Gates: Sit Down and talk to Iran
Defense Link
May 14, 2008

Remarks by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the American Academy of Diplomacy

MR. PICKERING: Okay. We're going to just take a minute to get the mikes on and -- (inaudible).
(Off mike commentary.) (Applause.)
MR. PICKERING: Mr. Secretary, we're delighted to have you here. And the applause before the speech is, I think, a firm recognition, as I called you in the hall, a Stakhanovite of service for helping us all understand the need for and building our civilian component to match our military in both excellence and capability.
(Telephone touch tones are heard.)
That's CNN dialing in, I'm sure -- (laughter) -- if not another agency.
Mr. Secretary, I have --
(Operator instructs conference call participants.) (Laughter.)
We'll be over this in a minute, sir.
(Operator continues with instructions.) (Laughter.)
Mr. Secretary, you have been almost introduced, but I'm going to just say a few words. That was a particularly long and neuralgic introduction to a telecon. Hopefully we --
(Operator continues with instructions.)
Is there some way we can end that, please? Can you turn it off? Thank you very much.
Mr. Secretary, once again, it's a delight to have you. The more important you are, the shorter the introduction you get. Let me just mention --
(Operator continues with instructions.)
Is there something you can --
(Off mike commentary.)
But once is enough for the operator, please.
(Off mike commentary.)
Okay. Thank you very much. We're on. Okay.
I'm going to hit just the highlights. You've been secretary of Defense since December 18th, 2006. And thank you, sir, for your service and indeed for the performance which I think all of us admire. You were, before that, president of Texas A&M, the country's seventh largest university. And before that, you were interim dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M.
From 1991 to 1993, you served as the director of Central Intelligence. And I'm told you're the only career officer in the agency who went from entry grade to director while you were serving there in a career of 27 years. During that time, you served nine years at the National Security Council and were assistant to the president and deputy NSC for President George Herbert Walker Bush.
You served on the Iraq Study Commission. And you've received, I think, more decorations and awards than any of us can count, but I noted two awards of the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal and three of the Distinguished Intelligence Medal as well as the President's Citizen's Medal.
And it goes without saying, as I said at the beginning of this introduction, that all of us who have served in the diplomatic service appreciate, beginning in your wonderful speech in Kansas, the attention that you called nationally to the need for us to be able to complement in both funding and support our civilian service, as I said a moment ago, to match our military service in robustness and strength.
And so without further adieu, I'll ask you if you would please come to the podium. And the secretary has said that he will speak briefly and then take questions and answers.
Thank you, again. (Applause.)
SEC. GATES: Thank you, Tom.
A lot of familiar faces in the room, so I'm happy to be here.
Let me just say a word about just three or four times in my career that really reinforced my belief in the need to have a strong civilian component, strong diplomatic AID component, strategic communications component to American foreign policy.
The first, actually, was during the Carter administration after the fall of the shah. And I was working for Zbig Brzezinski and David Aaron at the time. They created at the NSC something called the Political Intelligence Working Group to try and figure out how do we strengthen political intelligence. How do we get a better feel for what's going on around the country? And there were a bunch of surveys done in the course of that effort in terms of our strengths and weaknesses.
And one factoid that has always stuck in my mind from the work of that group was that in Riyadh at that time there were two Foreign Service officers who spoke Arabic, and they spent about 40 percent of their time squiring around CoDels. And that has always stuck in my mind about what an important country that is and the need for greater strength and particularly more political officers.
The second experience really was my whole time at the NSC under Nixon, Ford and Carter and seeing how important interagency cooperation was in getting things done. And I remember opening one meeting that was on a particularly contentious subject, where the agencies were all over the place. And I said that I had come to that job as the NSC under the illusion that we all worked for the same government. And it was clearly an illusion. But I saw downtown the importance of everybody working together.
The third formative experience in this respect was as I rose through the ranks at CIA, I saw how often we were assigning case officers to use costly and sometimes risky methods to pick up information that any good political officer could get off the street without much effort. And yet there weren't enough numbers. And so when I was both the deputy DCI and DCI, I testified, on a number of occasions, unfortunately only in front of the intelligence committees because the foreign affairs committee didn't want to hear me. But I testified to the need to strengthen the number of economic officers, the number of political officers.
And I guess the final thing I would say that had a big influence on me was as you look back at the Cold War, clearly our strategic military forces held the Soviets at bay. But as we had this contest around the world, in addition to various Special Forces and covert actions that were undertaken and so on, a huge component of our success against the Soviet Union ultimately was our diplomacy, was AID, the work of USIA, the civilian components of our government taking advantage of the military standoff to beat the Soviets at their own game which was winning hearts and minds at the end of the day.
