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
12:00 P.M. EDT
RUMSFELD: Good afternoon. I want to take the opportunity today to recognize
the service and sacrifice of those who have been injured or killed in the September
The president, of course, has made clear that the attacks were not just acts
of terror. They were acts of war, military strikes against the United States
of America. As such, those Department of Defense employees who were injured
or killed were not just victims of terror. They were combat casualties, brave
men and women who risked their lives to safeguard our freedom. And they paid
for our liberty with their lives.
Because we want to recognize them and their sacrifices, we're announcing today
that the members of the armed forces that were killed or injured in the September
11th attack on the Pentagon and on the World Trade Center towers will receive
the Purple Heart. As you know, the Purple Heart is given to those killed or
wounded in combat.
For most of our history, combat has been something that has been largely taken
place on foreign soil. These strikes were the first on American soil since the
Second World War, and the first attack on our capital by a foreign enemy since
the War of 1812. These assaults have brought the battlefield home to us. As
a result, a large number of DoD civilians gave their lives in combat. Their
sacrifice also requires recognition. So today, we are also announcing the establishment
of a new decoration for Department of Defense civilians: the Secretary of Defense
Medal for the Defense of Freedom. This medal is the civilian equivalent of the
Purple Heart. It will be awarded to DoD civilian employees who are killed or
wounded by hostile action while serving in support of the department. The standards
for eligibility will be closely modeled on those of the Purple Heart. [ News
release ] [ Graphic ]
The establishment of this decoration is a fitting honor and a tribute to the
extraordinary dedication and service of the department's civilian workforce.
It's also a recognition that the world has changed; that we can no longer count
on future wars being waged safely in their regions of origin. I have every confidence
that our armed forces and all the dedicated men and women of the Department
of Defense are ready to meet the challenges ahead.
Mr. Charlie Abell is here to respond to questions on the medals, and will be
available after I take the opportunity to introduce my friend, General Hugh
Shelton. It has been my privilege to serve with him these past months and to
have his very wise counsel on many, many occasions, but particularly as we prepare
the campaign ahead. He has been instrumental in helping to develop our new defense
strategy, the new force-sizing construct, and the Defense Planning Guidance,
which will move us -- our forces into the 21st century.
We will have a formal ceremony for General Shelton, as I'm sure you're aware.
[ Press advisory ] And I've already had the pleasure of hosting a dinner, farewell
dinner, for him and the chiefs some days ago. But we did think it was appropriate
to have him come down and say a few words to this gathering.
General, America is grateful for your dedication and your service. You will
be missed by the department, and certainly by me.
SHELTON: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
And ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased today to join the secretary for
the announcement of the creation of the award of the Freedom Medal to our civilians
who were killed and injured on September 11th, and to announce the award of
the Purple Heart to the members of our military family.
I want to again extend my condolences to the families and friends who lost loved
ones at the Pentagon, at the World Trade Center, and in Pennsylvania. While
the names of the victims here -- those that were killed in the Pentagon -- may
not be known to you, make no mistake, the work that they did was essential for
our mission, and they leave a legacy of service for our nation. We are forever
grateful. So it's fitting that we recognize their courage, their dedication
to duty, and their ultimate sacrifice for their nation.
I also want to thank Secretary Rumsfeld for his very kind words this morning.
It has been truly an honor and a privilege to be a member of his defense team.
But all good things must come to an end, and it is time to say goodbye.
I'm going to leave the chairmanship on the 30th, so I'd like to take this last
opportunity to commend each of you for the great job that you do in covering
the Pentagon and in covering the Department of Defense. You share with us, the
civilian and military leadership, the great responsibility of keeping the great
citizens of our wonderful nation informed.
Finally, I want to say that there is no greater job or one that carries any
greater responsibility than to represent the great young men and women that
serve our nation in uniform. They are our best, and they are our brightest.
