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Pentagon Briefing

Aired December 17, 2002 - 13:31   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're now going to take you live to the Pentagon for the daily briefing. Donald Rumsfeld and chairman of joint chiefs of staff Richard Myers.
Let's listen in.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECY.: Finally, after a year of heroic effort of the Pentagon workers and construction crews, we have a repaired Pentagon. We celebrate the resiliency of this great institution and the stout hearts of those within. The new Pentagon is better and stronger than ever.

The men and women of the Defense Department made a great deal of progress over the past year, and they have a lot to be proud of, and certainly, they have my admiration and respect, as well as my very best wishes for the holiday season.

General Myers?

MYERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

And good afternoon everybody. As we look over the past year, I would like to first and foremost recognize the dedicated men and women and of our armed forces who are serving their nation in Afghanistan, in the Philippines, in Georgia, and 150 other countries around the world and here at home.

My thanks goes to the -- and I think all of our thanks should go to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen and DOD civilians whose hard work and determination has protected our nation's freedom.

We are proud of the remarkable things these men and women have done -- heroes every one, in my opinion -- on this war on global terrorism.

I also want to recognize the sacrifices of our service families. They, perhaps more than others, know the risk, and still, they stand proudly by their children, as their children, their husbands and wives, their siblings, often their parents go into harm's way.

It takes great courage to, of course, fight in a war, but maybe it takes more courage to allow a loved one to go.

So, to the families, thank you for your courage and for your patriotism. I've had a chance to visit, for the last year, many of our troops around the world, as the secretary has. My report would be that they're in some very challenging circumstances, but they rarely complain about those circumstances.

Most often what you hear is that they're willing to serve and are looking for other opportunities to help protect this great nation of ours.

We are certainly proud of their service and their sacrifice.

There's no doubt they'd enjoy being home over the holidays, particularly this year, since so many of them have been gone from home for some time now, but they also realize that they're making the world a safer place for all of us.

You also know that we've had, over the past year, over 130,000 reservists activated since September 11th. Actually, it's a little bit longer than a year, September 11th of 2001. And today, some 50,000 are still on active duty.

And for service members everywhere, active duty or reserve, there have been lots of long hours, weekends and holiday duty to get the job done.

In short, it's not been an easy time for troops and their families.

But what they're doing is so important to the nation and our friends and allies around the world that we certainly appreciate it.

In the past year, I've also traveled to over two dozen nations where I've met with senior military representatives of those countries. We talk about their support to the war on terrorism. In fact, as we prosecute this war, over 30 nations have deployed more than 16,000 troops to help in this effort.

These achievements are indeed significant and the international support is central, absolutely essential to this fight for freedom. Whether from the United States or any of the other 90 nations supporting our efforts, this war on terrorism will require innovation and sacrifice on all our parts over the next several years.

This past year, I've also spoken about what I refer to as three primary priorities: the global war on terrorism; the pursuit of improved, truly integrated joint warfighting; and as the secretary mentioned, transformation. And while caring out this global war on terrorism, we must not lose sight of the need to transform to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.

Our stated end-state (ph) is an agile, decision-superior force. It means integrated joint warfighting, not merely de-conflicting our joint forces on the battlefield. We are continuously engaged in our pursuit of transformation with joint military exercises and experiments and with continued modernization efforts. And finally, while are always evolving, always striving to meet future needs, let me reiterate that as a military, we understand we have a long way to go on this war on terrorism. Yet regardless of how long it takes, I'm confident that our military personnel stand ready to answer whatever call they're given.

And let me end, as well by wishing everyone happy holidays, since this is likely our last press conference. And with that, we'll take your...

RUMSFELD: Of this year.


MYERS: ... take your questions.

RUMSFELD: That could be blissful thinking.

MYERS: I know.


MYERS: I almost didn't say it. And I normally don't say things like that. It probably means we're going to have one...

RUMSFELD: I have a feeling we'll be back.

