Panel Recommends Improved Weapons

The Pentagon should speed up or improve some key weapons programs as part of the effort to transform the U.S. military into a leaner, more lethal force that can strike quickly around the world, a panel of defense experts says.

There also should be more focus on increasing joint control and command among the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines as part of developing a new long-range precision strike capability.

``The services are very, very capable, but they still have not learned, and they have not trained, and have not exercised sufficiently for us to claim we have a true joint force capability,'' retired Air Force Gen. James McCarthy said Tuesday.

McCarthy's panel recommended that transformation into a force of the future should include converting four Trident submarines into cruise missile carriers; enhancing the B-2 bomber to carry more bombs; accelerating the production of the high-flying Global Hawk unmanned spy plane; and developing a stealthy long-range cruise missile.

The study was done by the Institute for Defense Analyses and conducted by McCarthy and a group of military officers, scientific advisers and intelligence specialists.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld asked for the study to help him decide what is necessary to move from the heavy forces of the Cold War toward lighter, more mobile forces better suited to deal with expected future conflicts.

The panel was among more than a dozen that Rumsfeld has asked to review such topics as reshaping U.S. nuclear forces, transforming conventional forces, improving the Pentagon's financial management, developing a missile defense with global reach and improving the military's quality of life.

The panel came up with no radical ideas. ``We are not talking about a new force,'' said McCarthy. ``It is how to organize and exercise and train the existing forces and what capabilities to give them'' to make them capable of responding rapidly to a variety of situations.

After a study by another panel, Rumsfeld announced last month a revamping of space-defense policies. He said he would assign broader responsibilities to the Air Force Space Command, based at Colorado Springs, Colo., and put a full general in charge of the military's space programs.

As the reviews have continued, there has been anxiety in the defense industry and among the military services that Rumsfeld would take an ax to major weapons programs. The Army has worried about rumors that Rumsfeld would make troop cuts. And Congress worries about military bases being closed.

Some have speculated that President Bush will opt to reduce the size of the military and use the resulting financial savings to pay for a new generation of aircraft and other modernized weaponry in addition to building a system to defend against ballistic missile attack.