- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

The following are excerpts of yesterday's interview of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld with editors and reporters of The Washington Times.

Mr. Rumsfeld: The president ran for the office of president. He gave a series of speeches allowing us how he thought it would be a good idea if the United States reviewed defense strategy and those postures and the way we are dealing with the men and women in the armed services, and relationships in the post-Cold War world.
[President Bush] asked me when he invited me to become his nominee for secretary of defense to undertake a series of reviews and a serious look at our country's circumstance in the world, and we have been doing that. It's been interesting. We have had a series of six or eight studies that were completed, and became part really of the Quadrennial Defense Review [QDR].
We have been moving through that process because of the time compression that exists, there has been a need to do a rather unusual thing, and that is to gather the Chiefs and on occasion the [theater commanders] and undersecretaries into a room and have us pretty much do it ourselves rather than thinking we can delegate it down and then hope to reconnect it at the top after they come back up. There wasn't enough time for that.

Defense deadlines
Q: What's your deadline for getting this to the president, for getting a recommendation to the president?
A: Oh gosh, there are certainly statutory requirements and we'll need them all, I suppose, one way or another. I don't set artificial deadlines but the Quadrennial Defense Review I think has to be reported to the Congress by October 1st, the nuclear posture statement sometime towards the end of the year or January. I intend to do that earlier, finish it earlier. The defense planning guidance has to go out in anticipation of the budget bill and the fiscal guidance has to go out soon and then the budget bill, presumably … it will end late in the year and then the president announces the budget in January or so. So all those threads have to come through the needle head pretty darn quick.
Q: We had people telling us that the QDR is becoming driven largely by [budget considerations rather than strategy].
A: That was an argument made for the last [QDR]. I don't think it's quite possible to say that about this one, except for the fact that if you have the law requiring that this be completed by September 30th, and the fiscal guidance goes out sometime in July or August and the defense planning guidance and the fiscal guidance and then you are working on your budget in September, October, November, it's hard for someone not to be able to say [that] although that doesn't make it so. We have had a number of months where there has not been any kind of a budget drill and there has been a great deal of thought going on. I suppose if someone wants to say that, they can say it, but I doubt if the people involved would say that.
Q: Do you think it's becoming more budget driven?
A: I think life is budget driven. Do I think the work that we have done over the past three or four months is budget driven? Absolutely not.

The China threat
Q: It's been widely reported that there is going to be a shift in focus towards Asia, which means China, and the issue of China obviously has become very important in a sense that people say, don't make China into an enemy, but yet it already appears as if they regard us as their main enemy. You have kind of a reputation as being a realist on China. Could you give us your take on what you think is going on with the [People's Republic of China] today?
A: Well first, go back to [director of the Pentagon Office of Net Assessment] Andy Marshall's paper. You are right. It did discuss Asia, but rather than suggesting an emphasis on Asia and a de-emphasis on the Persian Gulf or on Europe or some of the Third World, I think it did not. I have been over it quite carefully. It pointed out that Asia is different from Europe in terms of distances, in terms of the kinds of countries that are there, and the nature of your political system, their economic systems. As a result the Department of Defense needs to be cognizant of that and recognize the difference in capabilities that conceivably would be appropriate in the first instance for the purpose of deterring and in the second instance for the purpose of prevailing.
And it would possibly be more appropriate to have a capability-based strategy for the mid- to longer term problems because — as I have pointed out repeatedly — history is replete with examples where people have failed to predict what was going to happen next year and where the problem was going to come from and what form that threat or problem might take. So we are kind of looking at near-term threat-based strategy, where you can see it, North Korea, Iraq, or something like that, as opposed to the mid- to longer term where it's really a matter more of capabilities that are going to deter.
What do I think about China? My view of China is that its future is not written, and it is being written. I don't have any code words that I would characterize as a doctrine or anything. But I am kind of old-fashioned. I kind of begin with the reality, and the reality is [China] is reaching out from an economic standpoint to the rest of the world to try to engage economies and have those economies engage them.
They are increasing their defense budget every year by some probably double-digit figure, although it's very difficult to nail down precisely what their budgets are, since they have more than one.

