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What's Up at the Pentagon?

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2002 – Defense-based capabilities. Transformation. Force-sizing construct. Asymmetric threats. These are some of the latest buzzwords at the Pentagon.

What do they mean?

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld used these terms during a Feb. 4 interview with Jim Lehrer on PBS. The secretary talked about transforming the military, the president's fiscal 2003 budget request, the war on terrorism and other defense issues.

When Rumsfeld used the Pentagon buzzwords, Lehrer asked the secretary to explain. For example, when Rumsfeld said, "We have moved from a threat-based strategy to a capabilities- based strategy," Lehrer asked, "What does that mean?"

Rumsfeld explained.

"It means that instead of deciding you're going to look at a threat in North Korea or a threat in Iraq or a threat somewhere else (like) the old Soviet Union, and fashion your force to fit that, what you do is look at the capabilities that exist in the world -- chemical, biological, nuclear capabilities, cyber attacks, that type of thing. And you say to yourself, it's not possible to know precisely where the threat will come from or when, but you can know what nature that threat might be and what capabilities we need to deal with that."

Transformation, according to Rumsfeld, "is not an event, it's a process. It involves a mind set, an attitude, a culture." He said it involves new ways of thinking, new ways of operating, new ways of doing business.

Transformation doesn't necessarily involve a new weapon system, the secretary said, but it might involve a better way of connecting existing weapon systems. It might involve a different way of organizing or fighting as U.S. forces did in Afghanistan. Instead of sending large numbers of ground troops to Afghanistan, the United States sent in air power and special operations forces to support anti-Taliban fighters.

"When the Germans transformed their armed forces into the Blitzkreig," Rumsfeld said, "they tranformed only about 5 or 10 percent of their force. Everything else was the same, but they tranformed the way they used it the connectivity between aircraft and forces on the ground, the concentration of it in a specific portion of the line."

"One would not want to transform 100 percent of your forces. You only need to transform a portion," he concluded.

Rumsfeld said the president's fiscal 2003 budget "reflects the priorities that are appropriate to our times."

Since national defense and homeland security are crucial right now in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said, that's where President Bush wants to put the nation's money. At the same time, he said, Bush wants to hold down spending in other areas.

The president hasn't forgotten the folks who fly the planes, man the weapons and fight the battles, Rumsfeld added. There's money in the budget request for another military pay raise. "If there's anything that's central to the success of the armed forces," he said, "it is that the men and women be properly treated. These are the people who voluntarily risk their lives for our country. And we need to have talented people capable of doing the important jobs and increasingly high tech jobs."

Lehrer reminded Rumsfeld that before Sept. 11, 2001, changed the military's focus, the defense leader had expressed concern about how the Pentagon controlled its money. Is the structure in place to make sure this money is not wasted? Lehrer asked.

"I guess I would have to say after 11 months or so in the saddle that I'm encouraged," the secretary replied. "The Department of Defense has been characterized by a lot of people as being very difficult to change, resistant, set in its ways, but if you think back over the last 11 months, what's happened, we have a new defense strategy."

The military has a new "force-sizing construct," he said. In the past, the thinking was that the United States should be able to fight two major regional conflicts. Overwhelming U.S. forces would occupy the countries, take over the capitals and change the regimes. Defense officials were supposed to size the forces to ensure this could happen.

Defense leaders have changed that approach, Rumsfeld said, because the armed forces had too little airlift, too few forces, and "the world wasn't like that."

"We still have to be able to win two conflicts," he said, "but we only have to be able to occupy and change the regime in one while stopping the other, and in addition, be capable of engaging in the other lesser contingencies or non-combatant evacuation or an event like Kosovo."

So where does terrorism fit in this picture? Lehrer asked.

Rumsfeld said cruise and ballistic missiles, cyber attacks and other terrorist tools are 'asymmetric threats.' They are "ways of attacking the United States where they don't have to go straight after our armies or navies or air forces."

Terrorists can't directly attack the U.S. armed forces because the U.S. military is too capable, he said. So they go after such perceived vulnerabilities as information technology or they turn America's own capabilities against us. U.S. officials couldn't foresee that the Al Qaeda would use box cutters to turn U.S. airliners filled with Americans into missiles.

The threat of future attacks of an even worse nature exists, Rumsfeld said. Several terrorist networks have active programs to acquire biological and chemical weapons, as well as radiation and nuclear weapons.

"We've found intelligence in Afghanistan that attests to the enormous appetite and effort they've put into this," Rumsfeld said. "We don't know how successful they've been, but we know they want them and we know there are countries that have them. The power of a biological weapon is something that we have to be very respectful of as a country."

Countries that engage in terrorism or harbor terrorists pose a danger to the world, he said, Terrorists can attack anywhere, anytime using a range of techniques.

"It is physically impossible to defend at every time in every location against every conceivable technique of terrorism," the secretary stressed. Therefore, if your goal is to stop terrorism, you you must take the battle to the terrorists.

"They are planning. They are plotting," he said. "They have trained thousands of terrorists very well and we have no choice but to find those people and root them out We have an obligation to try to find them."

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