TCS Daily

What Bush and Rumsfeld Must Do

By Ken Adelman - September 13, 2001 12:00 AM

After the unimaginable horror, consoling words, and fierce retaliation must come a new security approach to combat the new threat. Just as the first half of the 20th century was marked by the war against Nazism and the second half by the war against communism, so the first half of this century must be marked by a war against terrorism. Containment is over; the Era of Protection has arrived.

September 11 marks the dividing line between old and new approaches to defense. Anyone in the U.S. Defense Department still carping over Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's mannerisms or leadership style should be marched over to the Pentagon's cratered west wing. That rubble constitutes Exhibit A of what Mr. Rumsfeld has been advocating for the past eight months-much to the chagrin, if not outright opposition, of the stand-pat defense establishment and the business-as-usual U.S. Congress.

For weeks anonymous leakers have been foretelling Mr. Rumsfeld's departure-now he should assure their exit. The Defense Department must be united, of a single mind and marshaled for a sole purpose: Winning the war against terror.

President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld must grasp the enormousness of the task ahead and announce a bold, radical plan to meet it. For the Bush administration, now is the moment of opportunity. Just as Franklin Delano Roosevelt lead the country into vastly new defense regime after the Pearl Harbor sneak attack, so President Bush must lead the country into a vastly new approach after the events of September 11.

For the moment, the usual politics of inertia must be swept aside. Those whining about this or that program will seem as petty or selfish, as in fact they are. Those second-guessing will be seen as grandstanding, if not unpatriotic. Let those in Congress, the uniformed military, and defense industries continue their steady-as-she-goes manner. Let them justify a cold war military for today's hot war of sabotage and terrorism.

In place of the usual Beltway pieties, Mr. Rumsfeld should offer vision, priorities and sacrifice.

In this brief window of opportunity, political and bureaucratic opposition will yield to Mr. Rumsfeld's brave new program-but only if it's done boldly with sound conceptual backing and explained in clear terms. The vision must be broad and radical. The old priorities must be changed to put America on a warfooting. That takes a radically different approach to defense programs. There have been enough studies and speeches about "transformation." Now is the time for Secretary Rumsfeld not to carefully calibrate but to boldly propose the most radical approach imaginable by his team of smart defense intellectuals.

Next comes sacrifice. The post-September 11 approach need not be staggeringly costly. But many existing programs must be slashed, with substantial savings realized at least in the out-years, if not sooner.

From each branch of the U.S. armed forces at least one favorite weapon system should be ended-America needs the money for more important measures now. The U.S. Air Force can scrap all its B-1 bombers. The U.S. Navy can stop building attack and ballistic-missile submarines. The U.S. Army can give up some of its new heavy artillery. Into the budget pot from them all, and especially their Capitol Hill backers, must be tossed many existing military bases. They are negligibly helpful and mighty costly.

And from each branch of military must come staff reductions-of what scope and type to be determined, but big enough to save lots of money and to enable each man and woman remaining in uniform to be decently paid and equipped with the best weapons. It is time for the United States to field warriors, not to field requests for government spending on pet projects. The time has come to set and enforce priorities.

Without slashing these and other big-ticket items, Mr. Rumsfeld could be accused of using the September 11 tragedy simply to garner more of everything. While proposing radical change, the secretary of defense will run into opposition. He should remember that it's tough for the intransigent to argue against a U.S. defense secretary who says that we must stop programs against former threats to launch new programs against new ones.

Hence the thrust of the new defense package:

First, a big boost for human intelligence. The bulk of intelligence funds have been poured into satellites and other remote devices, which watch and listen in the blackness of space some 22,000 miles above their targets. Intelligence officers can view clear photographs of the tops of the heads of Osama bin Laden's men; far better would be see their faces and hear their voices. Nothing can penetrate a terrorist organization like an agent on the ground. To run these operations takes skilled, trained, and non-risk-adverse officers. Most operate within the Central Intelligence Agency, but their efforts can be funded from the Defense Department's budget.

The intelligence budget should rise fast. And their mandate should encompass both the intentions of these wretched people and their capabilities to do catastrophic harm. The most vital question is now: Can the perpetrators lay their hands on chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or even ballistic missiles?

Second, a major push for protection against cyberterrorism. The horror of communications networks collapsing can never match the visual horror of the World Trade Centers collapsing. But the effect can be just as devastating. Now is the time to harden the world's communication networks, phone systems and microwave towers. At a minimum, every U.S. military facility should be made secure.

Third, a big boost to protect American satellites, on which our wired world depends. Much that guides far-flung ships and planes-and warns Washington of threats-comes from these satellites. Without them, America's military command can be made blind, deaf, and largely mute.

Fourth is missile defense. The naysayers were wrong in one sense and quite right in another. They were wrong that today's foes couldn't match the degree of evil of Hitler, Stalin, or Mao Tse-Tung. September 11 showed what evil, rogue leaders can do.

Nonetheless, these critics were right to say that our foes can use terrorist methods-in this case, turning American airliners into guided missiles. But, next time, it could be actual missiles falling on American or European cities. How much easier it would be for America's attackers to buy a long-range missile or two from North Korea or Iraq, arm it with nuclear or chemical weapons fire it at America's still defenseless shores? These rockets may not miss the White House, Camp David or the Capitol dome. And the damage wouldn't be manageable. Why make it easy for America's enemies? Why not shield America and its allies from one of the easiest means of inflicting the greatest horror?

To opponents of missile defense, now is the moment for quiet and deep reflection. For the friends of missile defense, like Mr. Rumsfeld, now is the time for action. This week a congressional vote on full funding and rapid deployment of missile defense-along with the other measures proposed-would send a strong signal of resolve to a shaken, shocked nation.

On September 11, the United States stood united. For once there was no one to blame but the assailants. That won't necessarily be true in the future if the new defense programs are not soon proposed and implemented. If not, knowledgeable Americans in future years can say that more could have done to protect the nation, and wasn't. That would be an even greater tragedy than the one we're living through now.


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