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Rumsfeld seeks to scrap 'two-war' standard

By CNN Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress Thursday that he wants to scrap the current "two-war" standard that has formed the basis for U.S. military planning for the past decade, but he's not sure he has come up with anything better.

Testifying before both the Senate and House Armed Services committees, Rumsfeld said, "Let me underscore that we have not decided on a new strategy. We are considering and testing this concept and variance of that strategy against the current one.

"I must add, however, that the current strategy can't be said to be working because of the shortfalls which I described. So it seems to me we owe it to ourselves to ask the question, what might be better?"

Rumsfeld said he is working with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and top military commanders to come up with a new strategy by the end of the summer. That strategy, he said, would be both "threat-based and capabilities-based"

It would involve "using a threat-based planning to address nearer-term threats while turning increasingly to a capabilities-based approach to make certain that we develop forces prepared for the longer-term threats that are less easily understood," Rumsfeld said.

He outlined problems he said are currently undermining the ability of the U.S. military to meet the two-war commitment.

"We have underfunded and overused our forces," he said. "We find that to meet acceptable levels of risks, we're short a division; we're short of airlift. We have been underfunding aging infrastructure and facilities. We are short high-demand and low-density assets. The aircraft fleet is aging at growing cost to maintain. The Navy is declining in numbers. And we're steadily falling below acceptable readiness standards."

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton said the United States currently lacks enough "strategic lift" or transportation capability to fight two major wars at once.

"Our major theater war capabilities are really only one in the area of strategic lift. We can move forces into one area, but in order to fight in a second one we also have to have the capability to swing forces back in the other direction," Shelton said.

Nevertheless, Rumsfeld said he feels the United States can still win two wars at once, but not as easily as it might have a decade ago.

"I have no doubt that, should two nearly simultaneous conflicts occur, we would prevail. But the erosion in the capability and the force means that the risks we would face today and tomorrow are notably higher than they would have been when the 'Two MTW' [Major Theater War] standard was established."

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, warned Rumsfeld that the Bush administration's plans to accelerate development of missile defenses might have to take a back seat in order to pay for improvements in military readiness and quality of life.

"I think you may find that in some places we will be exceeding your requests and may be changing some of your priorities," Levin said as he closed the hearing. "You may find some of your priorities, indeed, for little things like missile defense, changed in order to focus on the things that you just talked about."

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