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Bolstered Budget Addresses Personnel, Readiness Problems

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2001 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said a $38.2 billion increase in the DoD budget request is necessary because the military is suffering from years of underfunding.

The total budget request is $328.9 billion.

Rumsfeld told American Forces Information Service that the budget concentrates on people programs. "The first priority had to be the people," he said. "[They are receiving a] substantial increase in pay, significant improvement in housing allowances, and fixing housing up because so much of it is substandard."

He also said DoD and Congress "are going to have to have a base-closing understanding" in order to help the department manage facilities more efficiently and to free up money for more pressing needs.

He did not pick out one aspect of the budget that would be most important to service members. "Certainly pay is important and housing is important, but they also care about the number of flying hours and steaming days and to see there is the right number of tank miles in the Army," he said. "[They also care about being] able to exercise, train and feel they're ready to do their enormously important jobs."

Military personnel issues account for $82.3 billion of the budget, and operations and maintenance -- which focus on readiness -- account for $125.7 billion of the DoD request.

Rumsfeld said readiness accounts had to be beefed up because the force is being overused. Over the last decade the force has been reduced 30 percent, but is being used up to 165 percent more than previously, he said. "The fact that you have a smaller force and you are using it more puts a stress and a strain on the people and equipment," Rumsfeld said. "If your procurement levels are not what they ought to be, then obviously the equipment not only gets used more, but it ages. There's a lot of down time, much more cost for spares."

He said the budget should improve readiness rates over the year.

Modernization and maintaining what some people are calling the "legacy force" are also part of the budget. "You have to live in the present," Rumsfeld said. "There are dangers and risks, and you cannot behave in a way that weakens the deterrent. Weakness is provocative, and you have to have the legacy capabilities."

He said problems with the legacy force are due to a "procurement holiday" in the 1990s. "They started drawing down after the Cold War, and instead of stopping, they overshot the mark and went way too far," he said. "So we haven't been buying new equipment, and the older equipment is wearing out."

But, he said, DoD must balance this against the need to transform the military. He said DoD may transform without spending a dime. New ways of operating or combining equipment may give the department what it needs.

But sometimes, he said, new equipment is needed. "That takes investment, and that takes research and development, and it adds nothing to the legacy capability, it adds nothing to the immediate deterrent, nor does it add anything to your future capability unless it works," he said. "What you know is if you don't make those investments you won't have the capability."

He said he is "persuaded that speed is important." Having the capability to do things earlier in a crisis can make a big difference. The fact that it took six months after Saddam Hussein went into Kuwait to push him out is not acceptable, he said. DoD needs a standing joint task force that "changes not only your ability to function in a war, it changes your deterrent and it gives the president options in the 'crisis stage, prewar' and president's don't have a lot of options in that period and we need them," he said.

DoD is also going to need the ability to manage its resources better. "When I was here 25 years ago, the defense authorization act was 50 or 60 pages long," Rumsfeld said. "Today it's over 900 pages. It's filled with all kinds of restrictions and prohibitions and requirements. We have to file 905 reports to the Congress every year."

He said DoD will work with Congress to review the authorization bill to see if there are ways to eliminate some of the rules, requirements and restrictions.

DoD is also going to have to work with Congress to come up with a process to close unneeded bases and infrastructure.

He said the DoD acquisition system is so burdened with reports and restrictions that it takes 15 to 20 years to produce a weapon system. "With the pace of technology today, they end up deploying systems that are brand- spanking new that have technologies one or two or three generations old," he said. "We're not swift; we're not agile as an organization."

A base commander, he said, is in charge of a city. "What incentive does he have to save a nickel? … The answer is none," Rumsfeld said. "If he saves a nickel then the next year he doesn't get the nickel."

DoD must change this culture. Rumsfeld said he will ask Congress for approval to allow the services to keep any funds saved and place them in different accounts.

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