- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2001

The Pentagon is considering cuts in the 1.36 million active duty military to pay to modernize the force, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said yesterday.
Mr. Wolfowitz said the ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is studying "trade-offs" of accepting "manageable risks" in military operations that a shrunken force would bring. The benefit: budget savings to buy new weapons and equipment.
"What we have tried to do is, in this process, surface for [Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld] where you might be able to find some ability to take higher risk with respect to your force structure, or where you think that you have force structure you may not need, that the risk could be manageable with a smaller force structure," Mr. Wolfowitz said at a Pentagon news conference.
The deputy secretary said the Bush administration is evaluating possible reductions in permanent overseas deployments. He specifically mentioned Europe, where roughly 100,000 U.S. troops are stationed. "It's an area to look at," he said.
The Washington Times and other publications have reported that the Pentagon is studying the ramifications of a smaller armed force. But Mr. Wolfowitz's remark was the Pentagon's first clear signal that those cuts have a good chance of adoption in the QDR.
The Defense Department, if it is to pay for the next generation in tactical aircraft, is facing a multibillion-dollar shortfall. Options include terminating some big-ticket aircraft such as the $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), winning an enormous budget increase from the White House, or cutting force structure to create savings.
Pentagon officials say privately that the option of cutting Army troops and Air Force air wings is emerging as the most likely QDR decision. This is because the Air Force has successfully argued that air power in the form of the JSF and F-22 Stealth fighter are essential to counter 21st-century threats.
"We're basically living off the equipment investment of the 1980s," Mr. Wolfowitz said, referring to President Reagan's $2.5 trillion buildup. "And if you stop and think how many of you have cars that were built in the 1980s, I would bet it's a distinct minority of this room."
What's more, the economic slowdown and Mr. Bush's tax cut are, for the short-term at least, limiting available revenue for a whopping defense budget increase.
Mr. Wolfowitz and Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, played down reports of disagreements between uniform senior leaders and Mr. Rumsfeld's civilian staff. Gen. Myers, who is prominently mentioned as a candidate for the chairman's job, termed the QDR process a "passionate debate." But he denied that uniform officers are obstructing the process.
President Bush is expected to name a new chairman in time for Senate confirmation hearings next month.
But defense sources said in interviews that generals and admirals are adamantly opposed to big cuts in Army divisions, Navy carrier battle groups or Air Force air wings. Some harbor bitter feelings toward Mr. Rumsfeld.
The sources said the top brass complain that the secretary's aides are pushing for reductions without realizing how they would hinder the military branches' ability to achieve clear victories with minimum casualties.
Gen. Myers described the QDR process, which is due to reach Congress by Sept. 30, this way:
"If you have 30 people in a room, some of them being military, some of them being civilian leadership, you'll have 30 opinions. And we have free-ranging the secretary of defense has set up a process where if you have an idea, you better speak. And so people speak with their ideas. And the tension is good because the good ideas prosper, the bad ideas go in the dust bin. But this notion that there is uniforms versus civilian leadership is a notion that just, in my view, is not supportable."
The QDR policy-makers, guided by a senior panel of four-star officers and advised by a panel of three-star officers, must first adopt a force-sizing statement from which most other decisions will flow. Officials say Mr. Rumsfeld's staff has abandoned the 1990s two-war requirement.
The new requirement will settle on a new policy that requires the military to fight and win one major regional war, hold the enemy in another conflict, protect the homeland with missile defense and carry out smaller contingencies such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo peacekeeping.
"I think we were surprised coming in at the extent to which the mismatch between strategy and resources had created a very large number of unpaid bills that have got to be taken care of," Mr. Wolfowitz said.
One of many problems facing QDR planners is the fact the Pentagon must pay to replace — or continue to spend money to repair — equipment worn out in the 1990s, while planning a futuristic military for which the new equipment might not be suited.
Whatever decisions Mr. Rumsfeld makes, he will face opposition on Capitol Hill. Many lawmakers oppose troops cuts, saying the military already has too many deployments for too few personnel. But if the defense secretary opts to cancel a major weapons system, that decision will also encounter resistance from legislators whose districts benefit economically.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide