Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
Wednesday, July 18, 2001 - 2:30 p.m. EDT
Rumsfeld: Greetings. I don't have any big announcements to make. I'd be happy to respond --
Q: While you're out here, Mr. Secretary -- (laughter).
Rumsfeld: -- what's that? -- respond to questions.
Q: Secretary Rumsfeld, as I understand it, earlier this week you told the service chiefs and others in a meeting, quote, "We have a big problem", unquote, on the QDR, and that you then asked them to go back and re-look the terms of reference and come up with new answers on force structure. Is that correct?
Rumsfeld: Let me walk at it from around both sides and the back. The QDR process, the Quadrennial Defense Review, as you know is mandated by Congress. It is -- it's complicated, it's hard work, it's difficult work. It is a challenge; it's a challenge any time, but to accomplish it in a relatively short period is a particular challenge. Of course you have a new president comes in and asks for a review. The Congress requires the review. You have a new secretary of Defense. And you begin that process.
And it became pretty clear to me that the only way we were really going to be able to do it well and fast is if we engaged the chiefs themselves. So as you know, we've had them -- periodically the CINCs also -- in day after day after day sessions. It was interesting to me that we were able to come to full agreement on the terms of reference for the QDR; it was unanimous. We then fashioned a series of panels, I guess seven or eight, on strategy and force planning, on military organizations and arrangements and capabilities and systems, space, information intelligence, forces, personnel and readiness, infrastructure. We had infrastructure yesterday; Pete Aldridge headed that one up. And then the last one is on integration.
It is correct that with respect to one of the panels it was clear that the work that had been done did not fit the terms of reference the way the drafters of the terms of reference had anticipated that it would fit. And as a result, why we did have a meeting and discuss it and have decided to go back, look at the terms -- I said essentially the truth; if that's true, either the terms of reference had ambiguities in them, in which case we needed to address that and re-read it; I don't think we need to rewrite it at all; it's a question of looking at those ambiguities, which we're now doing -- or there was simply a misunderstanding on the part of the so-called IPT, the team that was working it through. We've got several pockets of people, as we speak here this afternoon, working on those things, and will undoubtedly meet again tomorrow.
And I think the reality is it is a tough process, it's an important process. We've had wonderful cooperation and we're well along in that process. If you think what we're trying to do, we're trying to balance risks; we're trying to look at operational risks and evaluate them. We're trying to then look at the risks of not doing a proper job for our people, and balancing that against operational risks. We're looking at the risks of failing to fix the underfunding that went on for a long period of years with respect to modernization and readiness. And in addition, we're trying to follow the president's guidance of balancing the risks of transformation or not transforming in a time to address the kinds of problems that we inevitably will be facing in the period immediately ahead.
So if you think of those four sets of risks and recognize them, it's apples and oranges. It's relatively easy to take likes and compare them and come to judgments with respect to them. You can look at various operational risks and say this is a greater one than that, and I'm willing to live with this but not that. You can do the same thing with respect to people risk. You can look at pay and housing and training and quality of their equipment and all the things that affect the decisions as to whether they want to come in and stay in the service. And the same thing with the other modernization and transformation risks.
But when you start comparing those risks or trying to balance off, the procedures, the process here in this institution really don't lend themselves to that. The normal tracks or procedures or processes in this building tend to balance likes but not balance different types of risks against each other, and that is what we're going through and that is hard work and it takes a lot of thought.
And as I've said before, I'm a pretty conservative person. I like to be -- make sure we've got as much information and are as right as we possibly can be. So a lot of issues have surfaced, and I feel that while it's a tough challenge, that we're making very good progress on it.
Q: Could I ask a follow-up on that, please? Did you use the phrase "we have a big problem"? And which was the panel -- which panel went wrong?
