Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld upheld the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan yesterday as powerful demonstrations of U.S. military prowess that will make other countries think twice about making "mischief" around the world.
Pressed by lawmakers on whether wear and tear on U.S. troops and equipment has impaired the Pentagon's ability to meet unforeseen global contingencies, Rumsfeld said U.S. commanders have assured him that "our military is capable of performing."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld talks to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) before testifying. Rumsfeld lauded American "battle-hardened veterans" of recent wars.
(Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
Rumsfeld acknowledged concern about stress on the force -- particularly the Army Reserve and National Guard. He said U.S. military equipment such as tanks, helicopters and Bradley Fighting Vehicles are wearing out at from two to six times the peacetime rate, leading the Pentagon to request $12 billion for equipment repairs in the fiscal 2005 emergency supplemental budget.
He also pointed to positive outcomes from the sustained combat. The fighting has created a force of "battle-hardened veterans" whose overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq erased doubts in the minds of the nation's friends and foes over U.S. willingness to use force and stay the course of conflicts, Rumsfeld said.
"The world has seen, in the last 3 1/2 years, the capability of the United States of America to go into Afghanistan . . . and with 20,000, 15,000 troops working with the Afghans do what 200,000 Soviets couldn't do in a decade. They've seen the United States and the coalition forces go into Iraq. . . . That has to have a deterrent effect on people," he testified before the House Armed Services Committee.
"If you put yourself in the shoes of a country that might decide they'd like to make mischief, they have a very recent, vivid example of the fact that the United States has the ability to deal with this," he said.
Rumsfeld was asked about a potential military threat from China. He said this year's Quadrennial Defense Review -- a major rethinking of U.S. military strategy -- would plan long-range weapons systems "with respect to China and other circumstances that can change dramatically."
The defense review must "recognize the changes that are taking place in Asia and the kinds of capabilities that the United States could be facing in 10, 15, 20 years" in addition to today's threats, he said.
Lawmakers asked Rumsfeld to solve a shortage of jammers to counteract road bombs that have killed many U.S. troops in Iraq. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers said no "silver bullet" exists to thwart the bombs, which the military is working to defeat as quickly as Iraqi insurgents reinvent them.
Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said Congress has created a new license to allow Rumsfeld to waive U.S. laws to speed the production of jammers and other battlefield equipment.