U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld March 27, 2006
Remarks by Secretary Rumsfeld at the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much. General Huntoon, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests and visitors. It is a real privilege for me to be here with you.
It's a little embarrassing. First of all, I’m late. I apologize. Second, any time I see a general or an admiral I look down at my shoes to see if they're shined. And I had no idea the camera was on me. I was over there buffing my shoes on the back of my britches -- [Laughter] -- and was caught on camera. It's a little embarrassing.
I've not been here before and I'm very pleased to have this opportunity. I'm told that for over 100 years the War College has prepared future leaders for positions of great responsibility in our military. Many of you I'm told have -- in fact, a very large percentage -- have led troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I thought I'd just take a moment to say a few words to you particularly.
First of all, you can be very proud of what you've accomplished and what you are. Over 50 million people today are living in freedom, not perfect freedom, but freedom thanks to your efforts. The Afghan women who cried with tears of joy that their children have a chance for opportunities which previously they could only dream about. You can be proud also that millions of Afghans and Iraqis have stood with us in building a better future despite the violence, despite the efforts at intimidation, despite the terrorists that they face.
We're proud to know that there are, I guess, at least one Afghan and one Iraqi student here for the first time. We welcome you and are proud to stand with you in the cause of freedom.
Those of you who served there are going to be able to look back in 20 or 30 years and have great pride in what you've accomplished. The sacrifices you've made [inaudible] and the contributions you've made to a better world. We are very much in your debt and we thank you for it. I'd like to express my appreciation. [Applause].
We have Congressman Bill Shuster sitting down here in the front row, and Congressman Todd Platts. I want to thank you so much for being here. We appreciate your service in Congress and the fact that you both have taken the time to travel over to Afghanistan and Iraq and visit with the servicemen and women, recognizing their accomplishments. It's good to see you both. Thank you so much for coming. Why don't you stand up and let them see what you look like. [Applause].
It's good to be in Pennsylvania. There are very few states that can claim a more central role in the history of our country and the defense of freedom at times when our country was in jeopardy. To the east, of course, is Philadelphia, once the home of the Continental Congress, where a king was challenged and independence was declared. To the south is Gettysburg, where brother fought brother over freedom's meaning and the union's fate in what I suppose has to be the bloodiest battlefield on American soil. To the west is Shanksville, where a group of seemingly ordinary airline passengers gave their lives in extraordinary defiance of foreign hijackers and in defense of our country's capital.
Earlier today I visited that field in Shanksville to pay my respects. I don't know if you've been there, but there are memorials all along a long road where people come, some 150,000 visitors a year, more than one or two busloads filled with people a day arrive there to pay their respects.
The column of smoke that once rose from its edge of course has long since left a very peaceful space. Quiet. Expansive. The memorial they're planning is an impressive one which will include a large number of acres. It's framed by a forest and I suspect it may be what the field of Gettysburg may have looked like when the Union cavalry first found Seminary Ridge -- empty, ordinary at first glance, not a place one would expect to find heroism particularly, or even history. I guess that seems appropriate. Some of the passengers on that airplane, Flight 93, did not think of themselves as heroes or history makers when they boarded that plane on a Tuesday morning en route to San Francisco, and undoubtedly never heard of a place called Shanksville or a man named Mohammed Attah, and they never expected to be saying into their telephones, air phones, that the plane's been hijacked. I'm calling to say goodbye. Or the final comment, "Let's roll."
On that day the terrorists brought their fight to our shores and to our people, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, over that quiet field Americans, our fellow citizens, began to fight back.
I suspect Americans will always remember where they were on September 11, 2001, when 3,000 lost their lives. Think of the questions that were asked and I suppose in some cases they're still being asked today. Who were these people who were attacking us? What do they want? How can they be stopped? I'd like to comment on those questions today.
The enemy we face maybe the most brutal in our history. They currently lack only the means, not the desire, to kill and murder millions of innocent people with weapons vastly more powerful than boarding passes and box cutters.
Before September 11, 2001, there was somewhat of a misunderstanding in America about terrorists and in some circles I suppose there still is today. Even today some folks view terrorists as criminals, not as combatants. Some even consider them victims. Some seem to think that the years before September 11th were decades of peace, but that is not so.
