of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Henry H. Shelton
Asst. Sec. of Defense (Public Affairs) Victoria Clarke
Asst. Sec. of Defense (Force Management Policy) Charles S. Abell
Briefing Discussing Recognition for Those Injured or Killed on Sept. 11
September 27, 2001
QUESTION: Secretary, looking ahead on your military revamping, how important
is it now to go forward with the military revamping, particularly given this
attack? And also, your opinion as well as the general's.
RUMSFELD: Sure. In my view, if anything, this unusual and to be sure asymmetric
attack that's taken place and the ones that we anticipate focuses attention
on the transformation that we've been embarked on and the concern that all of
us have expressed about the variety of asymmetrical threats running from terrorism
to cruise missile threats to ballistic missiles to cyber-attacks. And I think
that it is exceedingly important that we go forward and see that we're arranged
and have the kind of flexibility to do those things that are necessary to help
provide for the defense of our country and the defense of our way of life.
SHELTON: I certainly would just underscore what the secretary said and say that
this has been a process that has involved the Joint Chiefs and the services,
and that I think you'll see, when it comes out, that it does address these --
we went back and reviewed to see if we had -- if we had adequate attention paid
to it in terms of homeland defense or homeland security, and the general consensus
is is that it is, and that it was addressed.
We've got work to do; we've known that. But you know, we were looking at homeland
security even prior to this previous QDR and had a plan to evolve into a command
to help the lead federal agencies in this area. And so we think it's on mark
and moving in the right direction for sure.
QUESTION: General? General, you've described that the war on terror has actually been
going on for some time, that there have been successes of the CIA and the FBI.
But can you tell us what has changed in terms of the military's role in supporting
those agencies or working with those agencies? What has really changed as of
SHELTON: Let me -- before I address that, let me go back to rules of engagement
just one second, because I think it's important that everyone understands.
We have got a great Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army -- but specifically
the pilots that fly. They are bright, they are dedicated, and they are very,
very good. They're the best in the world. The last thing in the world that one
of them wants to do is engage a commercial aircraft. And so, don't get the impression
that anyone that is flying around out there has a loose trigger finger. That's
not the case.
My concern is that -- is exactly the opposite, that we will in fact, because
of wanting to make very, very sure -- you know some of these time lines could
be very short, before -- and so, I'd be concerned the other way. I don't think
our American citizens have to be concerned about the things that we are doing
right now to protect the American citizens. All of these pilots that fly these
aircraft were sworn to uphold and protect the great citizens of this nation,
and it's not in their makeup to want to go out and shoot at anything that could
possibly hurt one of our own civilians.
Now let me go back to the question on terrorism. I wouldn't say that an awful
lot of -- we've got great capabilities right now, but we are focusing that effort
in a way that we haven't focused it in the past. And so the combination again,
of a multifaceted, multidimensional type of a campaign, I think, will prove
to be even more effective than the one that we've waged for the last couple
QUESTION: General, in terms of military planning, when you talk about your confidence
in the ability of U.S. forces to hunt down and destroy these enemies of civilization,
there's a term of art called center of gravity, that you're well aware of. Has
the military identified the, quote, "center of gravity" for al Qaeda
and the Taliban sufficiently that you know, if you apply a sufficient amount
of military force, you'll be able to accomplish your mission?
SHELTON: Tony, I -- you know, let me go back. It is a multidimensional -- it
is a governmental effort right now, and we have a lot of elements of our government
that, as President Bush has said so correctly, that if we apply all of that,
we'll stand a much better chance of defeating an enemy than you will if you
approach it with a single effort.
Some of the elements of terrorism are best defeated by some of our law enforcement
agencies, the Central Intelligence Agency, economic tools can come into play.
You have to put it all together. And I am very -- as a military individual,
I am very happy with what I see at the interagency approach to the campaign
against terrorism. And that'll make it considerably more effective than just
trying to use one tool that's in the kit bag, which is your military.