So I decided to take advantage of the Landon Lecture at K State last November because I figured if anything would get the attention of the Congress in terms of a speech on behalf of the State Department, it would be for that speech to be given by the secretary of Defense. And I must say that I'm fairly heartened. I actually think, for the first time in decades, there is a real groundswell, bipartisan groundswell, on the Hill to devote more resources to the State Department and to the civilian side of our national security.
I know that Secretary Rice has asked for 1,000 additional positions for the Foreign Service in the '09 budget as well as significant dollar increases. And we've been very supportive. She and I testified together in front of the House Armed Services Committee a couple of weeks ago on the cooperation between the departments.
And just as a symbol of how well the departments are getting along, I think it's worth noting that today is Bob Burns' first day on the job as undersecretary of State for policy. And he had lunch with the undersecretary of Defense for policy. So I think we're off to a good start.
So why don't I stop there, and I'd be happy to take questions.
Q     When Colin Powell was with us, he put a lot of emphasis on training saying how much the military believed in training during a career. I wonder whether or not you feel that we're ready for that kind of push as well in developing the talents -- (inaudible) -- in diplomacy.
SEC. GATES: Well, I think that a big problem the State Department has had both with respect to training and to planning is that the service is too small to have a sizeable enough float of people that are available to be pulled away from regular assignments and devote a year or six months or two years to training or to be focused solely on the planning activity. I mean, we have thousands of people involved in planning in the Department of Defense. And tens of thousands of people in training at any given time in advanced training, not just basic training.
And so I think that central to the department being able to do the kind of advanced leadership and management training and other kinds of training is an increase in the numbers that allow you to have the float that you can perform your mission at the same time people can be assigned to go get additional education.
Just to give you some sense of the comparable sizes, the total Foreign Service today is about 6,600. That would not quite crew one carrier strike group.  So that's one reason why I think it needs to be significantly larger.
Yes, sir.
Q     You mentioned USIA – I read the Defense Science Board report which suggests that we need institutional change with regard to our public diplomacy which is not -- (inaudible) -- great successes -- (inaudible) -- State Department in 1999. Have you seen the need for going back, back's the wrong word – of making some new institutional arrangement for dealing with public diplomacy or strategic communications -- (inaudible)?
SEC. GATES: Another part of the K State speech, and really one of the premises for it, was that the institutions that essentially dominate American national security policy today, apart from the State Department, were largely a creation of the post-war period and especially the National Security Act of 1947 -- the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CIA, the National Security Council itself and so on. And one of the premises of the speech was those institutions were fine for fighting the Cold War. But do they properly organize us for the kinds of challenges that will face American diplomacy and national security in the 21st century?
And the implicit answer was no, that there is a need for a much greater integration of our efforts. There is clearly a need for a better way to organize interagency collaboration. The degree of exchange of people between the Defense Department and the State Department -- there have always been a number of Defense folks assigned to the State Department, but there are a growing number of State Department people now assigned to the Department of Defense and especially the combatant commands. And one of the two deputy commanders of the new Africa Command in fact will be a State Department ambassador.
And so are we organized properly and particularly, for example, when we're being out-communicated by a guy in a cave? And the other side of it is as we've tried to put together these provincial reconstruction teams, what's clear has not been a lack of will on the part of other agencies, it's a lack of capacity.
There aren't deployable people in Agriculture and Commerce and Treasury and so on that are prepared to go overseas, you know, when, just by comparison, at the height of the Cold War, AID had 16,000 employees. It has 3,000 now. And AID was a deployable expeditionary agency. People expected to go overseas, and they worked in developing countries, and they brought agronomic skills, and they brought rule of law and governance skills and how you execute a budget and all those kinds of things.
We don't have those kind of people now. So how do you organize the government to do these kinds of things where we can, if we get into a place early enough, we may not need to deploy military force?
So the basic question of the speech was, what would a National Security Act of 2007, last year, look like? And I said, I, frankly, don't have the answers. We've got a contract out from the Department of Defense to some academic institutions and think tanks to see if we can't come up with some ideas.
Frankly, that proposal was ready to go when I arrived. And I've put the stops to it because I said if the Department of Defense does this it will look like we're trying to take over everything, so let's have the NSC do it. That's the proper place to have a study on how you reorganize the institutions of national security. It just never got off the ground. And so finally we went ahead with it about three or four months ago. And my hope is we'll have something that we can give a new administration and that they can pursue.
