Wednesday, June 9, 2004

The Bush administration is nearing completion of a new defense posture that will shift troops and weapons overseas and emphasize rapid deployment over numbers of troops, tanks, ships and aircraft.

“In general, in capabilities, you can just basically look at the lessons learned out of Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, that speed is more important than mass,” a Bush administration official said, referring to the names for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Four Bush administration officials from the Pentagon, State Department and White House National Security Council staff said talks are under way with foreign governments in Europe and Asia, including China, about the new basing and power-projection plans.

The officials briefed reporters at the Pentagon on the condition of anonymity.

“We need to be rapidly deployable in the capabilities that we have,” one official said. “And that rapid deployability is not just in a particular asset, but it’s in the whole architecture. It’s from the command and control piece, to the major operating units, to the support pieces.”

The officials provided no specifics on the plans to move troops and weapons.

However, other defense officials said major force structure changes will be made in Asia and Europe.

In Asia, additional submarines will be deployed at the Pacific island of Guam, where three attack submarines were moved recently. Up to three more attack submarines will be based in Guam to be better positioned to respond to a Chinese attack on Taiwan, officials said.

Also in Asia, the Navy is planning to move another aircraft carrier battle group farther west, probably to Hawaii, to be better positioned to deal with any conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

The Pentagon announced this week that it planned to move 12,500 troops from South Korea, where about 37,000 are currently deployed. About 3,000 will be sent as relief troops to Iraq.

In Europe, military commanders are planning to cut the number of troops and forces in Germany and create smaller bases in Eastern Europe, possibly in Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

One official said that in order to create more mobile forces, the military will create a more “rotational force” that is part of what is being called a new “presence policy.”

The policy calls for having troops and weapons in places where they might be needed.

Officials said the new forces structure is based on the concept that predicting conflicts and the need for U.S. and allied troops is difficult.

“Globally, since we can’t predict where the next fight will be, we want to make sure that we have the ability to get [forces] forward, and that’s key to the strategy,” one official said.

Additionally, the new strategy will call for having more forces deployed farther from U.S. shores.

Arms and equipment also will be “prepositioned” in locations where troops can be sent to meet up with them rapidly.

“One part of the policy is … to be able to seize the initiative in any conflict,” the official said. “And that’s why there’s a lot of moving forward capability.”

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