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Rumsfeld Says Increase in End Strength Not Likely For Now

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTION, Jan. 13, 2004 – Despite what he called a "spike" in the operational tempo in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today he hopes stress from increased operations will not lead to increased troop strength in the country.

"We hope and believe that the current stress that is being put on the force is a spike a temporary increase, rather that what would prove to be a plateau," he told reporters during a Pentagon briefing. "Very simply, we do not expect to have 100,000 (or) 120,000 troops in a single country permanently deployed."

For troops under the stress of increased military operations, he said, the Defense Department is taking immediate actions to fix the problem -- from training more Iraqi security forces which now number close to 200,000 to increasing international military participation.

The secretary said justification for not increasing the military's end strength is not that the United States can't afford more troops. "Of course we can," he said. "The United States is perfectly capable of paying for additional forces if we decide that that's desirable. The question is whether, in the information age, measuring end strength is the only, or even the best, way to look at the problem, and whether permanently raising end strength would or would not be the best solution."

He said the 21st century requires a focus on quality, not quantity. "What is critical to success in combat is not necessarily mass, as much as capability," he said, noting that coalition forces in Iraq defeated a large enemy not with mass, "but with overmatching speed, power and agility."

DoD is investing in new information-age technologies -- precision weapons, unmanned air and sea vehicles and other less-manpower-intensive platforms and technologies -- as a way of improving force capability, Rumsfeld said. In addition, he said, the military is working to increase the "jointness" of its forces.

Other measures the department is taking to reduce stress on U.S. forces include rebalancing the active force with the Guard and Reserve to reduce reliance on involuntary mobilization. And the secretary said DoD is moving forward with its plan to civilianize thousands of military jobs, thus "freeing military personnel for military tasks."

Rumsfeld said the department already has used its emergency powers to temporarily increase end strength of U.S. troops by some 36,000. "That's a considerable increase," he said. But he noted that a permanent end-strength increase could prove to be the slowest, most expensive option for reducing stress on the force.

"The costs are sizeable over a lifetime of each added service member," he said, "and because of the time it takes to recruit, train and integrate new military personnel, the benefits really cannot be felt for some time."

The secretary also emphasized that a permanent increase in end strength would require cuts elsewhere in the defense budget, "crowding out funding for various types of transformational capabilities." Those capabilities, he said, would allow the military "to do more with the forces that we currently have."

Still, Rumsfeld told reporters, he will do whatever "makes the most sense."

"To the extent it involves an increase in end strength we will propose it to the president," he said. However, he added that he is comfortable "at the moment" with the actions DoD is taking.

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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