But my view is we are not properly structured to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, which are very complex and have to do not only with security issues but economic development, rule of law, governance and so on.
Q     Mr. Secretary, as you know, the Foreign Service Reserve Act has passed the House of Representatives, and it's out of committee in the Senate. And it would pass the Senate if it could be brought to a vote. But one senator, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, has a hold on that bill which would solve a lot of the personnel problems to which you've just alluded. You know, Texas is close to Oklahoma. (Laughter.) And I'm just wondering if you had any influence with Senator Coburn or if you knew of a way that, you know, we could prevail on this bill.
SEC. GATES: I have heard about this concern from the secretary of State. (Laughs.) And the one thought that you've given me is maybe to call my good friend David Boren. David's pretty thoughtful and broad-minded about these issues, and he might be able to be helpful. I don't know. I'll try.
Q     That would be very helpful, sir.
SEC. GATES: Yes, sir.
Q     Sam Lewis. Mr. Secretary, I was teaching some this spring -- (inaudible) -- read a lot of the stuff from Bob Woodward and many other people about the earlier periods of this administration. And I'm curious about this relationship between the secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs, as described in some of those accounts rather awkward and unsatisfactory. How do you find it today? Has there been any change? Are those accounts perhaps wrong?
SEC. GATES: Well, I'm in the happy position of not having read any of those books. (Laughter.) I started to as a member of the Iraq Study Group and, frankly, never got around to it. I would just tell you that I think that my approach to it, essentially, in some respects, I suppose, was shaped by dealing with the faculty senate at Texas A&M. (Laughter.) And I found them easy to work with as long as they understood that they were respected, that they had a role, an important role, in the process, that they in fact were responsible for executing the mission of the university. My first message to the vice presidents and the deans, I said, the mission of this university is teaching, research and service, and none of you do any of that, the faculty do. And so how do we empower the faculty in a way that allows us still to run the university? And that was my approach to the faculty senate.
And it has been my approach to the Joint Chiefs. They know that I listen. I treat them with respect. I go down to the tank, to their space, at least once a week. They attend my staff meetings. They have -- individual service chiefs have, on several occasions, changed my mind about something that I have decided to do because they made a better argument. I think it's important to have people understand that candor and bluntness is expected. And I deliver that message not only with the Joint Chiefs but I spoke to the entire corps of cadets at West Point about two and a half weeks ago and told them that that should be the hallmark of their careers as well because sometimes the question is whether more junior officers can speak up and not have their careers stunted by advancing unorthodox ideas.
So I have found the relationship with the chiefs to be pretty easy actually. And I think we have a good relationship. My views about where procurement dollars ought to go in the future are not identical with theirs. They know that, but they have the opportunity to make their case. I think it's -- I spoke at a thing at the Broadmoor Hotel yesterday morning with about 50 journalists. And one of the comments that I made, I was asked about the relationship between the secretary of State and the secretary of Defense, and I said, the truth of the matter is during a good part of my career, the secretary of State and the secretary of Defense loathed each other.
And the reason that I was never allowed into any political science classes was because I would tell the students to throw away the organization chart. Personal relationships are what make government work. And if the secretary of State and the secretary of Defense don't get along, that's a real problem. And I said, you know, that doesn't mean they have to agree on everything. They just have to get along and be able to work together. And the truth of the matter is if people in the respective departments know that their bosses get along and don't want needless fights, it has a real impact. If people discover that it's not career enhancing to try and set the secretary's hair on fire, then I think that that message gets around.
Yes, Bob.
Q     Mr. Secretary – In response to your Landon lecture, what you said in Colorado Springs, I think everybody here is very much appreciative, as has already been said. We've also done a study here at the American Academy -- (inaudible) -- which, if I may give it to you, may actually help to give you some of the answers. (Inaudible)
SEC. GATES: Oh, okay.
Q     (Inaudible.)
Q     (Name inaudible.) The director of national intelligence was created amid some controversy, amidst some arguments as to how effective that is. I'd be interested to see what you think of the intelligence super czar, how it works, how it should work.
SEC. GATES: Well, I will be honest with you. I opposed that law, and I sent Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman about an eight-page paper on the problems that I thought such a structure would create and how I didn't feel that it really addressed the root problems in the intelligence community. And I made some suggestions on how they could empower the director of Central Intelligence without up-ending the entire process.
