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Rumsfeld: NATO, Like U.S., Needs to Transform Its Military

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WARSAW, Poland, Sept. 22, 2002 -- NATO -- like the United States -- must transform its military to become more capable and flexible in preparation for 21st century contingencies, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld spoke while en route to Warsaw for three days of NATO ministerial meetings. Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters traveling with him that discussion in Poland would center on improving the military capabilities of the 19-member alliance.

Many NATO member-countries' capabilities have fallen short of commitments because of shrunken national defense budgets in recent years, he noted. It's important, he emphasized, that those funds be spent on things that are relevant, needed and important to the kinds of capabilities that NATO's going to need in the period ahead.

Another component of NATO's military transformation involves the creation of an agile, rapid-deployable response force, the secretary said. Such a force, he added, could potentially address contingencies outside NATO's traditional European area of operations.

"It involves transforming NATO," Rumsfeld pointed out. "It is very much what we are interested in doing -- that is, seeing if we can have more of our (military) capabilities available in days or weeks rather than months or years."

The secretary said such a force would be agile, could be deployed rapidly, and would leave a small military presence, or "footprint."

"This is something NATO countries are perfectly capable of doing, if they decide to do it," he remarked. Establishing rapid reaction forces would be a good way for NATO to assure its relevance going forward into the 21st century, he added.

Another issue for discussion in Warsaw, Rumsfeld said, will be the streamlining of NATO's headquarters and military command structure, which, he opined, exhibit the need to evolve and change. The U.S. military is transforming to better meet 21st century challenges, like terrorism, he said. NATO, too, must change with the times, he emphasized.

"Just as we're looking at our base structure, we have to look at base structures in NATO," the secretary noted. After conducting organizational evaluations, for instance, DoD specified changes to its unified and specified command structures, he said.

Alliance officials, Rumsfeld added, also need to look at the command structures in NATO and see they're organized and staffed in ways relevant to the 21st century and the kinds of problems ahead.

Asked if Iraq would come up in Warsaw, Rumsfeld noted that he had briefed NATO ministers on that subject at the previous NATO meetings in June.

There is no question the United States will be giving a briefing in Warsaw that will focus very much on Iraq, the secretary added.

He said NATO ministers in Warsaw will also be discussing "the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorists and terrorists states and networks -- including Iraq."

Rumsfeld is slated to return to Washington Sept. 25.

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