The Blog

Bigger Is Better

Donald Rumsfeld wants to make the military more efficient, which is good. But even so, we're going to need a bigger boat.

2:30 PM, Aug 6, 2003 • By GARY SCHMITT
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SECRETARY OF DEFENSE Donald Rumsfeld can study the issue of active-duty troop strength all he wants but it won't change the obvious: U.S. land forces are two divisions short of being able to carry out effectively its present responsibilities.

Winning wars is not enough. We must also be able to maintain the peace globally and win the peace after the battles have been fought. It is clear that we don't have sufficient troops on the ground in Afghanistan; we don't have sufficient combat troops in reserve to handle a serious conflict on the Korean Peninsula; we are running around the world trying to pry troops from any and all countries we can to fill out deployments to Iraq; and we are deploying our reserve forces at unprecedented levels.

Instead of addressing the problem, Rumsfeld's team will be studying how to "privatize" base security and non-combat jobs now performed by uniformed troops. They will soon discover, however, that only a small percentage of these non-combat jobs can be safely given over to non-military personnel and that the rest are not civilian-jobs-in-the-making, but tasks military personnel carry out for good reason--and, as such, require a military chain of command. Like any large bureaucracy, the Pentagon undoubtedly does not operate in the most efficient manner possible. And, to the extent one can, gross inefficiencies need to be addressed. But wringing the system of inefficiencies will not in fact solve the current crisis in end strength.

Rumsfeld's apparent strategy is to hope that today's high-level of deployments is more an aberration than the norm. But this runs counter to the broad implications of the National Security Strategy set out by the White House in September 2002. There will not be a return to the so-called "era of strategic pause" anytime soon. And it is a dangerous matter to pronounce a strategy that one cannot support safely and with confidence militarily.

Gary Schmitt is executive director of the Project for the New American Century.