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the U.S. Defense Challenge: Peace amid Paradox

Statements by Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Key Defense Issues
Second of a Series

"We enjoy peace amid paradox. We are safer from the threat of massive nuclear war than at any point since the dawn of the atomic age. And yet, we are more vulnerable to suitcase bombs, to cyber-terrorists, to raw and random violence of an outlaw regime," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said at Pentagon welcoming ceremonies on January 26. He became the 21st Secretary of Defense January 22, and held the same post previously from 1975-77 during the Ford administration. The following are excerpts adapted from recent public statements made by Secretary Rumsfeld that reflect his perspective on national security issues confronting the administration of President George W. Bush during his first year in office.

Defense Goals

President Bush took office with three goals in mind: to strengthen the bond of trust with the American military, to protect the American people both from attack and threats of terror, and to build a military that takes advantage of remarkable new technologies to confront the new threats of this century.

Reaching those goals is a matter of mission and of mindset. Among the things we must combat is a sense that we have all the time in the world to get to the task that's at hand. There's a sense out there that we can't or we needn't act, because the world is changing; that we're in a transition period between the Cold War and the next era, whatever it may be; and that we can wait until things shake out and settle down a bit.

But it seems to me that the state of change we see in our world may well be the new status quo. We may not be in the process of transition to something that will follow the Cold War. Rather, we may be in a period of continuing change, and if so, the sooner we wrap our heads around that fact, the sooner we can get about the business of making this nation and its citizens as safe and secure as they must be in our new national security environment.

-- Remarks at Official Pentagon Welcoming Ceremonies, January 26

Primary Defense Objectives

I plan to pursue five key objectives and implement policies and allocate resources needed to achieve those objectives.

First, we need to fashion and sustain deterrence appropriate to the contemporary security environment -- a new national security environment.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery are increasingly a fact of life that first must be acknowledged and then managed. While striving to prevent further proliferation remains essential, a determined state may, nonetheless, succeed in acquiring weapons of mass destruction and increasingly capable missiles. As a consequence, a decisive change in policy should be aimed at devaluing investment in weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems by potential adversaries.

In a world of smaller, but in some respects more deadly threats, the ability to defend ourselves and our friends against attacks by missiles and other terror weapons can strengthen deterrence and provide an important complement to purely retaliatory capabilities. Moreover, the ability to protect our forces is essential to preserving our freedom to act in a crisis. To this end, effective missile defense -- not only homeland defense, but also the ability to defend U.S. forces abroad and our allies and friends -- must be achieved in the most cost-effective manner that modern technology offers.

Nuclear deterrence remains an essential element of our defense policy. The credibility, safety, reliability, and effectiveness of the nation's nuclear deterrent must remain unquestioned. But it must be adapted to 21st century deterrence needs. Credible deterrence no longer can be based solely on the prospect of punishment through massive retaliation. Instead, it must be based on a combination of offensive nuclear and non-nuclear defensive capabilities working together to deny potential adversaries the opportunity and benefits from the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction against our forces and homeland, as well as those of our allies.

Second, the readiness and sustainability of deployed forces must be assured.

When U.S. forces are called upon, they must be ready to cope with any contingency they may face, and be able to sustain military operations over an extended period of time if necessary.

Third, U.S. command-control-communication, intelligence, and space capabilities must be modernized to support 21st century needs.

As the threats we face change, our defense capabilities must adapt and change with them....The development and deployment of a truly modern and effective command-control-communication and intelligence system is fundamental to the transformation of U.S. military forces, and indispensable to our ability to conduct effective diplomacy.

Fourth, the U.S. defense establishment must be transformed to address 21st century circumstances.

The present weapons system acquisition process was designed for a different environment than the one that exists today. It is ill suited to meet the demands posed by an expansion of unconventional and asymmetrical threats in an era of rapid technological advances and pervasive proliferation....I will work to develop a new acquisition strategy -- one designed to take advantage of modern U.S. industrial practices -- that will enable us to develop and field weapon systems at a speed that reflects the needs and possibilities of the new century.

Fifth, reform of Department of Defense structures, processes, and organization.

I will examine, in consultation with the Congress, omnibus approaches to changing the statutory and regulatory basis for the most significant obstacles to reform.

-- Opening Statement, Confirmation Hearing before
Senate Armed Services Committee, January 11

Missile Defense Program

This so-called post-Cold War world is a more integrated world and, as a result, weapons and technologies once available only to a few nations are proliferating and becoming pervasive. And not just to nations but to non-state entities.

I believe we need to recognize that the deterrence of the Cold War -- mutual assured destruction and the concept of massive retaliation -- worked reasonably well during the Cold War....The problems today are different. The demands are different. And we have an obligation to plan for these changing circumstances to make sure that we are arranged -- first and foremost -- to dissuade rash and reckless aggressors from taking action or threatening action.

Missile defense, it seems to me, is very reasonable. What we know is that, with the end of the Cold War, proliferation has spread these technologies and weapons of mass destruction around the globe. Any president, looking at his responsibility as Commander-in-Chief, would have to say that a policy that is designed to keep the American people totally vulnerable does not make much sense.

Let there be no doubt: a system of defense need not be perfect; but the American people must not be left completely defenseless. It is not so much a technical question as a matter of the President's constitutional responsibility....Therefore, the United States intends to develop and deploy a missile defense designed to defend our people and forces against a limited ballistic missile attack, and is prepared to assist friends and allies threatened by missile attack to deploy such defenses. These systems will be a threat to no one. That is a fact. They should be of concern to no one, save those who would threaten others.

