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DoD Balancing Risks, Missions

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2001 – The size of the U.S. military might not change much, but the way it is configured and the missions it addresses will change, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Aug. 6.

In an American Forces Information Service interview, Rumsfeld said force sizing would be one aspect of the Quadrennial Defense Review that will be released in September. He said the military "may not be different in numbers, but in how they are organized."

The threat-based strategy of the past is over. He said for years the United States organized forces to combat the Soviet Union. He said he envisions a force that is threat- based for the near term -- to address risks in Southwest Asia and North Korea, for example -- and a combination of threat-based and capabilities-based in the medium- and long-term.

Driving this effort is the current state of the Defense Department. The United States fields the best military in the world, but there are problems.

"If I can come in here and look under every rock and find a multibillion-dollar problem that has not been tended to, something is wrong," Rumsfeld said. "We've got to get it fixed. It didn't get that wrong in one year, and we're not going to get it fixed in one year, but we've got to get it on the right path.

"We have to begin with the reality that we have had a strategy-resource mismatch for the better part of a decade," he said. When he arrived six months ago, he said, "I was told we do not have forces, or the airlift or the various other assets to meet what we currently say is our strategy and force-sizing construct."

The "construct" since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 has been for the U.S. military to be able to fight and win two near-simultaneous major regional contingencies.

Given this picture what are the risks? "We knew we had an operational risk because of our strategy-resource shortfall," he said. "We also see we have a risk to our force from decay and from shrinkage and from age." Infrastructure had not been repaired, aircraft were aging at unacceptable rates, maintenance backlogs were soaring, and "the shipbuilding budget had been put on a trajectory so that it was diving down to 230 ships," he said.

The situation risks people's lives and safety, and also their morale. "They're told they need to fly old airplanes, and they are not going to have the maintenance parts to keep them in the air, and they are told they are going to be working and living in infrastructure that's old and decrepit," Rumsfeld said.

The last risk is the future risk. "The president says the 21st century is different (from) the 20th century and we ought to begin thinking about transforming that force at a bit better rate," he said. The military needs information dominance and information interoperability and the means to address the asymmetrical threats potential foes would most probably use.

The effects of all these risks on force structure are unclear, he said. In the QDR, civilian and military officials are assessing those risks and looking for balance.

"We face risks we can't identify by country," Rumsfeld said. "That's why we need this capability-based strategy." U.S. military planners can envision the types of threats the United States may face. The military must be arranged to deal with and deter those threats "regardless of where they come from."

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