Rumsfeld: I don't think any panel went wrong. I think what happened -- (laughs) -- was what I said, that there were some -- apparently some ambiguities in the terms of reference, and the panel came back with some work that reflected those ambiguities, in their minds. And now that work is being redone. And I don't know that I want to get into which panel it was. And I don't even remember what I said. But, you know, when you get briefed and it adds up in a way that doesn't seem to fit what the guidance was, then logically you say, "Wait a minute, we've -- (laughs) -- we've got to go back and take another look at this." And that's basically what's going on.
Q: Well, I'm -- so when you said with respect to one panel it did not fit the QDR, can you tell us a little bit more some details? And what do you mean, it didn't fit?
Rumsfeld: The work that was done did not seem to the people in the room -- that is to say, the chiefs, the chairman, the vice-chairman, the under secretaries, those of us that were there -- to have been -- they did not seem to flow directly from the terms of reference as we understood the terms of reference. So, obviously, it's undoubtedly our fault, those of us who agreed on it, the terms of reference. So we went back and asked ourselves how that might have happened and what might have been the case. So we're just looking at it. It's no one's fault. It's one of those normal things that happens.
Q: I'm listening very careful to what you're saying and I'm trying very hard to understand what it is you're saying. Are you -- do I take from what you say that you're talking about the force-sizing guidelines in the terms of reference? And did the planners come back with a force that was much larger and more expensive than what you anticipated?
Rumsfeld: It came back with some cases that were larger, some cases that were smaller, some instances where it didn't seem to fit what we had had in mind when we crafted, we thought we crafted, the terms of reference. It isn't a matter of one way or the other.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you have now been up on the Hill several times since the B-1 announcement and the Peacekeeper announcement and you have heard and seen how Congress reacts to even what many people regard as a minor adjustment in the force structure in your efforts to save money. Some people would say this is a bucket of cold water on you, that you're getting a real reality check here of how hard it's going to be. Is this discouraging you from proceeding? Is it making you more determined than ever to go ahead and do things that you feel are in the best interest of this department, even though they may be painful and politically unpopular?
Rumsfeld: Well, you know, I've been around this town a little bit, and it comes as no surprise to me that when someone wants to change something, someone's not going to like it, and that's expected and I understand that. There is no question in my mind but that the Air Force's proposal with respect to the B-1s, to bring them down from 93 to 60 total and to use the savings to modernize the remaining B-1s and to consolidate from five bases to two bases, is a very sensible, logical, cost-effective approach. The weapon itself today in its current form is not contributing to the deterrent or to the war-fighting capability to any great extent, and it needs to be modernized. And it's not stealthy. It seems to me that it was a very good proposal. I have every reason to believe that it will succeed.
I recognize that any time any change is made, somebody's not going to like it. The old adage is, if you're doing something, somebody's not going to like it, and if you're not doing anything, then why bother?
So I'm perfectly comfortable, and we certainly intend to go forward. I can't -- I must tell the truth. As I told the Congress yesterday, or whenever it was I was up there for the House Appropriations Committee, I said, "Look, the last thing in the world I want to do is close any bases. That is not what I want to do when I get up in the morning, but we don't have any choice."
We have a situation where we have to be respectful of the taxpayers' dollars. We've simply got to find ways to take the waste that exists in this department -- and let there be no doubt that there is a lot of it -- needs to be transformed into weapons and capabilities and deterrence, and to fixing the shortfalls that have existed for so many years here, and to seeing that we do the right things by the people.
So I'm very comfortable with it. It's not -- you know, you wish everyone would be perfectly happy every time you make an announcement, but anyone who's ever been around here knows that somebody's not going to like it.
Q: So I draw from that that you appear to be even more determined. Is that a correct assessment?
Rumsfeld: Well, I'm certainly determined -- (laughs; laughter) -- without even a slight bit of slackening off in that determination.
Q: Sir, when do you expect to finish the QDR? And then when do you expect to submit that to Congress?
