- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

When Donald Rumsfeld returned to the job of defense secretary, it fell to him to restore America's national defense after eight years of underfunding and neglect. Mr. Rumsfeld saw this as an opportunity to transform the Cold War Pentagon to deal with the evolving threats of the new century. For many months, teams labored to produce the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which was delivered to Congress on Oct. 1. However, on Sept. 11, transforming the Pentagon was turned into a job of rebuilding in the most literal sense. To his credit, Mr. Rumsfeld changed the report to emphasize the war against terrorism without changing the basic approach to reform.

The QDR begins and ends with the need to infuse defense with money and people. Virtually every part of the armed forces has suffered from wear and a lack of funding. Troops face long, repeated deployments, which deplete morale and readiness. The average age of Air Force fighter jets is 20 years, an all-time high. Everything from runways to soldiers' housing needs repair or replacement. Funds for training, spare parts and many other basics have been lacking.

The QDR rightly rejects the urge to abandon our international commitments to turn all our resources against terrorism. It makes clear that while taking on terrorists, we will not abandon our global commitments, especially to nations such as Taiwan that face threats such as China. To deal with terrorism now, and for the next decade, it promises more special forces, "persistent surveillance" and "rapid engagement" to deny terrorists sanctuary.

The armed forces of the next decade will look like a rearranged version of those we have now. "Jointness" the combining of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine forces to fight in a unified command is highly emphasized. Standing joint forces will be ready to deploy quickly to major and minor conflicts. To do this, there must be significant growth in the number of active duty troops, sailors and airmen.

Ballistic missile defense, protection of satellites and the ability to fight in space are other areas for investment and growth. Protecting both our allies and ourselves, missile defenses will be "layered" to engage and destroy missiles at close and long-range.

But the QDR is merely one step toward restructuring the Pentagon. Congress and every special interest coveting defense dollars will have their say. One of Mr. Rumsfeld's cost-saving initiatives is to "contract out" to private companies tasks that are not basic to war-fighting. This idea sure to save billions of defense dollars runs smack into Rep. Neil Abercrombie's current amendment to end all contracting out and bring those dollars to Pentagon civilian employees. This is only one of a thousand fights every defense dollar will have to survive.

Still, Sept. 11 proved it's time for Congress to listen to the Pentagon experts who, for the last decade, have opposed unreasoned defense cuts. It's time to rebuild along the lines of Mr. Rumsfeld's blueprint.

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