Byline: Rowan Scarborough
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday he has ordered three Pentagon studies of foreign troop engagements with an eye toward reducing the type of overseas deployments that multiplied during the Clinton administration.
"I have been looking around the world for any number of opportunities to try to reduce the so-called `op-tempo,'" Mr. Rumsfeld said, referring to high rates of military operations that have worn out equipment and personnel. "[I] found a number of places and not surprisingly in almost every case it takes a little time to do it. You don't want to do those precipitously. I'm advised it's best to do them diplomatically. . . . There's no question but that we were pretty well extended."
In an interview with editors and reporters of The Washington Times at his Pentagon office, the defense secretary drew sharp policy differences with the Clinton administration on other issues besides overseas peacekeeping.
He bemoaned the fact the last administration bought few weapons in the 1990s while wearing out equipment with a record number of peacekeeping and war missions.
President Clinton began office engaged in military social issues such as homosexuals in the ranks and women in combat. But Mr. Rumsfeld said no one has raised such contentious policy questions with him. He said his priority is to carry out President Bush's order to revamp military strategy and force structure for 21st-century threats.
"It is not something I have been able to invest sufficient time," he said. "I've got so many things that are pushed at me."
On overseas deployments, Mr. Rumsfeld said three studies are under way: one by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman; one by the Institute for Defense Analyses, overseen by the undersecretary of defense for policy; and a general review into the number of military "detailees" scattered across the globe.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he wants the studies to address "where are we doing things around the world, country by country, and what are the things we are doing and how do we feel about those things? Are we doing things in countries we don't need to be doing?"
Mr. Bush campaigned for the presidency on a pledge to reverse Mr. Clinton's penchant to deploy troops to a number of foreign hot spots. Since taking office, however, the administration has reaffirmed the need to keep U.S. troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo as part of a NATO nation-building contingent.
Mr. Rumsfeld said this recommitment does not mean the administration is going back on a promise.
"We have not been inattentive to it. …