Rumsfeld: Well, I think we'll have something to submit to Congress at the appropriate date, which if I'm not mistaken was September 30th or something. We'll have elements of it done before that, one would think. And we will be using the knowledge that's coming from it as we start the process of building the '03 budget.
Q: Just to follow up, sir, will you have all of it done on time to submit at the prearranged deadline, or might some of it not be done and be submitted later?
Rumsfeld: Oh, I think it's the nature of life that things tend not to be complete. I mean, if you think about it, there's only been one QDR before and it was not considered a great success. It is a difficult thing to do.
I guess I can answer your question very directly in one respect. We just had the personnel and readiness presentations, and there's no question but that to get some of the data to support some of the things that that group is thinking about proposing might take as long as a year or two. So -- on the other hand, a number of the things that they propose can be done relatively fast. But as with any complex set of subjects -- and goodness knows, personnel and readiness is a set of very complex subjects that require a lot of analytical work -- in some cases it will say to you, "Well, the responsible thing to do there is to get a study going that may last a year and gather the data so that you know what the effects of those proposals might, in fact, be."
On the other hand, an awful lot will just happen. It'll just get done.
Q: People -- some people -- some senior officials say that they felt frozen out at the beginning with your review, and that they -- now they feel they have been brought into the process, but too late, that now they're feeling rushed because they have this deadline to get to Congress with the QDR, that -- that just, you know, working, you know, against the clock, and they aren't going to be able to finish, and that -- and there's even some sense that in the end the product won't be that much different from the one four years ago in '97. How -- can you talk about that, and can you say is this going to be substantially different than the '97 QDR?
Rumsfeld: Well, it's not -- we're not there, so I can't answer you. I think there will be differences, and I would suspect they'll not be trivial. But until it's there, it isn't there. And --
There's no question but that the rhythm required by Congress for the QDR is not a perfect fit with a new election, an election, a presidential election, and then a late decision as to the outcome of the election, and then late confirmations of people later than ever in history. We still don't even have half the presidential appointees in the department.
Q: Can you address the perception that's been created by a number of published reports and some editorials that the uniformed military is somehow thwarting your efforts to reform the Pentagon and have substantial changes?
Rumsfeld: Oh, goodness, I don't think that's the case.
First of all, there is no -- if you drop a plumb line through the uniformed military, there are all sizes and shapes and locations and services and opinions and views and they're overwhelmingly absolutely terrific human beings. And we're fortunate to have them. I think that would not be correct.
I think it is perfectly correct to say that change is hard, and that whether it's the contracting community or the Congress or the department itself, civilian or military, I don't know that there's a lot of difference between any of those categories, that what exists is understandable, it's clear, it's working from their personal standpoints, and to alter it is unsettling.
Q: But six months into the job, are you finding that you're not able to make the kinds of changes and accomplish the kinds of things because of bureaucratic intransigence?
Rumsfeld: There is no question but that there -- it is a big department and that there are a lot of things we are doing that are unhelpful to the department we're doing to ourselves. We have rules and requirements internally; some of them are departmental, some are service, some are from OMB, some are the Office of Personnel Management in the executive branch of the government.
Second, it is also true that there are any number of congressionally mandated provisions and requirements that make it very difficult for the department to function in a way that would be the most efficient. The total absence of financial management systems so that a person attempting to understand what is happening to working capital, something that anyone in the private sector would know on a day-by-day basis what their inventories and receivables and their payables were and how much they were paying banks to borrow the money to have those assets and to warehouse them, we don't have the beginning of an idea of our working capital.
Now, is that bureaucratic intransigence? Well, I don't know that I'd call it that. It is a fact of life that this place is not well organized, it has not -- the financial systems, in this case, and the acquisition systems are simply not designed to function in a way that's in the best interests of the American people, and we're going to try to fix them.
Q: I'll take that as a "yes". (Laughter.)
