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Rumsfeld Outlines DoD Priorities, Goals for 2004

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2004 – The global war on terrorism will remain the Defense Department's top priority in the new year, as DoD continues to focus on improving and modernizing its programs, systems and forces to make them more responsive to 21st century requirements.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters today during his first Pentagon briefing in 2004 that the department already has made "remarkable progress" and will continue its work to "strengthen, improve and transform our forces, modernize and restructure programs and commands and streamline DoD processes and procedures."

Rumsfeld laid out an ambitious list of initiatives, many already under way, that he said will help free the department of its Cold War-era trappings that no longer support current demands.

Among these initiatives is the effort to rebalance the active and reserve components throughout the services. Rumsfeld told reporters the global war on terror, with its heavy use of National Guard and Reserve troops, underscores the importance of the effort.

"Our experience thus far in the global war on terror, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, has shown that we have somewhat of a Cold War mix of active and reserve forces remaining," Rumsfeld said. "And we really do need to adjust it to reflect the circumstances of the day."

Rumsfeld said proposals being drafted by the services "will set a new balance between active and reserve that will fit the 21st century." Also high on the agenda for 2004, Rumsfeld said, is implementation of the new National Security Personnel System that took effect with passage of the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act. The new law gives DoD the authority to create a new framework of rules, regulations, and processes that govern the way civilians are hired, paid, promoted and disciplined within the department. The new system will replace outdated and rigid civil service rules that many said hindered DoD's ability to carry out its national security mission. "Executed properly," Rumsfeld said, "the new system can play a key role in relieving stress on the force."

On a broader scope, Rumsfeld said the military will continue its efforts to adjust global posture during 2004.

This initiative involves re-examining the United States' military "footprint" in the world much of it the result of historic, Cold War threats that no longer exist and to revise them to meet current demands.

In addition to those at its bases around the world, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the U.S. military has thousands of troops on deployments around the world. This includes roughly 125,000 in Iraq, 13,000 in Afghanistan, more than 2,000 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and more than 1,000 participating in Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.

Meanwhile, Myers said, nearly 3,500 service members are conducting stabilization operations in the Balkans, and about 1,500 are performing counterdrug operations and other training in Central and South America.

Rumsfeld continued to rattle off a virtual laundry list of efforts and initiatives the department will pursue in 2004.

"Going forward, he said, "we will continue to aggressively pursue the global war on terrorism, strengthening joint warfighting capabilities, transforming the joint force, strengthening our intelligence capabilities (and) strengthening our ability to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Rumsfeld said DoD also will focus on improving force planning through quality of life, infrastructure and other modifications, refining and improving the department's role in homeland security, and streamlining its budget, contingency and other departmental processes.

"We have a full agenda," Rumsfeld acknowledged. "It is what President Bush has asked of us. It is what the American people expect of us. And it is work that we intend to proceed with over the coming months of 2004."

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