Yes, Charlie?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the president announced today that the United States intends to deploy an initial missile defense, operational missile defense by 2004, apparently in Greely, aboard ships at sea and elsewhere. And I'm wondering what gives you confidence that this will work six days after, I guess, the third failure in eight tries in the midcourse phase of the missile defense? Could you comment a bit on the initial deployment and what gives you confidence it would work?

RUMSFELD: Sure. I'd be happy to comment on both. First, I have not gone back to look at the records of other advanced development testing programs.

But if one goes back and looks at things like Polaris and various others, the early days of the NRO where there were failure after failure after failure, I think that anyone who thinks about it understands that, when you're at the leading edge of technology, you expect that there are going to be -- you're going to learn and gain knowledge both by your successes and also by your failures. It's just something that's a reality in research and development and in science and technological programs.

So this, as I understand it, the most recent one, J.D., was a separation issue.

And J.D. will be happy to get into the details of that, if that would be helpful. Let me just take a minute to set the scene for J.D. on missile defense in response to your question. There's lots of words that the Pentagon uses that have a meaning, like capability or initial capability or deployment. And I think that rather than use those words that have strict meanings, it's better to describe what I see as our current missile defense approach.

And it is this: It is to recognize that there is a threat of ballistic missiles to this country and to our friends and allies, and that our interests, the president's interests had been to be able to do a broad-gauged research and development program in missile defense unconstrained by the ABM Treaty, which he now has been able to do for a period of some months: six months I think is all.

A second principle that I've held is that I like the feeling, the idea of beginning and putting something in the ground or in the air or at sea, and getting comfortable with it, and using it and testing it, and learning from that. A lot of things just don't arrive fully developed, full blown. And there it is.

So, by avoiding those words, I think we maybe come to a better understanding as to what's going to happen. I think the way to think about the missile defense program is that it will be an evolutionary program. It will evolve over a period of time. Any capability with a small c -- I'm not talking about initial capabilities, initial IOCs or any of that. But capability with a small c will probably -- one would hope -- improve as you go along. And when it finishes some day out there in the years ahead, it very likely will look quite different than it begins. And it very likely will have layers. And it very likely will involve a variety of different locations, and it will very likely involve the participation of a number of countries.

So what the president was announcing -- and let me say one other thing. Think of the Predator. The Predator was still in the development and the testing stage. And we've been using it in Afghanistan. We've been using it in a few other places. Now, had it gone through all the checks and all the hurdles, and was ready to go? No. But we used it.

Could we use the missile defense capability in the event there were a need to use it after some pieces of it get put in place? Answer, yes.

Does that mean it would have been -- it would have been finished in any way? No, it would be a very preliminary, modest capability. And you would be learning -- it would be in a testing and learning mode. But also in the event it were needed, it would be able to provide you some limited capability to deal with a limited number of ballistic missiles.

Now, is that -- that answers your question, I hope.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a related question if I may, some months ago I asked you when you were on the podium if the United States would consider a preemptive strike against North Korea if that country threatened the United States. And your answer to me at that time was, quote, "You've got to be kidding," unquote. Lanes (ph) have changed and North Korea now has nukes that it admits to and that we admit to. Intelligence sources say it will have ICBMs...

RUMSFELD: I bet you you didn't ask that question quite that way. And I bet you I didn't answer it quite that way, did I?

QUESTION: I think so, sir, but I...

RUMSFELD: Maybe you had to be there to appreciate it.

QUESTION: Close, close. Anyway, let me rephrase it.

We have a situation though, where North Korea is clearly moving toward being a threat to the United States with nuclear weapons, with ballistic missiles capable of reaching the West Coast by the year 2004 we're told. We have the possibility of a new presidential policy about preemptive strikes.

I was wondering if your feeling had changed at all. If North Korea should develop its weapons to the point where they would indeed threat the U.S., would the United States consider a preemptive strike?

RUMSFELD: Well, let me say a couple of things.

Number one, when I was chairing the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission, we reported on the threat the North Korea poses to the United States. And that was back four years ago. So I am very sensitive and aware of what you're talking about. Those capabilities had evolved and developed since then, and the threat is more immediate and of a greater capability.

