- The Washington Times - Friday, May 25, 2001

Since he received his marching orders in February from President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has spearheaded a "top-to-bottom" review of U.S. military strategy, weapons and force structure. It will be the most comprehensive review of its kind since World War II, and its results are to be presented today at the Naval Academy by the president in his widely anticipated commencement speech.
The wide-ranging review has included more than 20 panels, which have been staffed mostly by retired military officers and outside arms specialists. In an era in which "were witnessing a revolution in the technology of war," Mr. Bush noted in a February speech, Mr. Rumsfeld has been given "a broad mandate to challenge the status quo." If the increasingly strident screams erupting from Congress, the Pentagon and "the arms-control community" are any indication, it appears Mr. Rumsfeld has embraced his challenge with gusto.
In the past, Mr. Bush has intriguingly suggested that there may be a need to "skip a generation" of weapons, echoing the recommendations of Pentagon futurist Andrew Marshall, the iconoclastic octogenarian strategist who has been playing a prominent role in the review process. Few decisions would conceivably "challenge the status quo" in a more direct way than pursuing the option to "skip a generation" of weapons. Thats what is so disturbing to so many. The "iron triangle" of Congress, the Pentagon and the defense industry has cultivated mutually reinforcing interests in any weapons system for which any money has already been appropriated. However, by definition, achieving truly transformational change of the kind the president envisions is not possible by making marginal decisions.
While senators, representatives, generals and admirals worry more about protecting their short-term interests such as a particular Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine weapon system or defense plants and/or military bases in congressional districts and states the president and the secretary of defense obviously must focus on a much broader, more long-term picture. Its hardly surprising, therefore, that in recent days complaints have surfaced in the press about the supposed secrecy with which the reviews have been conducted. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who unwisely delayed the confirmation process for defense appointees to register his discontent, has complained about being "left in the dark." Meanwhile, senior military officials, worried that their favorite weapon system may be on the chopping block, have been howling to the press anonymously, of course about allegedly closed-door proceedings.
In fact, the proceedings have not been nearly as closed-door as the complainers suggest. In the four months he has been secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld reports that he has held 170 meetings with 44 different generals and admirals and 70 meetings with more than 100 members of Congress. Indeed, refuting their own charges that the secretary of defense has been conducting closed-door proceedings, several senior military officers have actually complained that they have given detailed briefings to Mr. Rumsfeld, who has apparently conducted these meetings as information-gathering exercises without offering any immediate feedback. Where is the problem? The secretary is clearly soliciting the views of senior military officials. As for members of Congress including the Senate majority leader (soon to be minority leader now), who in the past has insisted that the Pentagon accept ships built in Louisiana that it has not requested and does not need they would serve the country better by promoting national security rather than by protecting local military pork projects.


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