WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is preparing to unveil a review calling for a sweeping reorganization of the U.S. military that could involve some of the biggest changes in strategy and policy to be instituted in more than a decade.
But it is unclear how soon Bush will make decisions on some key questions raised in the review, such as whether the Pentagon will abandon its basic strategy of structuring U.S. forces to fight two major wars nearly simultaneously.
Many have argued that the two-war strategy is outdated, but it is not clear what would replace it.
Bush is expected to address this and other aspects of military strategy for the 21st century in an address to the graduating class at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on May 25, officials said.
The Washington Post reported in Monday's editions that Rumsfeld is set to abandon the "two major war" approach, which was adopted in response to the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. The idea was that if, for example, U.S. forces had to respond to a North Korean invasion of South Korea, they should have enough remaining forces available to fight elsewhere, such as in the Persian Gulf.
A spokesman for Rumsfeld, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, denied the Post report.
"There is no such recommendation or decision by the secretary," Quigley said. He said Rumsfeld has yet to finish his consultations with U.S. military leaders on how to structure forces for warfighting.
Some have speculated that Bush will opt to reduce the size of the military and use the resulting financial savings to pay for a new generation of aircraft, such as the Air Force's F-22 stealth fighter, and other modern weaponry in addition to building a system to defend against a ballistic missile attack.
Bush already unveiled part of his strategic military vision last week when he outlined his plan to develop a global missile defense system. The plan has been opposed by Russia and China and has sparked objection from some of the United States' European allies as well.
However, Rumsfeld said Monday that international reaction to the president's missile defense announcement has been "excellent."
"I saw extensive reporting on India's reaction today and Australia and the U.K., both positive," Rumsfeld said during a press conference Monday. "I was impressed with comments out of Moscow, which have been muted and interested in the consultation... it is not easy to move from a Cold War arrangement," Rumsfeld said.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said Monday that the main objection the missile plan would face, both in Congress and from other nations, is that the project was too large-scale and was being forced on the international community by the United States.
"I have always supported a very limited, mutually verifiable, jointly deployed
defense that has the sole ability to shoot down a few rogue missiles. If you arrive
at it mutually, it would not be threatening, but what the administration is talking about is
doing away with an entire doctrine of mutually assured destruction and the
potential of a much larger, not mutually arrived at shield," Kerry said.
Kerry said a shield "not mutually arrived at" could pose the danger of being misinterpreted by the Chinese or the Russians as an aggressive action.
A Gallup poll conducted in February found that the majority of Americans support the development of a comprehensive missile defense system.
According to the poll, 44% of Americans express support for research and possible development of a defense system against nuclear missiles, while 20% are opposed. More than a third — 36% — said they were unsure.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report