Joint News Briefing with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and British Secretary of State for Defense Reid
Monday, November 7, 2005 at the Pentagon (excerpts)
Q: Mr. Secretary, a question on money and weapons. Secretary England last month sent a memo to the services calling on them to prepare for about $32 billion in cuts over the next five years, including $7.5 billion next year. Given the fact that defense spending is pretty much -- two-thirds of it is pretty much cemented in personnel costs, isn't this going to mean painful cuts in arms programs in the coming years?
And, Mr. Minister, are you worried about the JSF, given your country's stake in that?
SEC. RUMSFELD: Charlie, the Defense Department will end up with a budget from the president that will appropriate, and in my view we'll find that the Congress of the United States will approve a budget that will be appropriate. It will be somewhere between 400 and 400-plus billions of dollars. And certainly we will be able, as we should, to arrange things in a way that will be the most appropriate for the country.
Q: Are you worried about big arms programs like the JSF, the F-22, the DX --
SEC. RUMSFELD: The -- the letter that he sent out was fairly -- it's an annual event. A letter always goes out. There are things that fluctuate. Inflation fluctuates, fuel prices fluctuate, various other things. Amendments from the Congress that weren't requested can cause fluctuation. So there are lots of moving parts. We'll -- we've got a lot going on. We have the '06 budget that's before the Congress -- authorization. We've got the appropriation. We've got a supplemental bridge that's up there. And now we've got the budget that's being prepared for '07. So what we have to do is rationalize all of that, plus the Quadrennial Defense Review. So there are a lot of moving pieces, and we'll be fine.
Q: Mr. Minister, are you worried about the -- concerned at all about the JSF, given your country's stake in that?
SEC. REID: No, but you're trying to worry me, Charlie -- (laughter) -- I can see by the way you keep raising this question.
No, no, we're pretty confident that the United States, in their own interests, not just in ours, will make the sensible decisions on the Joint Strike Fighter. It is true, it is a huge part of our future planning. We don't have forces, or for that matter the budget the size of the United States. But we do, I believe, have forces that are equipped, capable and active in terms of meeting the modern threats. And part of that is the ability to reach out, to have sustainable reach.
And that is why we've ordered a final perusal of our plans to build two carriers which are three times the size of anything that we've got at present. And if we have such carriers to sustain a presence a long distance from the United Kingdom over a long period, we need a good airplane to operate off them. And the airplane we want to get is the Joint Strike Fighter, and I see no reason at the moment to be worried about that.
Q: Mr. Minister, you were down at Lockheed recently, from what I understand, visiting the Joint Strike Fighter plant. I mean, what's your assessment of the health of the program in terms of cost schedule in meeting your STOVL requirement goals for the Royal Navy?
SEC. REID: Well, we are working on the basis that it's going to meet those requirements, by definition, since we've chosen it, and that is what we want to see developed. We will want to make sure that the -- that if we go ahead and we have a final decision at length, I hope, in the first half of next year regarding the two carriers – if we go ahead with that -- I want to make sure that we've got the most effective airplanes on the most effective platform.
And our view -- and I see no reason to change it -- is that the Joint Strike Fighter -- the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of that – would be the best answer to our requirements. And I see no reason to believe, at this stage anyway -- unless you're telling me differently -- I see no reason to change those plans.