UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


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

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld August 02, 2006 2:00 PM EDT

DoD News Briefing with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Good afternoon, folks. Over the past few weeks we've seen U.S. military personnel conduct a wide range of missions with skill and professionalism.  On very short notice half-way across the globe U.S. ships and thousands of service members undertook the voluntary evacuation of some 14,000 Americans from Lebanon.  Here at home, at the president's direction, some 6,000 National Guard personnel have now deployed to our southern border to assist the Department of Homeland Security with the border protection on a temporary basis as the Department of Homeland Security recruits and trains additional border personnel.   

            In Afghanistan, coalition troops are helping the Afghan security forces fight off Taliban and al Qaeda, and NATO is taking on the additional responsibility for the southern section of the country as of -- I guess yesterday.   

            In Iraq, coalition troops are assisting Iraqi security forces in fighting the terrorists, sectarian gangs and Ba'athists.   

            It was 16 years ago today that Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait, provoking a crisis that led to Iraqi attacks on Israel and threats to Saudi Arabia and to other nations in the region: enormous environmental damage, loss of life.  Last week, by contrast, the new prime minister of Iraq, a man who spent some 25 years in opposition to Saddam Hussein, came to the United States to thank the American people for their assistance in helping the Iraqi people build a new future. To a joint session of the U.S. Congress he said that if terror should be permitted to in Iraq, then the war on terror will never be won elsewhere. The enemy knows this as well, and they're waging a psychological war of attrition, designing their attacks to gain maximum media coverage and maximum public outcry, having to -- hoping to get free people to give in to the extremists.  They want us to believe that perseverance is futile rather than necessary; to focus on our casualties and not on the people causing the casualties; to focus on what might happen if we stay in Iraq as opposed to the dire consequences were we to leave prematurely.   

            While our side puts its men and women at great risk by taking care to obey the laws of warfare, the other side deliberately targets civilians and uses them as human shields, and then orchestrates a public outcry when a response to their violence accidentally kills civilians in their midst. While our side is measured by exacting standards, the other side is measured by no standard at all and is never held to account. 

            That is the challenge in an age of asymmetric warfare. And while it may be comforting to assume that their strategy should not work, in fact it too often succeeds in persuading people.  But while they have certain advantages in this 21st century information age, we have advantages as well.    Our strength is the good common sense of the American people and the valor and the dedication of our armed forces.   

            General Pace.

            GEN. PACE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.   

            Last Thursday and Friday, I was in Afghanistan and Pakistan and had a chance to meet with our military leaders and theirs, with civilian leaders there as well. I was encouraged by many things; first and foremost, the incredible morale and patriotism and dedication of the U.S. armed forces over there.  You look them in the eye and they look you straight back, and they're very proud of what they're doing, as they should do. And they're proud of their Afghan National Army counterparts. They want to serve side by side with them, and they're very proud to describe the heroism of the Afghan army.

            I was also pleased at the ongoing cooperation between the Pakistan army and the Afghan army. General Bismullah Khan on the Afghan side and General Ahsan Hayat on the Pakistan side, aided by Lieutenant General Eikenberry from the U.S., having had a dialogue to be able to work more efficiently and effectively together against the Taliban on both sides of that border.

            As you know, NATO just took over the southern sector in Afghanistan as well. Some U.S. forces are now inside the NATO command, which is working for Lieutenant General Richards of the U.K., who ultimately works for General Jones as the SACEUR.  So that is all moving apace.  And as NATO moves more and more troops into Afghanistan, we're going to see more and more opportunity to help, especially the southern sector regain its footing against the Taliban.

            I'd like to take just a minute, too, to voice to the families of the 172nd Stryker Brigade how much we appreciate their additional sacrifice, not only of the troops spending additional time in Iraq, but their families are now going to have more time without their loved ones. This is very much a family event, and our families serve this country as well as any of us who wear the uniform. And I'd like to thank them publicly for their support of their loved one, making it possible for them to do their job as we've asked them to. 