I would say that we have a unique opportunity right now to try and fix some of the problems in the law. Mike McConnell will tell you that I've played a key role in persuading him to take the job as DNI because I knew Mike when he was the J2 during the first Gulf War. I knew Mike Hayden, director of CIA, from way back. And the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Jim Clapper was the director of DIA when I was DCI, and was well respected.
And all four of us have known each other and worked together for a long time. And we are in the process of crafting agreements that empower the DNI without sacrificing the authorities of the secretary of Defense. The biggest problem all along has been that I have 85 percent of Mike's budget. And the question is, how do you let the DNI actually run the intelligence community in a meaningful way without further empowering it?
And the law requires that we concur, that he concur when I appoint the head of NSA or the head of NGA or the head of NRO, as examples. But there's nothing in it about firing. And when I was offered the job of DNI, to be the first DNI, in January of 2005, one of the reasons I turned it down was how the hell can you run something if you can't fire anybody, and if everybody knows you can't fire anybody.
So what Mike and I, among other things, have done is flip it. And either of us can take the initiative to fire one of those three people, but it requires the concurrence of the other to actually carry it out, or you can go to the president. So we're trying to craft some things that we think are consistent with the law that correct some of the shortcomings in the law because, frankly, the committees of the Congress, it was as much their unwillingness to surrender their own jurisdiction as it was the authorities of the secretary of Defense or whatever.
So the short answer to your question is I think there are a lot of problems in execution and how you actually make it work. I think we are in the process of reaching some agreements that address some of the biggest problems in that respect.
One of the problems that we're taking advantage of the four of us being here to fix is the security clearance problem so that everybody has the same security clearance process. I fought that problem for 30 years, and we now have people in the right places, I think, to get it fixed. So we're trying to get some things done while the four of us are still around.
Q     (Name inaudible.) Mr. Secretary, on the issue of military and Foreign Service working closely together on the ground in small embassies, I spent about five years in the Pentagon working in the Special Operations community. And ambassadors in small, developing countries love getting two or three Green Berets who would come in to do humanitarian demining or whatever. And it became known as diplomacy multipliers, and it worked. And actually, General Hugh Shelton spent a lot of time going to the State Department -- (inaudible). My question to you is, rather than throwing big numbers at the problem, wouldn't it be useful, leaving aside the fact, obviously, that you're conducting two wars, in a lot of small places around the world, which could be tomorrow's battlefield to assign very small numbers of highly qualified military people who can help ambassadors with few resources?
SEC. GATES: I think that one of the key areas in this is covered by what we call Section 1206 which is called "Train and Equip." And we are asking in FY '09 for three years of authority and $500 million to do this. And the whole point of it is -- you know, our idea is to empower our friends by improving their own security services, their own military, professionalizing those.
And I told the West Point cadets that the most important job they may have is not commanding their own troops but mentoring the soldiers of another country. And so I think that a big part of this 1206 program is in fact to reach out and do very much what you say. And I don't know what the numbers will be, but in most embassies they'll be pretty small. But people who are there to partner with the local military or security services and help train them, professionalize them and give them capabilities so they can deal with problems at home so we don't have to.
Q     Mr. Secretary, you spoke about a number of different roles the Foreign Service has taken over the years -- (inaudible) -- wasn't able to fulfill and -- (inaudible). We've seen considerable expansion recently in the areas that we need civilians for, as you talked about. I'm curious if you would talk a little bit about where you have seen the military, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq and perhaps other places, having to fill gaps because the civilians don't have the capacity. And where do you see sort of -- (inaudible) -- areas that you would like to see moving back in order to use your own forces for your own mission?
SEC. GATES: Well, I think, in the whole range of activities covered by the provincial reconstruction teams, whether it's local construction, whether it's establishing some kind of rudimentary health care, governance, teaching people how to execute a budget. I mean, our soldiers have stepped up and done all these things. But when they get somebody on the ground who really knows how to do that stuff, who's spent a career doing that -- and I would tell you some of the most effective leaders of PRTs in both Afghanistan and Iraq are retired ambassadors.
The military calls it a force multiplier when they get these civilians on the ground. Part of the problem, again, is the lack of people to do this and who have skills. And so one of the reasons that the military essentially ran the PRTs initially was that Condi had to go out and contract for people to do it. And until the FY '07 supplemental passed and she got the money in the summer of '07, she couldn't go out and hire these people or contract for these folks.
