JIM LEHRER: Now our newsmaker interview with the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.
Mr. Secretary, welcome.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Thank you.
JIM LEHRER: The president's budget is being called a war budget. What would you call it?
DONALD RUMSFELD: I would say that it is a budget that reflects the priorities that are appropriate to our times. The pattern always is that if you're in a war, if you're in a conflict, that you need to fund that conflict. Some have tried to do guns and butter, both, in the past, as we recall. In this case the president decided to moderate and hold down spending for things other than defense or homeland security, and so for the most part that's been the case. This is, I think, a very appropriate and thoughtful, wise budget.
JIM LEHRER: Before 9/11, you talked much about reforming the military, changing the way things work, changing the culture. Does this budget reflect any of that?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Oh, indeed, it does. The 2003 budget, which was part of the President's budget announced today, has a great deal of transformation in it. There's some who define transformation one way, would say that there's some $20 billion worth of transformational activities; another way of defining it would say $50 billion. I think it's almost inappropriate to look at dollars. I think that - that transformation is not an event; it is a process. It is something that involves a mind set, an attitude, a culture. It is something that, for example, might not even involve a new weapons system. It might just be the connectivity among existing weapons systems. It might be a different way of organizing or fighting, as we found in Afghanistan. So I think the transformation - the word - needs to think about it and understand that it's more of a process than an event.
JIM LEHRER: But if somebody were to look at this budget - forget the money for a while - just look at what it buys, does it buy anything that different than what we already have?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, I think when you say "that different," it's important to understand that you can - when the Germans transformed their armed forces into the Blitzkrieg, they transformed only about 5 or 10 percent of their force. Everything else was the same, but they transformed the way they used it, the connectivity between aircraft and forces on the ground, the concentration of it in a specific portion of the line, and it - one would not want to transform 100 percent of your forces. You only need to transform a portion.
JIM LEHRER: 14 percent increase will bring it to - as we just reported - the biggest military spending in 20 years, the largest outlays for the military. Why do you need so much money?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, it's interesting. If you take the - the increase and break it into pieces, a big chunk of it's for inflation. A large chunk of it is for the healthcare programs that were passed that had not been funded previously for retired military. A portion of it is for the war. And what's left is a relatively small number of something in the neighborhood of $10 billion. I mean, that's not a lot of money; it is a lot of money but as a part of a total budget it's a very small part of the total budget. That's the amount of free money, if you will, that can be used for something in addition to the war. So it's a fairly modest increase in that sense.
That forced us -- actually to our benefit - to make sure we did things within the budget to stop doing some things we don't need to do and to do some things that we really ought to be doing to modernize and transform the force. The other thing that's in there is a pay raise for the military, because if there's anything that's central to the success of the armed forces of the United States, it is that the men and women be properly treated. These are the people who voluntarily risk their lives for our country. And we need to have talented people capable of doing the important jobs and increasingly high tech jobs. So we're competing in the civilian and manpower market.
JIM LEHRER: Again, when you came in you were concerned with - you came on the program and expressed the concern about how the money was being spent and controlled at the Pentagon. You wanted to get a control on that; you wanted to get your hands on that. And then 9/11 came along. Do you think this money can be well spent? Is the structure in place at the Pentagon to make sure this money is not wasted or poorly spent, whatever?
DONALD RUMSFELD: That's a good question. And I guess I would have to say that after 11 months or a little more in the saddle that I'm encouraged. The Department of Defense has been characterized by a lot of people as being very difficult to change, resistant, set in its ways, but if you think back over the last 11 months, what's happened, we have a new defense strategy. We have moved from a threat-based strategy to a capabilities-based strategy.
JIM LEHRER: What does that mean?
DONALD RUMSFELD: It means that instead of deciding that you're going to look at a threat in North Korea or a threat in Iraq or a threat somewhere else, the old Soviet Union and fashion your force to fit that, what you do is look at capabilities that exist in the world-- chemical, biological, nuclear capabilities-- the ability to... for cyber attacks, that type of thing-- and you say to yourself, it's not possible to know precisely where the threat will come from or when, but you can know what the nature of that threat might be and what capabilities we need to deal with that.
JIM LEHRER: You may not even know what country it's coming from.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Exactly.
JIM LEHRER: In the past it was all directed at the Soviet Union or a particular country.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Exactly. The other thing we did is we have a new force-sizing construct. Instead of the old two major theater wars we've adjusted that in a way that's appropriate. We have a new nuclear posture. We've rearranged our missile defense research and development programs. We've rearranged how we deal with space. The Department has had a record of enormous accomplishment in the last 11 months. And I think that it suggests that the men and women in the Defense Department do... Uniformed and civilian-- do understand that we do need to transform and that they're willing to get about that task. So I feel very good about the last year.
