Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday rejected two new reports - including one ordered by his own office - warning that the Iraq war has strained the Army to the breaking point.He didn't even read it? A report that he commissioned himself, a report that cost more than an eighth of a million dollars and took a year to compile? Right into the circular file.
In an "interim assessment" of the Iraq war commissioned by the Office of the Secretary Defense, former Army officer Andrew Krepinevich said the strain of keeping large numbers of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has reduced the Army to a "thin green line."
Recruiting shortfalls the Army suffered last year and potential problems in getting soldiers with families to re-enlist because of repeat rotations to Iraq put the Army "in a race against time" to bring troops home "or risk `breaking' the force," Krepinevich wrote.
"Serious retention problems have yet to materialize," Krepinevich said, "but there are storm clouds on the horizon. For one, Army divorce rates are up sharply, an indication that repeated deployments are placing severe strains on military families."
Rumsfeld said he hadn't read the 136-page report but "it's clear that those comments do not reflect the current situation. They are either out of date or just misdirected."
We all knew that the president doesn't like reading -- so much so that at his campaign appearances, they have to repeat one key phrase over and over again on the backdrops, just so he can maintain focus. But I guess we assumed that if Bush wasn't reading up on the pesky details, then at least his Cabinet members were.
Yes, yes, Condi Rice couldn't be bothered to read the entire 86-page National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. But I guess we were hoping she'd be the exception to the rule.
But wait, that's not the worst part:
He added that the Army exceeded its goal for retention - the number of soldiers re-enlisting and officers extending their commissions - in fiscal 2005, which ended Sept. 30.It's a sign of the respect that journalists have for Don Rumsfeld that they put two entire lines of text between his lie about reaching the recruitment goal and the facts that so easily refute it.
"The force is not broken," Rumsfeld declared. Moreover, he said, "It's battle-hardened. It's not a peacetime force that has been in barracks or garrisons."
The Army fell 6,667 troops short of its fiscal 2005 recruiting goal of 80,000 and the Army Reserve missed its goal by 4,626.
Of course, the reporter manages to get in a nice point here at the end:
As for Krepinevich's warning that retention problems could emerge if the pace of rotations fails to ease, Rumsfeld said he didn't know if that was the case.Except, of course, when you dismiss their findings without even reading the report. Then it just seems like you're once again sticking your head in the sand and pissing money away at the same time.
"I suspect the people writing these things don't know, either, because I suspect that they don't have any more insight than the other people around here do," he said.
Krepinevich received $137,000 over 12 months for the report, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Paul Swiergosz said.
Asked why the Pentagon pays consultants such as Krepinevich for such reports if they lack insight, Rumsfeld said: "Well, because the way you get the best knowledge and the best perspective is to listen to people with different views."
Stay the course.
(Thanks to Tim F. at Balloon Juice for the link.)