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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Donald Rumsfeld Briefs Reporters on Iraq

Aired August 2, 2006 - 14:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, from the White House to the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld briefing reporters, along with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace. Don't know when they're going to revise their room. Stay tuned.
But let's listen in.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: ... you need lots of -- a number of different ways of looking at it. And then you have to not be simplistic about it, but look at it and say, "OK, fair enough." You need to look at it at this basis, on that basis and understand what it is you're seeing.

And I think that's where everyone's coming to some common understanding on it.

Did you want to add?

PACE: Just one additional point, if I could, on the National Guard.

As you know, the Guard's building to 28 fully manned, trained and equipped brigades. To get there, the price tag is about the $21 billion that was quoted yesterday. However, what was not quoted, to the best of my knowledge, is that that $21 billion is in the budget that was submitted for FY '07 and beyond.

So the Army has, in fact, recognized the desirability of having 28 full-up brigades, and has allocated resources to build to that.

RUMSFELD: And if you go back to the earlier period, they were hollow. The reserve Guard brigades were frequently without the equipment and were hollow.

The measure we're now measuring them against is to be deployable and equipped and trained and capable of undertaking the kinds of tasks that they'll be assigned.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there is a statement today by the president of Iraq; and perhaps General Pace would like to answer this in addition to you.

The president is saying that Iraq will be able to handle its own security by the end of the year. Is that statement overly optimistic? And if it is a true statement, will U.S. forces be home by then? RUMSFELD: I did not see President Talabani's remarks, but, obviously, the hope of the Iraqis, the hope of the Americans, the hope of the troops is that the Iraqis will continue to take over responsibility for the security in their country and that, over time, we'll be able to draw down our forces as conditions permit. Beyond that I'm not going to go.

QUESTION: Well, he did say the end of the year, sir. He did make that definitive statement.

RUMSFELD: That's fine. He's the president of Iraq, and he can make his statements. And I didn't see the context of it or the translation of it, and I can't comment beyond what our policy is.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a question about the fighting in southern Lebanon. Have you specifically asked your staff to look at lessons learned or warnings for the U.S. global war on terrorism from that conflict?

And have you drawn your own at least preliminary judgments about Hezbollah's ability to resist both Israel on the ground and also the airstrikes, its ability to hide in that complex terrain and its ability to keep on firing rockets?

RUMSFELD: Our people clearly are watching what's taking place and as good professionals thinking through any implications that might have for other parts of the world.

I think anyone who ever underestimated Hezbollah were few and far between. Everyone realized that that terrorist organization was well- financed and well-equipped and capable of doing a good deal of damage. They've killed an awful lot of Americans over a period of time.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did you decline an invitation to testify tomorrow before the Senate Armed Services Committee? And, if so, why?

RUMSFELD: It was raised at one point. And what I ended up doing is agreeing -- I was up there yesterday I'm going to be up there tomorrow with General Abizaid and General Pace and Condi Rice, before the entire Senate, Republican and Democrat, in a briefing.

And it seemed to me that my calendar was such that to do it in the morning, as well, would have been difficult. So we're going to do it in the afternoon instead of the morning.

QUESTION: A big-picture budget question, which is dealing with the war. The Marines estimate they need about $12 billion or $13 million to reset and re-equip; the Army about $17 billion; the Guard, as we've talked about, $21 billion.

The Congress has provided in excess of $420 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan, for Operation Noble Eagle. And that's on top of the annual budget of $400 billion.

Given these out-year costs for reset that are going to continue to mount as long as we have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, are you all considering any major cuts or adjustments in the budget, or do you just expect Congress to keep putting money into that top line to cover the costs as they come up?

RUMSFELD: I don't know quite how to answer that...

PACE: I don't personally expect anything from Congress, other than that they would expect from us for us to do our homework. The secretary and I have been, for the last several weeks now, focused very heavily on the ground force part of this.

As you know, the commandant of the Marine Corps and the chiefs of staff of the Army have testified in front of Congress. They have met with us and described their future budget needs, as they see it.

And we're, literally, today, as of about two hours ago, meeting, and we'll meet again tomorrow to discuss where are we; what are the potential deficits; how we might fill those deficits; and what things are there that we are doing that we might be able to stop doing.

PACE: Those are all ongoing analyses.