Q: Some of the resistance to change that you are getting from Capitol Hill could be actually attributed to some political missteps on the part of the department, particularly Vieques. That was a surprise decision to many of the folks that care about it. The B-1 decision also a surprise to folks that have B-1s in their districts. And earlier in the year, the fact that they felt so separate from many of the important reviews that were going on.
How would you rate your handling and the Defense Department's handling of Congress six months into your administration? Do you think you've made mistakes or is this just normal?
Rumsfeld: Well, I mean, I understand that there were some people with respect to the B-1 decision who were not notified in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the decision seemed to leak out of the department on a Friday afternoon, I am told, and the Air Force tried to make calls and wasn't able to reach a number of people. And when a person's not notified and they end up hearing about it in a press conference or something, obviously it's awkward for them and unfortunate, particularly when you've got people who care so much about the Defense Department and the armed forces.
On the other hand, if you're going to make a decision like the B-1, it's going to involve five states. That's 10 senators. It's going to involve, in this case, probably 30, 40 congressmen. And to call each of them and get them all contacted in a way that it still doesn't leak out in advance is a very difficult thing to do. It was not perfectly done. I'm satisfied that's the case. And so sure, you'd always try to find ways to do those kinds of things better.
On the other hand, it's the right decision, and I believe we'll ultimately get support for it in the Congress.
Q: Sir, if I understand what you said correctly, the entire QDR will not be completed by September 30th. The chairman is --
Rumsfeld: No, that's not correct.
Q: Okay. So the entire QDR will be done by September 30th?
Rumsfeld: Well, I will state it my way. No one knows what an entire QDR is. We will satisfy the law by the appointed date.
The problem is that as you go into almost any subject, one of which is mandated on, say, for example, personnel and readiness, the example I used -- as you go into that, you're able to report and get back and state what you know. You also are undoubtedly almost always going to find things that you know you don't know, that you think there's an issue that needs to be analyzed, and you need data, and the only way you can get data is to accumulate data over a period of time, to see what kind of behavior you'd get if you altered the mix, for example, of total comp.
And so what you have to do is to say, "Here" -- it's the end of the QDR -- "Here's what you asked us to do. Here's what we did. And by the way, we're going to have -- be accumulating some data on some of these additional things going forward."
Life doesn't start and stop because Congress says there's QDR and it ends on September 30th. There's always things that are taking place.
Q: But the chairman has to supply a congressionally mandated review of the QDR. Are you providing him enough time to do a thorough review -- General Shelton -- before he leaves his post?
Rumsfeld: Well, I am sure we will. He -- I don't know what the timing is on that. Does he do it before it's turned to Congress or as it's turned to Congress?
In any event, he's been involved in every meeting. He's been highly supportive of the terms of reference. He's knowledgeable about the process. And I don't have any doubt but he'll be able to fulfill his responsibilities.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there have been reports that your budget request for the Pentagon had been consistently rebuffed by the White House and by OMB and that you are -- the department ended up getting much less than was actually requested for the 2002 budget. The Weekly Standard even printed an editorial that said that you and Paul Wolfowitz ought to resign over this. Now, I'm assuming that you're not thinking of resigning, but I'm wondering whether you're comfortable with the level of funding that the White House and OMB have given.
Rumsfeld: I have never known a cabinet department officer who did not think that his department or her department should not get more money. Every department head I've ever met has had expectations and hopes that -- for larger amounts.
The fact is that the Department of Defense has received from the -- a proposal by the president to Congress to increase it by the largest amount since 1986, something like a 7 percent increase, the largest, I believe, percentage increase of any department and the largest absolute increase by a mile. It is a -- obviously, it is not possible to repair the damage of year after year after year of underfunding. And you don't do that in one year. It's going to take a period of time. And the president has any number of factors to take into consideration in fashioning his overall budget.
Q: How much did you ask for?
Rumsfeld: I don't really get into the business of talking about what I talk to the president about.
Q: But do you think that the president will be prepared to support a much larger increase next year or the year after that?
