The Battle For The Military

Musician Alex James, of the British band Blur, signs copies of his new book "Bit Of A Blur" at Waterstones on July 10, 2007, in London, England.
GETTY IMAGES/Gareth Cattermole

The backroom battle over the future of the armed forces, a battle that pits Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld against his military advisers, broke into the open Wednesday, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

One of the Pentagon's most senior officers put it as politely as he could.

"What we do have, of course, are passionate arguments, because this is a tough process to do the kind of change that we think is called for," said Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The need for some kind of change is about the only thing both sides can agree on. Today's military is essentially a scaled-down version of the force built for the Cold War and is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the threats facing America in the 21st century.

Tank divisions that rolled over the Iraqi army in 1991 are of no use for peacekeeping in Kosovo in 2001. Countries from Iran to North Korea are developing new ballistic missiles and the U.S. still does not have a defense against them.

The administration has spent months trying to fashion a strategy for accelerating the military's modernization. A central question, apparently still unanswered, is whether Rumsfeld will decide to cut the size of the military as a way to pay for improvements.

The military has 1.4 million members on active duty.

A proposal to drastically cut the size of the military – eliminating up to two Army divisions, two carrier battle groups, two wings of jet fighters and all the tens of thousands of servicemen and women that go with them – has been drawn up by Rumsfeld's civilian advisers.

"At the end of the day you do have to look at personnel," said Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense. "It's one of the most expensive parts of what we do."

Cutting personnel would free up money for new programs like missile defense, but military officers argue it would also increase the risk of not being fully prepared if, for instance, Saddam Hussein were to suddenly launch another invasion of Kuwait.

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Wolfowitz made his comments during a Pentagon news conference to discuss progress in Secretary Rumsfeld's comprehensive review of the military, a once-in-four-years exercise required by Congress. Known as the Quadrennial Defense Review, it is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 30.

Wolfowitz said Rumsfeld would meet that deadline, but he added that some issues would not be resolved entirely for months afterward.

At a separate news conference, David Chu, the Pentagon's personnel chief, said Rumsfeld also is studying whether to do away with the "up or out" system that requires officers either to be promoted or to retire.

Rumsfeld believes some individuals are being forced to leve due to mandatory retirements when they are in their prime, Chu said. Another subject for study is the current practice of moving people into new assignments every two or three years. Rumsfeld has called this practice "mindless."

Rumsfeld hopes to have a strategic plan for the department's personnel issues by spring of next year, Chu said.

Many in Congress have made clear they would strongly oppose any cuts in the size of the military.

Some prominent retired Army officers also have spoken out publicly against troop reductions. Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired Army four-star general who served as President Clinton's drug policy chief, wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week that cuts in ground forces are highly likely.

"Not because we have too many planes, ships and ground troops; not because we have a guiding strategy that makes such a decision reasonable; but because it is a convenient and cost-effective course of action to take," he wrote.

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