I've seen it many times over the last four years. And during my tenure, our
military has been involved in some 34 operations. Whatever we ask of them, they
Soon we are going to ask them to take on a tremendous responsibility as they
embark on one of the most difficult missions that the military has ever been
given. It will require every bit of their courage, their intellect, and their
warrior spirit to hunt down and destroy the groups that are the enemies of the
civilized world. And I leave this job confident that your armed forces, along
with our partners, our friends, and our allies, are up to this challenge.
One of the reasons that I'm very confident of that is the fact that General
Dick Myers is the right man for the chairmanship at this time. I think our armed
forces are very fortunate to have Dick coming forward to lead them as we face
Mr. Secretary, thank you again for having me here today. And let me once again
thank this great group of professionals that are here in front of us today,
many of whom I consider to be personal friends as well as great professional
acquaintances, for the great job that you do in keeping our American public
informed in a professional and in a responsible manner. Again, thank you, and
we'll be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could I ask -- NORAD has confirmed that mid-level generals
in NORAD have been empowered to authorize the shoot- down of a civilian airliner
in an extreme emergency, if it was approaching a possible U.S. target. Number
one, could you tell us what kinds of safeguards have been put on that so that
there wouldn't be a mistake? And number two, say the president wasn't available
to issue such an order. Would the order then go down to the command authority,
to the vice president, to you, to General Shelton before it got to these generals?
RUMSFELD: Since there has been some discussion about rules of engagement, I'll
make a few comments about it, although the normal procedure is to not get into
that subject in any detail. The first thing I would say is that there are rules
of engagement -- a number of types of rules of engagement. It is not one set
of rules of engagement, and they vary from circumstance to circumstance and
from time to time and depending on the situation. If you think about it, almost
always, rules of engagement in our history have been with a full appreciation
of the fact that an individual service member's life might be at risk, that
in fact they needed the ability of self- defense. So rules of engagement were
fashioned, have been historically fashioned, when a uniformed service member
is at risk, to allow a degree of leeway for them to protect themselves and to
protect the people and the installations that they're there to protect.
The situation that occurred on the 11th was quite the opposite. The people in
the armed services were not at risk. It was the people in the aircraft that
were at risk. And as a result, one has to recognize that there is not the need
to give a relatively long or large degree of flexibility to an individual to
defend themselves because they weren't being put at risk. So we had -- it was
a reverse situation, really.
And what happened was that General Shelton and I sat down and fashioned rules
of engagement that we believed were appropriate, communicated with the CINCs
that were involved, and provided them to the president with our recommendation,
which he accepted.
Rules of engagement in these cases tend to do down the chain of command. And
the chain of command is from the president to the secretary of Defense and then
to a -- generally a CINC, a combatant commander somewhere in the world. There
are times when the situation is sufficiently immediate that the authority is
delegated below the CINC for periods of time, but always, in a case like this,
always with the understanding that if time permits, it would be immediately
brought up to the CINC, and then to me, and if time still permits, for me to
go to the president.
I think that pretty well covers the subject.
QUESTION: Realizing that minutes, perhaps seconds could be at stake here, many lives
could be at stake. For instance, a plane taking off from Dulles and diverted.
Could you ensure the American public that stringent safeguards are being put
on this to make sure there are no mistakes?
RUMSFELD: Absolutely, there certainly are -- every care in the world. Not only
are rules of engagement provided along the lines that I said, but then guidance
and instruction is given as to the kind of behavior that is expected, in this
case of a pilot, for example. Prior to making any judgment, every effort is
made to dissuade an airplane to go into any area that's prohibited, for example.
And there are all kinds of ways that that's done. It's done through radio communications,
it's done through hand signals, it's done through flying in front of an airplane.
So there's all kinds of things that are done in advance, as well as checking
various IFF procedures to see if there's an abnormal signal. There are a lot
of safeguards in place.
The situation, as you point out, in some instances things can happen quite fast.