And so it kind of backed the process up. If we wanted to have a PRT on the ground in the early spring, the military had to do it. But as these civilian experts came in, then we could pull our people back. But it's in that whole realm. And it's why the whole proposal for a Civilian Reserve Corps, and there are really three parts, I think, to Secretary Rice's proposal. The first is to hire a couple of hundred additional people full time with these skills.
The second is to have a cadre of perhaps a couple of thousand people in the government who were hired knowing that they would be called and be asked to deploy. But they may be in Agriculture or Commerce or Treasury or some place like that. And so they're more like the National Guard because they've got a different day job. They don't do this full time, but they can be called up to do it.
And then a much larger number, the Civilian Reserve Corps, that would be people more like the National Guard who would be in the civilian community, not working for the government but who could be called if needed. So I think it's sort of a three-layer process.
And as you suggest, the whole thing's stuck right now. But I think that there's broad, bipartisan support for getting on with this because they know the need. We've been up there briefing enough about it that they realize it.
Q     (Name inaudible.) Mr. Secretary, there's a general consensus out there that the armed forces of the United States are badly stretched these days, just as the Foreign Service of the United States is stretched -- (inaudible). How much do you worry about the impact on the armed forces, particularly the Army, the rank and file coming in? Are we getting the quality out there that we need?
SEC. GATES: Well, there's no question that the Army is stretched. And we are watching the statistics very carefully in terms of divorce rates, in terms of suicides, in terms of retention. I will tell you that we just announced yesterday all the services have met their retention and recruitment goals for April. The Marine Corps is expanding by 27,000, and they will meet their goal two years early they've been so successful in recruiting without any diminution of their standards or quality.
There is no doubt that, as I said at the Broadmoor yesterday, we would be very hard pressed to fight another major, conventional war right now, ground war. But then I followed up by saying, but where would we sensibly do that anyway? So it's a question of measuring risk. And I think that my own view is the kind of struggles we're in in Afghanistan and now in Iraq are the kinds of asymmetric conflicts that we are most likely to be engaged in as we look to the future.
Other countries are not going to come at us in a conventional war -- tank on tank, ship on ship, fighter on fighter. I think the last time we lost a fighter in a dog fight was in the Vietnam War. So even the near peers, if you will, if they want to do something with us in an adversarial way militarily, they're going to do it asymmetrically, in my view. They're not going to come at our strength. So we have to watch the situation with the military, with the Army in particular.
The Army will expand by 65,000. That will make a difference in terms of the frequency of deployments. The numbers in Iraq are coming down, and they will continue to come down. The debate here in Washington now is all about pacing and how fast they'll come down. We've got a number of programs in place to try and ease the strain on families and to make more services available to the families of soldiers and Marines who have deployed, airmen as well and Navy.
So I think there are a number of measures under way to try and alleviate the strain. I think that the circumstances will help alleviate the strain. And I think the growth in the military will help alleviate the strain.
With respect to the waivers, it is an interesting phenomenon. I think that last year, altogether, there were 33,000 waivers. But I would point out that in 2001, there were 31,000. So some of what you read in the newspapers is a little bit one-hand clapping because there's no context to provide. And there's no question that the Army is giving more waivers.
But again, the stories are a little misleading. They talk about the lower number of high school graduates, and it's now about 80 percent, 81 percent for the Army. They would like it to be 90 percent. But the fact is no one enters basic training without either a high school diploma or a GED. So the notion that somebody's entering that hasn't got a high school degree is misleading.
The conduct waivers are reviewed very carefully and by a panel of people. Hometown people are interviewed -- coaches, religious leaders who know the potential recruit and so on. And so I think these are informed judgments that are made about people. But it's, I mean, another sign of the difficulty that we're having is the growing number of stop loss that we've had where somebody is within 90 days of being mustered out, they can be kept in the military. Those numbers increased after we went to 15-month tours. About half of them are NCOs, and they do it to maintain unit cohesion. I expect those numbers will begin to decline in September.
So it's a long and rambling answer to your question, but there are a variety of aspects to the problem. And I'll just say that I work on it and the deputy works on it every day in addition to the people in the Army and the Marine Corps.
Q     (Name inaudible.) Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us. I have a question that may not be your favorite subject. You were on the Iraq Study Group. (Inaudible) -- and the other members sought quite assiduously to follow up in terms of implementation and general acceptance. The view around this town is not so friendly on what has been done by the way of follow up. What do you believe should be done in terms of what hasn't been done? Is there something else that has changed that needs to be focused on in terms of attention on this very difficult question? And is there a role in this process that most of us haven't seen yet for diplomacy, as the study group pointed out, particularly in connection to the region?
