In fact, said Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and a longtime advocate of military transformation, the current tensions with the Joint Chiefs should be read as signs of progress. "If he were running a happy Pentagon right now, that would mean you had a guy throwing money at the past," he said.
Indeed, Rumsfeld may have wanted to throw money at his problems. He reportedly asked for twice as much as the $18.5 billion the White House sought for the upcoming fiscal year.
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But the Joint Chiefs wanted far more than that, prompting some experts to say that Rumsfeld was undercut by the administration's top priority -- getting a large tax cut through Congress. "The main problem here has not been Rumsfeld but the lack of support and backing from the White House," concluded Adam Garfinkle, editor of the National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal.
The military brass was content to let Rumsfeld talk about transformation as long as his plans didn't interfere with their own priorities, many experts said. He wanted additional spending on missile defense, satellites and intelligence. They had their own shopping lists: new ships, airplanes and armored vehicles, as well as more computers and communications gear and people to operate them.
Everything changed when Congress passed the $1.35 trillion tax cut and the administration signaled a limit on defense budget increases, making it clear that there probably was not enough money to fund the differing desires of Rumsfeld and of the Joint Chiefs.
At that point, it became apparent that Rumsfeld might have to cut troops and equipment on the conventional side of the military to fund his ideas. Rumsfeld still has not made clear what he will seek to cut, if anything. But the widespread expectation at the Pentagon is that he will propose a modest trim in the sizes of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, which have a total of 1.4 million people on active duty.
Losing the Hill
Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Rumsfeld's second tour at the Pentagon has been his sour relationship with Congress -- not just with the Democratic-controlled Senate but also with Republicans in both chambers.
The poor relations began when Rumsfeld missed spring deadlines for rolling out the results of his strategic review and proposing changes to the defense budget. When Rumsfeld finally testified on the Hill, senators complained that they, like the military, had felt excluded from the process. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) charged that Rumsfeld's Pentagon was sending "confusing and conflicting signals" about its plans for the Navy.
Just as Rumsfeld began engaging Congress, the administration rekindled animosity among defense conservatives on the Hill with its surprise decision to halt bombing at a test range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques by 2003. And before the reverberations from that decision faded, another Pentagon move, to cut the B-1 bomber force and move it from bases in Georgia and Kansas, deepened congressional antagonism.
"I am discouraged, I am frustrated and I am angry," Sen. Pat Roberts, a hawkish Republican from Kansas, told Rumsfeld at a hearing.
The emerging consensus is that Rumsfeld's review will fall short of the ambitious rhetoric of Bush's Citadel speech. Experts predict that he will make headway in three areas: building missile defenses, reducing the size of the nuclear arsenal and making Pentagon operations more businesslike. But the sweeping reorganization of the military that Bush promised two years ago is unlikely to happen, they say. For example, there is no longer much talk at the Pentagon of canceling one of the three new, hugely expensive tactical aircraft programs.
Administration officials remain cautiously hopeful. "I think we'll recover and have a good three or four years," said a Rumsfeld appointee at the Pentagon. But, he conceded, "we've dug a steep hole to climb out of."