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American Forces Press Service

War on Terrorism is Transforming America’s Military

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2005 The war against terrorism has already greatly transformed the U.S. military, the Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders said here March 10, adding that the force is now better able to protect the country.

The battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and the operations in the Horn of Africa have produced battle-tested leaders who understand the new warfare and are able to battle the threats of the 21st century, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

And servicemembers are still getting better. “The United States of America doesn’t want to be in a war, but when we are in a war, our warriors get very good at what they do,” Rumsfeld said. “And we have, for the first time since the end of the last war, battle-hardened veterans who have been there, who know what they’re doing, who have fought in the 21st century.”

This veteran status is not limited to active duty forces. “If you’re a nation at war, you’re going to need the reserves to go to war,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told the representatives. “We have invested or had made a decision over a decade ago to put a lot of our combat support/combat service support into the Reserve component. Now we’re a nation at war; we need that combat support/combat service support.”

Myers said the Reserve components are doing great work. “They’re doing what they swore to do,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any reservist with a straight face that can say, ‘I just signed up for weekends.’ They signed up to support and defend the constitution of their country, and that’s what they’re doing in a marvelous way.”

What’s more, processes also are being changed and revamped in the hothouse environment of the war, Myers said. Personnel processes, health care, mobilizing reserve component servicemembers, and many other aspects are “10 times better” than they were in September 2001, Rumsfeld said.

Before that, the military was using “industrial age” processes. In the past, both Rumsfeld and Myers called this type of thinking “a Cold War mentality.” The new processes are born out of the experiences of battle and are “information-age” procedures.

American logisticians have learned from every movement into and out of the region. It was a great feat of arms that a small number of American Special Forces personnel supported by U.S. airpower were able to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld said. It is no less a feat that the United States was able to supply those fighters and maintain a presence in a land-locked country halfway around the world.

Will is another constant of American military might, Rumsfeld said. He told the representatives that in the past, allies were worried about American will. He said they looked at actions in Somalia, Bosnia and Operations Northern and Southern Watch and wondered if the United States had the will to withstand threats. “The United States made decisions that left question marks in the minds of other countries in the world,” Rumsfeld said.

That same reasoning played a part in Saddam Hussein’s miscalculations, he said. “We’ve seen intelligence where Saddam Hussein made comments about, ‘The United States won’t do this; they can’t sustain anything; they’ll cut and run,’” Rumsfeld said.

He said U.S. actions in Afghanistan have demonstrated America’s will. “They’ve seen the United States and the coalition forces go into Iraq,” he said. “And the world has seen a vivid demonstration of the power and capability and agility of the armed forces of the United States.

“That has to have a deterrent effect on people. It’s true, we’re doing a lot in the world right now,” the secretary said. “But if you put yourself in the shoes of a country that might decide they’d like to make mischief, they have a very recent, vivid example of the fact that the United States has the ability to deal with mischief.”


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