of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Mel Martinez
September 24, 2001
2:00 P.M. EDT
RUMSFELD: Good afternoon.
I'm pleased to be here to introduce the secretary of Housing and Urban Development,
who is here to discuss an innovative program that will help military Reservists
who are called up.
As you know, in the aftermath of the attack here -- and President Bush is calling
up a number of thousands of Reservists to active duty -- they're leaving their
jobs, and many, of course, take a hit in their paychecks. And this program is
designed to ease their mortgage burdens and actually do some additional things
as well with respect to renters, as the individuals serve their country.
And I certainly want to salute the secretary, my friend Mel Martinez, the --
his HUD team, for this effort. It's a good one.
It's helpful. It's going to be appreciated. And I'm delighted to introduce the
secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Mel, you have the floor --
MARTINEZ: Thank you.
RUMSFELD: -- and then we can respond to some questions.
MARTINEZ: Okay. Well, I'm really pleased to be here with you today. The secretary
and I have been talking about how we can help the folks that are being called
to active duty.
And first of all, let me say, as I come to your building, that I'm so pleased
and proud of you and the people who work with you for being in business. I think
we all are trying very hard to follow the president's counsel on that and make
sure that America is back to business.
And so, along those lines, in order to assist those folks who are citizen soldiers
and who are being deployed and who are being called to active duty, people who
have mortgage payments and car payments and other obligations of everyday life,
we want to today advise that we have issued a letter to all FHA-approved lenders,
advising them of their obligations under the 1940s Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil
Relief Act. And this is an act which advises all lenders to reduce interest
rates on mortgages to no more than six percent to all members of the military
on active duty. The lenders are also prohibited from foreclosing against any
military personnel during and immediately following their tour of active duty.
The relief act also helps military renters too by ensuring that they cannot
be evicted from their property or by allowing them to terminate lease arrangements,
if it was in their own interest to do so, without any type of repercussion.
I'm also taking additional steps and encouraging mortgage lenders to postpone
principal payments on all servicemen and -women during their tour of duty, if
they chose to avail themselves of that opportunity.
In addition to that, beginning tomorrow, HUD will have a toll-free number for
servicemen and -women who have questions concerning their mortgages -- a number
that they can call. And the number is 1- 888-297-8685. And we will also post
additional information on our web site, for those who would be interested in
This follows other announcements that we've made at HUD last week concerning
mortgage payments and foreclosure possibilities on the families that were directly
impacted by the tragedies of September 11th, and now we want to make sure that
we're doing what we can for the men and women who serve our country and who
are really at the front line of defending our country and, as you so eloquently
said the other day at the Cabinet meeting, those who stand as a sword and a
shield, protecting the many from the tyranny of the few.
Well, thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, President Bush -- I'm sorry.
RUMSFELD: I'll be happy to respond to one or two or three questions. And then
I'm going to leave Mel here with you to answer questions on his area.
QUESTION: President Putin said today that the Russian government is going to
supply -- actively now supply military equipment and arms to the Afghan opposition.
Does the United States also intend to provide military support for the Afghan
opposition in order to get rid of the Taliban?
RUMSFELD: We don't have any announcements to make with respect to the activities
either with the Aghan Northern Alliance or with the various tribes in the southern
part of the country.
QUESTION: Is that under consideration?
RUMSFELD: Well, I think as the president said, we are considering a whole range
of things, the purpose being to attempt to create a situation where it becomes
in people's interest to not support terrorists or terrorist networks, and, where
they exist, to attempt to make life uncomfortable for them and expel them or
turn them in.
QUESTION: So the United States welcomes this move on the part of the Russians
to militarily support the opposition?
RUMSFELD: My impression is that they have been in close contact with the Northern
Alliance for some time. I don't know that there's any change in policy.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, understanding this is more than just a military campaign
and, as you've noted, the lack of conventional military targets, can you just
give us some general idea how you can hit the terrorists and the people that
support them militarily, given the lack of conventional targets? Is there a
general way you can speak about how you get to them militarily?
RUMSFELD: It seems to me that what we've said is correct, that we are looking
at the full range and spectrum of things that can be done both from a military
standpoint as well as, as the president announced today, from a financial standpoint,
and diplomatic. Clearly, the decision by the United Arab Emirates to sever their
relationship with the Taliban is an example of the kinds of things that can
be very helpful.
QUESTION: Can you just tell us the new name of this operation?
RUMSFELD: I may do that tomorrow. I'd like to let it build a little bit. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what evidence does the U.S. government have that the
Taliban may not only harbor Osama bin Laden, but could actually be directly
involved in the sponsorship or in terrorism itself? And if so, doesn't that
make the Taliban a legitimate military target in this new war on terrorism?
RUMSFELD: Well, there's no question but that -- again, we've been very explicit
about this -- that the only way we can defend the way of life of Americans,
free people, is to not think you can defend against every conceivable terrorist
everywhere in the world using any technique.
The only way to do it is to carry the effort to them. And when you say to them,
it means to the terrorists, the terrorist networks, the people that help them,
the people that sponsor them, the people that finance them, and the people who
tolerate them. And it means that you have to undertake a host of things, all
across the spectrum. And clearly the president said I think, in his speech --
I can't remember the exact word, but he said that if you're in that position
as a terrorist or someone assisting terrorists, then you're not with us.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary.
QUESTION: Does that mean then -- could I follow up? Does that mean then, Mr.
Secretary, that the U.S. is intent on overthrowing the Taliban regime?
RUMSFELD: It means what I said. We are intent on altering behavior. We're intent
on attempting to take the steps so that the American people and our interests
and friends and allies and deployed forces can go about our business, not in
fear. And that means that we want countries to stop behaving in the way that
I've just described. And we intend to do things that will help encourage them.