I would also add that -- and I don't believe there's anything secretive about this, but as a former secretary of defense, I was invited into the Pentagon back in the early '90s, mid- -- early to mid-'90s by the secretary of defense along with a number of my colleagues, and briefed on the fact that the United States was exceedingly concerned about the evolving North Korean nuclear capability. And there were discussions then about what one might do about it. So full stop.

This administration has obviously been working with our friends and allies in South Korea and Japan particularly, but more recently with Russia and China on the subject. And the president and -- is determined to find ways through working with other friends and allies around the world to put the kind of pressure on North Korea that its behavior conceivably might be moderated.

QUESTION: A follow-up if I may, sir: All of that is all well and good and it may work. But if it does not, what would you recommend? And what would the president do, perhaps, to remove the threat?

RUMSFELD: Well, as you know, I can't speak for what the president might do. And what I recommend is -- tends to be private to the president. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you agree with Secretary Powell that the Iraq weapons declaration is problematic? And if so, are the problems those of omission or of actual misstatements or lies?

RUMSFELD: I apologize. I have been out of the country for a number of days and have not looked at the declaration or engaged in the people who are doing the analytical work.

I heard what Colin said this morning. He has been in town and he has been attentive. So I have no reason to not agree with it. I just don't have any firsthand knowledge about it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) question, and for General Myers also, on space-based systems that would be crucial to any kind of missile defense program.

General Myers, if you could put your old Space Command hat back on, you have trouble now with both the SBIRS High and SBIRS Low programs; those eyes in the sky that would pick up enemy missiles being launched to the U.S.

Mr. Secretary, you've been briefed on problems with the new spy satellite system, the FIA program.

To what extent do problems and delays with those three programs complicate your effort to have even initial capability over the next two years, given that those would be the eyes in space that would let you know a launch was taking place and give you locations and space where these missiles were coming from?

RUMSFELD: Go ahead.

MYERS: I think the best we can tell that the space-borne assets that would warn of missile launch will continue with the current systems we have up there, and then eventually be replaced with SBIRS High, as you said. And that the delays in SBIRS High program aren't going to affect that capability. It'll be fielded in time to make sure that is there.

As to the rest of the architecture, that's still being decided. And one of the many good things that happened when the ABM Treaty went away was that we could expand our horizons in terms of how we might put this architecture together. And so some of those things are still being decided.

Probably better to ask General Kadish specific architecture question like that.

But it's also, I think, just totally unrelated to -- you were also talking about FIA, the future imagery architecture. It's unrelated to that particular system.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you've talked to George Tenet a couple of weeks ago on that program; that's the spy satellite program. Can you give us a sense of your concerns there, what costs and schedule, given how crucial that is to transforming the military? RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, you're connecting things that I don't think -- in my mind, I don't connect. A, you're certainly right, there are some problems in a number of our satellite programs. And problems -- I shouldn't say problems.


RUMSFELD: Challenges. Good for you, Charlie (ph).


Thank you.

One of the things is, some years back, for whatever reason, they stopped taking out the margin -- reserve. What? Thirty percent or something like that that they normally had for complicated, new programs. Well, they take that out, and then all of sudden for decades you needed it and you find you need.

So there, obviously, what now you would say is a problem is an overrun of some kind. But you've always had them. But before you had a reserve because you knew you would have them because you're dealing with the unknown. So we're dealing with those kinds of problems.

I've met with George Tenet on this, I think, three times now, and we're close to getting a way forward. So, I think that's good.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when you worked on the ballistic missile commission, one of the things you discovered was that many Americans assumed or thought there was some basis on which the United States could defend itself. A false sense of security, I believe your commission suggested to Congress.

Now many Americans might see two items in the newspapers, this rising North Korean nuclear threat and this initial deployment at Fort Greely.

What can you tell them about how effective the 10 initial interceptors, if they do come on-line in 2004, could be in dealing with that threat, or is there -- should be no security be gained from the idea that that's going to be there in two years? Would something else larger and more diplomatic be necessary to defuse the nuclear threat or would this be in some way helpful? Can you tell the American people about that?