            Thank you.

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Tom? 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about the concerns that are being expressed in Congress and elsewhere about the declining readiness of the Army -- concern about equipment shortages, money shortages. Yesterday, General Blum said that with regard to the National Guard, the situation is "dire" -- was the word he used.   

            My question to you is, what is your level of concern about under- resourcing the Army, and is it being run into the ground?

            SEC. RUMSFELD: We've spent a good deal of time on that subject with the officials from the Army and others, as well as up on the Hill. And I -- in fact, we had another meeting this morning about exactly what the circumstance is.   

            One of the problems we've seen is that in the readiness charts that are used, we see apples and oranges; we see a standard on the left side for some years back, and then a standard that's different on the right side.  So if you had a standard of X on the left side, and you then looked at your circumstance today and saw it had deteriorated dramatically, you need to know what the standard is on the right side. And if it's 2X, if you've increased you standard by double and you've only been able to improve circumstance by 50 percent, then you've got a significant degradation. It appears to be a significant degradation when in fact you have a substantial improvement in your capabilities and your equipment.

            Now, that's one example of the problem, and so they're in the process of thinking that through and how they want to present it. The reality is that when you have -- separate a unit from its equipment, you also get a change in readiness, and of course, if you leave equipment in the theater to save money from dragging it back and forth, and because it's the best equipment and has the best armor and the like, obviously, you're going to end up with a different readiness level.

            So the question -- and a third aspect of that that General Pace and I have been probing is you can say, "Ready for what," and if they're ready for the task they're doing, that's what you want. Or you could put a standard that says, "Are they ready for any conceivable task that might be asked," and if that's the standard, then you get a different set of numbers.

            So we're all working on this together. We've got, I think, almost as of today a very good common understanding as to where we are. The truth is, as anyone in the Army leadership will tell you, is that the Army today is vastly better than it was two, four, six or eight years ago.  It has much more equipment, much better equipment, and it's better trained and more experienced, and it is a better Army. Notwithstanding the fact that it is possible to look at some charts and show that something's changed. For example, if you have an artillery unit and you separate it from its artillery, and you then measure it and readiness to do its artillery job, but it's in Iraq doing an entirely different job because you don't need artillery there, you could -- but you're measuring it against its artillery roles, then, obviously, it's not going to be C-1 or C-2.

            So the important thing is to look beyond the headlines, and I -- it's not clear to me that General Blum said what you said he said.

            And I think if you talk to him -- I don't know if you have, but if you -- if you do, I think you might find that you'd get a somewhat different picture than the characterization that you quoted.

            Q     Well, what should the standard actually be, though? You said that it should either be -- should be for what they're going to be doing, or what they could have to be -- called on to do in the future?

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, clearly, it has to -- one of the standards has to be for what they're doing.  If you have a unit that was C-1 for artillery and it was C-4 for doing the job it's doing in Iraq, that would be bad. That is not the case. Everyone over there is C-1 or -2 for doing what they're doing. And that's what's important.   

            If you think about the Navy and the Air Force, particularly in the Navy -- take the Navy. They go out and deploy for six months, then they come back, and then they go down into C-4 or -5 because they've deployed and now they're not deployed and now they're doing all the things that they do. They go to school, they fix their equipment and put the ship in dry dock and do all of those types of things. And they -- you expect a deployable force to drop down in readiness when it's not being deployed.  And you expect it to be ready when it is being deployed for the thing that it is designed to do and is being asked to do.

            So, I think what you -- really, the answer to your question is you need lots of -- a number of different ways of looking at it. And then you have to not be simplistic about it, but look at it and say okay, fair enough, you need to look at it at this basis, on that basis, and understand what it is you're seeing. And I think that's where everyone's coming to some common understanding on it. 