But at the end of the day, we owe to the nation -- at least I do as a military officer, I owe to the nation my best description of what I believe we need to be able to bring to the table for the nation, what I believe asset-wise we're going to need to accomplish that, and to identify then to the Congress, through the secretary and the president, our requests for financing. That's what we should be doing, that's what we are doing.

QUESTION: Any cuts (inaudible) offset the costs?

RUMSFELD: Well, there's so many puts and takes that take place in a defense budget of this size, they go on every day, within the services and among the services. I wouldn't know quite how to answer it.

But the general is correct. And as you I think know, the Senate is proposing that an additional $13 billion be brought forward and put into what they call an allowance, and I think what we call a bridge -- the $50 billion bridge fund -- which should go some distance in helping with the reset costs.

But the second issue you raised, you mentioned the top line -- this gets a little detailed for this kind of an environment.

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD: You like that stuff, huh? I'm not into it; I try to avoid it.

The question as to whether something goes into the base budget, the so-called top line, or whether it goes into a supplemental, is an issue that really is above our pay grades. That's something that the president works out with the leadership and the Congress. We can do it either way.

To the extent you put it in the baseline and it's something that isn't fully understood yet, because it's prospective, it's very difficult to do, and therefore the justification is sketchier.

To the extent you wait and put it in a supplemental, you have much more detail, and the Congress then is more fulfilled in terms of understanding what the funds are for.

The one thing, as Pete said, the reality is when you're in a war -- and we are in a war -- it costs money. And equipment gets used at a much different rate.

RUMSFELD: Equipment gets destroyed and it has to be replaced. And you need to reset the force properly and you need to reset it in a way that this country will be capable of doing what is necessary to defend our country.

We are currently, as a country, spending about 3.7 percent of gross domestic product on defense -- maybe 3.8, depending how you do it. That compares with 10 percent of gross domestic product going to defense back in the Kennedy and Eisenhower era, when I first came to Washington. It compares with 5 or 6 percent when I was here 30 years ago as secretary of defense. And it's now down to 3.8 percent.

It is certainly an investment that enables the opportunity and the economic activity and the activity around the world to continue.

We are a stakeholder in the world global economy and the global system. And we are investing to see that that system is able to function and to resist the pressures from violent extremists that are determined to re-establish a caliphate in this world of ours and to deny free people the right to be free and the right to do what they want and say what they want and go what they want. And it's serious business.

And I think that that is a perspective on it that needs to be understood.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I wanted to follow up on the question regarding Capitol Hill.

The Senate Armed Services Committee says, nonetheless, that you have not testified openly before them since February on the subject of the war in Iraq or anything else.

Do you have some reluctance to -- while you had these private briefing sessions behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, sir, do you have some reluctance to publicly testify before the committee and face Senator Kennedy or others on the committee who oppose the war?

QUESTION: They also say -- and I'm just asking for an accurate reading from you -- that despite their schedule, that you may be scheduling a press conference on Capitol Hill tomorrow. I have no idea if that's true. So I'd just...

RUMSFELD: No.

QUESTION: ... would like your further assessment.

RUMSFELD: I mean, I can't say what someone might or might not be doing. But what...

(CROSSTALK)

RUMSFELD: Just a minute. I'll answer.

I cannot say what somebody else around here may or may not be doing. But what I normally do when I go up there is do a stakeout afterward, and my guess is that that is the press conference.

And unless Senator Warner or someone who's in charge of the intelligence and operations briefing that we're giving has requested something like that, I have no desire for it.

QUESTION: Do you have some reluctance? Why haven't you...

RUMSFELD: No, I don't. The answer is, no, I don't have any reluctance.

QUESTION: (inaudible) testify publicly again?

RUMSFELD: I have, and in the past I've testified many times over the years.

QUESTION: Why not since February?

RUMSFELD: I haven't been asked that I know of until this one, and I decided that it would be more appropriate to speak to the entire Senate in the forum in the afternoon.

And, I mean, let's be honest: Politics enters into these things, and maybe the person raising the question is interested in that. I just don't know.

All I know is we're arranged the way we are, and I've been happy to testify on any number of occasions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, General Casey has made the decision now to send an additional several thousand U.S. forces into Baghdad to try to stem the recent spike in sectarian violence. What specifically will be their mission? Will part of their mission be to disarm the armed militias there inside Baghdad?

And after your most recent visit there, do you get the sense that Iraq is closer than ever to the brink of civil war?

