- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

The U.S. military faces increased risks of not meeting all operating objectives as planned because forces are already fighting three wars and because the Pentagon has raised standards for how commanders execute missions.

“The performance targets that we’ve set for our operating force, we have raised those,” said a senior defense official. “We’ve raised the bar. … There is a window that we will again be at increased risks with the higher performance targets.”

The assessment is in a highly classified report from Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that was delivered to Congress yesterday as required by law.

The specific performance requirements are classified, but generally they have to do with a mission’s cost, time and schedule, the official said. The bottom line is that, in some war plans, the military will now be expected to do them faster with fewer troops and materiel, while capitalizing on new weapons and tactics.

“We’ve gone back, looked at other combatant commanders, the planning they do, and they say, ‘… if I want to apply these things … with some of this transformational capability, I can do things a lot different and move faster and maybe need less to do it in.’”

The worldwide analysis of the military’s ability to function as planned is put in terms of a “risk assessment,” ranging from low risk to extremely high. Officials who briefed reporters on the report said Gen. Myers determined that risk is on the high side of the scale but not at the highest.

Risk was expected to increase because the armed forces are fighting three wars in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and globally against Muslim terrorists.

“We can do the fourth as effectively as possible, but we wouldn’t be as elegant … as if we weren’t doing the first three,” a senior military official said.

The report’s more unexpected feature is that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has raised operational performance standards for regional combatant commanders at the same time the force is stretched thin.

Having higher standards has added to “risk,” since the military defines ?risk? as not meeting mission goals at the planned cost and timetable.

Officials said now is the time to capitalize on new technology, such as smart weapons, unmanned vehicles and network communications, and on lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan. “Doing things better is always the preferable option,” the defense official said.

Officials said one big lesson from Iraq was that commanders can save time and lives by taking down the enemy capital swiftly, without getting bogged down in towns along the way.

“The speed with which you move can make a big difference,” the senior defense official said.

Forces are now positioned to defeat aggression in Asia and the Middle East from such countries as North Korea, China and Iran.

The senior military official said increased risk does not mean the final objective — victory — is in doubt.

“Just to be absolutely clear,” the military official said, “regardless of what war plan it is, there is no doubt we will be successful in that war plan.”

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