            (To Gen. Pace) Do you want to -- 

            GEN. PACE: Just one additional point, if I could, on the National Guard. As you know, the Guard's building to 28 fully manned, trained and equipped brigades. To get there, the price tag is about the $21 billion that was quoted yesterday.  However, what was not quoted, to the best of my knowledge, is that that $21 billion is in the budget that was submitted for FY07 and beyond. So the Army has, in fact, recognized the desirability of having 28 full-up brigades and has allocated resources to build to that.

            SEC. RUMSFELD: And if you go back to the earlier period, they were hollow. The Reserve-Guard brigades were frequently without the equipment and were hollow. The measure we're now measuring them against is to be deployable and equipped and trained and capable of undertaking the kinds of tasks that they'll be assigned. 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, there was a statement today by the president of Iraq, and perhaps General Pace would like to answer this in addition to you. The president is saying that Iraq will be able to handle its own security by the end of the year.

            Is that statement overly optimistic? And if it is a true statement, will U.S. forces be home by then? 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: The -- I did not see President Talibani's remarks, but obviously, the hope of the Iraqis, the hope of the Americans, the hope of the troops is that the Iraqis will continue to take over responsibility for the security in their country and that over time we'll be able to draw down our forces as conditions permit. Beyond that, I'm not going to go.

            Q     Well, he did say the end of the year, sir. He did make that definitive statement.

            SEC. RUMSFELD: That's fine.  He's the president of Iraq, and he can make his statements. And I didn't see the context of it or the translation of it, and I can't comment on it beyond what our policy is.


            Q     Mr. Secretary, a question about the fighting in Southern Lebanon.  Have you specifically asked your staff to look at lessons learned or warnings for the U.S. global war on terrorism from that conflict? And have you drawn your own, at least preliminary, judgments about Hezbollah's ability to resist both Israel on the ground and also the air strikes, its ability to hide in that complex terrain, and its ability to keep on firing rockets?

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Our people clearly are watching what's taking place, and as good professionals, thinking through any implications that might have for other parts of the world.  The -- I think anyone who ever underestimated Hezbollah were few and far between. Everyone realized that that terrorist organization was well financed and well equipped and capable of doing a good deal of damage.  They've killed an awful lot of Americans over a period of time.

            Q     Mr. Secretary, did you decline an invitation to testify tomorrow before the Senate Armed Services Committee?  And if so, why? 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: It was raised at one point, and what I ended up doing is agreeing -- I was up there yesterday, and I'm going to be up there tomorrow with General Abizaid and General Pace and Condi Rice before the entire Senate, Republican and Democrat, in a briefing.  And it seemed to me that my calendar was such that to do it in the morning as well would have been difficult.  So we're going to do it in the afternoon instead of the morning.


            Q     A big -- a big-picture budget question which is dealing with the war. The Marines estimate they need about 12 (billion dollars) or 13 billion (dollars) to reset and equip; the Army about 17 billion (dollars); the Guard, as you've talked about, 21 billion (dollars). The -- Congress has provided in excess of 420 billion (dollars) for Iraq, Afghanistan, for Operation Noble Eagle, and that's on top of the annual budget of $400 billion.

            Given these out-year costs for reset that are going to continue to mount as long as we have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, are you all considering any major cuts or adjustments in the budget, or do you just expect Congress to keep putting money into the top line to cover the costs as they come up?  What do you -- (off mike)?  

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't know quite how to answer.  

            GEN. PACE: Yes.  (Laughter.)

            Q     (Off mike.) 

            GEN. PACE: No, I'm smiling.  We don't -- I don't personally expect anything from Congress --

            Q     (Laughs.)

            GEN. PACE:   -- other than that they would expect from us -- for us to do our homework. The secretary and I have been for the last several weeks now focused very heavily on the ground force part of this. As you know, the commandant of the Marine Corps and the chief of staff of the Army have testified in front of Congress. They have met with us and described their future budget needs, as they see it. And we're literally today, as of about two hours ago, meeting, and we'll meet again tomorrow to discuss where are we, what are the potential deficits, how might we fill those deficits, what things are there that we are doing that we might be able to stop doing. Those are all ongoing analyses.

