Rumsfeld's dreams of military transformation come to naught.

Military analysis.
Feb. 3 2006 6:19 PM

Rumsfeld Surrenders

The QDR dashes his dreams of military transformation.

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The QDR does contain some important ideas that can be implemented, in part because they don't cost much money, in part because they've proved their worth in the last few wars: more Predator and Global Hawk drones; converting a few Trident submarine-launched missiles from nuclear to conventionally armed warheads; modernizing B-1 and B-52 bombers to enhance the U.S. ability to strike targets from long distances; continuing to break down the Army's combat units into more flexible, self-sustaining brigades.

There are other proposals whose fate we'll have to await: boosting the number of special operations forces; training future warriors to be as skilled in counterinsurgency as they are today in conventional combat; offering higher pay scales to those trained in foreign languages and cultures. These goals require money—and a larger, better-educated pool of recruits. The money is lacking (Rumsfeld couldn't crack open the tac-air piggy bank), and the recruit base is diminishing in size and aptitude. The higher ranks are depleting as well. The QDR calls for rewarding "performance rather than longevity." Yet officer ranks are depleting so badly these days that nearly all captains are promoted to majors and nearly all majors are promoted to lieutenant colonels. There aren't enough people to demand good people. It's another example of a nice idea without a solid foundation.

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For the last four and a half years, the checkbook has been wide open for anything called "national security." Rumsfeld and the chiefs got all the money they could wish for. Rather than use the opportunity to set priorities, they gorged. Now the well's run dry, the budget has to be cut, the priorities are set by those with the staying power—and that's one thing Rumsfeld doesn't have.

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