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Defense Officials Briefed on Military Buildup

Aired January 15, 2003 - 12:14   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stopping by to speak with reporters.
Let's listen in.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECY. OF DEFENSE: ... Senator Warner for me to come, with General Myers, and brief them on the global war on terrorism with respect to the things that are taking place, specifically in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in North Korea, as well as other things, and we did that. It had nothing to do with anything that you suggested.

QUESTION: There's no dissatisfaction with the amount of communication...

RUMSFELD: You shouldn't ask me, you should ask the senators.

SEN. JOHN WARNER, (R), VIRGINIA: I'll be happy to address that question.

As this hearing proceeded -- and it was an excellent hearing, a very free and open exchange between 20 senators and the secretary of defense, together with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- but I reflected that I served with three secretaries of defense in the Navy Department, and I have worked with either other secretaries of defense, each of them in that successive period of time. So I can render, I think, some measure of judgment in response to your question.

I think the briefing today, the briefings in the past, with exception maybe of one or two instances, have been commensurate with the finest professionalism ever exhibited by any of those 11 individuals. And I have had first-hand experience.

The secretary and I served together in the Nixon administration. We've known each other in the years since, worked with each other. We have a personal friendship and a highly trusting professional relationship.

WARNER: I raised, from time to time -- I will continue to raise if I feel it's necessary -- the fact that any situation could be strengthened. I firmly believe, and this is my personal view, that this situation with regard to Iraq and to North Korea is among the most serious that I've ever witnessed in my over 30 years in public service in national defense.

Senator Levin and I start a quarter of a century of service together in this committee this week, and that, as a consequence, we need to have the strongest possible consultation process between the executive and the legislative branches. I think the Senate leadership joins me in that as do other members. But certainly, today, it was excellent.

QUESTION: Was Senator Daschle there? He was the one who was doing the complaining this morning in...

WARNER: I'm not familiar with what Senator Daschle said this morning.

QUESTION: Was he in the room today...

WARNER: No. It was just Senator Levin and myself and 18 other members of -- I think 19 members of the Armed Services Committee.

QUESTION: Senator, you said that communication has been professional. Has there been enough of it and do you think you needed more?

WARNER: Well, that is a subjective judgment among individual senators. Certainly, at my level, with my responsibility as ranking and the possibility of beginning chairman here imminently, it has been absolutely satisfactory.

I think some of the junior members who are on the committee -- we had, let's see, eight new members in today -- they'll need some start- up time, but they certainly received today a full opportunity to listen and to ask questions of the secretary and the chairman.

RUMSFELD: I would add that all of the new members have been invited to the Pentagon and been briefed by me and by the deputy secretary and by others, at least those of whom were able to attend.

QUESTION: As January 27 approaches or whatever, do you expect to make more appearances, more regular appearances up here on the Hill?

RUMSFELD: I have trouble understanding exactly how one could make more appearances or more regular appearances. I have testified before some 20 committee hearings. I've given over 20 briefings up here. In the Senate and the House were in session, I think, 32 weeks out of 52 last year, and I was involved in extensive briefings in the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill throughout that entire period.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) things that aren't clear answers to? Is that what it is, that their questions about (OFF-MIKE)

RUMSFELD: No, I don't think there is a problem. I think that what is being said here is that, these are, as Senator Warner said, enormously important issues. And the Constitution in Article I has a role for the Congress of the United States, and it's a critical role. And the Congress has every need to be engaged in these issues and to be informed on these issues and have opportunity to discuss with members of the executive branch.

I was a congressman. I know something of what that responsibility is. And I care about it. And the executive branch is determined to do everything humanly possible to see that that linkage between the executive and the legislative branch is exactly as it ought to be.


WARNER: Let me just add one -- excuse me. May I just finish this, and then we'll yield to you. Secretary...


WARNER: The secretary very carefully pointed out this morning that there are three principal entities together with the National Security Council actively working with the president on these serious issues, the secretary of state and the director of central intelligence. Each of those individuals will be forthcoming to the Congress, respecting the committees that they are primarily responsible for oversight.

And he was very careful to point out that there could be at some point in time, as this thing rapidly develops over the ensuing months, some differences. And he fully shares the fact that that could arise, and that he said they have their prime responsibility as he has his responsibility with the chairmen. And we'll hear from those individuals in the coming weeks and months.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary on North Korea, sir...

RUMSFELD: I decided not to...



QUESTION: Sir, why not on North Korea, sir?

RUMSFELD: It's a personal preference.


QUESTION: This morning, Senate Minority Leader Daschle said that the resolution passed on Iraq require the administration to give a report to Congress within 60 days and that the administration has failed to do that and that they are delinquent. And this is part of the growing, unease, he says, among Congress that you haven't been providing enough information. Where is that report? And why hasn't it been sent up to the Hill yet?

RUMSFELD: I am not familiar with Senator Daschle's comments. And if the administration has a report of some sort -- I didn't ever believe there was supposed to be some sort of a written report.

RUMSFELD: I have testified last week before the House. I have offered to testify before the Senate and have done so.

What the obligation that may be (inaudible) in this resolution might be with respect to the secretary of state, I just don't know.

QUESTION: So would you say it's baloney, all this talk about...

RUMSFELD: Oh, now, really. I recognize you.


QUESTION: Back to North Korea, sir, is there any reason to be encouraged by any of the developments with respect to China possibly being involved in seeing a way through this? Are you encouraged at all?

RUMSFELD: Well, I'm always hopeful. I think that the president's made the correct decision with respect to North Korea. He's determined to follow a diplomatic path. He is attempting to internationalize it. It will end up in the United Nations as a result of the IAEA's assessment. And the fact that we're working with Japan and South Korea, as well as Russia and the People's Republic of China, I think is the proper thing to do.

Thank you very much. Good to see you all.

BLITZER: The Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld following a briefing he gave to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the incoming chairman John Warner. You just heard from him, Richard Myers, the chairman of the joints of staff, also attending that briefing. If you sensed they were a little bit on the defensive, it was the result largely of a story reported earlier this week by our own Robert Novak, who said that there was a rather testy meeting recently involving Senate Republicans and the White House chief of staff Andrew Card, Republican members of Congress complaining they weren't getting enough information about Iraq from the Bush administration.

John Warner coming out saying today's briefing was an excellent briefing, and you also heard the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insisting they're giving all the information that is required; they're giving that information on a prompt basis to members of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives.

You also heard Rumsfeld at the end defend the internationalization, as he called it, of this North Korea crisis, this issue, saying he welcomes the support of some of the regional states surrounding North Korea. We'll continue to monitor that.


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