            But at the end of the day, we owe it to the nation -- at least I do, as a military officer -- I owe to the nation my best description of what I believe we need to be able to bring to the table for the nation; what I believe, asset-wise, we're going to need to accomplish that; and to identify, then, to the Congress, through the secretary and the president, our request for financing.  That's what we should be doing.  That's what we are doing. 

            Q     Any cuts, do you think, to offset the costs?

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, there's so many puts and takes that take place in a Defense budget of this size.  They go on every day in -- within the services and among the services. I don't know -- I wouldn't know quite how to answer it. But the general is correct.

            And as you, I think, know, the Senate is proposing that an additional $13 billion be brought forward and put into the -- what they call an allowance and I think what we call a bridge, the $50 bridge fund, which should go some distance in helping with the reset costs.   

            But the second issue you raised, you mentioned the top line. This gets a little detailed for this kind of an environment.   

            Q     (Off mike.) 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: You like that stuff, huh?  Yeah, I'm not into it.  I try to avoid it.   

            The question as to whether something goes into the base budget, the so-called top line, or whether it goes into a supplemental is an issue that really is above our pay grades. That's something that the president works out with the leadership in the Congress.  We can do it either way.  To the extent you put it in the baseline and it's something that isn't fully understood yet because it's prospective, it's very difficult to do. And therefore, the justification is sketchier. To the extent you wait and put it in a supplemental, you have much more detail and the Congress then is more fulfilled in terms of understanding what the funds are for.

            The one thing, as Pete said, the reality is, when you're in a war -- and we are in a war -- it costs money. And equipment gets used at a much different rate. Equipment gets destroyed and it has to be replaced. And you need to reset the force properly and you need to reset it in a way that this country will be capable of doing what is necessary to defend our country.

            We are currently as a country spending about 3.7 percent of gross domestic product on defense, maybe 3.8, depending on how you do it. That compares with 10 percent of gross domestic product going to defense back in the Kennedy and Eisenhower era when I first came to Washington. It compares with 5 or 6 percent when I was here 30 years ago as secretary of Defense. And it's now down to 3.8 percent.   

            It is certainly an investment that enables the opportunity and the economic activity and the activity around the world to continue. We are a stakeholder in the world global economy and the global system, and we are investing to see that that system is able to function and to resist the pressures from violent extremists that are determined to reestablish a caliphate in this world of ours and to deny free people the right to be free and the right to do what they want and say what they want and go what (sic) they want.  

            And it's serious business. And I think that that is a perspective on it that needs to be understood. 


            Q     Mr. Secretary, I wanted to follow up on Will's question regarding Capitol Hill. The Senate Armed Services Committee says nonetheless that you have not testified openly before them since February on the subject of the war in Iraq or anything else.  Do you have some reluctance to -- while you have these private sessions, briefing sessions behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, sir, do you have some reluctance to publicly testify before the committee and face Senator Kennedy or others on the committee who oppose the war?  They also say -- and I was just asking for an accurate reading from you -- that despite your schedule, that you may be scheduling a press conference on Capitol Hill tomorrow.  I have no idea if that's true. So I just would like your further assessment.

            SEC. RUMSFELD: No.  Well, I mean, I can't say what someone might or might not be doing --

            Q     You were -- your -- 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Just a minute.  I'll answer. I cannot say what somebody else around here may or may not be doing.  But what I normally do when I go up there is do stake-out afterwards, and my guess is that that is the press conference.  And unless Senator Warner or someone who's in charge of the intelligence and operation briefing that we're giving has requested something like that, I have no desire for it. 

            Q     Do you have some reluctance?  Why haven't you -- 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: No, I don't.  The answer is no, I don't have any reluctance.