Though we think of September 11th as the first day in the global war on terror, it wasn't the first day for the enemy. Extremists had declared war on free people decades ago. In 20 years terrorists attacked and killed Americans more than 20 times including the bombing at the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983; the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983; Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerby, Scotland, in 1988; the New York World Trade Center the first time in 1993; a military compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1995; Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996; U.S. embassies in Kenya, Tanzania in 1998; and then the war ship USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
During those decades the West was ambivalent about how to counter extremist ideology and that type of aggression. As a result, terrorists became increasingly bolder. We should have learned the timeless truth -- that weakness is provocative.
Consider how they boasted of their murder of innocent people in the Khobar compound in Saudi Arabia. In their words, "I went into an American's office and called him. When he turned to me I shot him in the head and his head exploded. We entered another office and found one infidel from South Africa and our brother Hussein slit his throat. We found a Swedish infidel and brother Nim cut off his head and put it at the gate so it could be seen by all entering and exiting."
On September 11th they accomplished their most daring attack on our shores, and in the years since no part of the world has really been spared from their attacks.
In Russia terrorists held school children hostage, some as young as 20 months old; killed 186. In Israel they hid a grenade under a baby. In Iraq, according to the Mayor of Kalifar, they placed explosives inside the corpses of children in order to kill grieving parents coming to recover their bodies.
In Pakistan the Islamic extremists beheaded a Wall Street Journal reporter. They killed him because he was Jewish and because he was American. They bound his hands, they set up their video recorder, they sawed off his head on camera. His widow was pregnant with a son he would never see.
Those attacks, like September 11th, were not random acts of violence. They were for a purpose and the purpose was to terrorize. If you think about it, people tend to think that the purpose of terrorism is to kill people. It really isn't. It's to terrorize, to alter behavior. In pursuit of a world where clerics issue binding edicts, where children are indoctrinated into violence and hate.
After the September 11th attacks the United States fashioned a very large global coalition who worked together to protect our people and protect their people. This coalition is probably the largest in the history of the world, with some 80 or 90 countries working together to make it more difficult for terrorists to do everything they need to do to be successful. More difficult to train, to recruit, to raise money, to establish sanctuaries, to acquire weapons, to cross borders, communicate.
But the strategy must do a great deal more to reduce the lure of the extremist ideology, like standing with those moderate Muslims advocating peaceful change, freedom and tolerance.
Progress is being made. Afghanistan has gone from a country where the government protected terrorists and imprisoned women, to one that imprisons terrorists and protects women. Iraq has gone from Saddam's mass graves to mass participation in democratic elections. A recent survey showed that a large and growing number of Muslims believe that free systems can work in their country.
The extremists see these changes and they're desperate to prevent that progress. One suspects that the terrorists preferred the battles before September 11th when they were often the only ones on the offensive.
Today there are some who want America to go back on the defensive, to the strategy that failed before September 11th. They say that a retreat from Iraq would provide an American escape from the violence. However we know that any reprieve would short lived. To the terrorists the West would remain the great Satan. The war that the terrorists began would continue. And free people would continue to be their target.
From time to time one hears the claim that terrorists’ acts are reactions to particular American policy. That's not so. Their violence preceded by many years operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and their violence will not stop until their ideology is confronted by the values millions on every continent take for granted. The ideas that liberated moderate Muslims are risking their lives every day to defend including free systems, individual rights. We must recognize this and steel ourselves for the long struggle ahead.
Today's debate is probably the most significant division is between those who realize that we are in fact a nation at war and those who do not realize that fact. Of course, those in the Department of Defense are under no illusions. We serve in a building that came under attack, a building whose bricks were charred, whose employees had to escape by crawling through smoke when that fuel-laden jet was flown into the offices and took some 189 people's lives.
We do not of course know what the thoughts were of those people on that airplane that crashed into Shanksville, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, or the last thoughts of the innocent men and women that were killed. Some I'm sure worried about their families. Before that last plunge to earth over Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at least one passenger on Flight 93 prayed the 23rd Psalm over the phone with a stranger, an operator he had found while trying to reach his wife. Together they took comfort in the passage that speaks of still waters and green pastures.
Those passengers rest peacefully today and our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, which many of you will command, are doing everything possible to keep other Americans from again having to experience the heartbreak and terror of September 11th.