RUMSFELD: You're correct, we do not have a missile defense capability. The United States cannot defend itself currently against ballistic missiles coming from anywhere, from the sea or from another continent, wherever. And for whatever reason a lot of people believed all along that we did have that capability. We don't.

The initial capability, when it's there with the first 10 and then a following 10 set of interceptors in -- how many years? One, or, one year...

MYERS: Ten in '04, 10 in '05. RUMSFELD: ... 10 in '05, one year later -- would give us a limited capability to deal with a relatively small number of incoming ballistic missiles, which is better than nothing.

And it's a start, and these capabilities will evolve over time, both in terms of the sensors as well as the interceptors and as well as the locations.

And some may be afloat and some may be on land.

QUESTION: But, if I could, Mr. Secretary, should Americans feel marginally safer if they think about North Korea and that particular threat, which you and others have identified, with these interceptors in place, or no?

RUMSFELD: At the moment when one looks out there I think the answer is yes. I think that it is certainly better to have that capability than to not have it. That's why we're doing it.

I wouldn't want to overplay it, I wouldn't want to oversell it, I wouldn't want to suggest that it has a depth or breadth or capability that will take some time to evolve. But certainly the answer's yes.

QUESTION: Well, just to follow that...

RUMSFELD: Let J.D. and Kadish coming down here...

QUESTION: You're the boss, and so we like to try you on these things.

RUMSFELD: Yes, come on now. I lost my voice last week a little bit, so you're -- the general can answer this one.

QUESTION: You're both doing very well. All right, so, the system is two years behind schedule, you were talking about an earlier other weapons systems...

RUMSFELD: Let's hold it right there, I don't think we are behind schedule.

QUESTION: Not behind schedule?

RUMSFELD: No. When I came in two years ago -- less than two years ago, alone for the first six months, I should say, we didn't have a schedule. We said, "Let's stop and look at this," and we did.

And we said, "Wait, let's get rid of the ABM Treaty, let's see if we can't go ahead and look at a range of things that were prohibited by the treaty," and so we didn't have a schedule as such.

And I think it would be -- we may be off someone else's schedule, but certainly not any schedule that you could characterize as ours.

QUESTION: Well, there was a schedule set when this administration came in and at this time the United States is about two years behind that schedule, so maybe you have a different schedule. RUMSFELD: How could we have set a schedule two years ago, less than two years ago...

QUESTION: Previous administration...

RUMSFELD: Oh, the previous administration said they were...

QUESTION: They were trying to hit certain milestones...

RUMSFELD: OK, fair enough, OK.

QUESTION: ... and, you know, whether you adhere to that schedule or not, you mentioned that earlier weapons systems had many failures and most weapons systems that have had many failures are not being deployed at the time that they are having many failures.

Predator is an interesting exception to that.

RUMSFELD: JSTARS, another example.

QUESTION: The radar system that you want to rely on to eventually use with this system has not yet been built, there are old radar systems that you're trying to modify, and yet you're putting this in the ground. Your critics say this is driven by politics.

Can you address -- is it driven by politics or is it driven by what you feel is an acute national need?

RUMSFELD: It is driven by acute rationality.

There isn't anything we're doing in this department that it would be accurate to suggest is rooted in politics. That's just false.

I don't know who our critics are who say that, but this department has taken a fresh look at missile defense, we took a serious look at it, and we have had serious people attempting to see what is the best way to deal with this very clear problem and capability that exists in the world and is growing in the world, and which increasingly, if one looks around, our allies and friends around the world are asking us to assist them.

We are doing this in a very appropriate, methodical way. And we are putting things out there that we will then learn from. I think it is very clear that there have been any number of systems that have been put in place before they were fully developed.

Indeed part of what we're talking about in our whole acquisition process is spiral development, where you don't wait until something's completely done for 20 years. You begin the process. You put some capability out there. And then you improve that capability in successive blocks.

I think it is a -- walking away is the best to approach this problem.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can we go back to Iraq just for a moment?


QUESTION: We keep hearing...

RUMSFELD: Were we there?

