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CNN International




Jamie McIntyre: Administration to reassess national security strategies

Jamie McIntyre
Jamie McIntyre  

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports on the national security challenges ahead for the George W. Bush administration.

Q: What are the main military and national security issues the new administration will likely tackle over the next four years?

McINTYRE: There are three big areas: the engagement of U.S. forces around the world, modernization of the military and the National Missile Defense system.

Q: Does it comfort Pentagon staff that an extremely experienced and well-known team is returning?


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McINTYRE: You might think that with an incoming, pro-military administration, everybody would be relaxing. In fact, everyone is quite nervous about what kind of cuts might have to be made.

Of course, with an experienced team like Dick Cheney, the former defense secretary, and Colin Powell, the former joint chiefs chairman, and Donald Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary coming back for another term, these guys know how the Pentagon works.

They know all the politics of the Pentagon; they know all about these weapons systems and how the services vie against each other. It's going to be very hard to put anything past Cheney, Rumsfeld or Powell. So, I think a lot of people at the Pentagon are apprehensive.

Many of them see it as a time to rethink the basic strategy of what the United States wants to do.

There's going to be a review going on called the Quadrennial Defense Review. Its purpose is to first decide: Does the United States have the right strategy in place in terms of where its forces are forward deployed and what the United States wants to accomplish? How many major wars does the United States want to be able to fight at one time? Is the current strategy of being able to fight two major wars at the same time the right one?

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Once they determine those answers, the question then becomes: How do you build a force that can implement that strategy?

Q: How does the Bush administration plan to assess the possible scaling back of U.S. forces around the globe?

McINTYRE: Bush has said he will order a review of all U.S. deployments around the world with an eye toward cutting back, particularly trying to withdraw U.S. troops from the Balkans where troops are engaged in peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo.

That's going to be a difficult issue for the United States, because America's European allies believe very strongly that the United States has to be on the ground and that it was under those conditions NATO sent peacekeepers into Bosnia and Kosovo.

The Bush administration wants Europe to take a bigger share of the peacekeeping chores. Europe has made a move in that direction by beginning to establish its own independent quick reaction force.

The United States is also concerned about what effect that might have on the NATO alliance.

Q: What other areas of the world will be scrutinized for the possible withdrawal of troops?

McINTYRE: It's hard to see where the United States is going to be able to withdraw a significant amount of troops. For instance, the United States has 37,000 troops in Korea; the United States has about 100,000 troops in Asia, which is a particularly volatile area with what's going on in China and in Korea.

It's hard to comprehend how the United States could withdraw many troops from that area.

At the same time, there are 100,000 troops in Europe. Given the commitments to peacekeeping and other operations there, it's going to be difficult to pull back there.

Another 20,000 troops are tied up with enforcing the no-fly zones against Iraq and with enforcing sanctions against Iraq. Unless the United States abandons its policy of containing Saddam Hussein, it's going to be difficult to make withdrawals there.

So, it's going to be a difficult challenge for the Bush administration to pull back on troop deployments in any significant way.

What you may see is a renewed commitment not to get involved in open-ended missions such as Bosnia or Kosovo unless there is a clear way for troops to get out.

Q: What are the key issues with modernizing the military?

McINTYRE: Bush has promised to increase military pay, procure more weapons and generally upgrade and modernize the military. But that's going to take a lot of money.

Bush has pledged $45 billion, but the Pentagon estimates it could be anywhere from $50-100 billion needed to completely "recapitalize" the military.

It also means some very expensive programs will have to be reassessed, such as the F-22 Stealth Fighter, a plane that costs $200 million apiece. Another (program that might be reassessed) is the Navy's plan for a new futuristic land-attack Zumwalt-class destroyer, which is still on the drawing board.

And the Marines may have a problem getting approval for their V-22 Osprey, which has been involved in two major accidents recently killing 23 Marines. It now turns out that some of the maintenance and reliability statistics may have been falsified. An investigation is now under way to determine that.

Q: How does the Pentagon go about balancing the expense of modernizing its force while staying within budget and maintaining its current aging fleet?

McINTYRE: What you're seeing now is that all of the services are jockeying to get more money for their pet weapons projects and for their people. All of the services say they can use more people.

The Army says it can use an additional 40,000 troops to fill out divisions. And manpower is a very expensive thing to pay for, because of the benefits and everything that comes along with it.

And this comes at a time when recruiting is increasingly difficult.

What you're seeing is each of the individual services -- the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marine Corps -- are competing against each other to try to convince the incoming administration that their projects should remain a priority.

If you look at all of these projects, it's going to be very expensive to do everything everybody wants.

Q: Will the NMD system come to fruition under this administration?

McINTYRE: The Bush administration has committed to deploy a National Missile Defense as soon as possible. It still doesn't work and the technology still isn't there. The United States still has the problem of working out with Russia an agreement that would either allow the NMD under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty or the United States has the option of walking away from the treaty.

President Bush believes he can succeed where President Clinton has failed. And that is with convincing the Russians that this program is in their interests as well as in the interests of the United States.

Q: Is it likely that the ABM treaty could be renegotiated?

McINTYRE: There is a provision in the treaty for amending it. There's also a provision in the treaty for either side to abrogate the treaty, or to walk away from it, by citing their supreme national security interests and giving six months notice.

Many conservatives in Congress argue that the ABM treaty really isn't in effect anymore because it was made with the Soviet Union, which no longer exists.

But United States allies in Europe see the ABM treaty as something that has been a bedrock of arms control and kept the Russians from building new nuclear weapons. These allies are very concerned that if the United States walks away from the ABM treaty and builds a missile defense system, then Russia may decide it needs more nuclear weapons.

The United States has tried very hard during the Clinton administration to convince the Russians that the missile defense system would be of no use against Russia, which has a great number of nuclear weapons. The NMD is really designed only to protect against a small-scale attack. But so far Russia hasn't been persuaded.


Saturday, January 20, 2001



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