U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says the United States has been "fortunate" not to have had any terrorist attacks since September 11, 2001, and must keep up the pressure on terrorist groups. The secretary spoke during a second day of hearings by congressional committees on the Defense Department budget.
Secretary Rumsfeld defended his department's request for $419 billion for next year, and a supplement of nearly $80 billion for this year, to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and related expenses. In response to objections to the the size of the supplemental request from some members of Congress, the secretary said the extra money is needed to meet unforeseen expenses, and to re-organize and re-equip units returning from the battlefields.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the U.S. military must constantly improve and improvise to fight global terrorist networks, which he said can move quickly to adapt to efforts made against them.
"They watch what we do, and as we develop defenses against certain types of potential attacks, they develop techniques that are different," he said. "We know that we've captured or killed a good many of the senior al-Qaida [leaders]. We know that pressure is on both Osama bin Laden and [Ayman al-]Zawahiri and [Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi in Iraq. We know we've been fortunate in not being attacked since September 11th. But it seems to me we do have to be realistic. We do have to keep the pressure on."
Secretary Rumsfeld said intelligence reports indicate the terrorists continue to plan attacks on the United States. And he repeated his view that help is needed from as many countries as possible to gather intelligence and fight the terrorists.
Testifying before Senate and House of Representatives committees, the defense secretary was joined by the senior U.S. military officer, General Richard Myers. One senator asked the general about private Iraqi military units that have recently been formed. The units have been cooperating with the Iraqi army and coalition forces, but some members of Congress expressed concern that they could challenge the country's legitimately elected government in the future. General Myers said U.S. and Iraqi officials want to incorporate those units into the regular Iraqi army.
The general also said these unofficial units are effective because they have strong leadership, something American trainers have been trying to instill in the new Iraqi army.
"Leadership is one of the biggest issues that you deal with when you try to build an effective unit," he said. "These units generally form around leaders, and therefore they are effective. And it's a phenomenon in Iraq that we ought to accommodate, and not fear. We ought to accommodate this and try to make it work."
General Myers also acknowledged that some of the militias could become a problem if they refuse to eventually become part of the regular army, and might have to be disbanded.
The general and Secretary Rumsfeld spent a total of 11 hours Wednesday and Thursday answering questions from members of Congress about the Defense Department budget. They said in addition to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the high cost of the department comes in large part from military salaries and benefits, and efforts to provide the most modern equipment, training and organizational structure to U.S. armed forces.