were we supposed to -- am I supposed to get the folk here? 


            Q       You're on your time now.  You know what their time is. (Laughter.) 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Is that right? 


            Q       Stay as long as you like. 


            Q       You lost me.  I'm so sorry.  You seem to be talking about establishing -- putting aside money for contingencies that you see? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  No, no.  I was talking about war plans, contingency plans, which once you fashion them, then you have to say how would you implement that.  And the way you would implement that is by looking at your forces and your capability, and then to the extent that there are shortfalls, you look around the rest of the world and ask how you would rearrange things, and to the extent there are shortfalls, you then would make investments over time that would mitigate any of those shortfalls in one way or another.  It may not be the way that -- 


            Q       Are you saying that when you, yourself, as secretary of Defense, look at current contingency plans on the shelf, you're not satisfied that they could actually be executed? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Absolutely not.  I said nothing of anything like that.  I didn't even come close to saying anything like that.  And anyone who is listening, understand I did not say anything like that. I wasn't even close. 


            Q       I apologize.  I'm not understanding what you're saying. What is the problem that you want solved in contingency planning? 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  What I said was this -- that we have a process where the combatant commanders look at their circumstances, and they then develop contingency plans.  For major things, for minor things,  that's what we do here in this department.  We plan.  And those things then create the demand in the department for investment and for resources, and for arrangements, organization structures.  When you hit something new like the global war on terror that is not conventional, there is not anything that has a comparable demand on our system for resources and for people and for dollars and investment.   


            And what one has to do is to recognize that and find ways to fashion a substitute for that normal demand that gets competed in all of our various processes.  And that does not suggest, nor should it suggest that we are not capable of doing the things -- 


            Q      Are you saying that -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  That we are capable of doing, and we are capable of doing that which this country needs done. 


            (Cross talk.) 


            SEC. RUMSFELD: Sorry? 


            Q      Is the QDR being rewritten in some respects to accommodate the notes you have taken and when -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  Well, no, the combatant commanders have been involved all along, and the QDR actually is more oriented to '08, and what we will do is take the kinds of things that came out of these discussions, and see that they are fashioned into some type of budget guidance as the process begins for the build of the '08, fiscal '08 budget and the forward year defense plan from there.  Thank you very much. 


            Q      You are planning, are you saying -- 


            SEC. RUMSFELD:  If there is any doubt about what I said, I said nothing -- (laughter) -- nothing about anything that would suggest that this department is not capable of fulfilling its responsibility. 


            (Cross talk, laughter.)

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