China's future
Everyone in this room is probably a better judge than I am as to whether it's possible, and whether and to what extent it's possible to have an economic system that reaches out to the rest of the world — and therefore has to live with the rest of the world in terms of relatively free-market-oriented policies, and cope with the inevitable reality of computers and people coming to your country and the press, and the things, the interaction that occurs from having successful economy, which they clearly have indicated they would like to try to do. And then ask yourself how compatible that is with a dictatorial emerging political system that lacks the political freedoms that we enjoy, and the successful, many, if not most, successful economies enjoy. …
I happen to be in the camp that suggests that that's an awfully tough thing to do, that repression does work, but if you try to do it while you are simultaneously achieving a high-growth economy through extensive interaction with other nations in the world, you are putting at risk your ability to repress. And so I'm not wise enough to know how it's going to come out, and I don't know the kind of choices they are going to make, whether they are going to get to a fork in the road and decide that they are not willing to put the regime at risk, and therefore they will trim because if they trim too much, they are inevitably going to be penalized because money is a coward.
People vote with their feet. If you create an environment that's inhospitable to investment, the inevitable result is that investment will dry up.

Taiwan and China
Q: The president [of the Republic of China] called for joint Japan-U.S.-Taiwan missile defense and [communist China] also building up their long-range missiles. How do you view, since you did the missile commission years ago, how do you view the Chinese missile buildup of short and long range?
A: I guess I view it as not surprising and totally unrelated to our missile defense discussions. I keep hearing that what we do on missile defense could have an effect on the nature of what they might do with respect to their ballistic missiles. It seems to me that's misguided, that they are going to do what they are going to do. It matters little what we do, I think, with respect to defense.
How do I view it? I guess it doesn't surprise me. Here is a country that apparently has the wherewithal to do that. They have decided that it's important for their view of themselves to be the factor in the region. And they are making significant investments and not just in immediate capabilities, but they are making significant investments in future capabilities. …
Q: You have been sort of criticized for overseeing a defense budget which is insufficient to fulfill the promises made by the president during the presidential campaign to restore America's military. What's your response to those criticisms?
A: Well, the president cares about national defense and national security, and he has to take into account a host of things as president. I have to worry about the Defense Department, and that's what I worry about. He has to worry about lots of different things, and deal with a Congress that has opinions of its own, and what he has proposed is a number that is I guess the largest single increase since 1986. It's percentagewise the largest increase of any department. The problem the president and I are facing really is the fact that for a period of some eight years, actually 10 years, the peace dividend was being extracted and they overshot by a substantial margin.

Underfunded, overused
Instead of stopping at some rational point, the prior administration kept pulling it down and taking what they characterized as a "procurement holiday." The result is we have a situation with respect to the armed forces of the United States, that is facing the inevitable result of year after year of serious underfunding, and then you have to couple that with the fact that both the forces and the equipment not only were underfunded during the past eight years but they were in fact considerably overused.
The result being that the aircraft are aging, and that means that, like a car that's 30 years old, 20 years old, you are going to end up paying a lot for maintenance. That's what we are doing. It's getting eaten up with spare parts and maintenance, downtime. The shipbuilding is going to go off a cliff in 10 or 15 years. We are on a steady state right now heading for 230 ships. I don't know what the right number is, but I can tell you it's not 230 and if we don't start immediately building ships, we are going to end up with an enormous trough out there in a period of 10, 15 years.
You can't lower the average age of aircraft by 10 years in one year. It took us a decade to get there. And it is a tough thing to do when you have a fleet like that.
Q: How do you respond to your critics who say that you are not asking for enough to do what you want to do, to do the technological changes that you want to do. You asked for a [budget of]$35 billion, then [the Office of Management and Budget] said $15 [billion and you] compromised at $18 [billion]. And then people inside and outside the Pentagon say you need $50 [billion]. Are you shortchanging what you need to do or are you saying well, we are just going to take a longer time to do it and this is all the money we can get?
A: How do you deal with the fact that a number is less than some experts suggest is appropriate or that enable us to get these deficiencies, that have accumulated over a decade, corrected in a more rapid pace? I guess you accept the world like you find it and you go about the business trying to work the problem as successfully and effectively as you can.
One of the things it does do is it puts a premium on operating the defense establishment better, which is I think, at the minimum, respectful of the taxpayers' dollars, but also helpful if you want to try to turn waste into weapons. Nothing is ever perfect in life.