Rumsfeld: I think the president's going to have to do his job and I'll do mine. He'll have to make a judgment based on all kinds of things, and I wouldn't want to prejudge what he might do.
Q: When you factor in the service chiefs' wish list of $32.4 billion and add that to your request, does that represent a full budget, in your eyes?
Rumsfeld: You know, I think if you actually took a service chief aside and asked him what his wish list was, it would be an awful lot higher than that. What a wish list ends up being, from the standpoint of the Congress, is something that steps off of some earlier number and it really has very little meaning at all, insofar as I can tell. I've talked to the chiefs about it; we know what their priority areas that they would go after first are. They've presented them to the Congress, which I think is perfectly appropriate.
Q: Missile defense. Can you -- Pentagon officials, before last Saturday's test, consistently downplayed the significance of this particular test. But in retrospect, wouldn't you concede that it was fairly important for success on that test to keep the momentum going?
And just as a second part, is there anything about the test that looks less successful today than it did on Saturday right after the test took place?
Rumsfeld: Well, I've talked to General Kadish about the test and his views on that test have remained quite consistent; that he's very pleased with it. And as with any test, you're testing any number of things, and inevitably there are going to be one or two things, or more, that you learn from that you need to do differently or to have some redundant system that would protect you from a failure. And I'm sure that when they finally get the wash tomorrow -- I think they finish Thursday -- Thursday or Friday -- they'll have a pretty good sense of all of those tests that were part of the total test and will know a bit more. But he's generally very pleased, as I am. And there's no question, you know, it's better to have two out of four than one out of four. So --
Q: As you move down your analysis, the process you are now going through, do you have any doubt that the size of the force that currently exists is probably going to have to get smaller in order to meet the kind of criteria that you are trying to set up, both for effectiveness and cost and all the future --
Rumsfeld: I just don't know at the moment. Until we get the force panel completed and we get the integration portion of it completed and tie up some other loose ends on a couple of other panels, it will not be apparent to me or to the others who are participating in the process.
Q: Could I follow up on that?
Rumsfeld: Go ahead.
Q: Mr. Secretary, as you well noted, the toughest thing you may have to present is the base closing round. And the timing becomes even more difficult if you wait till your QDR is finished and you're going to ask Congress to do it next year, which is an election year. And if it's hard for them to do it anytime, it's doubly hard to do in an election year. What is your timing on when you're going to make your proposal for a base closure round?
Rumsfeld: I don't know. Our folks have been up on the Hill talking to an awful lot of people, milling around up there in the House and Senate and people on the committees and people off the committees, and they're supposed to come in and visit with me about it this week as to the various ways it might be done,
My understanding -- I have never been through a base closing and, as I say, it's not something I look forward to. But my understanding is that quite often what has happened is that legislation's gone up and then there have been base closing commission people named and ultimately approved, and the process then goes forward. And it takes some time -- it's not a simple thing to do -- and then the results tend to come out after an election. So I would think that if the rhythm of the past is appropriate, although as I say, I'm going to get briefed on it later this week and will very likely be getting ready to go put something forward.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could I follow up on John McWethy's question on force structure?
Q: The terms of reference lays out the characteristics of the force that you want -- stealth, long-range, UAV sensors in space. Is it those characteristics that were not met by the panel that came back and didn't jibe with what the terms of reference were? Is that the point of disconnect, the characteristics of the force?
Rumsfeld: I think the way I would characterize it would be that there were some assumptions that were made by the IPT that were not assumptions that had been made by the chiefs and the group, the panel that's meeting at the senior level. And as we all know, no matter what you're doing, if you begin with a set of assumptions, they drive the outcome. And a couple of assumptions that were made that we had not made had sizable impact, but they tended not to be the types of things -- it's more how you might use your forces, was more the line.
Yes, in the back.
