Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld conceded yesterday that his review of the military has run into difficulty but said he believes it ultimately will produce significant change.
"I feel that while it's a tough challenge, that we're making very good progress on it," he said at a Pentagon news conference.
On Monday, according to two defense officials, Rumsfeld told the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior officials that "we have a big problem" with developing a plan to revamp the size and shape of the U.S. military.
A general involved in the review said that since Rumsfeld made that statement, the review -- which was supposed to be on the verge of major decisions about the military, such as whether to cut the size of the Army -- has been at a standstill.
"Things are on hold until the Joint Staff and [Rumsfeld's aides] figure out the way ahead," the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "There is a huge rift between the Joint Staff and [Rumsfeld's aides] over this."
Though neither side is saying so publicly, the core of the argument appears to be that the armed services fear Rumsfeld wants to cut conventional forces -- troops, tanks, ships and aircraft -- to free up funds for his new emphases of missile defense, space and intelligence. Bureaucratically, the argument is being played out over the force requirements to meet a new military strategy developed under Rumsfeld.
Yesterday morning, the Joint Staff and Steven A. Cambone, an assistant to Rumsfeld who is running the review on a day-to-day basis, were offering senior officials "dueling" recommendations on how to proceed, according to another person familiar with the process.
At his news conference, Rumsfeld confirmed that earlier this week he ordered some planners to go back to a document developed earlier this summer that lays out future U.S. military strategy.
That document, "Terms of Reference," essentially says the military should be ready to do everything it is doing today in Europe, East Asia and the Persian Gulf, while also developing new capabilities in space, intelligence, missile defense and information warfare. In addition, the document calls on the military to establish task forces that are ready to deploy and fight more quickly than the military does today. It also calls on the armed forces to experiment with new technologies.
A panel of Pentagon analysts reported to Rumsfeld that such an approach would require a far larger military than today's 1.4 million-person active-duty force, as well as more aircraft carriers and Air Force fighter wings. Building a bigger military likely would undercut Rumsfeld's plans to spend more on his new priorities.
"It was clear that the work that had been done did not fit the 'Terms of Reference,' " Rumsfeld said yesterday.
He stopped short of saying what changes he hopes to work out over the next 10 weeks, before the review's Oct. 1 congressional deadline. Asked if the military needs to become bigger or smaller, he said, "I just don't know at the moment."
Overall, the defense secretary dismissed news reports that there is strong opposition in the top ranks to his efforts to change the military. "I think that would not be correct," he said. Rather, he said, "I think it is perfectly correct to say that change is hard."