- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday he has ordered three Pentagon studies of foreign troop engagements with an eye toward reducing the type of overseas deployments that multiplied during the Clinton administration.
"I have been looking around the world for any number of opportunities to try to reduce the so-called 'op-tempo,'" Mr. Rumsfeld said, referring to high rates of military operations that have worn out equipment and personnel. "[I] found a number of places and not surprisingly in almost every case it takes a little time to do it. You don't want to do those precipitously. I'm advised it's best to do them diplomatically. There's no question but that we were pretty well extended."
In an interview with editors and reporters of The Washington Times at his Pentagon office, the defense secretary drew sharp policy differences with the Clinton administration on other issues besides overseas peacekeeping.
He bemoaned the fact the last administration bought few weapons in the 1990s while wearing out equipment with a record number of peacekeeping and war missions.
President Clinton began office engaged in military social issues such as homosexuals in the ranks and women in combat. But Mr. Rumsfeld said no one has raised such contentious policy questions with him. He said his priority is to carry out President Bush's order to revamp military strategy and force structure for 21st-century threats.
"It is not something I have been able to invest sufficient time," he said. "I've got so many things that are pushed at me."
On overseas deployments, Mr. Rumsfeld said three studies are under way: one by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman; one by the Institute for Defense Analyses, overseen by the undersecretary of defense for policy; and a general review into the number of military "detailees" scattered across the globe.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he wants the studies to address "where are we doing things around the world, country by country, and what are the things we are doing and how do we feel about those things? Are we doing things in countries we don't need to be doing?"
Mr. Bush campaigned for the presidency on a pledge to reverse Mr. Clinton's penchant to deploy troops to a number of foreign hot spots. Since taking office, however, the administration has reaffirmed the need to keep U.S. troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo as part of a NATO nation-building contingent.
Mr. Rumsfeld said this recommitment does not mean the administration is going back on a promise.
"We have not been inattentive to it. It's a heck of a lot easier to get into something than to get out of it," he said. "We have declined to become involved in a number of new activities that have occurred during this period."
As an example, he said, NATO wanted Americans to increase their numbers in Macedonia if Albanian rebels and government troops agreed to a cease-fire.
He said the administration is only willing to commit troops already in neighboring Kosovo: They would collect rebel weapons at the border, supply medical care at Camp Bondsteel, the American military headquarters in Kosovo, and provide intelligence and logistics support.
On a broader scale, Mr. Rumsfeld said he also wants a head count of soldiers assigned to individual jobs on foreign soil.
"I have a massive search out trying to find where all the defense department detailees are located around the world with the thought that we might try to modestly reduce our tail and increase our teeth." The "tail" in military jargon refers to support troops: The "teeth" are the combatants.
Mr. Rumsfeld also responded to complaints from Democrats, and a smattering of conservatives, that Mr. Bush's first defense budget falls short of the president's campaign pledge that "help is on the way" to an overworked military.
The defense secretary said the $329 billion budget for fiscal 2002 represents the largest defense increase since the military modernization of the 1980s under President Reagan.
He criticized the Clinton administration for sending warplanes, ships and armored vehicles on numerous deployments, while cutting the procurement money that should have been used to replace the worn-out equipment.
"The problem the president and I are facing really is the fact for a period of 10 years the peace dividend was being extracted and they overshot by a substantial margin," he said. "Instead of stopping at some rational point, the prior administration kept pulling it down and taking what they characterized as a 'procurement holiday.' The result is we have a situation with respect to the armed forces of the United States the inevitable result of year after year of serious underfunding."
Stuck with aging aircraft, he said, "we're just being eaten up with spare parts and maintenance and down time. You can't lower the average age of aircraft by 10 years in one year. It took us a decade to get there."
Mr. Rumsfeld is now supervising a complete review of force structure known as the Quadrennial Defense Review. He declined to say what the review may conclude before submission to Congress on Sept. 30.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide