Monitor Breakfast

Selected quotations from a Monitor Breakfast with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at a Monitor breakfast in his private conference room at the Pentagon.

On whether a decision has been reached to kill the Crusader artillery system:

"The decision on Crusader is being refined at the present time and an announcement will be made at some point in the days ahead after the appropriate people have been talked to and had the subject discussed with them."

On how he felt about the Army lobbying Congress to keep the Crusader alive:

"I don't get upset. I was very unhappy.

"Did somebody in the congressional relations (office) or somebody get way in the dickens out of line? You bet your life they did. Do I think they will do it again? No.

"Secretary [Thomas] White has advised me he had no knowledge of those 'talking points' [faxes sent by lobbyists] at all. And that is the end of that as far as I am concerned. We have an inspector general's report coming out today or tomorrow. I'll get a look at it and find out who did have a role to play in preparing those remarks, and then we will see what happens."

On whether he still has confidence in Army Secretary Thomas White:

"He is doing a good job. He has my confidence."

On the challenge of killing a weapon system once work on it has begun:

"Any time you decide you are going to discontinue some program that had started – whenever it was: one year, two years –there is a constituency for those. If you are not willing to [cancel a program], then it means that anything that has ever been started has to go on regardless...and that would be mindless.

"Of course, in the event the department decides to cancel something, we will simply have to go (to Congress) and be persuasive. We will have to tell the world, the Congress, the press, what is going on that leads people to a conclusion – sincere people, honorable people, people who care about this country, who care about our national security – to [the] conclusion that this is a better way to spend that money than the other way. There will be discussions. There will be debates. That is fine; that is healthy. That is what this country is all about. "

On reports of squabbling between the Defense Department and the State Department over Middle East policy and other issues:

"There was a little while early in the administration where I think a lot of people in the press were hoping that would be the case.

"Colin (Secretary of State Colin Powell) and I talk to each other on the phone two or three times a day. We meet together several times a week. I respect him. He is a friend. And we don't squabble. We differ on things like anybody differs – I differ with my wife from time to time, not very often, but occasionally.

"These are serious, responsible people: the president, the vice president, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, the director of central intelligence. We have a very good, healthy, professional relationship.

"I have been around this town off and on for a long time and I have seen open warfare, so I don't even think that discussing the word 'squabble' in this administration is appropriate."

On the state of the Pentagon's war-fighting tools when he became Secretary of Defense:

"The reality is that almost anything anyone does during their time in office doesn't benefit them at all [during that time]. The effect of it is [up to 10 years] out. What we found was that the department had gone through what [it] called a procurement holiday. We ended up with a trajectory on shipbuilding that would take us well down below 300, into the low 200 if we continued on this trajectory. We can't. We need more than 240 ships for this country. We need something in the 300 plus range.

"We have got a pile of money to spend just to get to some acceptable level that doesn't show any benefit to anyone. All it does is it gets you where you need to be so you are not really damaging the force. What we found was a mixed bag, and what we are doing is trying to put it in better shape than we found it, which is the responsibility of everyone who comes into government."

On the diminishing margin of error in defending the US:

"Our margin for error as a country with those two big oceans and two friends on the north and the south has been substantial over our lifetimes. And it doesn't exist anymore as a big margin for error.

"If weapons of mass destruction fall into the hands of terrorist networks, then you are talking not about thousands, you are talking tens of thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands of people (killed).

Now the question for the country is: What do you do about that? And the answer is, it seems to me, you do what the president is doing and you highlight it ... and you attempt to find a variety of ways that conceivably those countries (seeking weapons of mass destruction) would decide it is not in their interest to do that. Those ways run the full spectrum of governmental possibilities."

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