QUESTION: What can that -- what can that tool though accomplish that the FBI or going
after their bank accounts can't?
SHELTON: We know what their centers of gravity are. Some of those can be attacked
by the other elements of our government. Some could be attacked by us. To tell
the enemy that I've identified your center of gravity is not something I want
to stand here and do. Thank you.
QUESTION: You've identified it though? There are centers of gravity the military can
SHELTON: There are centers of gravity the military can have an influence on,
and along with the others, we'll be using all of those tools to go after the
organizations. And I say organizations because its not just one organization,
it's many organizations.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, following up briefly on Bob's earlier question about timing,
which you've made clear you're not going to answer -- (laughter) -- would it
be -- would it be -- would it be safe to say --would it be safe to say that
military force for the time being is taking a back seat to diplomacy and coalition-building?
RUMSFELD: Since we're not willing to discuss it, then it would not probably
be safe to say anything.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary.
QUESTION: You and the president have said that this is a declared war on terrorism,
yet there are some things that the United States does when there is a declaration
of war, things that people in uniform get by way of compensation and by way
of national defense service medals, so on and so forth, that haven't kicked
in yet. And there are people in uniform who are starting to ask even reporters
what kind of war is this if we have to go all out, if we have to go into harm's
way, yet these things that happen in time of war haven't happened yet?
RUMSFELD: That's true, because it's a distinctly different type of a campaign
or effort. And as we move through it, we will be addressing those types of things.
I mean, there are any number of other things that happen in terms of lines of
responsibilities change, and in some instances we've addressed that and decided
not to alter lines of responsibility because we think that they're -- probably
for this circumstance, they're better the way they are. There are any number
of things we're reviewing and in numerous -- as General Shelton said, numerous
QUESTION: So it sounds like we're creeping into a state of war rather than jumping
into a state of war.
RUMSFELD: Well, to characterize the administration's approach as measured I
think would be correct. It is. We are determined to try to do this right, to
put in place the capabilities and the architectures and the process that will
enable us to proceed in an orderly way over a sustained period of time. We're
trying to help the world understand what it is this is about, and it's new for
them as well. And my impression is that you're right, we're not leaping into
this, we're moving into it in a measured way.
RUMSFELD: Excuse me, just --
SHELTON: If I could just add to that, Mr. Secretary, I -- from a military standpoint,
you know, it is very easy, when you're faced with a crisis, to default automatically
to the military, because we can move fast and we can do things that will show
up well in the television or in a newspaper. On the other hand, if you really
want to be effective, you have to understand that in some situations, such as
the one that this country's faced with now, we have a lot of tools, and we'll
be much more effective if we bring it all together and apply it at the enemy's
center of gravity, to use Tony's words, as a multifaceted, multidimensional,
because that's what it's going to take over time. And so not overreacting and
going after it with just the military, in my military opinion, is the right
way to do it.
QUESTION: So you're saying that bouncing the soil, dropping bombs at an inappropriate
time can have a terribly negative impact on your overall goal? Is that what
SHELTON: I think that what I am saying the effectiveness of a campaign against
terrorism is best when you use all the tools available to you at the appropriate
time and at the appropriate place. And that's what this government plans to
QUESTION: General Shelton, do you feel any personal frustration --
RUMSFELD: We'll make this the last question, and then -- for us. And then we're
going to slip away, and then Charlie Abell is here who can respond to questions
on the medal.
QUESTION: Do you feel a personal frustration that you're not going to be here to see
this through to the end? This happened on your watch.
SHELTON: I guess the analogy that I would use is I feel like the quarterback
of a football team that went out on the field, and he's behind by one touchdown,
but he knows his team's going to come through and win. But you're in the first
quarter and all of a sudden the coach sends a player out to tell you your eligibility
just expired. (Laughter.) And, you know, I'd probably break down in tears, except
that as I look over at the bench, I see an all-American quarterback that's suiting
up getting ready to come in, and his name is Dick Myers. And he, along with
the team, will go on to victory. So I feel very good about that.