PACE: First of all, General Casey is working very closely with Prime Minister Maliki with regard to the security operations in Baghdad.

As you know, there were about, oh, I think it was 54,000 troops, of which 7,000 were U.S. and the rest, the other 47,000, were Iraqis. Together they decided to increase that number. They're going to add another 3,500 U.S. and about another 5,500 Iraqi soldiers and police, specifically to be able to strengthen the cordon and strengthen the street presence.

Most of the work inside the city, on the streets, will be performed by Iraqi army and Iraqi police, backstopped with the strength of the Stryker brigade, for example, so we're able to quickly respond to needs as they come about, to suppress the death squads that have been roaming and shooting, assassinating innocent people.

It was a response to increasing violence that needed to have a quick response. And over time, we'll be able to have the U.S. force that's been extended come home and have the Iraqis, as they want to do and as President Talabani said today, step forward and take over more responsibility.

QUESTION: And the question, Mr. Secretary, after your most recent visit and this spike in violence, do you believe that Iraq is closer than ever to the brink of civil war?

RUMSFELD: "Closer than ever."

Clearly, there's sectarian violence. People are being killed. Sunnis are killing Shia; Shia are killing Sunnis. Kurds seem not to be involved.

It's unfortunate. And they need a reconciliation process. The prime minister is pushing for a reconciliation process.

There are a couple of other things that are -- oh, how would you characterize it? -- things you wish weren't happening. There's some movement of Shia out of Sunni areas and Sunnis out of Shia areas, to some extent. There undoubtedly are some people who are leaving the country and going to safer places because of the violence.

Does that constitute a civil war? I guess you can decide for your yourself. And we can all go to the dictionary and decide what you want to call something.

But it seems to me that it is not a classic civil war at this stage.

RUMSFELD: It certainly isn't like our Civil War. It isn't like the civil war in a number of other countries.

Is it a high level of sectarian violence? Yes, it is. And are people being killed? Yes. And is it unfortunate? Yes. And is the government doing basically the right things? I think so.

We're now up to 275,000 Iraqi security forces, heading toward 325,000 by the end of the year. The president has announced a reconciliation process. He's working on it. He's a serious person. He's working with some of the neighboring countries to try to encourage the Sunnis to participate. He's worked with Sistani, the leading Shia cleric in the country, and had him support a reconciliation process, as well as support of the disarming of some of the militias.

So there's a number of good things happening. There are four provinces in the country where almost all the violence is occurring, and there are 14 where there is relatively little violence.

And so, amidst all of this difficulty, the currency is fairly stable, the schools are open, the hospitals are open, the people are functioning.

You'd fly over it -- you've been there -- and you see people out in the fields doing things and people driving their cars and lining up for gasoline and going about their business.

So it's a mixed picture that's difficult but, despite all of the difficulties, there are also some good trend lines that are occurring, and I think the period ahead is an important period.

QUESTION: General, with regard to your trip in Afghanistan, now that you've been back and briefed folks, do you expect to make any recommendations...

PHILLIPS: Wrapping up the Pentagon briefing from this point, but you can still go to cnn.com/pipeline and listen to the rest of what Rumsfeld and General Peter Pace have to say about what's taking place overseas in Iraq and the Middle East.

Well, electricity demand soars with the mercury. A dangerous heat wave keeps its grip on the eastern U.S., while a tropical storm threatens to become the first hurricane of the season.

Stay with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Monitoring the heat wave all the way from Miami to Chicago, to California, all across the U.S., dangerous heat gripping parts. A lot of concern for the elderly, a lot of concern for those working outdoors. Businesses even closing down, closing early. Public transportation obviously another issue, too.

But you just don't beat it, though. You just get through it. That's how one man in Bangor, Maine, at least, is coping with the record heat.

That's right, even Maine expects record-setting temps today, along with these other cities. At least a third of the country is now in the grip of this heat wave. Excessive heat warnings posted from Dallas, to Raleigh, St. Louis to Philadelphia. And as you can imagine, utility companies bracing for record power outage usage, as well.

Major League ballparks like Boston's Fenway taking extra precautions, setting up water misters at the stadium and having more medical teams on duty. More than 100 fans were treated for heat at last night's game.

All right. Let's talk about when this dangerous heat could end.

Reynolds Wolf in the weather center.

(WEATHER REPORT)

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