The United States has no interest in deploying defenses that would separate us from our friends and allies. Indeed, we share similar threats. The U.S. has every interest in seeing that our friends and allies, as well as deployed forces, are defended from attack and are not vulnerable to threat or blackmail. Far from being a divisive issue, we see this as a new opportunity for a collective approach to enhancing security for us all.

-- Remarks at Munich Conference on European Security Policy, February 3
and in Fox TV News Sunday interview, February 11

"National" and "Theater" Missile Defense

I've concluded that "national" and "theater" [missile defense] are words that aren't useful....What's "national" depends on where you live, and what's "theater" depends on where you live. The United States has friends and allies that we're linked very tightly to. We have deployed forces in the world. Our interest is in recognizing that ballistic missiles constitute a threat and weapons of mass destruction constitute a threat....Over time, one has to recognize that it's every bit as important to us to be able to defend this piece of real estate, and our population in this location, as it is to defend our deployed forces, and to have our allies feel equally secure to the extent that's possible. So I've pretty much stopped using the words.

-- Pentagon News Conference with NATO Secretary General
George Robertson, March 8

Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty

We've asked our people to look at missile defense unconstrained by the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, to see what makes the most sense in altering defense plans from a cost-effectiveness standpoint, deployment dates, and reliability. We have no desire to proceed in a way that could decouple the U.S. from our allies and friends....

I don't see the ABM Treaty as having a central role in strategic stability. My view is that the Cold War is over. That treaty was fashioned by (former Nixon National Security Adviser) Henry Kissinger, among others, who today agrees that it no longer has the relevance that it did then....

If we're going to need to make changes in the ABM Treaty, which we will, then you have to give six months notice to start that process. If you need to do that, you have to start consultations well before that with your friends and allies, and ultimately with Russia....We're at the point where we're discussing those things, but we have not come to conclusions.

-- Interview with the Sunday Telegraph (London), March 18


It is the willingness of nations to act in concert that helps sustain security and strengthen the peace....As a former ambassador to NATO, I have enormous respect for the value of the Alliance. It has been the key instrument in keeping the peace in Europe for over 50 years. I think it is fair to say very simply that it is the most successful military alliance in history. And NATO has developed, establishing the Partnership for Peace, which has led all of Europe to participate in developing security together, as demonstrated by the Partner forces in Bosnia and Kosovo today.

The European Security and Defense Identity is another development....Our European allies and partners know that NATO is at the heart of Europe's defenses. Therefore, to sustain our past success into the future we must first and foremost maintain NATO as the core of Europe's security structures for Europe....

What happens within our Alliance and what happens to it must comport with its continued strength, resilience, and effectiveness. Actions that could reduce NATO's effectiveness by confusing duplication or by perturbing the transatlantic link would not be positive. Indeed they run the risk of injecting instability into an enormously important Alliance. And...whatever shape the effort may finally take, I personally believe it should be inclusive -- open to all NATO members who wish to take part.

To be sure, as NATO membership is enlarged, it must at least preserve -- and, eventually, enhance -- our capacity for effective action. New members should share the values of allied nations and be prepared to shoulder the burden -- to make the necessary security investments to participate fully in the pursuit of our aims.

The Alliance has said it will address enlargement at the next summit in 2002 -- an opportunity for states to make their case for membership. Membership in NATO, in my view, is more than just a step in the evolution of European democracies. Member nations assume a commitment to the common defense, and they must be capable of acting on that commitment.

Weaken NATO and we weaken Europe, which weakens all of us. We and the other nations of the alliance are bound together in pursuit and preservation of something great and good, indeed, something without parallel in history. Our greatest asset still lies in our values -- freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law. And in the face of shared risks, we still must share the responsibility.

-- Remarks at Munich Conference on European Security Policy, February 3


Clear criteria for the use of U.S. military forces should be established prior to U.S. participation in specific peacekeeping operations. There should be clear objectives, a coherent strategy to achieve them, a reasonable chance of success, acceptable command-and-control arrangements, and an exit strategy. When the main burden of the U.S. presence shifts to infrastructure and nation-building, however, we are into missions that are not appropriate for the U.S. military.

-- Written Answers to Questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee
in conjunction with his Confirmation Hearing, January 11


We are in a new national security environment. Characteristics of this new environment include:

-- A relaxed attitude with the end of the Cold War;

-- The proliferation of powerful weapons and technologies throughout the world;

-- As a result of the Gulf War, a set of threats less likely to be deterred by the threat of U.S. nuclear retaliation;

-- Considerably more complex intelligence challenges given the larger number of targets and the proliferation of deception and denial capabilities;

-- Increasing dependence on space assets and therefore increased vulnerability.

The intelligence community, just as the Department of Defense, needs to be rearranged to deal with the new security environment. The national command authorities need information more than simply numbers of things -- ships, missile, tanks, and planes -- they need better information on intentions and motives as well.

Certainly the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and the means to deliver them pose a threat to the security of the United States, its allies and friends. We must ensure that we are devoting the appropriate resources to identify these newer threats, including cyber attack.

-- Written Answers to Questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee
in conjunction with his Confirmation Hearing, January 11