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Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability on Capitol Hill

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
May 23, 2001

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

(Media availability after meeting with members of the House Armed Services Committee. Also participating were Rep. Bob Stump (R-Ariz.), chairman, and Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), ranking member.)

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. I'm a little late. We had a very good discussion. It was going on for the better part of two-plus hours. There was excellent attendance at the committee. We had a lot of good discussion. It was informal, relatively informal, and I was delighted to be there.

Stump: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, I think we had a very productive meeting from both sides of the aisle. People got questions answered, people got items off their chest, and we look forward to many more of these type of meetings, Mr. Secretary. Thank you.

Skelton: I think the meeting was very, very useful. I appreciate the secretary coming over. We asked some very important questions, and we all realize that we have to work together. The secretary will have recommendations coming to us, and as he pointed out to us, and reminded us, we in the Congress are charged under the Constitution with raising and maintaining a military, and I think a cooperative effort is coming forth. I'm pleased with the comments today, and the fact that the War Colleges will be consulted, that we will be consulted, and that at the end of the day we're going to have a very, very strong and able national defense. I thank the secretary again.

Q: Did you get answers to your questions?

Skelton: Yes.

Q: Mr. Secretary, we've been told by people coming out of the meeting that you made it clear that you've made no decisions yet, no final decisions, on national security policy, weapons, and other things. There's been quite a bit of anticipation of the president's speech on Friday, that he's going to --

Rumsfeld: Most of the anticipation's been in the press.

Q: Well, do you look for him to outline what policy will be, or have there been no --

Rumsfeld: Let me take that set of questions and deal with them one at a time.

It is correct that I have not, as I've told you on a number of occasions, gotten to any decisions with respect to weapons. We have discussed the fact that the supplemental will be going up this week, I'm told, and that we are now working on the '02 budget and the bulk of any decisions with respect to weapons would come in the '03 work-up which is going to start at the end of the quadrennial defense review. We have not had people on board who were in a position to address those issues, and we will, the good Lord willing, by that time.

The president's speech at the Naval Academy is going to be a speech on national defense issues and on things that are important to the young men and young women graduating from the academy, but to my knowledge there is no plan to make a major strategy statement in that speech. But it will be a speech on defense issues.

Q: So you've made no recommendations on strategy yet or decisions?

Rumsfeld: I think I'd rather put it in my own words.

I have briefed the president on a number of occasions and discussed with him a number of the things that are being discussed in the department, as has General Shelton and other officials of the Department of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz.

In terms of coming to what you say, decisions or conclusions, most of what's taken place will then become part of the quadrennial defense review and then be considered in the budget buildup in the fall going towards the '03 budget.

Q: What (inaudible) the '02 budget? There's been talk about $20 billion to $25 billion.

Rumsfeld: We've not addressed the number for the '02 budget. We're working --

Q: Ball park?

Rumsfeld: I don't do ball park. (Laughter)

Q: Mr. Secretary, you did have a paper on the issue of strategic (inaudible) --

Rumsfeld: Let me get the chairman up here.

Q: You (inaudible) a paper --

Rumsfeld: I did. Isn't that something?

Q: How does the military that you're now trying to guide prepare for a world where you may have no idea what's coming next in the next year or five years? How do you get a military ready? This is obviously what you're thinking about.

Rumsfeld: It is exactly the subject that we were discussing in the meeting today. These are very big issues.

It is a humbling thing to go back and review history since 1900 and indeed, just in the last 50 years. The number of things that were not anticipated, that were not expected, that were not projected by defense planners or public policy planners. The fact that Vice President Cheney's Secretary of Defense hearing could have occurred less than a year or a year before the Gulf War, and not one senator or the secretary uttered the word Iraq. It tells you that we need, we're living in a world where there are uncertainties and we need to think about that and we need to arrange our forces and develop those capabilities in a way that will give us the maximum flexibility, given the reality that it is very difficult to with certainly knowledge know what's going to happen next.

The other thing I passed out was the forward to the Pearl Harbor book by Thomas Schelling. Anyone who reads that has to come away with an understanding of what warning is and what surprise means. And therefore, the important subject of deterrence. And these are the kinds of things that the chairman and the members of his committee are interested in, the kinds of things we discussed. They are not the kinds of things that come out in a cellophane package out of one person's head. They are something that is terribly important. You don't change anything lightly in these important areas, and we're in what's going to be a fairly extended process of discussion with the members of the House, the members of the Senate, the National Security Council process, the members of the Department of Defense on the uniform and civilian side, and people keep trying to jump the traces and say oh, what have you decided? When are you going to announce?

