Expected military cuts now appear unlikely

Saturday, September 1, 2001

WASHINGTON -- After months of speculation that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would order the military to get smaller, it now appears he will look elsewhere for savings to pay for missile defense and other investments aimed at remaking the military for the 21st century.

In interviews this week, military leaders and defense analysts said they believe any force cuts that emerge from Rumsfeld's comprehensive review of the military -- due to be finished by late September -- will be modest.

"Unless and until you decide you want to completely revamp the military, the current size makes sense," said Daniel Goure, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a private think tank. Goure thinks such an overhaul is needed, along with force cuts, but he doubts Rumsfeld will do it.

So much for the talk earlier this summer that Rumsfeld wanted to eliminate two of the Army's 10 active-duty divisions, one of the Navy's 12 carrier battle groups and one of the Air Force's 12 active fighter wings.

The military now has nearly 1.4 million men and women on active duty, down from 2 million 10 years ago. The last time it was cut substantially was when former Defense Secretary Les Aspin reduced it from about 1.6 million in 1994 to the current level.

Army Secretary Thomas White says the Army's active-duty force of 480,000 is stretched too thin already.

"I don't intend to cut force structure," White said Thursday.

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