It's up to all of us, military and civilian, to commit ourselves to be patient in supporting history's great and necessary task, aware that the enemy will not simply go away, and aware that when future generations learn of places where freedom was defended they will be told about a meeting hall in colonial Philadelphia, the battlefield of Gettysburg, the beaches at Normandy, and a quiet town not far from here called Shanksville.
So I thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for your courage and your dedication, the sacrifices you and your families have made to serve our country. I hope that you know our people thank you.
Now I'd be delighted to answer some questions. I will answer the ones I know the answers to and I'll respond gracefully to the ones I don't.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Lieutenant Colonel William [inaudible], Seminar 11.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The co-chairs of what?
QUESTION: The Senate Guard Caucus. [Inaudible] --
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Could you speak a little slower? I'm having a little trouble following you.
QUESTION: I'm curious [inaudible] Senate Guard Caucus by Senators [inaudible] National Guard [inaudible] by elevating the [inaudible] National Guard Bureau [inaudible]?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: The proposal to do that has been around for some time. I've never spent much time myself personally on the subject but my impression is, in fact my conviction is, that everyone I've talked to in connection with the Armed Services and the Guard and Reserve is opposed to it, and I haven't been given any rationale as to why it would be necessary.
I would say that it's critically important that the Guard and Reserve be linked very tightly to the active force. The total force concept is real, it's important. We have benefited enormously from those relationships. From time to time the linkages are not as good as they should be, and frankly, my impression is that for some period of time prior to September 11th the Guard and the Reserve had not received the kind of manning and equipment and funding and resources that would make the most sense for our country.
I have not seen any argumentation to indicate to me that that would dramatically improve simply by having a representative as a member of the Joint Chiefs. We have lots of ways we communicate in the department, and that particular one is not necessarily where the funding goes, is determined.
So I would think it's unlikely to happen, although I'm afraid I don't know what the arguments for it are other than staffing. We'll see what happens.
Periodically Congress debates that and [inaudible].
QUESTION: Good afternoon, sir. Lieutenant Colonel Todd Perkins.
Since the Guard and Reserve are fully integrated with the active force as part of the transformation, what are your thoughts on the impact of reducing the age of the Guard and Reserve for retirement benefits from 60 to 55?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: What do you think someone 73 years old -- [Laughter and Applause].
I can't imagine doing that. [Laughter]. In the private sector you look at the total incentives and disincentives of the people and then you fashion a package that enables you to attract and retain the people you need to conduct your business. But we have a volunteer force, and God bless the people here and the people across the country who each year put their hands up and volunteer to serve. We're doing well on recruiting and retention, as a matter of fact, which is encouraging.
The idea that you should have a person in for a relatively short period and then cut them loose at 55 to have a retirement package and then lifetime health care gets very expensive. So as you look at those incentives and disincentives and how you want to fashion them, the pattern thus far has been for, particularly because of Congress, they know who the Reserves are and they know who the Guard are, right? And the active people come and go. So you see the pattern in the Congress has been to increase the incentives for the Guard and Reserve and less so for the active force. What we've got to do is make sure that we keep the proper mix and balance it off against the utilization that we'll be able to have from the active force and from the Guard and Reserve. And I've not seen anyone inside the department who thinks that lowering that age is a good idea. I agree with them. [Laughter].
QUESTION: Inaudible]. My question has to do with the war on terror as a war of ideology. The National Defense Strategy, QDR (Quadrennial Defense Review), talks about the war on terror having a significant component as a war of ideology. What do you think we're doing well with respect to the war of ideology, and what do you think we could do better?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: If I were rating, I would say we probably deserve a D or D+ as a country as how well we're doing in the battle of ideas that's taking place. I'm not going to suggest that it's easy, but we have not found the formula as a country.
It's basically a struggle not between the West and Muslims. It's a struggle within the Muslim faith. There are a relatively small number of violent extremists and a very large number of moderates who do not believe in violent extremism in that faith. We're going to have to find ways that we can encourage and support those moderate voices because they're the ones who are in the struggle.
In the 20th century when I went to Washington fresh out of the Navy in 1957 and we had something called the United States Information Agency. It wasn't perfect, but it had libraries around the world, made movies, had various seminars and opportunities for people to learn more about the United States. I don't know what the 21st century version of that is, but we need it badly and we haven't got it.
When I was in Congress I remember President Kennedy was president. The USIA made a film about the Kennedy family going to India. It was very promotional and favorable to them. It was played back in the United States and Congress got all excited because taxpayers' dollars were being used to propagandize the American people. So the USIA was highly criticized and eventually it was abolished for all practical purposes.
