Rumsfeld Fires Back at Critics

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is fighting back at suggestions made by one of his predecessors and an unreleased Pentagon study that said the war in Iraq is straining the military and creating the risk of "breaking the force."

"The force is not broken," Rumsfeld told reporters this afternoon. "I just can't imagine ... someone looking at the U.S. armed forces today and suggesting they're close to breaking. That's just not the case."

Earlier today, congressional Democrats released a report written by former Defense Secretary William Perry and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The report described a combat force under "enormous strain," that if "not soon relieved, will have highly corrosive and potentially long-term effects on the force." The report concluded that the Army and Marines would not be able to sustain their current fighing capability without "doing real damage to their forces."

Another report commissioned by the Pentagon last year but not released publicly warned of an Army fast becoming a "thin green line" as it overextends itself in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report concluded that as the conflicts progressed, it would be harder for the Army to maintain current troop deployments in Iraq as the number of future recruits diminishes.

That possibility would make it harder to keep the necessary number of troops available to break the insurgency in Iraq, according to the report written by former Army officer Andrew Krepinevich of the Center for Statistical Budgetary Assessments.

'Not Consistent With the Facts'

Though he hadn't read the reports by Perry and Krepinevich, Rumsfeld took issue with their analyses and called them at various turns "out-of-date or misdirected," "a misunderstanding of the situation" and "not consistent with the facts."

Noting the current force is "battle hardened," Rumsfeld derided comparisons with a peacetime force or the implication that the current force had been weakened as a result of its combat experience. "The implication is almost backward in a sense, for the world saw the U.S. go halfway around the world ... they saw what the U.S. military did in Iraq and the message from that is not that this armed force is broken but that this armed force is enormously capable," he said.

Rumsfeld took several jabs at the fact that the Democratic report was crafted by former members of the Clinton administration. "There's no question that during the period of the '90s a number of aspects of the armed forces were underfunded, and there were hollow pieces to it," he said, "and today that's simply not the case."

The secretary maintained that the war has actually helped "spur transformation, not retard it." Transformation is a term used by officials to describe reconfiguring the miltary into a leaner, more modern fighting force post-Cold War.

Rumsfeld continued: "People do not understand all the changes that are taking place. Ask yourself: Do the authors of these reports really have a clear idea of what's been happening here over the past five years?

"These are the people who were here in the '90s, and what we're doing is try to adjust what was left us to fit the 21st century."

When asked why the Pentagon was outsourcing a critical outside report, Rumsfeld replied, "The best way to get knowledge is to look at people with different views."

He added, "It's a useful thing to invite people to make comments and criticisms and to opine on this and opine on that. Then the people who are really in the gearbox making this work take all that and make judgments on it, and that's what we do and it seems to work pretty well."

Krepinevich's study was presented to the Pentagon last November at a cost of $137,000. Interestingly, the phrase that's garnered Krepinevich's study so much attention, "the thin green line," is not new -- it first appeared in a report he wrote in August 2004 for his think thank, the Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessments. The text of that "thin green line" report appears verbatim, including some new paragraphs, as a full chapter in his new 136-page report.