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03 February 2004

Rumsfeld on Creating a "Modular Army" for the 21st Century

Op-ed column by Secretary of Defense

(This column by Donald H. Rumsfeld, who is Secretary of Defense, was published in the Wall Street Journal February 4 and is in the public domain. No republication restrictions.)

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New Model Army
By Donald H. Rumsfeld

In just 28 months, U.S. forces, with our Coalition partners, have overthrown two terrorist regimes, captured or killed thousands of terrorist leaders and operatives, disrupted terrorist cells on virtually every continent, and undoubtedly prevented a number of additional terrorist attacks. Our troops have performed magnificently -- despite the significant increase in operational tempo of the global war on terror, which has increased the demand on the force.

Managing that demand is one of the Department of Defense's top priorities. Doing so means being clear about the problem, and fashioning the most appropriate solutions. Much of the current increase in demand on the force is most likely a temporary spike caused by the deployment of nearly 115,000 troops to Iraq. We do not expect to have 115,000 troops permanently deployed in any one campaign.

Nevertheless, for the moment, the increased demand is real, and over the past two years we have taken a number of immediate actions to alleviate it. We are increasing international military participation in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are accelerating the training of Iraqi security forces -- now over 200,000 -- so Iraqis will increasingly take responsibility for their own security and stability, and we are hunting down those who threaten Iraq's transition to self-government and self-reliance.

Another way of relieving the increased demand on the force is to add more people -- and we have done that as well. Using the emergency powers granted to the president by Congress, since September 2001 we have increased active force levels above authorized levels -- by 33,000, or more at times. If the situation demands it, we will not hesitate to add still more -- whatever is needed. However, the fact that we have to increase force levels at all should give us pause. U.S. Armed Forces currently total about 2.6 million men and women -- 1.4 million active forces, 876,000 guard and reserve in units, and 287,000 individual ready reserves. Yet despite these large numbers, the deployment of 115,000 troops to Iraq has required that we temporarily increase the size of the force.

That should tell us something. It tells us that the real problem is not necessarily the size of our active and reserve military components, per se, but rather how forces have been managed, and the mix of capabilities at our disposal.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Pete Schoomaker compares the problem to a barrel of rainwater on which the spigot is placed too high up. The result: when you turn it on, it only draws water off the top, while the water at the bottom is not accessible or used. Our real problem is that the way our total force is presently managed, we have to use many of the same people over and over again. In Gen. Schoomaker's analogy, the answer is not a bigger barrel of more than the current 2.6 million men and women available, but to move the spigot down, so more of the potentially available troops are accessible, usable, and available to defend our nation. The department must promptly reorganize to gain better access to the fine men and women who make up the all-volunteer force, and to ensure we have the skills needed available as and when needed. Clearly, we are not doing so today.

Take the Guard and Reserve for example. Since Sept. 11, 2001, we have mobilized roughly 36% of the Selected Reserve. Those mobilizations have concentrated on certain skill sets: installation security forces, air crews, military police, Special Forces, civil affairs, and intelligence officers. Yet even now, we have not mobilized over 60% of the Selected Reserve to fight the global war on terror. Indeed, 58% of the current Guard and Reserve force have not been involuntarily mobilized in the past decade. Clearly they have not been stressed. That suggests that our problem is certainly not too few forces. Rather, it is that we have too few forces with the skill sets that are in high demand, and too many forces with skills that are not in high demand.

We are working hard to fix that -- by rebalancing skill sets within the Reserve component and between the active and reserve force. In 2003, we rebalanced some 10,000 positions. We expect to have rebalanced a total of 50,000 positions by the end of next year. Simultaneously, the services are transforming to increase combat capability while relieving demand on the forces. For example, the Army has put forward a plan that, when implemented, will use our emergency authorities to bring the Army's temporary strength up by nearly 30,000 troops above its peacetime statutory limit -- it is today about 7,000 above that limit. But the proposal is to use that increase, and all the movement in the system during the force deployments and redeployments, to increase the Army's combat power by up to 30%. How? Instead of simply adding more Divisions, the Army is focusing instead on creating a "Modular Army" comprised of smaller, self-contained brigades that would be interchangeable, available to work for any Division.

The new more "Modular Army" will be appropriate for the 21st century. In the event of a crisis, the 4th Infantry Division commander, for example, could gather two of his own brigades, combine them with available brigades from, say, the 1st Armored Division and the National Guard, and deploy them together. The result is improved interoperability within the Army, even as the Army is becoming more interoperable with the other services, as we saw in Iraq. This is a bold proposal and the DoD leadership is working with Congress on it.

In addition, other initiatives are underway to improve force management and increase capability: We are taking military personnel out of civilian jobs to free them up for military tasks. We are reducing the number of troops and dependents that are constantly being rotated in and out of foreign bases and facilities. And we are fixing the mobilization process to make it more respectful of troops, families, and employers.

The key to these initiatives is flexibility -- to be able to increase or decrease as demand requires, and to manage the force as the security circumstances permit. Today, with authority granted by Congress, the DoD has the flexibility to adjust troop levels as the security situation requires -- and we are doing so. A permanent increase in statutory end-strength, as many are proposing, would significantly reduce flexibility.

The president charged us with the responsibility of transforming the department for the challenges our nation faces in this century. The American people expect this: that we maintain the best force in the world, and that we be respectful of the people in that force and of the taxpayers who support it. And that is what we are doing.

(Mr. Rumsfeld is secretary of defense.)

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