We had various other things at Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other activities that we engaged in. But this is a wonderful country, the United States of America. The American people are enormously generous. And we are tolerant as a country. We accept diversity and differences. We're far from perfect. But the image that the United States has in the world as a result of the characterizations by others is unfortunate. And when people are leaning toward you, as you all know, things are easy. When people are leaning away from you, things are much more difficult.
We're conducting a war today that for the first time in the history of the world, in the 21st century, where with all of these new realities -- video cameras and digital cameras and 24 hour talk shows and bloggers and the internet and e-mails and all of these things that have changed how people communicate. And as a result, everything anyone says goes to multiple audiences. Every time the United States tries to do anything that would communicate something positive about what we're doing in the world we're criticized in the press and in the Congress, and we have a reappraisal and say oh, my goodness, is that something we should be doing? How do we do it in a way that is considered acceptable in our society?
Right now we have this issue about some folks out in Iraq working for General Casey hired a contractor and they wanted to get some truth out -- true stories, not inaccurate stories, not disinformation, but true stories and the contractor wanted to get those placed in some papers and they wouldn't take them, and he paid, apparently paid, the report hasn't come to me yet but as I understand it, the contractor apparently paid some newspapers to run, without putting the word advertisement on it. It was the truth. They were not lies that were being put in the paper. They were accurate. But the fuss and the concern in the country has just been a frenzy over it, so we're having an investigation. General Casey ran an investigation of it. He's now going to send it back and I'll look at it and we'll have to figure out whether that's something we ought to do.
If you put yourself in the shoes of the people in the theater, and they're out doing decent, good things frequently day after day, and the press is just reporting bad things about you in the Iraqi press, the neighborhood press for example, and they want to get something good about the fact that they did build a hospital, or they did put a generator in the school, or they did something else because their patrols are going out and they want the population to have a balanced view of what the troops are doing. So they worked with a local newspaper to try to get those stories in because they felt it would save lives if the community understood what it is we were doing completely and not just negative things that were being said through al-Jazeera or one of the networks that tend to be negative on the coalition forces.
You can understand their desire to do that. Then you look at the reaction.
So we're going to have to find better ways to do it and thus far we haven't as a government. The government's not well organized to do it. I worry, frankly, about people because of the fact that we do need the ability to communicate more effectively as a country, and people in the military have to be willing to do that. If every time anyone in the military sticks their head up they get penalized for having touched the third rail, namely done something with the media, that's not a great incentive for you folks. Right? But it's critically important that each of you have the ability to communicate, to deal with the press, and to understand where the red lines are and where the lanes are that we have to stay in because in our society we have to find them. The problem is that we've not yet adapted to all of these new realities that exist and we're going to have to do a much better job of it.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I'm Colonel [inaudible] from Jordan.
Mr. Secretary, you spent a little time in your speeches talking about urging the American people to have patience with this current war in Iraq. How long should the Americans expect U.S. troops to be fighting in Iraq? Is there a limit to the amount of time you are willing to give to the Iraqis to really stand up?
Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you, and thank you for your country's cooperation in so many different ways.
I do think that it takes patience. There hasn't been a conflict in our history that didn't take patience. They're tough. Today we're living, I think Bill Schuster said, we're living in the microwave age where we expect everything to be cooked in about 30 seconds. The world isn't like that.
How long? The president has said it depends on conditions on the ground. I think the progress that the Iraqi Security Forces are making is excellent. There are now something in excess of 240,000 trained and equipped Iraqis in the various security activities -- army, police, special police commandos, border patrols and the like. Some of them are green, they just got out of training; some have been out a year or a year and a half and they're seasoned and quite good.
The shift in weight that General Casey executed some months back has been working --where we've been doing less patrolling by coalition forces, and much more training and equipping and embedding our forces with the Iraqi forces in a way that our people are able to see weaknesses very rapidly and if there's an equipment shortage or something else get it fixed in real time. That makes a big difference. If there's a disconnect between the military and the police, Iraqis, they can help fix it. If there's a disconnect between the army and the intelligence people, they can help fix it. If there's some equipment shortages or logistics problems, they can help fix it.