            Q     Will you testify publicly again? 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I have in the past.  I've testified many times over the years --

            Q     Why not since February? 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I haven't been asked that I know of, until this morning. I decided that it would be more appropriate to speak to the entire Senate at an -- at a -- in the forum in the afternoon. But -- and, I mean, let's be honest: politics enters into these things, and maybe the person raising the question is interested in that. I just don't know. But all I know is we are arranged the way we are, and I've been happy to testify on any number of occasions. 


            Q     Mr. Secretary, General Casey has made the decision now to send an additional several thousand U.S. forces into Baghdad to try to stem the recent spike in sectarian violence. What -- what specifically will be their mission? Will -- will part of their mission be to disarm the armed militias there inside Baghdad?  And after your most recent visit there, do you get the sense that Iraq is closer than ever to the brink of civil war?

            GEN. PACE: Could I have the first part? 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Do you -- 

            GEN. PACE: Yes, sir.  I'll do the first part for sure. 

            First of all, General Casey is working very closely with Prime Minister Maliki with regard to the security operations in Baghdad. As you know, there were about -- oh, I think it was 54,000 troops, of which 7,000 were U.S. and the rest, 40 -- the other 47,000 were Iraqis. Together they decided to increase that number. They're going to add another 3,500 U.S. and about another 5,500 Iraqi soldiers and police.

            Specifically, to be able to strengthen the cordon and strengthen the street presence, most of the work inside the city on the streets will be performed by Iraqi army and Iraqi police backstopped with the strength of the Stryker Brigade, for example.   

            So we're able to quickly respond to needs as they come about; to suppress the death squads that have been roaming and shooting, assassinating innocent people.  It was a response to increasing violence that needed to have a quick response. And over time, we'll be able to have the U.S. force that's been extended come home and have the Iraqis, as they want to do and as President Talibani said today, step forward and take over more responsibility. 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Tom. 

            Q     And the question, Mr. Secretary, after your most recent visit and the spike in violence.  Do you believe that Iraq is closer than ever to the brink of civil war?

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Closer than ever.  Clearly, there's sectarian violence; people are being killed. Sunnis are killing Shi'a and Shi'a are killing Sunnis. Kurds seem not to be involved. It's unfortunate, and they need a reconciliation process.  The prime minister's pushing for a reconciliation process. There are a couple of other things that are -- oh, how would you characterize it -- things you wish weren't happening. There's some movement of Shi'a out of Sunnis and Sunnis out of Shi'a areas to some extent. There, undoubtedly, are some people who are leaving the country and going to safer places because of the violence.

            Does that constitute a civil war? I guess you can decide for yourself, and we can all go to the dictionary and decide what you want to call something. But I think, to me, that it is not a classic civil war at this stage.  It is a -- it certainly isn't like our civil war. It isn't like the civil war in a number of other countries. 

            Is it a high level of sectarian violence? Yes, it is. And are people being killed?  Yes. And is it unfortunate? Yes.  And is the government doing basically the right things? I think so.  We're now up to 275,000 security -- Iraqi security forces heading towards 325,000 by the end of the year.  The president has announced a reconciliation process. He's working on it.  He's a serious person. He's working with some of the neighboring countries to try to encourage the Sunnis to participate.  He's worked with Sistani, the leading Shi'a cleric in the country, and had him support a reconciliation process, as well as support the disarming of some of the militias.

            So there's a number of good things happening. There are four provinces in the country that are -- where almost all the violence is occurring, and there are 14 where there's relatively little violence. And so amidst all of this difficulty, the currency is fairly stable, the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the people are functioning.  You'd fly over it -- you've been there -- and you see people out in the fields doing things, and people driving their cars and lining up for gasoline and going about their business.  So it's a mixed picture that's difficult, but there are some -- despite all of the difficulties, there are also some good trend lines that are occurring and I think the period ahead is an important period.


            Q     General, with regard to your trip in Afghanistan, now that you've been back and briefed folks, do you expect to make any recommendations with regard to troops? I know that the NATO force will ultimately increase the amount of troops in the south.  But do you expect any recommendations to increase the U.S. troop contribution there, or will it forestall recommending reductions over time there? 

