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Rumsfeld Reports Defense Department Priorities for Coming Years


U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has set out four priorities for his department for the coming years. At a news conference, the Secretary provided some key points from a major review of U.S. defense strategy and operations that is to be published on Friday.

Secretary Rumsfeld says the Defense Department's priorities for the next four years will be to defeat violent extremists, defend the U.S. homeland, provide help to what he called 'countries at strategic crossroads' and to prevent 'terrorists and dangerous regimes from obtaining weapons of mass destruction.'

Those broad missions are among the results of what is called the Quadrennial Defense Review, a year-long process required by congress to be done every four years to update U.S. defense strategy and capabilities. "It has paid particular attention to finding ways to provide greater flexibility to military commanders so that they can employ a full range of capabilities in this new era of surprise," he said.

According to defense officials and preliminary documents, the theme of a 'new era' is found throughout the Quadrennial Defense Review document, which is expected to be more than 80 pages long when it is published on Friday. One key plan is reported to be an expansion of U.S. Special Forces and an increase in their capabilities to fight terrorist groups, including for the first time the involvement of U.S. Marines in the effort. Secretary Rumsfeld declined to provide details on Wednesday, but he said the Special Forces also have an important role to play in fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"The risk of very powerful lethal weapons moving into the hands of rogue states and/or terrorist networks is real. And certainly, the capabilities that the special operations force bring in this area are relevant," he said.

Appearing with Secretary Rumsfeld, the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Edmund Giambastiani, provided a few more details of future Defense Department plans. The admiral said the military will have to be ready to face traditional threats and well as what he called 'disruptive threats.' He said it will have to be able to fight both conventional wars and insurgencies. And he said the military will need greater capabilities to do that, including increases Special Forces, a more flexible army, longer-range and more capable air forces, a navy able to work in coastal waters as well as at sea and better intelligence gathering.

Admiral Giambastiani says the Defense Department budget for fiscal year 2007, which is to be published on Monday, will provide for a 'significant down payment' on procuring those additional capabilities.

In a recent speech, the department official in charge of the Quarterly Defense Review, Ryan Henry, said the U.S. military is best prepared to fight a traditional war, which he said is the least likely type of conflict that the country will face. He indicated the military is less well prepared for more likely types of conflict, including insurgencies, attacks using weapons of mass destruction and attempts to disrupt the U.S. technological infrastructure or economy.

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