I was called any number of times during the period when those rules of engagement
were in place, and had a number of conversations with the president during that
period, as well. And I think that's probably all I want to do with that.
QUESTION: Excuse me. I think the American -- the flying public of America might want
just a little more in the way of reassurance. As you've noted, everything has
changed since September 11th. It's hard to imagine, for instance, a hijacking
now taking place in which the passengers take it sitting down.
If there's a scenario -- and this is something that somebody has to think about
as they get on a plane. If there's a scenario where a plane has been hijacked,
the passengers are trying to overpower the hijackers and get control of the
plane, what reassurance do they have that they're not going to be shot out of
the sky while that's going on?
RUMSFELD: No planes were shot at, let alone shot down, during that period.
QUESTION: But I'm talking after these new rules of engagement that you put in place.
RUMSFELD: The rules of engagement are addressed on a continuing basis with a
great deal of care and sensitivity to all of the points that you've raised,
and others have raised. And I can assure you that they are under continuous
review and given the carefullest consideration. And it seems to me that is the
same kind of assurance that the American people get with respect to a lot of
things that the Defense Department is involved in.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can I just follow on that tack for a moment? But before I
do, I would like to respond to General Shelton's remarks, and say that I think
many of us are proud to consider him a personal friend, and I hope you don't
just fade away, General.
SHELTON: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Anyway, Mr. Secretary, under the rules of engagement, as they have been throughout
my knowledge of the military, it goes down the chain of command, but it goes
down all the way. And in the worst- case scenario, if a pilot flying an F-15
or an F-16 saw a plane -- commercial airliner -- heading for the White House,
he has the authority to shoot it down if he can't raise anybody else and has
no time, doesn't he?
RUMSFELD: I'm not going to get into the details of the rules of engagement beyond
what I've provided, and I think I've given you a very good sense of the fact
that they're appropriate to a situation where the military does not have to
defend themselves. Therefore it does not have to be delegated down very far.
It can be kept quite close to a very senior level.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz yesterday said, with regard to
the campaign against terrorism, that -- he said everybody who's waiting for
military action needs to rethink this thing. Are we to take from that -- and
could you elaborate -- that in fact military action is not imminent?
RUMSFELD: I'm -- needless to say, I'm not going to describe the timetables that
we're thinking about for any aspect of this effort.
QUESTION: Question for General Shelton. General, you said a moment ago that you were
confident that America would succeed in its mission against these terrorists.
Is current intelligence sufficient enough -- the intelligence being provided
our armed forces -- for them to be able to locate and root out these terrorist
cells, not only in Afghanistan, but around the world?
SHELTON: Jim, first of all, let me say that this is going to be, as the secretary
mentioned -- this will be a multifaceted, multidimensional campaign. It will
be -- the military is one part of an overall campaign against terrorism worldwide.
The al Qaeda organization happens to be a priority right now simply because
it's -- I think, clear knowledge that they were involved in both the World Trade
Center as well as the Pentagon.
But intelligence will be key. There is no question about it. And I am confident
in our intelligence community's ability to focus its efforts and to go against
these terrorist organizations.
Again, this is something that has been ongoing. It's not something we're starting
today. And there have been some great successes in that area over the last two
to three years. It is being -- it is being increased at this time. But it is
not just starting from a cold start. And so I am confident that we will have
the wherewithal, both in the intelligence as well as in all the other dimensions
of the campaign, to root out and eliminate the organizations that we focus on.
And we're being helped in this case by our partners and by our allies and friends
around the world. And so it's the civilized world against the terrorist world,
and that includes friends that are in the Gulf region, friends that are in the
Pacific and so forth. And so I think that we've got, without a doubt, the ability
to go after these organizations and to achieve a victory.
QUESTION: So are you saying that it wasn't necessarily lack of intelligence but perhaps
lack of will on that part of maybe some of our allies, even the United States,
to go after these terrorists?
SHELTON: In terms of what, Jim.