Q: Sir, today during the Senate budget hearing, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz was taken to task a bit by the chairman, who asked him why the DoD has failed to live up to what Mr. Conrad described as his obligation to submit a FYDP with the budget. Now, I understand from listening to you speak on the subject that because the FY '02 budget is in many ways a place-holder for the kinds of real change you want to make in '03, you haven't been able or have the staff, frankly, to do that yet. But how would you respond to that challenge from Mr. Conrad and others?
Rumsfeld: How did Paul answer it? (Laughter.)
Q: Well, he said that he got --
Q: He deferred to you. (Laughter.)
Q: He said, you know, that it really -- it wouldn't make any sense, essentially, to submit figures -- guesswork figures on a future that is as yet uncertain with the absence of the QDR.
Rumsfeld: Yeah. Well, let me put it this way: Paul's right. But I've never seen a forward-year defense plan or any other departmental plan, let alone a corporation four- or five-year plan, that was ever implemented. They're always changed. The world changes. They're simply targets out there. They're a vehicle for discussion. They're a method -- a budget like that, that goes out that many years, is for no purpose other than to help people discuss what they think they might need to do in those out periods. And they begin to put some place-holders and some blocks in for -- you could look at shipbuilding because you know roughly what it's going to cost over some period of time, for example. In a corporation, you can make estimates as to market shares and so forth.
Now, the reason we don't have a forward year defense plan is because OMB hasn't given us one. I mean, that's fact. And -- so there's one there that was there before. And obviously it's going to have to be adjusted for inflation, it's going to have to be adjusted for any increases that the president decides to give the department. And that will be a part of the '03 budget process.
Q: It's required by law.
Q: Right. Right.
Q: Mr. Secretary --
Rumsfeld: Yeah -- there's one there. I mean, the law can be adhered to. There's already a forward year defense plan in there.
Q: But Conrad said he doesn't have it and he needs it.
Rumsfeld: It's in the -- it's in the materials.
Q: So you say he does have it.
Rumsfeld: Depending on what -- what he wants is a new one. That's different. There is one that conforms with the law.
Q: Mr. Secretary, every year the Pentagon submits a budget. It includes certain savings, certain elimination or -- elimination of some programs, or at least downgrading programs in an attempt to save money that could be better spent elsewhere. And every year the Congress puts that money right back in the budget because of self- interest, obviously. What makes you think that you can be more successful than every other secretary of Defense that has preceded you?
Rumsfeld: (Laughs.) How do I know!? All you can do is try! (Laughter.) I mean, the -- you know, the fact of the matter is, we're not going to stick big chunks of, quote, "saving wedges" in the budget. I don't know how people can get their arms around these hypothetical saving wedges that tended to have gone into the budgets, and then, as you point out, end up getting consumed and not occurring or not happening or whatever. We're going to work our heads off to try to save money. And I think we're going to be able to do it.
And we propose; the Congress disposes. And we'll be up there trying to get the Congress to agree with as much of our proposal as we possibly can. And in the last analysis, Congress is Article I of the Constitution, and they'll pass laws and make decisions. And the decisions will either be in the best interest of the country, or they won't be.
And we're going to be up there trying to persuade them that in fact the underspending in this department for a long period of years is sufficiently serious that it's time to get some of that waste that exists here and get it into weapons and get it into housing and get it into facilities and reduce the age of aircraft and increase the size of the shipbuilding budget, and I think we'll probably have some success.
Will it be a home run ball? Yeah, not likely. Will it be something short of that? I hope so. And there's an awful lot of good people up there who have indicated they want to help. I haven't been to a congressional hearing yet where I haven't seen a handful of the members step up and say, "I want to help you with that. You're on the right track." And I think that's encouraging.
Q: Not in my state. (Laughter.)
Q: Sir, but you do have -- (inaudible) -- such as Davis-Bacon reform and --
Rumsfeld: I'm going to have to go, I'm afraid. I'm due at a meeting at 3:00.
Q: Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Thank you.
Q: Thank you very much, sir.
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