- The Washington Times - Monday, August 13, 2001

When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld convened a high-level Pentagon meeting Aug. 4, the goal was to win a consensus from the nation's highest military officers on cutting the U.S. military in exchange for requiring it to do less.
But what Mr. Rumsfeld found that Saturday was the civilian secretaries and four-star officers standing shoulder to shoulder. They voiced opposition to reducing a force already shriveled since the Cold War by a million active duty troops, to 1.37 million.
"The meeting did not go well," said an Army officer who was briefed on the session. "It ended early."
Pentagon sources said Army Secretary Thomas White made the point that the civilian leadership had not reduced Army commitments anywhere abroad, yet persisted in suggesting a smaller Army. Air Force Secretary James Roche objected to cutting fighter squadrons.
The sources said Mr. Rumsfeld remained noncommittal on whether he would endorse any reductions.
Positions have so hardened that Mr. Rumsfeld's aides do not meet as often with the service chiefs on Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) matters.
Four days later, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz met with the media to provide an update on the ongoing review. He proclaimed the Joint Chiefs of Staff had reached a consensus that the military must change to meet 21st-century threats. But Mr. Wolfowitz, who with Mr. Rumsfeld jointly leads the QDR's senior-level review group of service secretaries and the Joint Chiefs, did not specify what type of change.
Pentagon officials and congressional defense aides said in interviews that the consensus does not include agreement on cuts in Army divisions, Navy carrier battle groups or Air Force air wings.
"The leadership of the Army has sent very powerful signals they're going to resist this," said the Army officer, who asked not to be named.
"All the service chiefs are opposed," said a senior congressional defense aide who regularly consults with the top brass.
The staffer said the generals are having a difficult time convincing Mr. Rumsfeld's aides, particularly Stephen Cambone, deputy undersecretary for policy, of the risk to regional stability and of increased casualties if the force is cut.
Subsequently, Mr. Rumsfeld hosted a Tuesday meeting of the senior panel. The next day, while Mr. Wolfowitz briefed reporters, the service chiefs were wrestling with six questions from Mr. Rumsfeld. The answers may determine whether the military faces the first significant downsizing since President Clinton's first term.
The defense secretary asked the chiefs whether heavy-armor Army units could be taken out of Europe without increasing the risk of war. And he asked if reducing demands on U.S. presence abroad could result in reducing force structure. In other words, said a Pentagon official, if the Navy no longer was required to keep a carrier in the Mediterranean Sea full time, could it then go below its 12-carrier fleet?
Pentagon sources say that nowhere is the opposition more fierce than inside Army corridors. Army Secretary White, a Vietnam combat veteran and retired one-star general, is adamantly opposed to a cut of two divisions unless he gets firm commitments to curtail missions. His soldiers, he argues, are already stretched thin around the globe.
In fact, just last month Mr. White and Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee they may need another 40,000 soldiers.
"Given today's mission profile, the Army is too small for the mission load it's carrying," Gen. Shinseki testified. Added Mr. White, "I am very nervous about shifting down any further."
The Army thought this battle was behind it. Its generals fought a winning last-minute struggle four years ago against a two-division cut (roughly 60,000 combatants and support troops from a 477,000 active roster) during the last QDR. With a new Bush team vowing that "help is on the way" for an overextended military, the Army did not expect a repeat showdown.
"We thought this administration is about strengthening the military, not cutting it to reach a number for the Office of Management and Budget," said Jayson Spiegel, executive director of the Reserve Officers Association of the United States and a deputy assistant Army secretary during the Clinton administration.
"We would have hoped that when it was first raised Rumsfeld would have said 'Don't come back to me with this,'" Mr. Spiegel said. "The CINCs [regional commanders in chief] need all the capability they can have. They need a robust ground combat capability and the Army strength is pretty thin as it is."
Therein lies the rub. How can Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides trim a force that went on a record number of war and peace-enforcement missions in the 1990s and is required to maintain big footprints in South Korea, Japan, the Persian Gulf, Western Europe, the Balkans and the open seas?
One answer would be for Mr. Rumsfeld to change the current two-war requirement, which dictates the current 1.37 million force, to a lesser capability. This shift could allow troops to leave Europe, where roughly 100,000 are stationed.
Army sources said civilian planners are looking the hardest at abolishing one of two Army divisions in Europe, either the 1st Infantry or 1st Armored divisions. A pullout could trigger further reductions in support brigades back home.
"[The] threat in Europe is, I think, indisputably lower than the threat in other parts of the world," Mr. Wolfowitz said last week.
If Mr. Rumsfeld opts for some form of a "win-hold" requirement, the "hold" scenario may be applied to South Korea, where massive U.S. air power and a much-improved South Korean army would be counted on to blunt an invasion until American forces achieved victory in another theater. The current requirement of fighting and winning two major regional wars nearly simultaneously envisions possible conflicts in the Persian Gulf and the Korean peninsula.
Reducing Army soldiers in Europe would be "absolutely devastating," said a retired four-star general. "Our ability to be at the table at NATO is based in a large measure on our force presence in Europe," he said. "With the European Union going its own way, which we're already seeing, I think that the NATO military alliance is already in some jeopardy."
The QDR report is due in Congress by Sept. 30, meaning Mr. Rumsfeld must decide soon on scrapping the two-war capability so planners can make final decisions on force size and which major weapons to buy.
Troop cuts would provide some of the billions of dollars Mr. Rumsfeld needs to buy new weapons. Big boosts in defense spending appear out of the question for now, with the $1.3 trillion tax cut and the economic slowdown reducing federal revenues. A certain number of lawmakers oppose significant troop cuts, while others would object to terminating aircraft procurements that benefit their districts.

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