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Rumsfeld: US Military Must Transform to Defend Against Terrorism


U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the military must continue to transform in order to defend America against terrorists and future threats that are difficult to predict. The defense secretary made his remarks Tuesday during testimony before the U.S. Congress.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee Secretary Rumsfeld defended the Bush administration's budget request for nearly a seven percent increase in defense spending to $439 billion.

Rumsfeld says the new plan will help transform the military into a more flexible fighting force.

He says the transformation includes large spending increases for special operations forces, unmanned aircraft, intelligence gathering and foreign language instruction for America's troops.

"In this long war the task ahead [is] to continue to pursue the enemy, bolster our defenses, [and] enable our friends and allies to manage their own defense requires us not only to meet today's threats, but to plan for tomorrow's uncertainties," he said.

Rumsfeld says those uncertainties include the possibility of a chemical or biological attack on a major American city, a rogue missile launch by a hostile regime, a friendly government overthrown by Islamic radicals or loose nuclear weapons falling into enemy hands.

"No nation, no matter how powerful, has the resources and capability to defend everywhere at every moment of the day or night against every conceivable type of technique," he said. "The only way to protect the American people, therefore, is to provide our military with as wide a range of options as possible to focus on developing a range of capabilities rather than preparing to confront any one threat."

The Bush administration is not including the costs of ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the regular budget process.

The administration is planning to ask for $70 billion to fund those operations for the rest of this fiscal year and $50 billion for next year.

During the hearing, several senators expressed concerns to Secretary Rumsfeld about the political process in Iraq.

Senator Joseph Lieberman says the Iraqi constitution approved last year must be amended to address fears of the minority Sunni population.

"The involvement of the Sunnis is critical to the success of the military operation because history tells us that insurgencies, now terrorist insurgencies, don't go on if there is not popular support," he said. "The Sunni insurgency will inevitably be weakened as Sunnis come more into the government."

Secretary Rumsfeld agreed that Sunnis need to play a critical role in a new Iraqi government.

He also expressed concern that corruption could damage efforts to create democracy there, saying it is up to the Iraqis to seize control and take responsibility for their country.