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Gen. Colin Powell Discusses U.S. Military Readiness

Aired September 7, 2000 - 1:42 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: At an event earlier today in Michigan, George W. Bush again dropped a pretty broad hint that he'd like to offer General Powell a job in a Bush administration. The event was to bolster the Republican argument that the military has been neglected under the Clinton administration.

General Colin Powell joins us now from Dayton, Ohio.

Welcome, General.

GEN. COLIN POWELL (RET.), FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Lou. How are you?

WATERS: Good.

You earlier today spoke of a plan that you had that was abandoned in 1993. What was the plan that was abandoned by the Clinton administration?

POWELL: Well, beginning in 1989 and through the rest of the Bush administration, we saw that the world was changing, that the Cold War was going away and we developed a plan called the "Base Force Plan," which would cut our armed forces by roughly 25 percent in response to the end of the Cold War.

The Clinton administration came in, and even before they came in during the campaign of '92, they announced another 200,000 troops would be cut. And that wasn't the real problem. The real problem was that they didn't fund that lower level that they went to. They cut those 200,000, they continued to cut, and they have not adequately funded the force structure, the readiness levels and the investment accounts needed to support the force structure that's there and the strategy they say they're following. That's the problem.

WATERS: As I understand it, you signed off on this 200,000 troop reduction.

POWELL: But I didn't -- that's right, but they kept going below that. And what I didn't sign off on was the fact that they didn't fund it to the level that they needed to fund it in order for it to be a ready, quality force.

And the other point I made early in the day: Even after they got to that level, they started adding on new missions and they did not respond to the demands of those new missions and rebalance the force.

Further, the secretary of the Army recently -- when asked in an interview, do you have enough troops to perform the missions that you have? the secretary of the Army's answer was, no, I need more.

WATERS: So now do you propose reintroducing into the plan those 200,000 troops?

POWELL: No, I don't know what the number is. I think that's what Gov. Bush indicated today. You have to make an analysis, you have to make an analysis, you have to come up with a strategy you think is correct and then design a force structure. And once you've decided what that force structure is, then invest in it.

It wasn't the 200,000 as much as it was the fact that the lower force level they went to wasn't properly invested in. And we knew in 1993 that the amount of money being invested in the force at that point wasn't enough.

It was one of my predecessors, General Shalikashvili, who, in the mid-1990s, said that, you know, we're not making it. We need to have a $60 billion add-on in procurement. And it's the undersecretary of Defense for research and engineering, Dr. Gansler, who has said on repeated occasions that he believes we're in a death spiral. We can't support both readiness and investment. There's a mismatch between strategy, force structure, investment and readiness.

WATERS: Americans generally agree. The latest numbers from Gallup suggest that four out of 10 say not enough money is being spent on the military. Both candidates now are promising to spend more money on the military. But the question is, where should that money go? Should it go into present readiness or future war-making possibilities, high-tech war?

POWELL: You have to balance your investment. And balancing your investment starts with an understanding of what your strategy is, then you design your force structure, then you invest in the readiness of that force, and you also invest in the future.

So you have to have enough money to do both because today's investment in future weapons determines what tomorrow's readiness will be like. Will those youngsters have the best equipment possible at that time when they're called upon to go in harm's way five, 10, 15 years from now?

WATERS: General Colin Powell, always good to talk with you. Thanks so much, sir.

POWELL: Thank you, Lou.

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