After a solid week of stories questioning Rumsfeld's leadership, the Defense Secretary has had little chance to get his message out in anything more than a soundbite.
But here at Mike's America, we know that soundbites may make good television, but they don't illuminate or inform. So, when Secretary Rumsfeld held his weekly briefing at the Pentagon, it offers an excellent opportunity to see the big picture that soundbites and agenda driven reporting overlook.
From Department of Defense transcript:
Secretary Rumsfeld: I did think about something that happened 30 years ago, I think close to this month. I was secretary of Defense, and to my office at about 7:00 at night came a decision where I was told that the Army was recommending an M1 Battle Tank that had a 120 millimeter cannon, as I recall, instead of the 105 howitzer that the Army traditionally had. And the Army was in favor of the 105 and in favor of a diesel engine. And the other approach would have been for the -- to standardize with our NATO allies at 120 millimeters and also to move away from the diesel engine to a turbine engine.
I decided I wanted to take some time to think about it, and ultimately announced that I thought that the turbine engine and the 120 millimeter cannon was preferable to the 105 and the diesel engine.
Well, you would have thought the world had ended. The sky fell. Can you imagine -- can you imagine making that decision and breaking tradition for decades in this country? Can you imagine overturning what the service had proposed for a main battle tank?
Well, it went on and on in the press, and it was a firestorm, and there was congressional hearings and people saying how amazingly irresponsible it was, and it calmed down eventually.
The tank has done a great job and served our country very well these intervening decades. And I mention it because the people involved were good people, and there were differences of views, and somebody needed to make a decision. And the person who is appointed by the president -- who's elected by the people -- and then confirmed by the Senate as secretary of Defense has to make those kinds of decisions. And when you make a decision, you make a choice, somebody's not going to like it. It's perfectly possible to come into this department and preside and not make choices, in which case people are not unhappy, until about five years later when they find you haven't done anything and the country isn't prepared.
Now, let me just take a minute and tell you what's gone on in this last five years. We have agreed with the Russians on dramatic reductions in strategic offensive nuclear weapons, sizeable reductions. We have a new Unified Command Plan with the Northern Command and the Strategic Command. We have made changes in the Defense Logistics System. We have provided reforms in NATO to create a NATO Response Force and to reduce substantially the number of headquarters that existed. We have fashioned a senior-level review group, where for the first time we really bring the military and the civilians, the services as well as the combatant commanders, into the decision-making process on all major issues in this department -- a different way of functioning. The Special Operations Forces have been dramatically increased and given new authorities. The Marines are now involved.
Every one of those changes that I just described has met resistance. It's taken years to get the Marines involved in the Special Forces. And people like things the way they are, and so when you make a change like that, somebody's not going to like it.
We've had the largest base-closing effort I think in history. We've done two Quadrennial Defense Reviews. We've adjusted our global posture around the world, bringing forces home from Europe and from Korea. We have gone out to the combatant commanders who have the responsibility for war plans and had them revise and update their contingency plans, and shortened the process so that they wouldn't be on the shelf and be stale and be unusable and irrelevant. We have passed a National Security Personnel System so that we could begin to get a grip on how we manage the Department of Defense and the civilian population, the workforce, which is so important.
And it's tied up in the courts, and it'll take time. It's been three years, I think, that we've been struggling with it, so far. And that's hard for people, that change. The idea of paying for performance is stunning for some people.
We've cancelled weapons systems, just like we cancelled the -- disagreed with the tanks three years ago. The artillery piece, the so-called Crusader, was cancelled, and it caused a major uproar. You may remember that. People didn't like it. Other pieces of equipment have been terminated.
The Army's going through what is a major modernization. It's moving from a division-oriented force to a modular brigade combat team force. It is -- and it will -- when it's completed, it will be an enormous accomplishment, and our Army will be vastly better than it was five, six years ago. And that's hard. That's hard for the people in the Army to do. It's hard for people who are oriented one way to suddenly have to be oriented a different way.
If you think about the movement, we've gone from the military -- from service-centric warfighting to deconfliction warfighting, to interoperability and now towards interdependence. That's a hard thing to do, for services to recognize that they don't have to have all of the capabilities, but they have to work sufficiently with the others, so that we get -- truly get a leveraged capability, and the taxpayers get better bang for their buck, and the United States military becomes vastly more capable.
The idea of bringing a retired person out of retirement to serve as chief of staff of the Army was stunning, and a lot of people didn't like it. The fact that he was a Special Forces officer, a joint officer, added to the attitudes.
The idea of taking a Marine and making him Supreme Allied Commander and another Marine in the Strategic Command, let alone a Marine as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the first time in history -- imagine! What a stunning thing to do!
I look back on those decisions, and I'm proud of them. They caused a lot of ruffles; let there be no doubt. I mean, how many years ago -- it wasn't too many years ago that the Marines weren't even members of the Joint Chiefs, let alone the chairman.
Secretary Rumsfeld appeared at today's briefing with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, General Peter Pace, who added this:
General Pace: Let me say something, if I could, about the process because it's really important that our fellow citizens understand that the process of making decisions and all the things that the secretary just talked about, as far as issues, all were handled basically in the same fundamental way, which was a great deal of dialogue amongst the people wearing uniforms and those wearing civilian clothes.So there you go. Commanders are in constant contact either directly, or indirectly with the Secretary of Defense. They have ample opportunity to make their views known. It's also clear that the transformation required to keep our military the finest in the world is a painful process, likely to cause a fair share of resentment among those who do not get their way.
A normal day for me, a minimum of 30 minutes a day -- today's much more of an example, three to four hours per day; sometimes as many as six, seven, or eight hours per day, the chairman and the vice chairman are with the secretary of Defense listening to all of the information that's being provided to him, giving our best military advice. We are reaching out either formally through a war plan staffing process or informally just through a discussion process to the combatant commanders and asking their opinions about whatever the issue of the day is. And if it's important, the combatant commanders have either gotten on video teleconference or they've come to this city and sat down with the secretary, and it comes to the tank and then with the chiefs.
And the chiefs, individually, are with the secretary at least once a week, if not more often, in the meetings that he holds. And then, the additional meetings that have been formed during the course of the last several years, where all of us, of the senior civilian leaders in the department and all of the senior military leaders in the department get together, not for an hour, but for two or three days at a time. It used to be the combatant commands would come to town twice a year for two days. Now, they come to town three times a year for three days to sit down for quality time, three whole days with the senior leadership of the department just discussing various issues.
There are multiple opportunities for all of us with whatever opinions we have to put them on the table, and all the opinions are put on the table. But at the end of the day, after we've given our best military advice, somebody has to make a decision, and when the decision's made by the secretary of Defense, unless it's illegal or immoral, we go on about doing what we've been told to do.
For a review of the Crusader artillery issue, please see Anna's Clue Tank.