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Do the Tango! Manilow Rocks!

9 November 2006

Mr. Andrew Rosenthal
[Deputy Editorial Page Editor]

The New York Times



Dear Mr. Rosenthal: I am writing to request a correction to yesterday’s editorial (“Post-Election Job Number One,” Nov. 8, 2006).

In the recent past you have declined to correct editorials when the Department of Defense has pointed out they were factual suspect. In one case, you said your statement, regarding the question of whether there are “real” terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, was intended to be “lighthearted in tone and not literal.” In another case we questioned your assertion that the Iraq war plan was the result of Secretary Rumsfeld’s not “listening to his generals”— and we provided you with ample evidence that he had, in fact, listened to his generals (they had testified to this effect). You declined to correct that editorial, and further declined to offer any evidence supporting your claim.

The November 8th editorial contained an incorrect statement that could have been easily verified. Here is what you wrote:

“Truly transforming the military would have meant trading in expensive cold war weaponry, like attack submarines and stealth fighters, for pilotless drones, swifter ships and lighter, more mobile ground forces. Mr. Rumsfeld never had the interest—or the political will—to take on that fight.”

For the purposes of this letter, I limit myself to a few points of fact which directly rebut your claims—but I note that we could be much more expansive on each of these points, and many others that are related. I address them in order, and I quote partly from Secretary Rumsfeld’s May testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, because it speaks directly to these matters.

“Expensive Cold War Weaponry”

“Weapons systems such as the Crusader artillery system and the Comanche helicopter, conceived during and designed for the Cold War, have either been cancelled or reduced. In other cases, we have made new and innovative use of older platforms, such as the SSGN—a 20-year old Trident nuclear ballistic missile submarine that has been converted to carry Navy SEALs and capable of launching conventional cruise missiles.”

“Pilotless Drones”

In 2001, the military had 132 unmanned aerial vehicles. Today it has more than 3,400 UAVs.

“Swifter Ships”

In September of this year the Navy christened the first Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which is part of an entirely new class of U.S. Navy warships designed for speed and operations in shallow water. Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England has described it as “a small, fast, maneuverable, and relatively inexpensive member of the DD(X) family of ships . . . The goal is to develop a platform that can be fielded in relatively large numbers to support a wide range of joint missions, with reconfigurable mission modules to assure access to the littorals [shallow-water areas] for our Navy forces in the face of threats from surface craft, submarines, and mines.” The LCS was approved during Secretary Rumsfeld’s tenure. Two ships are under construction, and there are plans for 52 more over the next two decades. The LCS has a maximum speed of 40 knots.

In addition advances in research, development, maintenance, and training have allowed the military to increase by 50 percent the portion of its fleet routinely at sea.

“Lighter, More Mobile Ground Forces”

As the Secretary explained last May testifying to the Senate Appropriations Committee, “Just three years ago, the Army consisted of 48 deployable combat brigades organized within divisions—their basic ‘building block’ since World War I. In the past, sending one brigade overseas would require stripping out key headquarters and support elements from the rest of its parent division, essentially ending or reducing that division’s ability to respond to other contingencies.

“Under the leadership of Secretary Fran Harvey and General Pete Schoomaker, the service is well along in reorganizing into a more expeditionary force of 70 ‘modular’ Brigade Combat Teams across the Army’s Active Component and National Guard. These more agile, lethal, and more autonomous units can deploy and fight quickly—but with enough of their own firepower, armor, logistics, and administrative assets to protect and sustain themselves over time.

“Furthermore, as a result of reorganizing and rebalancing skills and positions across the force, tens of thousands of soldiers have been shifted from the ‘Institutional Army’—the ‘tail,’ which trains, supports, and administers the force—to the ‘Operational Army’ that portion of the service organized, trained, and equipped to deploy and fight.

“The effect of these significant initiatives—combined with investments in new weapons and technologies like the Future Combat Systems—is that a relatively modest increase in the overall size of the Army is leading to a truly significant increase in the deployable ‘boots on the ground,’ or ‘the teeth’—the combat power on call for our nation’s defense.”

***

Secretary Rumsfeld’s tenure has seen one of the most dramatic transformations of the military in its history—for the express purpose of combating asymmetric threats. That is, Secretary Rumsfeld has done precisely what you accuse him of not doing—and I should add that he has done so despite resistance from elements in the Pentagon, the military-industrial complex, and the Congress. He has proven time and again more than willing to “take on that fight.”

I attach the full transcript of Secretary Rumsfeld’s May testimony, which discusses many of these, and other, issues. I note, also, that we are more than willing to provide numerous other examples—and more details—on transformation and related accomplishments during the last six years if you desire them.

Editorial pages are obviously forums for opinions. But those opinions should be based on facts. In this instance, your editorial is factually incorrect, and I believe you owe it to the public to be honest about the facts and correct the record.

Sincerely,

Bryan Whitman



Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs

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