February 3, 2002
Arms spending reform debated
Rumsfeld answers doubts of critics
By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON – As a candidate, George W. Bush vowed to
transform the military into a force prepared for 21st century
threats and warned that limited funds would require hard
As president, Bush last year disappointed pro-defense
Republicans by offering only a small increase to the Pentagon
budget left behind by former President Bill Clinton.
Then, after Sept. 11, Bush gave the Pentagon an extra $18.9
billion in emergency funds. And he announced last week that the
budget he will present tomorrow will seek $48 billion more for
the Pentagon, noting that was "the largest increase in defense
spending in two decades."
So what happened to transformation and hard choices?
"There are no hard choices anymore," says Brookings Institution
analyst Michael O'Hanlon, considered moderately pro-defense.
"Transformation used to be described as an alternative to
business as usual. Now it's an addition to business as usual."
"It absolutely negates hard choice," says John Issacs, an arms
reduction advocate with the Council for a Livable World. "By
giving the Pentagon so much money, the services can say they
are transforming, even while spending money on old systems
that were designed for the Cold War."
Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer and noted defense
reform advocate, questions whether Bush will follow through on
his campaign pledge to "skip a generation" of weapons to develop really revolutionary new concepts.
Krepinevich, who runs the Center for Strategic and Budgetary
Assessments, suggests the military could scuttle the Army's
Crusader artillery system, the Air Force's F-22 fighter and the
Navy's proposed new class of destroyers.
"Transformation is as much about what you don't do as what you do," he says.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld disagrees.
Bush's $48 billion jump in defense spending is the biggest
one-year increase since President Ronald Reagan's expensive
effort to cure the post-Vietnam "hollow army" problems. That
rapid infusion of funds produced the weapons and the highly
trained soldiers that won the Persian Gulf War. But it also
resulted in the notorious $600 toilet seats and a series of
convictions stemming from defense contracts gone awry.
Despite the military's widely lauded showing in Afghanistan, the
services are complaining about some of the same problems they
faced when Reagan came into office. The weapons and
equipment bought in the 1980s are wearing out and becoming
more expensive to maintain. The military, a third smaller than
during the Gulf War, is being used more often in peacekeeping
and minor interventions. That is leading to problems in retaining
trained personnel and depletion of the small stores of precision
The increased spending will help remedy those problems,
Rumsfeld said last week. And, he insisted, it also will accelerate
At a Pentagon briefing, Rumsfeld said the new budget "will fund
the war on terrorism. It will help to reverse the effects of years
of under-investment when the so-called procurement holiday
occurred and the draw-down from the end of the Cold War
overshot its mark. And we will be moving forward with 21st
Responding to the critics, Rumsfeld said, "There are those who
seem to think that all transformation really is, is to fire some
senior military officer or cancel some major weapon system. . . .
That's not the case.
"Transformation is an ongoing process.
"And it's a process in which we create an effective fighting force
with new ways of thinking, with new culture, and with new ways
of fighting and, to be sure, in some instances with new weapon
systems and platforms, but also how they are used together, as
we've seen in Afghanistan."
The budget also "streamlines and retires a number of defense
programs that do not fit with our strategy for the 21st century,"
Rumsfeld said, without saying what programs would be dropped.
In a speech Thursday at the National Defense University,
Rumsfeld said special operations troops in Afghanistan rode
horses and used sophisticated electronics to direct precision
"It shows that a revolution in military affairs is about more than
building new high-tech weapons. . . . It is also about new ways of thinking, and some new ways of fighting."