And the kinds of things we would do would run across the full spectrum.
Let me get the last one.
QUESTION: Okay. I wonder if you could take -- since it was so crucial in the
Vietnam War to define what we were trying to do, could you take another stab
at what would constitute victory in this war against terrorism? Would it be
to stamp it out? Would it be to reduce the threat? How would you define it?
RUMSFELD: Well, first to say what it isn't. I think the idea of eliminating
it from the face of the earth is setting a threshold that's too high. I think
human beings are human beings and there are going to be people who are going
to attempting to do -- who will attempt to terrorize their neighbors and their
friends and the people in their regions.
What we are attempting to do is to assure that we can prevent people from adversely
affecting our way of life. We are a free people. We need to be able to go out
of the door in the morning and not be fearful for our life. Children have to
go off to school, and we have to have reasonable expectation that they'll be
coming home from school. And people have to be able to say what they think and
go where they think and engage in the kind of legal activities that they wish
to engage in.
And that is what this is about, because this terrorism problem in the world
strikes at the very heart of what we are as a people -- free people. And a victory
is that -- in my view, has to be characterized as the kind of an environment
where we can in fact fulfill and live those freedoms.
QUESTION: One last thing. Would that mean the operative verb would be to stamp
out terrorism or to reduce terrorism?
RUMSFELD: I think what we need to do is to deal with terrorism so that it does
not threaten our way of life. I think trying to stamp it out in every single
locale all across the globe in perpetuity sounds like a pretty big task to me.
And it is the aspect of it that affects the American people and our interests
-- and I mean, let's look at the damage that has been done. We've lost thousands
of people. Others, many thousands, are fearful.
We've seen significant economic harm to people in this country and elsewhere
in the globe. The United States is linked with so many nations across the globe
that we need to -- we need to be able to engage in the kinds of things that
Americans engage in. And so I think that to the extent we are able to deal with
this problem in a way that permits that, we would have every reason to feel
that we had accomplished something very important for ourselves and for the
people with whom we have various kinds of relationships around the world.
QUESTION: Do you have enough forces in place to act now if you had the intelligence
that allowed you to?
RUMSFELD: The goal has been to get our forces positioned in a way that we feel
that when the president has made a decision that he is convinced there's something
we can do that is useful and will be helpful in achieving the goals that I've
just articulated, that we'll be able to salute and go do it.
QUESTION: Would the American --
QUESTION: Can you describe the --
RUMSFELD: I'm going to step away. Thank you.
Mel, you have it.
MARTINEZ: Thank you, sir.
RUMSFELD: You're talking to an insightful, thoughtful, talented --
MARTINEZ: Cannot spell "Taliban," but otherwise --
RUMSFELD: -- kind, gentle Pentagon press corps.
QUESTION: Who are all under deadline to go file on what the secretary just said.
MARTINEZ: If you have a question or two on the announcement, I'd be glad to
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, does this affect any active-duty forces at all?
MARTINEZ: Yes, it does. It affects all active-duty forces. But what has to happen
is that they have to have incurred the debt previous to the time of entering
the service. For those who are being called to active duty, then it would be
those, obviously, who incur any debt prior to the date of their call.
QUESTION: A soldier serving in his third year of active duty, if he had incurred
the debt for the house, say, four years --
MARTINEZ: Before his date of service.
QUESTION: -- then it will be capped at 6 percent.
QUESTION: But isn't this people who are being currently called up under the
MARTINEZ: Both. It basically applies mostly to people who are being called up,
because hose are the people who are going to have the FHA mortgages and who
are going to have -- you know, people in active duty oftentimes do not have
private residences, that live on base and that kind of thing. So the bottom
line is that we think it will apply mostly to those who were called up, but
it will apply really across the board. It doesn't make a distinction between
active and inactive.
QUESTION: Is this an order for the mortgage companies to do this, or is this
MARTINEZ: No, no, it's an order. This is -- I mean, it enacts a law that that
is activated from time to time -- the last time in 1991, during the Persian
Gulf War, and now we're calling it into being again. This is the Soldiers' and
Sailors' Civil Relief Act.
QUESTION: Including the provision of nonpayment of principal?
MARTINEZ: Correct. Correct.
QUESTION: For how long?
MARTINEZ: That's for the time of -- for a year, basically, which is the time
of their call. So -- yes?
QUESTION: Does this affect DoD civilians who are deployed downrange?
MARTINEZ: No, it would not affect civilians.
QUESTION: If this affects FAA -- FHA-insured mortgages, how many -- what percentage
of the home mortgages would that --
MARTINEZ: Well, in the overall population, it's about 7 percent of all mortgages.
We happen to think that it'll apply to a much higher number than that. Actually,
it applies to conventional mortgages as well. So we're directing all FHA insurers
to do it, because they have a special relationship with the federal government.
But it really applies to all mortgage lenders, including conventional lenders.
So it applies to all mortgage loans.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Would it apply ARMs and fixed 30-year --
QUESTION: Would it apply to ARMs and fixed 30-year mortgages?
MARTINEZ: Well, it does not allow any rate to be above 6 percent, so yes, it
QUESTION: Folks that want to refinance, would it --
MARTINEZ: You could not refinance. It would have to be the mortgage in existence
at the time of the call.
All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what kind of penalties are there if the mortgage company
MARTINEZ: Penalties for mortgage companies --
QUESTION: (Off mike) -- they don't do it --
MARTINEZ: Well, I would imagine that they'll have several penalties. I'm sure
they will follow though. They've been very cooperative on the other issues that
we've dealt with.