So the Iraqi Security Forces have demonstrated, I think, a steady improvement. You go from the elections last January, not this immediate one but a year ago, the Iraqi Security Forces did a good job. Then go to the referendum for the constitution, we know the terrorists and the insurgents were trying to stop them. And they failed. They failed in January, they failed on October 15th. They didn't want a constitution drafted and they sure didn't want a referendum approving it. Then the elections on December 15th, they tried to stop that and they failed. Now they've attacked the Golden Dome Shrine (in Samarra) and they're trying to stop the formation of new government and they're going to fail at that, too.
So the answer as to how long is it seems to me the Iraqi Security Forces are going to continue to take over more and more responsibility from the coalition forces and we'll be in a position to turn it over to them, and provide various types of enabling assistance for some period of time thereafter. But I expect to see the major portion of the responsibility pass over to the sovereign Iraqi government and the sovereign responsibility of that government to provide for its own security which they're working very hard to achieve. We've passed over, either closed or turned over something like 30 bases already.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, sir. [Inaudible] Johnson, Seminar 8.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Wait a minute, say that a little slower.
QUESTION: Good morning, sir. [Inaudible] Johnson, Seminar 8.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: What's Seminar 8?
QUESTION: Seminar 8.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Oh, Seminar 8. Everyone is talking so fast here. [Laughter]. Is that good or bad, Seminar 8?
QUESTION: It's good.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: All right.
QUESTION: Sir, as the administration nears the end of its term and you start reflecting on the things that you've done, what are the top two or three things that you would like to see wrapped up [inaudible] and be considered your legacy before your time is done as secretary? Thank you.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Interesting. I still think we've got three more years. [Laughter]. That's a long time.
I don't think about my legacy, to be perfectly honest with you. There are so many things we have going on that are important.
If you ask me what conceivably has happened in the last five-plus years that will have the biggest effect on the defense establishment I would say it would be the amount of time that General Myers, and now General Pace and I and Ed Giambastiani and Gordon England have spent on people, on the personnel side. The positions and who ought to go into those positions and why ought they to go into those positions, what are the criteria that we're looking for for the various combatant command posts or the service chief posts and their deputies. What are the tasks, what are the attributes of an individual that ought to fit those tasks, and who are the people in the United States military who seem most appropriate for that? We invest an enormous amount of time. It is, in my view, the effect of that will be lasting. It will be enormously favorable in terms of joint warfare.
We have superb people in the armed forces. We’re so fortunate. Who actually goes into these posts makes a big difference. You know the old saying, A's hire A's, and B's hire C's. They then attract around them the people that they believe fit what their task is, and the ripple effect of all of that through the military is enormous.
I think a second thing that we're trying to achieve, there's an understanding in the armed forces that you don't go from untransformed to transformed. It is not this or that. It is a process. It is a continuum. And we have to have people in the armed forces who understand that, people who have some boldness and are willing to call audibles and make decisions and look at things fresh. To the extent we have people in key posts who have those attributes we're going to be enormously successful. There isn't anyone smart enough in Washington any day to tell George Casey and John Abizaid what they ought to do when they get up in the morning, and neither Casey nor Abizaid are smart enough to tell the people under them what they're supposed to do when they get up. We have to have people who can go out into the situation, recognize that the enemy has a brain, the enemy is constantly adapting and adjusting and changing and that they as leaders down the chain from George Casey in Iraq have to be able and have the confidence in themselves and in their chain that they're able to make decisions and call audibles and do the things that need to be done.
The days of learning something in school, getting a template and going out and implementing a template, are long since gone. It is the kind of people we have. I just think personally that John Abizaid and George Casey are doing a superb job for our country. We're so fortunate to have them doing what they're doing and doing it so well.
Question. Way back there.
I'll decide when it's the last question.
We'll do that one and then down here and wind it up. Make it a good one.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Lieutenant Colonel Dvorak.
Sir, last week Basque separatists in Spain announced that instead of violence they would use politics as a means to attain their goals. Sir, do you believe that coalition efforts in the war on terror helped influence that decision?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I'd like to think so. It's so hard to tie a string from this and then trace it all the way down to behavior on the part of somebody in a totally different part of the world for whatever reason.
