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Bush Stresses Gains Made in Military Transformation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2006 – The military is transforming to ensure the right number and balance of forces are in place to fight the battles of the 21st century, President Bush said in a White House news conference today.

He refuted charges that actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and other commitments around the globe have overstretched the military. "After five years of war, ... there is a need to make sure that our troops are balanced properly, that ... threats are met with capability," he said. "And that's why we're transforming our military."

He said he looks at troop morale, retention rates and recruiting when is judging the health of the force. "And retention is high; recruitment is meeting goals; and people ... feel strong about the mission," he said.

Transforming the military is necessary to bring military capabilities more in line with likely threats the United States faces in the 21st century, Bush said. He added that people should not ask whether the military is overextended, but whether it can win the war against terror and help keep the peace.

Using recent U.S. initiatives in South Korea to illustrate his point, the president noted the United States had maintained 38,000 servicemembers in Korea since the early 1990s, but recently cut back to about 30,000 forces. "We reduced the amount of manpower, replaced it with technology," Bush said.

"Some people at the time said, 'Well, wait a minute, they're lessening their commitment to peace and security in the Far East by moving people out,' Bush said. "I made the case that ... what we're doing is replacing manpower, we're transforming our military presence in South Korea to be able to meet the threats of the 21st century. And that's what you're seeing all throughout our military."

Also during the news conference, Bush again defended the terrorist surveillance program as another tool to protect America from attack. He said the effort grew out of the post-Sept. 11 soul searching, during which he asked if there was more the government could do to protect America from another attack.

Before the National Security Agency began the program, lawyers from the agency, the White House and the Department of Justice looked into its legality, Bush said, adding that he and other officials kept Congress fully apprised of the program. "And so, as I stand here right now, I can tell the American people the program's legal; it's designed to protect civil liberties; and it's necessary," he said.

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