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Best Way to Thank Troops is to Fund Budget, Rumsfeld Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2002 – U.S. military personnel are extraordinary, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the best way to thank them is to ensure they have the tools they need to defend against current threats and the newer threats of the 21st Century.

Rumsfeld testified before the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee Feb. 14. He also presented the Fiscal 2003 Defense Budget Request to the appropriators.

Rumsfeld told the representatives that the men and women in uniform "are voluntarily risking their lives in dangerous corners of the world to defend the lives and freedoms of all of us and our fellow citizens."

In addition to asking the committee to fund the "people portions" of the budget, he made a case for funding transformation of the military. Rumsfeld said that no president gets a chance to use military capabilities he proposes because "transformation takes time."

He told the committee that weapon systems such as the Tomahawk cruise missile program, the M-1 Abrams tank, the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Falcon that are in service today "were all developed before or during my last tour in the Pentagon in the 1970s."

He said the current generation of space satellites date from the 1980s, as are many other capabilities that helped American and Afghan forces drive the Taliban from power.

"The point is this, one generation bequeaths to the next generation the capabilities to ensure its security -- or it doesn't," Rumsfeld said. "And today we're responsible for future generations. The choices we make today determine whether or not our children or our grandchildren will continue to live in peace and freedom, and whether they will have the tools to defend freedom and our way of life in the years ahead."

Transformation is only part of a trio of missions the Defense Department must accomplish in the years ahead. The department must fix the underfunding and overuse of the force from the last decade and win the war on terrorism, he said. Rumsfeld told the lawmakers that the proposed budget allows the Defense Department to do all three of these missions. The $379 billion budget request is a $48 billion increase over the fiscal 2002 budget. Almost $20 billion of the 2003 request is dedicated to funding the war on terrorism.

Other funds are dedicated to changing priorities in the department. "We have a phrase in the department of 'high- demand, low-density,' which means very simply we didn't buy enough of the things we find out now that we needed," he said. "This also means that our priorities were not quite right, and we ended up buying some things that were less important." The 2003 request fixes this, he said.

A number of program cancellations and realignments put the budget process in line with new strategic goals. "We're committed to pursuing what works and stopping what doesn't," Rumsfeld said. "We've terminated a number of programs that were not in line with the new strategy or which were having cost difficulties or performance difficulties." These include the Navy's DD-21 destroyer program, the Navy Area Missile Defense program, 18 Army legacy programs, and the Air Force Peacekeeper missile program.

The department has also accelerated the retirement of a number of aging and expensive-to-maintain capabilities such as the F-14 Tomcat and 1,000 Vietnam-era helicopters.

But it all comes back to people, Rumsfeld said. "If we are to win the war on terror and prepare for tomorrow, we have to take care of the most important asset we have, the men and women in uniform," he said.

The department must compete with the private sector for the manpower to fill the ranks. He said the country cannot afford to count solely on the willingness of military men and women to sacrifice in defense of the country. He said the 4.1 percent pay raise and an additional $300 million for a possible targeted pay raise will help. Funding medical benefits and improving the housing situation for service members will also send the right message.

"Smart weapons are worthless unless they are in the hands of smart, well-trained, highly motivated soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines," he said.


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