WASHINGTON -- Donald Rumsfeld, President-elect Bush's nominee to head the Defense Department, told senators yesterday the new administration would seek to transform America's military to contend with 21st century threats.
"It's not a time to preside, tweak and calibrate," he told senators gathered for his confirmation hearing. The new century and the nation's place in the world requires an "extraordinary, ambitious" agenda, Rumsfeld said, including the development of a national missile defense system, an overhaul of the way the Pentagon purchases weapons and an effort to ensure that the best people continue to join the military.
For Jacksonville, with its substantial Navy presence, such a new push to alter the priorities of the Pentagon holds the possibility of an infusion of new resources. But dramatic reorganizations, including the possibility of further base closures, also may pose some risks to military installations and defense contractors on the First Coast.
Tackling the Bush administration's agenda likely would require a significant increase in the defense budget, Rumsfeld said.
"What the number is, I don't know," he said. "Is it clear that there needs to be an increase in the budget? I have no doubts about it."
During the presidential campaign, Bush pledged to increase defense spending by at least $45 billion over the next 10 years. A number of defense analysts suggest the military budget has been consistently too low to replace the existing fleet of carriers, submarines and destroyers. …