- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

The Pentagon is completing a major four-year review that falls short of expectations for rearranging military forces and writing a new strategy for 21st-century threats, defense officials said yesterday.
At one point, aides to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had been set to impose significant cuts in force structure Navy battle groups, Army divisions and Air Force squadrons to free up money to buy new weapons and fix combat readiness.
But the services balked and the secretary's aides backed off.
The Sept. 11 attack on America all but sealed the deal. With President Bush declaring a war on terrorism, and with more money being promised to Defense Department, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) will retain 12 Navy carriers, 10 active Army divisions and 12 active Air Force fighter wings.
The congressionally mandated report is expected on Capital Hill by Sunday.
The QDR is significant for what it does not contain. Mr. Rumsfeld's aides have not finished work on a new military strategy. Nor have they made key decisions on whether to buy new tactical aircraft.
"It's a nice academic term paper," said one Pentagon official.
The process of writing a new review has left a bad taste among the top brass.
They complain of Rumsfeld's aides arriving in the Pentagon last winter determined to cut the 1.37 million armed forces, without considering the risk involved to the lives of fighting service members.
"Why does every new administration go through the gut-wrenching event called the QDR when in fact we know the intent of every QDR is how to make the force smaller and cheaper?" asked a retired Army general.
Referring to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the retired general said, "Every 10 years we have to be reminded we very much need a robust, ready military force."
The new QDR will amend the military post-Cold War requirement of winning two regional wars decisively, Mr. Rumsfeld has said previously.
The new capability is be able to win one war decisively, while repelling and defeating an enemy's aggression in another part of the world. The most likely hot spots are the Korean Peninsula and the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
The Pentagon is building a sizable force of combat aircraft in the Middle East-Central Asia regions for possible air strikes on Afghanistan.
Ruled by radical Taliban Islamic leaders, the country is a haven for Saudi-born Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist organization, the No. 1 suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 7,000 people.
The deployment may equal the air component of a major regional war, as did the bombing of Serbia in 1999. If so, the operation will place more wear and tear on an overall combat fleet that, military leaders say, is in urgent need of new models.
This need is why Pentagon sources say that Mr. Rumsfeld is likely later this year to approve buying of two major tactical aircraft: the Air Force's F-22 stealth fighter and the triservice Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Both had seemed vulnerable last winter, when President Bush took office calling for a need to scrap some weapons in favor of future technologies.
One military officer said he was "mystified" that Mr. Rumsfeld was moving ahead with the QDR.
This officer said the Sept. 11 attack so altered the global security picture that Mr. Rumsfeld should rewrite it.
But Mr. Rumsfeld on Tuesday said he did not need to greatly change the draft QDR because his planning already had addressed how to prepare the military for such "asymmetric" threats as terrorism.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the QDR "fortuitously at least addressed the problems of homeland defense and the problems of asymmetrical threats rather well."
He added, "It's been on my desk for about a week and a half and I'll have to get to it. But knowing what it was the last time I looked at it, prior to Sept. 11, I suspect that I will find it close. We'll make some tweaks."
Army Secretary Thomas E. White told reporters recently, "I think that we spent an enormous amount of time in the QDR talking about asymmetric threats and talking about homeland defense and informational warfare and things that seem to be totally relevant to the post-11 Sept. security environment that we find ourselves in. So you will see transformational technologies that we think are directly relevant to this asymmetric threat environment."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide