The Army's new military leader signaled the likelihood yesterday that he would seek to increase overall troop strength, following a decade of cuts that have reduced the Army by about one-third to 480,000 soldiers.
Gen. Eric Shinseki said a decision on whether to push for more troops depends on findings later this summer of an Army study of future requirements.
Army officials have complained for some time that proliferating peacekeeping missions have put undue strain on the service's reduced ranks, although some defense experts have suggested the problem has more to do with poor management and outdated force structure than with overall size.
"I have the feeling it may not be enough," Shinseki said of the Army's current level.
Speaking at his first news conference since taking over as chief of staff Monday, Shinseki commented at a time when the Army is on the defensive after sitting out NATO's air war against Yugoslavia. The ill-fated deployment to Albania of AH-64 Apache helicopters, which were never used in the 11-week campaign, and the alliance's reluctance to mount a land invasion have called into question the Army's relevance in such post-Cold War conflicts.
Shinseki acknowledged that the Army needs to become a more agile, flexible force. "At this point in our march through history, our heavy forces are too heavy and our light forces lack staying power," the general wrote in a three-page statement outlining his "intent" as chief.
But he sounded determined to cede little ground to the Air Force in defense budget battles ahead.
While commending the Air Force for the air war, he said "the hard work" now begins in Kosovo with the deployment of ground forces to secure the peace.
"When it comes to discussions about either/or, I think we'll settle for the best of both," Shinseki said of any competition with the Air Force.
He also defended the Apache task force, saying the aviators performed well under trying circumstances.
He appeared dismissive of an internal memo that concluded the Apache pilots had been undertrained and underequipped for the mission.
The memorandum, written by Army Brig. Gen. Richard A. Cody, who was the unit's second in command, suggested that too many of the pilots had too few flying hours and said the helicopters needed better radios, night-vision devices and jamming gear.