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U.S.: Rumsfeld Pledges To Reshape Military

  • Frank Csongos

U.S. President-elect George W. Bush's choice for defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, says America needs to restructure its military to meet the challenges of the 21st century. He told a U.S. Senate committee considering his nomination that credible deterrence can no longer be based solely on the prospect of punishment through massive nuclear retaliation. Rumsfeld says in the post-Cold War world, deterrence must be based on a combination of offensive nuclear and non-nuclear defensive capabilities. RFE/RL correspondent Frank T. Csongos reports.

Washington, 12 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Defense Secretary-designate Donald Rumsfeld says America must restructure its military and revise its strategic thinking to meet the changing challenges of the post-Cold War era.

Rumsfeld made the comments yesterday (Thursday) during testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. The panel is considering his nomination for President-elect George W. Bush's Cabinet. The post needs approval by the majority of the full Senate. The new administration takes office on 20 January.

Rumsfeld told the senators he favors building a missile defense system, provided it is technologically possible. The proposed system is meant to intercept missiles aimed at U.S. territory and troops. It is one of the top military priorities of the incoming administration. Critics doubt it is technically feasible and question its cost.

Russia is opposed to the idea, saying it would violate existing arms control treaties between the two countries. The U.S. says the system is not aimed at Russia but is designed to deal with potential threats by such countries as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

Rumsfeld said he believes Russia will eventually accept U.S. plans to build it.

The defense secretary-designate noted that the Cold War era is now history with the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly a decade ago. He said the new era of globalization, with the United States the only remaining superpower, poses both hopes and challenges for America.

"The end of the Cold War did not bring about an end to armed conflict or the end of challenges and threats to U.S. interests. We know that. Indeed, the centrifugal forces in world politics have created a more diverse and less predictable set of potential adversaries whose aspirations for regional influence and whose willingness to use military force, will produce challenges to important U.S. interests and to those of our friends and allies."

Rumsfeld said the United States must fashion and sustain deterrence that is appropriate to the new national security environment. He said the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery must be countered.

"Credible deterrence no longer can be based solely on the prospect of punishment through massive retaliation. It must be based on a combination of offensive nuclear and non-nuclear defensive capabilities working together to deny potential adversaries the opportunity and the benefits that come from the threat or the use of weapons of mass destruction against our forces, our homeland, as well as those of our allies." The post-Cold War period, Rumsfeld said, has created a more diverse and less predictable set of potential adversaries such as international terrorists and hostile countries that do not abide by civilized rules.

"I'm committed to strengthening our intelligence, to serve both our short-term and our long-term national security needs. I will personally make establishing a strong spirit of cooperation between the Department of Defense and the rest of the intelligence community, under the leadership of a DCI, one of my top priorities. We simply must strengthen our intelligence capabilities and our space capabilities, along with the ability to protect those assets against various forms of attack."

In a related development, an advisory commission headed until recently by Rumsfeld said in a report to congress issued Thursday that lack of attention by the U.S. government to its satellites and space policy makes the United States vulnerable to a surprise attack.

The panel said the U.S. depends on space more than any other country for such purposes as military surveillance, weather forecasts and cell phone connections.

If confirmed, Rumsfeld would be serving for a second time as defense secretary. He held the post under President Gerald Ford from 1975 to 1977. Several senators from both political parties said at the hearing they intend to support Rumsfeld's nomination.