QUESTION: In your rundown of opening items, you mentioned Iraq.


QUESTION: We keep hearing from some military analysts, military experts, that war with Iraq might be a cake walk, that in fact it might -- the Iraqi forces might fold very quickly. How does that square with your assessment of how a war with Iraq might go?

RUMSFELD: Well, Dick Myers and I both responded from this podium that that's, in our view, not the way to look at this situation.

First of all, any war is a dangerous thing. And it puts peoples' lives at risk.

And second, I think that it is very difficult to have good knowledge as to exactly how Iraqi forces will behave.

A part of it will depend on a whole series of things in the event they were to evolve and occur that could affect their behavior favorably or unfavorably. And since those things we can't predict, first of all, we don't know what the president will decide or what anyone else will decide, or if there will be a use of force. But if there were to be such a decision, it's not knowable in what the context might be. And that would affect, one would think, how Iraqi forces would behave.

We do know that in a matter of hours, some 60,000, 70,000, 80,000 -- not hours, maybe days, it was two or three days, dropped their weapons and surrendered very quickly in the Desert Storm. What would happen this time is entirely an open question.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary...

RUMSFELD: You want to answer that?

MYERS: I would just say there's nobody involved in the military planning, to include the secretary or any of the senior leadership in this building, I think that you'll find that would say that this sort of endeavor, if we were asked to do it, would be a cake walk. I mean, it's just not how we characterize it.

Now, we are postured, of course, to exploit, if we were asked again, to exploit opportunities. But that's a different matter. And that's not presupposing the sort of situation we are going to find in the battle space.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have said that it was important to begin a start with a missile defense program. I'm wondering if that's also part of the importance of the start of this, so that it's symbolic and it sends a signal to...

RUMSFELD: There's nothing symbolic about our missile defense activities.

Believe me, it is -- there's nothing symbolic at all. The reason I think it's important to start is because you have to put something in place and get knowledge about it and have experience with it, and then add to it over time. I mean, there isn't a single weapons systems we have that hasn't gotten better successively over a period of time that I can think of.

QUESTION: But it does send a signal to nations, like North Korea, would you say?

RUMSFELD: It should.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

RUMSFELD: Sure. I mean, it -- look, there are no secrets around here. This capability will be what it is and it will be fully understood by the world. Other countries will know what we are capable of.

To the extent we have a capability, it will have a deterrent effect. You're quite right. To the extent it has a limited capability, it will have a deterrent effect only to that limit.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as a former political candidate yourself, do you think the way you're prosecuting the war...

RUMSFELD: I haven't run for office since 1968.

QUESTION: Well, you did run.


And you even thought of running for president.

Do you think that the way you're prosecuting the war and homeland defense are legitimate political issues, number one? And number two, do you intend to involve yourself, in any way, in the presidential campaign leading up to 2004?

RUMSFELD: I think that it is -- a national dialogue on important public issues is a part of our process. And I accept that.

Second, I have not been involved in any aspect of politics since I came to the department. And I don't intend to be as long as I'm here.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Iraq, Hans Blix has asked the Iraqis for a list of scientists to give evidence. But there are those critics, including among former inspectors, who say that you would have to expatriate very extended family of the scientists to protect them. So how do you think this is possible? And what's your comment basically on this? RUMSFELD: I think that the comment that you would have to be willing to take their families out as well is not a critical comment. It's a fact. I mean, you certainly wouldn't want to take a single person out and expect he's going to tell you the truth if his family's still back in Iraq. So I think that's well understood.

We know for a fact that the most important information that inspectors have ever gotten on what's going on in Iraq have come from defectors and from people who've had personal knowledge inside the country as to what was happening and knew where things were and knew how things were done and know what the denial and deceptive approaches and practices were. And when we had that kind of expert opinion from people who had been inside the country, knew the programs, that was when we were able to discover things.

You're not going to find that if you walk up to some fellow on the streets of Baghdad and say, "Gee, won't you give me all your sevens?" It doesn't work that way. You've got to get them out and you've got to get their families out. And that was an important part of the U.N. resolution.

