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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Pentagon Briefing

Aired February 7, 2005 - 14:06   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, from the president's budget to the Pentagon budget, let's listen in to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at a Pentagon budget briefing.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... the steps that are going to be taken with respect to that new system in the week ahead.

And thanks to the capabilities of our forces, and the bravery and professionalism of our men and women in uniform, some 50 million in Afghanistan and Iraq have been liberated from dangerous regimes and have recently had the opportunity to choose their own leadership.

President Bush's fiscal year 2006 budget request of $419.3 billion builds on these achievements and reflects the following key factors.

First, as a nation at war, an overriding priority must be to ensure that commanders have the troops and the equipment that they need to prevail in the global struggle against extremism.

At the same time, we have to prepare for future threats, both conventional and asymmetric, and continue to reform the defense establishment accordingly.

We must take care of our troops by ensuring that they and their families receive the support they need in recognition of their sacrifices and their service to our country.

And finally, the department must be a responsible steward of the sizable sums that the president is asking the American taxpayers to invest in core defense programs for the coming year and the forward- year defense plan.

Tina Jonas, the comptroller of the department, and Vice Admiral Bob Willard, director for resources of the Joint Staff, are going to provide some detailed presentations on the defense budget. And they will be available to respond to questions.

I certainly want to thank them. And I should also thank the literally hundreds and hundreds of people in the department, military and civilian, who've been working since last January, here in the building as well as out in the combatant commands and in the Joint Staff and in the services, to fashion what I believe is an excellent budget for the Department of Defense for the coming year and the period ahead.

And with that, I will ask Tina and Admiral Willard to come up. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could we just ask just one question on the budget?

RUMSFELD: You want one question. You don't want anyone else to get one? Did I take that correctly?

QUESTION: The budget shows that Army spending is going down by $300 million in fiscal...

RUMSFELD: Which, as you know, is not the case.

QUESTION: Well, but that's what I see.

RUMSFELD: Yes. I should have mentioned that. I'm sure Tina and Bob will.

The only way you can look at this budget is to look at the supplementals with it. And it would be a misunderstanding of the situation to come to the conclusion that you pretended you had come to.

But of course you didn't, being as knowledgeable as you are.

QUESTION: Are they, in fact, hiding non-combat costs in the supplemental by accelerating it?

RUMSFELD: Of course not. No. That would be wrong. And we wouldn't do that.

What's happening here is that we started building this budget a year ago January, that's 13 months ago.

Now, think of this: We're in the 21st century, with e-mails and camcorders and all kinds of fancy things, digital cameras. And so you start building the budget in January of last year, send it to the Office of Management and Budget in December of this year, they worry through it and send it to the Congress in February of this year.

The Congress then looks at it and does what they do over February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, maybe October, maybe November.

And the world is going on. And then that budget is in play and funding activities from October 1st of this year to September 30th of the following year. That's a total of 2 1/2 to 3 years, the cycle.

Now, what does that mean? That means that -- there is no way in the world -- anybody, a family, a business, this government -- can plan that way, that well, over that long a period of time. It's just not possible.

So what do you do? You have supplementals for those things that are of an emergency nature.

The supplemental that we have received already for this year was $25 billion. There will be a supplemental, I believe, released next week, probably. And we will have a stake in that, as well, a sizable stake.

The Army is engaged in a multiplicity of activities. They are -- and I'm going to only mention a few of them -- in the process of rebalancing the skill sets as between the active force and the reserve components. So we don't have to overuse the reserve components.

That means you have to retrain people and re-equip people to do different things than they previously were doing. In some instances, within the reserve component, and/or within the active component, also skill sets will be being revised, and some will be discontinued. And others will be added. That costs money and takes equipment.

The Army is, in addition, expanding from 33 combat brigades to 43 in the active force and a similar increase -- not the same numbers, but proportionately, I think it's about the same -- in the reserve component.

In doing so, they are pulling capability down from the divisions into the brigades and changing the capabilities of those brigades.

That costs money.

Now, they're doing it at a time that they're bringing back forces and resetting them from their deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, wherever around the world, Korea. And to do that, it offers a wonderful opportunity to do all of those things at once.

And so what they decided to do was, because the bulk of that was in the nature of resetting the force, they decided to put it in the supplemental for this year and next year. And thereafter, we'll decide what portion of these various activities, which all impinge on each other, ought to be in a supplemental, as opposed to being in the regular budget.

But this is no -- it's all right out in the open. We've talked, in fact, we just met with all the big 12 Appropriations and Armed Services Committees of both houses and walked through that very point with them.

QUESTION: You said it's not the...

RUMSFELD: That sounds almost accusatory.

QUESTION: You said that it's -- just now you said that it's not the size of the force that's wrong, but the shape of the force that's wrong. Is that a tacit admission that the 30,000 additional troops that have been added to the Army will likely be made a permanent addition?

RUMSFELD: The Army's wrestling with that question, and I'll tell you why, because here again there's three or four things happening at once that makes it more complicated than things normally are.

We know that the ground forces are stressed, and we know that we've had to increase them. And we have, by about 20,000, the Army's gone up. We've done it under our emergency authority, without any change, necessary change in statutory end-strength.

So that's one number, for the sake of argument. And that's how we're going to get this added combat capability to go from 33 to 43 combat brigades.

But we're also gaining something else. We're gaining additional military personnel in all services as a result of the fact that we're switching tens of thousands of jobs away from military personnel toward civilian and contract personnel. So all of those military people are freed up. So that's another number.

In addition, the Army is going through so many changes that we could add still another, and that is the fact that they're going to have people serve somewhat longer in positions.

That means there are going to be fewer permanent changes of station. There's going to be greater longevity in spots, which of course means less wear and tear on families, less spouses changing jobs, less kids being hauled out of high school.

So that's another advantage that accrues to the Army in terms of man-years of military personnel available to be used.

We're bringing people home from overseas, and we're swapping out ships. There's just a whole series of things we're doing that we believe will put less strain on personnel.

And what the Army said to me was, they don't know, but they believe that there is at least a chance that, when they take into account all of the efficiencies that I've just described, and the new national security personnel system, which will make it more attractive to use civilian personnel than it has been in the past, as opposed to military personnel, there is at least a good strong possibility that they may not need over time an increase of that size, the 20,000 or 30,000 that at least -- at least -- is currently available to them because of the items I've mentioned.

And they wanted to review that in a year or two as the modularity process goes forward.

So I'm going to turn it over to Tina.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, one last question as you leave?

RUMSFELD: No, we just did the last one.

QUESTION: No, sir. He just said I had one after Charlie. Remember?

(LAUGHTER)

PHILLIPS: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld there at a Pentagon budget briefing. It is budget time, as you know, from the White House, and the president's budget to the Pentagon budget. And the secretary of defense giving a bit of a generic wrap, but then was asked a specific question about Army spending and is it going down. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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