Rumsfeld Seeking to Bolster Force Without New G.I.'s

The New York Times

August 23, 2003

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, seeking to increase the nation's combat power without hiring more troops, is poised to order a sweeping review of Pentagon policies, officials say. It will include everything from wartime mobilization and peacekeeping commitments, to reservist training and incentives for extended duty.

A senior Defense Department official said Mr. Rumsfeld would order the Pentagon's senior leadership, both civilian and military, to rethink ways to reduce stress on the armed forces, fulfill recruitment and retention goals and operate the Pentagon more efficiently.

In essence, Mr. Rumsfeld will ask the service secretaries and chiefs and his under secretaries to address how the Pentagon can more efficiently use its troops at a time when the armed forces are spread thin by global deployments.

Should Mr. Rumsfeld eventually be forced to expand the military, whether by unexpected missions, future threats or a Congressional mandate, the effort should reduce the size of the reinforcements required, officials said.

The review will be seen in some circles as answering powerful members of Congress who have demanded more active-duty troops for the military. Lengthy deployments to Iraq drew scattered complaints from families of soldiers, and some reservists criticized their extended call-ups.

Some concepts being proposed as ways to enhance combat power challenge core military planning. One questions the long-term practice of earmarking forces in the United States for specific regional war zones, as opposed to ordering the military at large to stand ready to be sent wherever required. Another asks whether advances in intelligence-gathering and analysis allow the nation to anticipate threats with greater accuracy. Such "strategic warning" could direct more efficient plans for assigning troops.

Other proposals are based in pragmatism. Mr. Rumsfeld told Congress he wanted to transfer to civilians or contract workers an estimated 300,000 administrative jobs now performed by people in uniform.

While some on Capitol Hill reject that total as high, one senior Pentagon official said that if even one-sixth of those jobs were converted, then the equivalent of more than two Army divisions could enter the fighting force without any increase in the number of paid military personnel.

In the same vein, Navy planners are complimented for designing ships that use new technologies to cut crew size by perhaps 50 percent.

Another approach is asking allies to help shoulder the burden. Officials say 3,000 Germans now stand guard at United States bases in Germany, replacing Americans sent to Iraq. Before Mr. Rumsfeld asked Germany to provide those patrols, thousands of reservists were almost mobilized for the mission.

Mr. Rumsfeld's latest thinking on these questions is encapsulated in a working paper, titled "End Strength," which runs about a dozen pages and has already gone through four versions after discussions with his most senior circle of civilian and military advisers, said officials who have seen the document. End strength is the military term for total force levels.

"He said, `Let's bring back answers so we can start to gather the information, start to make the analysis of where we are with regard to stress on the force, what we're going to do about that,' " said one senior Pentagon official. "What does the force `end strength' look like in terms of what we need for tomorrow? This has got to be an intellectual pursuit as opposed to an emotional argument. That's the secretary's intent."

A heated debate over end strength is expected after Congress returns from its recess in September, as powerful voices on Capitol Hill have taken to op-ed pages to announce their coming fight for more troops.

"We need more troops or fewer missions," Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Texas Republican who leads the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on military construction, wrote in The Washington Times this week. "Do we have enough Army and Marine active-duty members for the post-Sept. 11 era of national security? My view is: We do not."

Senior Pentagon officials cite war games run by the Joint Staff indicating that the military — at present — has sufficient active and reserve forces to do the job. While Mr. Rumsfeld has said he would go to President Bush and Congress for additional troops if required, he also says that it would be an expensive mistake to enlarge the military without detailed analysis proving the case.

The debate is about balancing risks. On one side is the risk that there will not be enough soldiers to carry out diverse missions or that troops will not re-enlist after exhausting assignments that degrade their quality of family life and do not leave enough time for training.

That risk must be weighed, though, against the fact that money spent on personnel will not be available for new technology and modernizing the current arsenal.

Mr. Rumsfeld's senior aides say that his view does not represent an antipathy to a larger military in general or to ground forces in particular. They say he is aware that increased troop levels carry a number of additional costs beyond pay and benefits: the more troops on the roster, the more it costs to house them, guard them and equip them — and pay them retirement benefits in decades to come.

Some of the arguments made by Mr. Rumsfeld, based on evidence from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, provide only a broad measure for required troop numbers.

For example, early lessons from those two wars are cited as proving that the military does not necessarily require "overwhelming force" — in numbers — to defeat an adversary if it brings "overmatching power." That power includes not only the number of fighters, but also precision weapons, accurate intelligence, speed of maneuver and joint missions that combine the combat punch of all the armed services.

Even so, the quick victory over Saddam Hussein has not silenced those who say more troops are required to stabilize Iraq and win the peace.

The strain on the National Guard and Reserve is of considerable concern, and officials will analyze how to increase the months actually served on duty. At present, with the promise of a 30-day notice of mobilization, — which in some cases was reduced to less than a week — several months of training and a month of demobilization, some reservists spend only six months on operations out of a yearlong call-up.

For active-duty troops, the Pentagon will review incentives for extended deployments.

Mr. Rumsfeld will ask for analysis on a proposed "Peace Operations Initiative" to create an international force for such operations, relieving the United States of pressures on its troops for missions like that under way in Liberia. The American role would emphasize logistics, transportation and intelligence. In the meantime, the Pentagon will assess how to pare down its commitments in Sinai, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Senior officials in recent days convened a number of invitation-only discussions with retired three- and four-star officers and civilian analysts to describe Mr. Rumsfeld's ideas for reducing stress on the military.

"Rumsfeld's goal is reshaping the entire institution," said Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who joined one of the closed-door discussions at the Pentagon. "He is rethinking everything, not just reconceptualizing warfare."

The Pentagon's archives are filled with annual reviews, quadrennial reviews and top-to-bottom reviews ordered by previous defense secretaries — but which only marginally restructured the department and the armed services. Mr. O'Hanlon warned that Mr. Rumsfeld's efforts might founder, too, although he noted that Mr. Rumsfeld certainly found himself in a powerful position.

With two military victories in two years, Mr. Rumsfeld "doesn't want to wait for a second term of the Bush administration," Mr. O'Hanlon said. "He is trying pushing this through, personally, now."