JIM LEHRER: Is there a simple... You can use the word simple any way you like-- but is there a simple military strategy that underlines the numbers? I mean what the United States military should be capable of doing -- before it was fight two wars and two -- what is it now?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Okay. The force sizing approach or construct was, as you said, two major regional conflicts. That is to say, the United States should be able to fight two conflicts anywhere in the world, be able to occupy the countries and take over the capital and change the regime. We have changed that. We weren't able to meet that. We had too little airlift. We had too few forces, and the world wasn't like that. We had lots of these other contingencies so we changed it.
We still have to be able to win two conflicts but we only have to be able to occupy and change the regime in one while stopping the other, and in addition be capable of engaging in the kinds of other lesser contingencies or non-combatant evacuations or an event like Kosovo or something like that which is the more likely case. We're in Bosnia, we're in Kosovo. We have these different activities so we're structuring a force to fit that.
JIM LEHRER: Where does terrorism fit in there?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Terrorism is one of the problems of the world-- cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, terrorism, cyber attacks-- that would be characterized as so-called asymmetrical capabilities that we need to be able to deal with, ways of attacking the United States where they don't have to go straight after our Armies or Navies or Air Forces which they can't do, the rest of the world, they're too capable. So we can deter those kinds of things. But these are the vulnerabilities we have, for example. We're so dependent on space assets and information technology that it's an attractive thing for someone to try to attack that.
JIM LEHRER: Here again you don't know who the someone might be but you're gearing up to combat it if somebody does want to do it, right?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Indeed. And we know a lot of countries that are actively trying to be able to do that. The al-Qaida, we didn't know precisely where they would attack or when they would attack. And in this case it was not even knowing that they would end up using box cutters to turn airliners filled with Americans into missiles.
JIM LEHRER: Now, when you and your colleagues sat down to draw this budget and the strategy, did you do it with the idea almost that if this was going to be done, if this capability was going to be reached, it was going to have to be done by the United States alone or did you figure, oh, well, the Brits got some of those and the French have some of those and we can do this? Or is this a go-it-alone budget?
DONALD RUMSFELD: No, no, it clearly isn't. There's no question but that... let me just say what the United States' responsibility really is today. The question suggests the truth, and that is that the United States is looked to by our people and by others to be able to contribute to peace and stability in the world. And we know that everyone's life-- our opportunity to go work and to pray and to travel and to be free-- depends on a peaceful and stable world. This budget and the United States' armed forces are "the" thing that contributes to that peace and that opportunity more than anything else. We do it with our allies and our friends. And we do it using their bases. We do it in their cooperation.
There's six, eight, ten, twelve countries right now in Afghanistan with forces on the ground doing things. The United Kingdom has forces. Canada does. Australia does. Jordan does. A number of countries are involved. They have ships at sea that work with our ships every day. And there must be what, 20, 30 countries have liaison offices down in Tampa with central command with General Tom Franks. So it is a cooperative arrangement. We have alliances. We have treaties, not just NATO, but we have a close relationship with Korea and with Japan and with Australia.
JIM LEHRER: But as a practical matter, Mr. Secretary, Tom Friedman of the New York Times pointed this out in his column yesterday, that we're it as far as high-tech weaponry, as far as air power is concerned. Our budget, this budget if it goes through will be equal to the next 16 countries combined in terms of what they spend on military. I mean we're pretty much it when it comes to major military operations, are we not?
DONALD RUMSFELD: That is true. We have "the" greatest capability. On the other hand, we can't and don't function alone. We have wonderful cooperation from literally dozens and dozens of nations in the war on terrorism. We're sharing intelligence. We don't have a monopoly on intelligence. We do have certain things. We do have more high-tech weapons, that's true. We do have more airlift, that's true. But the cooperation we get is enormously valuable to us.
JIM LEHRER: There's been some grumbling I'm sure heard from some NATO people saying, well, NATO has just kind become kind of a mop-up operation in the United States. The United States goes in and wins the war and then says, okay, now you guys come in and keep the peace and, et cetera, and the U.S. goes away.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, you know, you said grumbling. Any country that wants to make the investments can make the investments. Any country that wants to cooperate at a level that's higher, fine. The NATO countries have talked year after year about the importance of those countries increasing their defense budgets and doing a better job of investing in the future. Some have done it. Others haven't. The fact that our country recognizes the nature of the threats that exist in the world today and the lethality of the weapons of mass destruction and their destructive power and have been wise enough to make those kinds of investments -- it seems to me -- is a credit to the United States.