QUESTION: You were saying that we're not -- we don't have a cold start. There's already
intelligence out there. Well, why then wasn't it used previously? Are you saying
SHELTON: Oh, it has been. It has been. This has been ongoing campaign. There
have been a lot of successes. And one of the things about a campaign of this
nature is that there will be a tremendous amount that is done that will never
be visible because of the type of a foe that you face. We have the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, a lot of elements of this
government that have had successes and will continue to have increased successes
with the increased assistance, I think, that we're finding. The whole world
recognized the barbaric act that was carried out here, and it wasn't related
to anything but an attack against the civilized world. I mean, if you look at
the number of people that were killed in the World Trade Center from the various
nations, it was against everyone. And so those nations have joined in the fight,
and I think that will help us all in the ongoing campaign.
RUMSFELD: Could I say a word about the rules of engagement to further elaborate
on your question, because I think it is an important question, and there's two
aspects that I failed to mention. First, the rules of engagement ought to be
thought of in this way, that Americans can have a high degree of certainty,
it seems to me: the president, the secretary of Defense and the combatant commanders
are never more than a minute or two away from a secure phone. And I was called
numerous times during the period on and after September 11th, up through recent
periods about concerns, questions about what various aircraft might be doing
in various locations of the world and in this area. And it is a process that
works. Very, very senior people are able to address a matter in real time and
ask the right questions and make the right judgments. And it seems to me that
that ought to be an assistance, with respect to assurance, that those calls
still come in at all hours of day and night, as I can say.
QUESTION: The rules of engagement are one part of it, but the reason that the fighters
that were scrambled on September 11th never got a shot off is because it took
them about six minutes to get up in the air, and by then it was too late. Does
the suggestion that the Air Force now has this authority mean that combat air
patrols will continue, or will even increase, over major American cities?
RUMSFELD: We have made a number of adjustments in the combat air patrols. In
some instances, we've provided combat air patrols for various particularized
situations. We have tended to provide it in the Washington, D.C. area and the
New York area, during this period, as I've announced previously. We do have
aircraft on strip alert at any number of places around the country. And -- but
we have, because of the stress on the force, and because of the nature of the
threat evolved, we have altered that from time to time, and we will continue
to do so.
The last thing I would say about the rules of engagement is that to the -- I'm
sure you all appreciate this very well -- but to the extent one becomes exceedingly
precise about what the rules of engagement are, it does provide assistance to
those individuals who would attempt to use those rules of engagement to their
advantage to bring damage and harm to the United States, which is why we have
a standing rule here to not get into the details about exactly what they are
and what the procedures are. And I think it's a good practice and a good policy.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, from time to time you've had fly-bys, close encounters here
at home and with military forces deployed around the world with aircraft of
uncertain intent flying into restricted areas -- around military people, threatening
them, or perhaps potentially threatening them. Are there new rules of engagement
in those instances as well, over military installations in this country?
RUMSFELD: Well, I think the events of the 11th obviously create a greater sensitivity
about certain types of installations and activities. And as intelligence information
is reviewed and judgments are made as to the validity of it or possible validity
of the intelligence information, we then of course might shift our focus and
be more attentive to or more concerned about different types of things.
So it is -- one size does not fit all in this case.
QUESTION: Does the military have a new mission or a new role to play in enforcement
of restricted airspace over various parts of the United States that it didn't
have before September 11? And can you elaborate on that at all?
RUMSFELD: Well, I mean, if you stop and think about it, the thought of anyone
suggesting that the Department of Defense ought to have fighter aircraft in
the air prepared to shoot at an American airliner is just beyond -- almost beyond
belief. And so the answer to your question is, you bet. To the extent that we
have aircraft up or on alert today, their assignment is a distinctively different
one from the kinds of assignments that we have expected the Department of Defense
to be engaged in, which have always tended to look out, not in. And it is a
QUESTION: Will there be CAP over NFL football and the World Series, perhaps?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I'm not going to get into that kind of thing.