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Warner hits lack of help on Iraq war
The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday said federal agencies are not doing everything they could to help the U.S. military win in Iraq, prompting Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to suggest an overhaul of civilian departments to better fight Islamic terrorists.
"What we're not getting," said Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, "[are] the other elements of our government to bring to bear to conclude this conflict and perform the mission and bring our forces back."
At a hearing on the Pentagon's proposed $490 billion budget, Mr. Warner asked Mr. Rumsfeld: "Do you agree or disagree with my view that we're not pulling together, all elements of our government, with equal force, as is the men and women of the armed forces?"
Mr. Warner was airing what has primarily been debated behind closed doors in the Bush administration.
The Pentagon's complaint is that other agencies, such as Justice, State and Treasury, are not always sending over their best people in sufficient numbers and duration to help the Iraqis build democratic institutions such as courts, banks and police.
Pentagon officials say the issue has been discussed at interagency meetings. But because of federal personnel rules, not all needed workers can be forced to go to a hostile place such as Iraq, and they often serve short six-month tours when they do go.
Reports by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq, have told of American administrators being unable to coax federal contracting experts to Iraq, which contributed to cases of significant fraud and mismanagement involving Iraqi development funds.
Mr. Rumsfeld stepped gingerly on the subject.
"We are still organized in the executive branch and in the Congress ... basically the way we were in the last century," he said. "That means that the organizational structure is not -- there has not been a Goldwater-Nickles for the United States government, just to put it simply."
He was referring to the 1980s legislation sponsored by then-Sens. Barry Goldwater, Arizona Republican, and Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican, that restructured the U.S. armed forces command structure to better respond to war situations.
Mr. Rumsfeld said part of the problem is cultural.
"The Department of Defense has a culture of deployments," he said. "They're used to it. They sign up for it ... The other departments do not have a culture of being deployed."
Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs chairman, added, "Our system simply at this point in time, just like our system for the military 20 years ago, is not designed to encourage or reward tours of duty between various departments of our government or to reward joint interagency education or to facilitate and reward those who would want to volunteer or be assigned on deployments."
Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, echoed what has become a consistent frustration among lawmakers of both parties. They complain that it is taking too long for a new Iraqi government to form nearly two months after the Dec. 15 elections. No power-sharing agreement has been reached between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Muslims on amending the new constitution.
"The question is, will the administration tell the leaders in Iraq of all the factions that it is essential that they make the compromises necessary in order to achieve that broad-based, sustainable political settlement? Will you say that to them?" said Mr. Levin, ranking member of the Armed Forces Committee.
"It has been said to them," Mr. Rumsfeld replied.
Mr. Levin asserted, "I think the only hope we have of defeating that insurgency is if they will put their house in order politically."
Senators also pressed Mr. Rumsfeld and his generals on the state of the active Army, National Guard and Reserves. Local adjutants general are balking at a planned reserve-force reorganization and at reports that the Army will not try to recruit enough soldiers to maintain the Guard's troop strength set by Congress at 350,000. The Guard is now 17,000 below that target as frequent war deployments have taken a toll on recruiting.
"This notion that we are cutting the National Guard and Reserves is false," said Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff. He added, "The United States Army is not broken."
By Emily Miller
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