QUESTION: Yes. Sir, if I may, but what about scientists who are reluctant to talk and to go abroad?

RUMSFELD: That's life. Then you can't get them. That's the way it is.

If I were an Iraqi government official, I would be as worried about that provision as any other provision, because that is the provision. If they refuse to allow people to get out with their families, they will have violated that resolution.


RUMSFELD: Yes? For Dick Myers?

QUESTION: President Bush has mentioned often that time is not on our side in dealing with Saddam Hussein. On the other hand, patience and working deliberately and through the United Nations offers you the opportunity to develop more international support.

You've talked a lot about balancing risks. How do you assess the risks of waiting versus the benefits of waiting?

RUMSFELD: Well, I fully support the president's decision. And he's made a calculation that we should approach it, first, through the Congress, then through the United Nations. And we should take this declaration and examine it and see what it really is saying. And then, he can make judgments.

I think that the advantage of doing that are obvious and there are several of them. Obviously, as you point out, every day that you go on his capabilities are probably improving, although I suspect that some of the pressure from the inspectors has slowed them down a little bit.

QUESTION: So do you feel some urgency or not?

RUMSFELD: I feel that the president made the right decision and he's played the hand and we'll play it out.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, with regards to yesterday's New York Times story, can you confirm that...

RUMSFELD: I haven't read the New York Times. I mean, what kind of a story? What story? The sports page?

QUESTION: There was a report in the New York Times that there are discussions going on in the department about using covert propaganda tactics in allied nations. Can you confirm that such discussions are going on?

RUMSFELD: I can't. I was briefed on that story before I came down. I have not gone over it. It's interesting. Let me try to put it in context and then I'll see if I can answer it.

I have no idea what it's about other than what I was just briefed on five minutes before I walked down here. And in fact I'm told that the story said that; that it's somewhere down here, not up here.

What's going on is that the world has moved into the 21st century. We have a different security environment. We and our friends and allies around the world have militaries that were organized and trained and equipped to go after armies, navies and air forces that are owned and operated by nations.

In the 21st century, we are finding that there are very few armies, navies or air forces that are owned and operated by nations that are coming at us. Quite the contrary we have a whole series of threats with the very lethal weapons in the hands of individuals and networks, and we have a set of problems that are quite different.

So what Dick Myers and I and Paul Wolfowitz and Pete Pace have done is we've said to this institution, "Look, put your thinking caps on. How in the world are we going to change this institution so that we can help defend the American people?" And people at various levels all the way down in agencies and department go off and they come up with ideas as to how we might do that. Do I see a tenth of those? No. Does Dick? No.

Why? Because we've asked people to screw their heads into these things, discuss them, talk about them and develop them, and then bring them forward.

Well, a lot of them, like any thinking, falls away. Any research problems -- I don't know how many -- in the pharmaceutical business we probably had, you know, 10,000 experiments for every one that produced a product. And -- but you don't get to that one that produces a product unless you've done that kind of work.

Then what happens is some person in the press talks to somebody in the hall and he said, "Gee, I'm proud of -- here's a classified piece of paper, why don't you write an article about this?" (LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Is that how it works here?

RUMSFELD: I don't know how it works.

QUESTION: Long hallways.


RUMSFELD: And so he goes out and writes an article, and the article says, "Gee, this fellow's working on this project and he thinks this and he thinks that."

Now, does that mean it's going to happen? No. Does it mean I've ever heard about it? No. Does it mean I ever will hear about it? If it's a bad idea, probably not. If it's a good idea, then I hope I will hear about it eventually; then we might do something.

Now, you see I didn't read the article, but the way you phrased it the answer's, no. What do I mean?

Any idea that works its way up and finally is going to get implemented -- now the problem is that all the people who read the New York Times go out there thinking, "Gee, I saw the headline, I saw that bullet. Those people are thinking about doing something like that." The truth is we're not.

And any idea that gets this way up from the 50th level, works its way up finally, what is it going to have to do? For funding it's going to have to go to the Congress. For money, for oversight it'll be in the Congress.

