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Military Overhaul Considered
Rumsfeld Eyes Global Command for Terrorism Fight
By Thomas E. Ricks,Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 11, 2001; Page A01
Less than a week into the war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is contemplating a sweeping overhaul of the way the armed forces are organized to fight because of concern that the current structure is too balkanized to execute a global campaign against terrorism, senior defense officials said yesterday.
Under the current structure, the Pentagon divides the world into regional commands and gives the officers in charge considerable autonomy in planning and conducting any military action in their areas. As U.S. commander for the Middle East during the Persian Gulf War, for example, Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf was the center of the war effort and other U.S. military commanders deferred to him.
The view of Rumsfeld and his top aides is that the regional approach is an inefficient and even dangerous way to organize the armed forces for the murky, multifaceted, sprawling new war against terrorism, officials said.
"The campaign against terrorism really highlights why we have to look at the Unified Command Plan," said a senior defense official, referring to the formal title for the way the Pentagon divides the world. "The war on terrorism is . . . a global campaign," he noted, yet the Pentagon looks at the world as a series of geographical regions.
As a result, he indicated, transnational concerns, such as terrorism and weapons proliferation, have not received adequate attention from senior commanders, who don't have the capabilities to coordinate with law enforcement or to track a threat from one continent to another.
The war in Afghanistan is overseen by Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the head of the Central Command, as the regional command for the Middle East and Central Asia is known. But the discussions inside the Pentagon are a strong signal that when the anti-terrorism campaign eventually moves beyond Afghanistan, command of it may be moved elsewhere.
Franks has been the target of some sniping in the Pentagon from officers who say that his background as an artillery officer gives him little preparation for waging an unconventional war that relies heavily on Special Forces and air power.
Major changes are under consideration. To sharpen military focus on homeland defense, a new "Americas Command" that would be responsible for defending the Western Hemisphere is being discussed. Some officials are urging that the responsibilities of the Special Operations Command be broadened so that it could carry out operations, instead of simply providing forces to regional commanders.
But the most radical and controversial change being contemplated is one that would move away from the current structure that for decades has divided the world among the four major regional commanders: Pacific Command, European Command, Southern Command and Central Command.
Though obscure to those outside the armed services, the four regional commanders in chief are dominating figures inside the military establishment. They usually are referred to as the "CinCs" (pronounced "sinks"). There are four other slightly less prominent commands that cover "functional" areas -- space, special operations, strategic and transportation -- as well as a hybrid organization, the Joint Forces Command, that has some leftover responsibility for the North Atlantic region and oversees innovation in the military.
For the military's most successful and ambitious officers, the two most prized jobs have been the Pacific and European commands. The Central Command traditionally has been seen as a backwater, and yet that is where much of the action has been the past decade. It is based in Tampa even though it handles the Middle East, because the United States has never found a politically acceptable way of basing its headquarters somewhere in the region.
Among the possible changes Pentagon officials are considering is transferring responsibility for covert raids against terrorists or their supporters from the Central Command to the Special Operations Command.
An alternative would be to permanently move command of the war to a top officer in Washington, who would seek to oversee military activity in various regions and coordinate it with the efforts of the State Department, the Justice Department, and even the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Whatever the changes that eventually are made, "you're going to see more Washington control of this war than in past [recent] wars," said one person familiar with the discussions. "We have global obligations and global capabilities, but are we organized globally?" the senior official asked. Answering his own question, he said, "We need to cut through the seams that exist between the CinCs, to provide more opportunity for a less regional focus."
The contradiction between the current organization and the new campaign became painfully evident in recent weeks when the Pentagon formulated its "planning guidance" for the war on terrorism, said one person involved in the discussions. That guidance boiled down the war effort to three basic goals: attack state support for terrorism, undercut its non-state support, and defend the U.S. homeland from additional terrorist assaults.
Yet, this person noted, the Central Command can take on only part of the first and second tasks, and none of the third. Discussions about revamping the command structure had been underway before the terrorist attacks a month ago, but the new U.S. campaign against terrorism has given the effort new urgency. "We all knew the future was coming," said the defense official. "Now it has been forced on us."
Rumsfeld, he said, feels "strongly that we have to get it done" and wants the revisions carried out. Another person familiar with the discussions said he expects they will be concluded sometime next month.
Nonetheless, the changes being formulated could encounter fierce resistance from the regional "CinCs," who in the post-Cold War era have become powerful proconsuls, jetting from one capital to another as they oversee regional security strategies. "They're going to hate it," said one person familiar with the contemplated changes, some of which recently were sent to the CinCs in a briefing paper. "They don't want to lose their empires."
Indeed, one general predicted yesterday that the changes finally implemented would be far less ambitious than those being discussed. "The regional construct has worked effectively for a long time," he argued. He went on to liken the latest reform effort to Rumsfeld's handling of the Quadrennial Defense Review, which began earlier this year with huge ambitions to transform the military but wound up at the end of last month producing only marginal changes.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company
-- Swissrose (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 11, 2001