            GEN. PACE: Neither.  I think that the plan that is being executed right now is on track. You've got an overall increase in the total number of troops on the ground by virtue of two things: one, NATO coming in with more troops; and two, the Afghan National Army and Afghan police growing. The U.S. contribution has stayed stable and will remain stable. And I see NATO's additional presence as helping to provide for the kinds of stability that will allow for the kind of governance that President Karzai and his parliament are striving to provide to the people in Afghanistan. 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Tom? 

            Q     I wanted to return to Lebanon and ask about Hezbollah's ties to Iran.  Have you or General Pace seen evidence of continued Iranian support since the current fighting started?  And if so, is that weapons still flowing in? What kinds?  Are there Iranian personnel on the ground in Lebanon, and what sort of functions are they providing to Hezbollah?

            GEN. PACE: Hezbollah has been in the past supported by Iran. It's logical to presume that they are still being supported by Iran. I would not want to be specific about today -- what we know today or what we might think about tomorrow, because that really is into the intel world where we shouldn't be straying.  But it's fair to say that Hezbollah has had a very close relationship with Iran and continues to have one. 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: And a lot of the weapons being fired by Hezbollah are Iranian weapons. And Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and Iran's their principal financial and military supplier and supporter. The linkage is tight.  


            Q     Mr. Secretary, just to follow up on the Hezbollah issue, you said in two that Iran and -- Tehran and Damascus they were supporting Hezbollah.

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I said what about two years? I didn't say anything about two years, did I?

            Q     No, it's been since two years you were saying that Tehran and Damascus they were --   

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I see what you're saying, yes.

            Q     -- they were supporting terrorist movements in Iraq and in Israel and in Lebanon.   

            SEC. RUMSFELD: That's true.  But it's been longer than that. 

            Q     Yeah, maybe -- 

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Bret -- 

            Q     Many times.   

            But my question is, now do you think -- do you support the idea that having direct dialogue with Damascus and Tehran could help in getting a cease-fire or a peace in the Middle East?

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Those are decisions for the president and --

            Q     No, as secretary of Defense, do you support this idea?

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I give my advice to the president, not in press conferences, and it is a decision that the president of the United States would make.  And he works closely with the Department of State on issues like that, not the Department of Defense.  (Cross talk.) 

            Q     Mr. Secretary, one of the Marines from the unit that is being investigated for the apparent killings in Haditha has filed suit today against Congressman Murtha, saying that he has defamed not only him but the other members of that unit. Can you comment on that? Do you think -- do you agree that Congressman Murtha perhaps has said things that could, you know, shape public view of these Marines before the investigation has been completed?

            And General Pace, could you just update us on where the investigation is?  There have been some reports in the last few hours that it's completed or at least an initial take is completed and it's been kicked to another process. Can you talk about that?

            SEC. RUMSFELD: I'm not going to get involved in a legal suit like that.

            Q     Is the investigation -- 

            GEN. PACE: The investigation's, as you know, two investigations.

            Q     Right.

            GEN. PACE: One is what's called the Bargewell investigation, Major General Bargewell. And he looked at the events leading up to and the events after the alleged events at Haditha. That part has been through General Chiarelli and is with General Casey right now. And General Casey is reviewing it. I'm told it was about 3(,000) or 4,000 pages. So it takes a while for a leader to read all that, digest it and form his own opinion. So General Casey, when he is ready, will determine what next.

            With regard to the criminal investigation, that is ongoing, to the best of my knowledge, and will continue to go until they have had a chance to cross-walk not only what they found in the criminal investigation but also what comes out of the Bargewell investigation, to make sure that every single possible cross thread has been looked at.

            So to my knowledge, that's still open.

            SEC. RUMSFELD: Thanks, folks. 

            Q     Have a good summer.


Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list