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Bush to Expand US Military

President Bush says he wants to increase the size of the United States military in order to wage a sustained war on terrorism. VOA's Paula Wolfson has details from the White House.

The president says he still has not decided on a revised strategy for Iraq. But he says it is clear an overall increase in U.S. military strength is needed to wage the war on terrorism worldwide.

"I am inclined to believe that we need to increase our troops, the army, the Marines," said President Bush.

The president told reporters for The Washington Post that he wants his new secretary of defense, Robert Gates, to come up with recommendations for expanding the size of the armed forces.

In an audio excerpt found on the newspaper's Internet site, Mr. Bush explains his rationale.

"It is an accurate reflection that this ideological war we're in is going to last for a while, and that we're going to need a military that's capable of being able to sustain our efforts and to help us achieve peace," he said.

The president made clear in the interview that he will leave the details to Gates and his team at the Pentagon. And he noted he expects the defense secretary to get acclimated to his new post and travel to Iraq before focusing on a military expansion plan.

Mr. Bush took issue with critics who contend the military is nearly broken from its commitments in Iraq and elsewhere. He said he has never heard the word "broken" from officials at the Pentagon. But he did say he has heard the word "stressed".

Just last Thursday, the army chief of staff, General Peter Schoomaker said the all-volunteer force is feeling the strain of an extended period of conflict. He made clear an increase in troop levels is one possible solution that should be under consideration.

The nation's top military officer, General Peter Pace, was asked about a troop expansion at a news conference in November. Pace - the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff - said the size of the force is a matter under regular review.

He indicated if he felt an increase was necessary, he would not hesitate to recommend one.

"That is what the chiefs and I are routinely scrubbing [scrutinizing], which is the size of the force, the capacity of the force, the resilience of the force and the potential size needed in the future," said General Pace.

President Bush told The Washington Post that there are people at the Pentagon who have told him an increase in force structure makes sense. A Pentagon official told VOA she could not confirm the idea started with Pace. But she said the president consults regularly with the chairman of the joint chiefs, and would not make a decision like this without at least discussing it with the general in advance.