It's got to get up to us, and what do we do with it? We look at it and we say, just like we did with the military commissions.

Everyone said, "Oh, my goodness, the military commission. We do these terrible things to these people." What did we do? We empaneled a group of intelligent people, lawyers from Republicans and Democrats and liberals and conservatives, and said, "Look, we want to do this right. Why don't you help us? Give us some advice."

And anything that gets into an area that's new or involves civil liberties of any kind, clearly we would deal with it in a responsible way, just as we dealt with the commissions in a responsible way. And they have to work their way through that process.

The only thing that bothers me about it is that, I walk down the street some day and someone says, "Gee, why are you doing those crazy things?" And we're not doing those crazy things. They're not being done, and they won't get done if they're crazy.

But I think that what people ought to do is to keep that as a context for what's going on and think about it. And think about what the impression is in the world of misinformation going out, not from the department, but from the people that report on the department. If it's put in a way that people think, "Gee, they're really..."


RUMSFELD: ... and the people in this department understand that. Any idea like that that comes up, it's going to get pounded at so many levels by so many people, and then it's got to go to the Congress anyway for support and sustainment.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, to be more specific, sir, if it was suggested to you that the military, that the Defense Department should perhaps pay foreign journalists -- covertly pay foreign journalists to write good articles about the United States or pay people to have pro- U.S. demonstrations, is that something that the military or the Defense Department should be involved in, as opposed to -- and General Myers is shaking his head, no -- I mean, would you support that...


RUMSFELD: Well, I shake my head, too, no. No one's ever proposed it. And if someone brought it up, I would suggest that that's not the business of this department.

QUESTION: General Myers, in the secretary's top eight and a half accomplishments for 2002, he mentioned the Afghan army in the future will be able to take the entire responsibility for defense of that country. What's the current timetable for that day, please, sir?

MYERS: I don't know that we have a timetable. It's going to be event-driven. We are still in the process of building that army, as you know.

The last couple of battalions, the recruitment there has been better than the previous by wide margins -- over 700, I think, in the 5th Battalion. We now have them out in the field. We have one battalion out in the field with our troops, which we think is a good thing, because they can see a professional army perform, and we think that will be instructive.

It's going to be more event-driven than it will be timetable- driven. And so we have to work our way through it. It also requires, as you know, the demobilization of some of the forces that are out there with some of the regional leaders, as well.

QUESTION: I don't want to presume when you say event-driven it's only, sort of, go back to the missile defense thing, events that the army proves itself successfully or the army stumbles and the timetable has to be set back. That would be similar to a learning process. The secretary, sort of, talked about weapons defense...

MYERS: It's the relationship between the central government in Kabul and the various major cities and regions, that that relationship has to mature as this army is being built. There's still an issue of equipping this army and paying them over the long term, making sure they have the right facilities. So there are a lot of things to go that would be very hard to put a date on it. RUMSFELD: Plus it would be a mistake -- if I could interrupt -- it would be a mistake to say that the answer to security in Afghanistan is the army. That's just not true.

It's the attitude of the people. It's the pace at which reconstruction takes place. It's the pace at which people begin to believe that they have a stake in that government.

And you could fill that country with security forces -- Afghan, foreign, ours, anybody else's -- and it still wouldn't have security unless and until the people of that country decide they have a country and they care about that country and they want to see it succeed and they keep bad people out. And then it's still going to be a question of what's your definition of security.

I read yesterday, I think, there was something like 666 murders in Chicago last year in a city, not a country. Is that security? Yes. I lived in Chicago. I think it's a great city. I love it. But we have things like that in our country going on.

So it is a lot bigger than the Afghan army or any other army, for that said (ph).

I'm told that we should go.


RUMSFELD: No, no, no, no. We really have to go. We've run over 15 minutes, I think.

QUESTION: If you don't come back, we wish you a merry Christmas.

RUMSFELD: No, I'm going to come back. I'm not going to leave you like that. I wouldn't do that.


PHILLIPS: That was Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and also General Richard Meyers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, giving their daily briefing there at the Pentagon to reporters.


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