Missile defense plans
Q: The agreement on the abolition of the ABM Treaty, is that going to clear the way for missile defense system?
A: I guess time will tell. [President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin] had a good meeting, I'm told. I spoke with my counterpart yesterday morning. I guess the president met on Sunday and we talked yesterday morning our time, and are in the process of worrying through some dates where we can kind of clear our schedules to kind of get together.
You know, these things are complicated. Everyone has multiple audiences they have to deal with, and I'm sure that they do there and we do here, and what the president knows is what we have all been saying.
The president and Secretary [of State Colin L.] Powell and I and others have said that the ABM Treaty is designed to prevent ballistic missile defense, and the president ran on the platform that we wanted to have ballistic missile defense, and he asked me to see what we could do about that.
I have set up a research and development program to look at a variety of ways, many of which indeed most of which ultimately would bump up against the ballistic missile treaty, and therefore as the president said and I have said, we need to get beyond that treaty because it's preventing us from doing things that we feel we need to do, and the meeting with the president and Putin obviously set us on a path where we are going to be in those meetings and see how far we can get in fashioning something that is mutually agreeable.

Danger of weakness
Q: What do you believe is the best U.S. military posture in dealing with China, militarily?
A: Military, I never believed that weakness was your first choice. I have always felt that weakness was provocative, that it kind of invites people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't think about doing, and so to those who would argue that the United States should be something other than strong and capable of contributing to peace and stability in the world, I would argue that history says to the contrary.
[China is] a country that doesn't have something that I would characterize as a free press and I think the more people see how we behave and what we do and that we covet no other country's territory and that we have considerable capabilities is a useful thing. I don't know whether I have softened.
Heck, when you got a bunch of your air crewmen being detained in the country it's not business as usual. …
Q: How did that [April spy plane] incident affect your outlook on China?
A: It certainly sharpens your understanding of some of the dynamics that go on inside that country and the relationships between military and civilian side. Probably how the jockeying for position in leadership positions and power inside the civilian leadership is affected by external events that come out of nowhere.
Here is a Chinese pilot who had no more idea in the world he was going to kill himself, hot dogging up in front of the [U.S. reconnaissance] airplane, only an idiot would stick their horizontal stabilizer in someone else's propeller. We know he didn't do that intentionally and there he is, gone, dead, because he was doing that. And all of a sudden it became an enormous event inside China in terms of their leadership, how it's handled, who says what. And it is so unlike our country or, on the other hand it's very much like a lot of other countries in the world that have leadership structures and leadership succession processes that are totally foreign to any free country, and they are hidden and that's, that played a big part in that.

Women in combat
Q: In 1994, this country moved its line on women in combat from basically no combat to airplanes and surface ships?
A: I have not heard a word on the issue since I have been here. It's not something that's happening around here that I know about. I have not had a moment to look at the subject. I am not knowledgeable enough to opine on any aspect of it.
Q: You must have a personal opinion on it. It's a pretty strong issue. … You have followed the culture changes in the military in the '90s and the debates of how far can women go toward main combat.
A: I have followed newspaper reports of those debates. It's not a subject I have ever been involved in with the department, and I apologize and regret to say that it's something that I'm just not knowledgeable about. I couldn't, I could not tell you, and I hate to say this in public. It sounds like I'm not interested, but it is not something that I have been able to invest sufficient time and to comment thoughtfully.
Q: Is it safe to say these are not front-burner issues for this administration, I mean, since you are saying you haven't had the time to review it or think about it?
A: I don't like to speak for the administration. I can say for myself that neither of those subjects are something that has come roaring up in the first period of months.
Q: During the campaign, the president said we were stretched too thin, too many places.
A: Yes. I have General [Henry H.] Shelton working on an engagement study. Second, we have already reduced our number of troops in Bosnia. Third, we have declined to become involved in a number of new activities that have occurred during this period, and fourth, I have a massive search out trying to find where all the Defense Department detailees are located around the world with the thought that we might try to modestly reduce our tail and increase our teeth.

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