Troop Level Reports: Nothing but Speculation, Rumsfeld Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 25, 2004 Any report on specific changes to U.S. troop levels based in various parts of the world is speculation, because the department still is working with friends and allies around the world on those levels, senior Defense Department officials said at a Pentagon news conference today.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed news reports that final decisions had been made in how to adjust the U.S. military's global "footprint" to better address challenges of the 21st century.
DoD began looking at the U.S. global posture almost as soon as the Bush administration took office, Rumsfeld said. Many basing decisions originally made in response to the Soviet threat during the Cold War have carried over. The secretary said that since the end of the Cold War, the numbers of American troops had drawn down, but often they remained in the same places.
The chances of American soldiers fighting a tank battle in Germany today, the secretary said, "are so modest that it calls for a review of how we're arranged."
Rumsfeld said the United States still needs bases overseas. Forward basing allows the United States to deter attacks on regional friends and allies. It also allows the country to move troops quickly to trouble spots and the U.S. military to train with allies, he explained.
A goal of the effort is to have fewer U.S. service members permanently based overseas and add some stability to military life.
"We want to reduce the number of permanent changes of station, and the costs that that imposes on our people," Rumsfeld said. "We'd like to reduce stress on families so that, for example, the spouses that work won't be having to change jobs every five minutes, or kids that are in high school don't have to be jerked out as frequently and moved to some other place as often as has been the case in a typical military career."
DoD leaders worked with U.S. combatant commanders to evaluate from a military standpoint what makes sense in basing American troops overseas. The initial part of that review is finished, and now American defense leaders and State Department officials are speaking with affected countries to get their input.
Rumsfeld and Myers indicated the conversations with these countries are going well, but that they are nowhere near completion. Both men indicated they do not know what the final footprint of American forces will be. "To the extent we talk to two or three about where we might be located, we obviously would arrange ourselves where the best arrangement was for the American people and for our friends and allies," Rumsfeld said.
The secretary emphasized that the United States will make no changes in force posture that "would be to the detriment of any of our friends or allies." But that does not mean there won't be fewer "things" or troops in any given country, he added.
"We're used to counting things how many tanks, how many ships, how many planes, how many troops," Rumsfeld said. "And what we know of certain knowledge today is that that's really not the relevant measurement."
During World War II, it often took hundreds of bomber sorties to knock out one target. Today, one B-2 Spirit bomber can knock out up to 20 targets with one sortie.
What capability the United States bases in a country is more important than how many tanks or aircraft or ships the country bases there, Rumsfeld said. The reorganization will take several years, he added.