Rumsfeld on Defense

By Bering, Helle | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 25, 2001 | Go to article overview

Rumsfeld on Defense


Bering, Helle, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Helle Bering

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is entirely unflappable, not the kind of man likely to resign over disagreements with his commander in chief over, say, defense budget figures. In fact, with his gold-rimmed glasses, sly grin and deliberate turn of phrase, Mr. Rumsfeld is certainly not given to flamboyant or impulsive gestures.

Recently the troublemakers at the Weekly Standard, however, suggested he resign, appealing not just to the secretary of defense, but Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as well. There is no sign of that happening. The most anyone will get out of Mr. Rumsfeld on the subject of the inadequacies of his defense budget is: "I have never known a Cabinet officer who did not want more money for his department" || as Mr. Rumsfeld told editors and reporters of The Washington Times during an interview at the Pentagon yesterday. Don't call him dissatisfied || don't call him satisfied, for that matter || with his budget. And don't put words in his mouth. "You accept the world you live in," he simply says.

The reason for this extraordinary appeal from old friends and allies of Messrs. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz like the editors of the Weekly Standard is the very modest increases in the defense budget slated for 2002 and 2003. The figures fly in the face of President Bush's relentlessly repeated campaign promise to "restore America's military." According to the Office of Budget and Management, the most the DOD can expect next year is an increase of $18 billion over fiscal year 2001's $296 billion defense budget. The following year will see an even smaller increase of $10 billion. Mr. Rumsfeld reportedly had asked for a $35 billion increase for 2002 || and got just half of that.

Defense experts say that $50 billion might have been a more realistic request, given the number of jobs with which Mr. Rumsfeld has been tasked. There's the force structure review, which will be folded into the Quadrennial Defense Review due on Oct. 1. There's the challenge of restoring sagging morale and living standards among U.S. forces. Not to forget, there's missile defense. And, of course, the job of bringing equipment back up to snuff.

"Surely, George W. Bush did not seek office to preside over the retrenchment of American power and influence," write editors at the Standard. "Surely Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz did not come back to the Pentagon to preside over the decline of the American military." (Interestingly, the editorial itself sparked a retort from Peter Beinart writing in the New Republic Online, who in the article "Standard Deviation" called for Messrs. …

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