I mean I know you've got your job and I've got mine, but my job is not to make daily news. My job is to elevate those issues and see that we discuss them and see that we do it in a thoughtful way, and if we do make changes they are changes that are only made after they've been tested and thought through and given a great deal of consideration and that it in fact will work for the uniform military and the important responsibilities they have.

Now that's a very long answer to a short question, but it was a very important question. And I am a half hour late for a meeting.

Q: (inaudible) greater emphasis on Asia?

Rumsfeld: Can I just say this? Only a Mozart or an Einstein goes off into a room and thinks of something brilliant or does something brilliant. I am not one.

What I do, I do with other people. I do it by talking to the chairman and talking to the members of the committee and talking to General Shelton and the CINCs and the chiefs, and it takes time. I don't need deadlines. We don't need deadlines to change something. What we need to do is to think them through carefully, and if we ever do make a change, which we may or may not, we do it only after we've given it the kind of thought and attention and care that it merits.

Q: Do you like what you see from the QDR so far? Does the QDR show promise for giving you the outline --

Rumsfeld: Too early to say.

Q: What did you hear from the committee --

Rumsfeld: Why don't we let the committee comment on that?

Q: (inaudible) you.

Rumsfeld: The thing that's useful to me is you've got -- What we have in this country is a lot of people who care deeply about the men and women in the armed services, and who care deeply about the task we have as an organization, and collectively with the Congress, of seeing that we can defend and deter the kinds of risks that cause such human carnage in the world.

Now what you find in a discussion like that is the concern that comes from the fact that there isn't a budget yet, that the transition was delayed, that there's a lot of speculation in the press about this weapon system or that weapon system, none of which is true. I mean let's just lay it right up on the line. We've not gotten to that point. But you come away with a meeting like this, I do anyway, knowing that we're just darn lucky to have a group of people in this country who care about those issues and want to get it right, and we're going to take our time and we're going to get it right.

Q: Will there be a greater emphasis on Asia, sir?

Rumsfeld: I am a half hour late for a meeting, and I'm going to excuse myself.

Q: You can blame it on us.

Q: Mr. Chairman?

Stump: Let me say, you talked about what concerns he had answered. I think what he did was listen to the concerns of the members of the committee that are concerned about what's going on, and it was good for both sides.

They got to ask him the thing that bothers them most, whether it's in their district from the military standpoint or whatever it may be. That's helpful to both the secretary and to the members.

Q: Mr. Chairman, were there a lot of questions on specific -- Were there a lot of questions from members about specific weapons programs that (inaudible)

Stump: No, sir. We didn't anticipate answering that, and we knew we were not going to get into that. We know those decisions have not been made. And until the president's briefed, we certainly won't be briefed.

Q: Despite the fact that no decision have been made, did the secretary make clear that there will be a thrust and advancing policy toward Asia?

Stump: No, sir, he did not address that.

Q: Did he give you any clearer idea of what the strategy will be?

Stump: No, sir. We didn't get into that.

Q: -- meaningful way? Did he want your input?

Skelton: I think so, absolutely. I think we all agree the world in which we now live is far more dangerous than it was a number of years ago when it was a predictable world. All of the defense of the country, the buck stops with the Congress of the United States. Inclusion, dialogue, discussions such as this helps tremendously. And frankly, I'm please the secretary came over. We were able to ask tough questions, good questions, receive good answers, and I think we are a long way toward working together toward that end.

Q: We were told by Congressman (inaudible) that there was some frustration (inaudible) that there weren't any specifics.

Skelton: We were not necessarily looking for specifics.

Q: But you did ask hard questions.

Skelton: You bet we did.

Q: What kind of answers did you get?

Skelton: I got good answers. I talk about inclusion, how the strategy is formed, the panel felt that the War Colleges should be consulted more. I was assured that would happen. That we should be consulted more. We have a committee, and most of us have been working on the military for quite some time.

Q: Any sense of when you're going to start hearing -- I mean the Pentagon (inaudible), they're trying to put together their '03 budget now. They're not getting much...

Skelton: I assume right away.

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