Jewish World Review Oct. 22, 2002 / 16 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763
The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness
A lot of generals and admirals in the Pentagon don't think much of Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Washington Post said in a front page story.
"Many senior officers...describe Rumsfeld as frequently abusive and
indecisive, trusting only a tiny circle of close advisers, seemingly eager
to slap down officers with decades of distinguished service," the Post said
There are four broad reasons for friction:
Rumsfeld inherited a defense budget crisis. Defense budgets fell
significantly during the Clinton administration, but - thanks to
peacekeeping missions in Haiti and Bosnia, and the Kosovo war - military "op
tempo" rose considerably. Weapons purchases were deferred to pay for current
operations. Estimates of the capital shortfall go as high as $400 billion.
- Many military leaders are less sanguine about war with Iraq than Rumsfeld
- Rumsfeld is sticking his nose into matters military leaders regard as
- When Rumsfeld thinks something a general said or did is stupid, he says
so. Generals aren't used to that.
- Rumsfeld and service leaders disagree profoundly on the types of weapons
the military should be buying.
Of these, the last is by far the most important. Most marriages which
founder do so over money, and the fights over money in the Pentagon these
days are ferocious.
War is expensive. Last year the war on terror cost the Pentagon $16.8
billion over and above expenditures planned before Sept. 11. President Bush
got through Congress the largest increase in defense spending since the
Reagan administration, but it isn't nearly enough both to pay for the war
we're fighting now, and to modernize the force.
Rumsfeld and the service chiefs want to spend what little money is available
for modernization on very different things. Each of the services wants to
buy new and improved versions of the kinds of systems it was buying during
the Cold War. Rumsfeld thinks these systems guard against a threat which
largely has vanished. He wants to spend procurement money on systems which
take full advantage of modern technology, and which would be more useful in
the war we are fighting now.
So Rumsfeld has put a sacred cow or two from each of the services on his
chopping block. He's already cancelled the Army's Crusader artillery system.
The Comanche helicopter and the Stryker armored car may follow. He wants to
delay and reduce the buy of the Air Force's F-22 Stealth fighter, and to
delay or cancel the Navy's next generation aircraft carrier.
Analysts who have less emotion and prestige invested in these systems than
do the service chiefs have difficulty disagreeing with Rumsfeld. The
Crusader would have been the finest howitzer ever. But the gun and its
ammunition carrier weigh 70 tons, which means it couldn't be moved by air,
and wouldn't be of much use in chasing guerrillas through the hills even if
it could. The F-22 is designed chiefly to shoot down enemy fighters. But no
air force in the world has fighters which can match the ones we have now.
The other frictions stem mostly from the disputes over money. The Army
wanted a plan for Iraq that involved lots and lots of ground troops, because
that's what the Army has always done, and such a plan would boost the Army's
share of the defense budget. Generals and admirals who have their
impassioned arguments for the sacred cows in their budgets dismissed out of
hand take it personally. The anonymous leaks on which the Washington Post
story is based suggest that Rumsfeld is probably correct to trust "only a
tiny circle of close advisers."
Rumsfeld has more impressive credentials than any secretary of defense save
George Marshall. A former naval aviator, he had been Secdef for President
Ford and chaired two defense commissions before President Bush picked him
for a second Pentagon tour. The war in Afghanistan was fought his way, over
the objections of many in the Army. It worked out pretty well. He's been
doing a good job. The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of it.
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© 2002, Jack Kelly