QUESTION: Not Jeff George! (Laughter.)
SHELTON: Thanks very much to all of you. God bless you. Thank you. (Applause.)
RUMSFELD: Charlie, do you want to --
CLARKE: Charlie, just give me one second. (Off mike.)
CLARKE: Yeah, we do. Yeah.
Charlie's going to step up, but I just wanted to take a couple of minutes to
talk about something, and it's really a request to you all.
There has been a lot of discussion lately, as there should be, about how are
we going to work with you all in covering what the secretary and General Shelton
have repeatedly said is a very different kind of war. I've had lots of individual
conversations, so has Admiral Quigley, so have most of the people on my team,
and encourage more of those as we try to figure out these rules of the road.
We're meeting with the bureau chiefs tomorrow. We want to set up more meetings
along those lines.
The secretary talked about this last week from the podium, I think. It's a very
different war. We're looking to the past to try to learn some lessons about
how we do this, but we need your help. We need your suggestions. We need your
ideas. So, if we haven't found you, please come find us. Write us, e-mail us,
call us. We're thinking about all sorts of meetings on an ongoing basis, and
I really mean on an ongoing basis. As we get things underway, some things might
work, some things might not.
But this is a real appeal to you all to help us on this, and I just want to
make sure you know what our commitment, and that is, to put out as much information
as we possibly can -- to you guys, to the American people, to the world -- about
what it is we're trying to accomplish. It will be very challenging for all the
obvious reasons, but this is an appeal to you guys that this is a collaborative
effort with you all.
So with that, I'll turn it over to Charlie.
ABELL: Why don't I --
QUESTION: I think first question would be is, does this include not only people who
were hurt or killed in the accident here, but whether those who might been aboard
airliners that crashed into the World Trade Center -- military or civilian employees
of the Defense Department aboard those airliners that crashed elsewhere?
QUESTION: And do you have any idea how -- the number of people this might involve initially
ABELL: I have some numbers. There have been numbers released. I would caution
you about those numbers in that there are certainly both military and civilian
personnel who were injured who reported to a medical facility -- either a military
facility or a civilian hospital, were patched up and returned to their duty
station. And we may not know all of those people yet. We're actively seeking
them, so whether -- I don't believe that I have a number that won't change.
But right now, the number I have for Department of Defense civilian employees
is 90. But I say, I don't promise that that number won't change.
QUESTION: But those would include -- I'm sorry, those 90 would include not just the
ones here, but --
ABELL: Not just here.
QUESTION: -- aboard the other airliners?
ABELL: Or on duty, performing some duty for the Department of Defense in the
World Trade Center, perhaps, as well.
QUESTION: And the military? How many Purple Hearts will you give?
ABELL: I don't have that number. I haven't asked the services for -- to provide
that data to me.
QUESTION: Two questions, just to clarify a couple of things. One is, is there any criteria
for the extent of injury that has to be suffered, or is that left up to the
individual to decide if the scratch he got or whether he sustained a serious
injury -- is there any criteria for that?
ABELL: It says a serious injury. It parallels, as the secretary said, the Purple
Heart. As you're well aware, over time, the definition of the injury for which
one might qualify -- for a military member to qualify for a Purple Heart has
been clarified to include a serious injury -- not a scratch, not a bump on the
QUESTION: Does this declaration essentially that these people were injured in an act
of war, does it have some other ramifications in terms of, for instance, life
insurance policies paying off or that sort of thing? Many policies used to include,
you know, exemptions for acts of war, for instance. Have you looked at all whether
there's some unintended consequence here that could result in people losing
some benefits or something?
ABELL: Well let me be clear. The Defense of Freedom Medal is the civilian equivalent
to the Purple Heart, and the criteria is that you were killed or wounded while
on duty in support of the Department of Defense as a result of a hostile action.
It does not need a war --
QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld came out and said pretty clearly that the reason for this
was that this was an act of war.
