- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

Sen. John Kerry promised yesterday to add 20,000 combat soldiers and 20,000 support troops to the U.S. Army and to double the number of Special Forces as part of building a 21st-century military, which he said he would pay for in part by cutting from the missile-defense program.

“Instead of over-relying on weapons and tactics to fight the battles of the past, against enemies out in the desert or on open seas, we must build mobile and modern forces to prevail against terrorists hiding in caves or in the heart of a city,” Mr. Kerry said. “We must broaden our capabilities to create a military ready for any mission, from armored battle to urban warfare to homeland security.”

“Yes, we must invest in missile defense. But not at the cost of other pressing priorities,” the Democratic presidential candidate said. “We cannot afford to spend billions to deploy an unproven missile-defense system. Not only is it not ready, but it’s the wrong priority for a war on terror where the enemy strikes with a bomb in the back of a truck, or a vial of anthrax in a briefcase.”

Speaking at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Mo., Mr. Kerry said the Bush administration has failed the military through its poor planning for deployments. He also said by issuing “stop-loss” orders preventing some troops from retiring or leaving when their service time is up, the Pentagon has essentially reinstated the draft.

“They have effectively used a stop-loss policy as a backdoor draft,” Mr. Kerry said.

Yesterday’s speech was his third in the past two weeks laying out Mr. Kerry’s vision for national security. In the first speech last week, he said security requires rebuilding alliances with other nations, and earlier this week he proposed a plan to secure all enriched uranium and plutonium to prevent terrorists from making a nuclear bomb.

Mr. Kerry’s plan to restructure the military includes modernizing equipment, replacing what has been used in the war in Iraq and preparing the National Guard for a broader domestic role in homeland security.

But the centerpiece is increasing troop strength.

Mr. Kerry called for 3,500 new active-duty and 1,400 reserve Special Forces, saying such troops “took the fight to the Taliban with remarkable creativity” after September 11 and praising them for prevailing in battles in northern Iraq last year.

In addition to the 20,000 combat troops, Mr. Kerry wants another 20,000 support troops: civil affairs, combat support and military police personnel.

Rand Beers, Mr. Kerry’s foreign policy adviser, told reporters that the increases would be paid for from within the Pentagon budget, by streamlining large weapons programs, reducing total expenditures on missile defense and continuing to reform acquisition costs.

Other than the missile-defense program, though, he would not name specific programs Mr. Kerry will cut.

Republicans point out that Mr. Kerry has voted against spending bills that funded the military on several occasions, and has campaigned in previous elections on cutting specific weapons programs.

On a conference call arranged by Mr. Bush’s campaign yesterday, retired Adm. Thomas Morris said Mr. Kerry now seems to be compensating for those positions.

“It kind of makes me think: Is his conscience bothering him that, because of all the votes he’s had, he has to be for everything he was against before? Not only be for it, take everything the president’s doing and say he’s going to be better?” Adm. Morris said.

And Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Mr. Kerry made an “absurd suggestion” in saying Mr. Bush has in effect reinstated the draft.

“We haven’t had the draft since the mid-‘70s,” he said. “I don’t know anybody in America who would conclude extending the tour of soldiers amounts to a draft.”

He also said Mr. Kerry hasn’t backed up his proposals with actions.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to authorize a $25 billion contingency fund for the war in Iraq as part of the Defense Authorization Bill. Mr. Kerry missed the vote, though he said he supported the funds.

“His refusal to show up for a vote on funding that he said he supported is just another chapter in his long record of playing politics with American national security,” Mr. McConnell said.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has long advocated modernization of the military, and has called for a 30,000-person increase in active-duty strength.

But Mr. Kerry’s advisers said the problem is Mr. Rumsfeld hasn’t followed through.

“Get on with it. We’ve been talking about it and haven’t done it,” said Ashton Carter, a Harvard University professor who is advising Mr. Kerry. Mr. Carter also said the administration’s plans are focused too much on traditional threats, and Mr. Kerry is talking about tackling new threats such as weapons proliferation and terrorism.

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