My guess is there are multiple factors. I am struck by what Qadafi did, and I have a feeling that the efforts in Afghanistan and the efforts in Iraq had an effect on what Qadafi's done. It may very well be that his decision to toss in the towel on nuclear weapons and to deactivate his interest in terrorism was, as I believe, connected to those activities; and it may very well be that the announcement that's been made -- I'm kind of like Ronald Reagan, trust but verify. I'd like to watch it for a while and make sure it's real in the case of the Basques. I just don't know what they're going to do. But if they do decide to do what they've said they've decided to do it could very well be also because of Qadafi's change and a host of other things. It will be interesting to see.
I would like to see Kim Jung Il take a lesson on -- [Laughter]. I guess Mr. Kim Jung Il is what the president calls him.
Question. We'll make this the last one. How’s that General?
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, welcome. Colonel Pat Hamilton. Seminar 2.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Seminar 2. Is that a good one, too?
QUESTION: Oh, yes sir. [Hooahs].
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: How many are there?
Mr. Secretary, the Townsend Report on the federal response to Hurricane Katrina outlined some recommendations for joint force structure authorization for National Guard Headquarters in states. I'd like to get your opinion on the status of those authorizations coming to the states, and the Guard's role as more of a lead agency for DoD in terms of [inaudible].
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you.
The status is that the report has been completed and released and then been sent back to the departments to consider and then make recommendations as to how they're going to implement the conclusions that came out of that report. So we're at that semi-final stage where the departments and agencies -- for example, one of the assignments was for the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to get together and look at what stage might the Department of Defense be called upon to assist in the event, for example, in a truly catastrophic event where first responders are victims themselves and the only institution sizeable enough to be of assistance is the Department of Defense. So our departments now are working out those details and then we'll make recommendations.
The Department of Defense has, ever since September 11th, focused very seriously on the homeland defense task that we have to know can fall to us in the event of either a truly catastrophic event, whether manmade or natural, or multiple events which would add a dimension and complexity and certainly not out of the realm of possibility. We have of course as a department never organized, trained and equipped for that role and we have certain statutory limitations with respect to posse comitatus on law enforcement.
On the other hand, there isn't any institution in the country that is organized, trained and equipped to do things that are conceivably useful in that kind of a catastrophic event, nor would it make any sense for the society to create an institution of that magnitude to be available. We have at any given time enormous unused or ready to be used or ready to be deployed capability.
General Blum, who I believe did a terrific job in Katrina, as did General Honore and the National Guard forces that were brought from all around the country. If you think about it, we went from zero after Katrina to something like 50,000 Guard and 20,000 active forces in a matter of days. Available, on the spot, with helicopters, with vehicles, capable of performing things that needed to be done, excluding law enforcement.
General Blum said he could have called on something like another 150,000 or 200,000 that were available in the country had they been needed. So the idea that we are so stretched that we're not capable of doing that which needs to be done is of course simply not the case. It has to be reassuring to the president and to the country to know that the armed forces have that capability, they do have that discipline, they do have standing headquarters that can be deployed and put in place, and they do have intelligence assets that can be used to get situational awareness, they do have communication packages that can be deployed readily to provide assistance in the event that communication systems are completely destroyed or broken down, and in the case of Katrina and indeed Rita, to say nothing of the tsunami in South Asia and the Pakistan earthquake. What our folks did there was really terrific, just amazing how fast they were able to get there, the lives they were able to save, the competence they brought, the situational awareness they brought, the ability to coordinate and work with other countries and other assets is just truly impressive.
So the role of the Guard and the Reserve is critically important for homeland defense and because of the rebalancing we're doing in the forces right now within the active force and within the Guard and Reserve and between the active and reserve components, we're going to end up where governors and the United States of America, the people of the country, are going to have Guard and Reserve forces available that will be considerably better suited to a homeland defense task. In other words, it's hard to quite see exactly how you're going to use artillery with Katrina. On the other hand, military police and civil affairs and engineers and that type of thing can be enormously helpful. And medical assistance.
So I think we're getting the department rearranged in a way that is going to fit this new century and there's no question but that the country, given the enormous investment the country makes in the Department of Defense and the defense establishment has every right to expect that we would be capable of assisting in a serious catastrophe that is conceivable.
I wish you all well. You are hand picked; you are people who people you've worked with over the year have watched and considered to be the cream of the crop, the folks who are going to make a big difference in our country's history, the people who have the brains and the dedication and the ability to select other people to follow in your footsteps so that the bench stays strong.
I wish you well. Thank you.