ABELL: I understand --
QUESTION: So I was just curious whether that's been examined at all, or whether that's
an issue. Or maybe it's a non-issue. I don't know.
ABELL: It's not an issue that I'm prepared to talk about today. I'm here to
talk about the Defense of Freedom Medal.
QUESTION: For those of us who are new here, could you please identify yourself?
ABELL: Yes. My name is Charlie Abell, A-B-E-L-L. I'm the assistant secretary
of Defense for Force Management Policy.
QUESTION: There's legislation on the Hill to give the Purple -- to make the Purple
Heart applicable to civilians in the armed forces. Are you going to ask them
to withdraw that? Are you going to recommend a veto of it? Or is this a stop-gap
measure until that comes through?
ABELL: We have and are continuing to have conversations with lawmakers and their
staffs. And this is the medal that we have designed and the secretary has approved
to be the civilian equivalent of the Purple Heart. And I would hope that our
lawmakers would find this acceptable, and the initial indications that I have
are that they do.
QUESTION: Can you give us any more timing on when these should be available?
ABELL: The manufacturer has been very cooperative. We hope to have the first
delivery of a limited number of the medals sometime next week, and we expect
to be able then to engrave the back. If you look at the picture, it has an area
for the name to be engraved on it. And it's our expectation that we'll have
that and an accompanying certificate available for families on or before the
memorial service that's later in October.
QUESTION: Can you provide us for the record the number of Purple Hearts that you are
at least at this point processing for the people in uniform?
ABELL: I'll ask the question and ask Ms. Clarke's folks to try and get that
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more question please? Has there ever been anything like this
historically throughout history? Have defense civilians just been ignored in
this process if they were wounded or hurt or killed?
ABELL: Well, as many of you know and as you've heard many times, I think this
is a unique situation, and there's -- in the research that I and my team have
done, I have not found any precedent for this before. There have been discussions
before that we should look into something like this, and now we have completed
QUESTION: Charlie, this is only for DoD civilian employees. There were civilian contractors
here who were doing work for the Department of Defense who were also -- would
they be eligible for this medal?
ABELL: The criteria for the medal would allow the secretary to, on a case-by-case
basis, award it to non-DoD civilians who were performing duty in direct support
of the Department of Defense. So yes he could and we're considering those on
a case-by-case basis right now.
QUESTION: The Army's Institute of Heraldry usually designs this. Did they do that --
did they design this medal? And have they done this since September 11th?
ABELL: The answer is yes to both. They provided us a number of options. We talked
back and forth. And I would like to give them great credit for designing both
the medal and the ribbon. And yes, all of this work has been done since September
QUESTION: And do you have a notion of how many people were not here at the Pentagon
who might be eligible for that, either in the airplanes or in the World Trade
Center? Do you have any ballpark on either of those?
ABELL: It's relatively small. I don't know if I -- the numbers I have don't
break that out.
QUESTION: If those men -- (off mike) -- men who died in the Pennsylvania airliner,
took it over and -- (off mike) -- if they were vets, would they be eligible
for a Purple Heart?
ABELL: No. Purple Heart is for people serving in the military on active duty,
not -- it doesn't apply to veterans.
QUESTION: But this medal --
ABELL: This medal is for Department of Defense civilians and those others who
were on duty in support of the Department of Defense. So if one of those brave
people happened to be a Department of Defense civilian or a contractor who was
en route as part of a supporting activity of the Department of Defense, then
he or she might qualify, but not just by virtue of their courageous activity.
QUESTION: Does the 90 figure you gave us include only people that were injured or killed
inside this building?
ABELL: No, it's my understanding of Department of Defense civilians without
regard to their place at the time.
QUESTION: Can we also ask you for the record to provide, if you have -- estimates of
those that were either on the plane or in the World Trade Center, so we have
some notion --
ABELL: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you.
ABELL: Thank you.
QUESTION: And the breakup (sic) between the killed and the injured?