SEC. GATES: Well, there are two things. I need to decipher which one you're talking about. Lee and Kean headed the 9/11 commission, and that's the one --
Q     I'm sorry, my apologies.
SEC. GATES: So are you talking about Lee and Jim Baker and the Iraq Study Group?
Q     Yes, sir. Pardon me.
SEC. GATES: Okay. Well, I think that -- I mean, there was some interest in trying to get some follow up on that. But I think it just didn't get off the ground for whatever set of reasons, unlike the 9/11 commission which really was vigorous afterward in trying to make sure people were following up.
The reality is, I think, most of the recommendations of the group are in fact being followed. And if you read the report carefully, you'll even see that there was a recommendation in there for a surge. And the original recommendations were actually much larger than the president eventually did.
I think that the one area where the Iraq Study Group recommendations have not been followed up is in terms of reaching out the Iranians. And I would just tell you I've gone through kind of an evolution on this myself. I co-chaired with Zbig a Council on Foreign Relations study on U.S. policy toward Iran, in 2004. But we were looking at a different Iran in many respects. We were looking at an Iran where Khatami was the president. We were looking at an Iran where their behavior in Iraq actually was fairly ambivalent in 2004. They were doing some things that were not helpful, but they were also doing some things that were helpful.
And one of the questions that I think historians will have to take a look at is whether there was a missed opportunity at that time. But with the election of Ahmadinejad and the very unambiguous role that Iran is playing in a negative sense in Iraq today, you know, I sort of sign up with Tom Friedman's column today. We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage with respect to the Iranians and then sit down and talk with them. If there's going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander with them not feeling that they need anything from us.
I think that my own view, just my personal view, would be we ought to look for ways outside of government to open up the channels and get more of a flow of people back and forth. There are actually a fair number of Iranians that come to the United States to visit. We ought to increase the flow going the other way, not of Iranians but of Americans. And I think that may be one opening that creates some space, perhaps, over some period of time.
Q     Several questions have looked at something that you mentioned in your Kansas speech and have also mentioned today, which is how the military was called upon in Iraq and Afghanistan to take on roles that perhaps they weren't trained for and were not best suited for. You said, again, today -- (inaudible) -- that one way to solve that is to increase training and increase personnel and budget for the State Department. Yet with AFRICOM, some of the plans for SOUTHCOM, at least in their original conception, have called for increasing those capabilities inside the military to allow the military to become more involved in development, to allow it to be doing things, particularly in Africa, that it hasn't done in the past and in fact is already doing in some respect in Africa. There's been a lot of pushback on that from diplomats, from the NGO community and some of the Africans themselves. So does that lead you to any rethinking of how those initiatives should operate and what their mission should be?
SEC. GATES: I think, in some respects, we probably didn't do as good a job as we should have when we rolled out AFRICOM. I wasn't here when the decision was made to build an Africa Command, but I think my view at this point is that deeds are going to count for more than words. And I think we need to take it a step at a time. I don't think we should push African governments to a place that they don't really want to go in terms of these relationships. I think we start with those that are interested in developing relationships.
And I see it focused more on things like peacekeeping, on professionalizing the military, on improving their own indigenous capabilities, the relationships between the military and civilians in a democracy. There may be some areas of humanitarian assistance, whether it's the equivalent of what we did after the tsunami or after the Pakistani earthquake or what we're trying to do with Burma, there are going to be situations where the military is going to be the first in and have to deal with problems initially and where they then should be replaced by civilians with the expertise in dealing with the humanitarian disasters and so on where we are the ones that really only have the capability.
So I think we have to be cautious about the way we move in this direction. But I think that when I see -- I was just in Mexico City. I discovered I was the first secretary of Defense to be in Mexico City in 12 years and only the second secretary of Defense ever, and Bill Perry was the first. But when I see the carefully developing relationship there, and it's a government that's been cautious about developing military-to-military relationships with the United States, but as we move step by step and do useful things together, I think we can develop those relationships. So that would be my approach to both AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM.
MR. PICKERING: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to use my chairman's prerogative to interrupt at this point because this group is good to go for another hour. And you've been very kind to give us 45 minutes of your time. And I promised you I would escort you out of here at the end of that time, and that time has come.
I want to, on behalf of all of us, thank you for coming. Thank you for your candor, your directness and your frankness. And thank you for your continued support of our national security and the role of the nonmilitary civilian side in making all that come out the right way.

Original Text