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Sep. 14, 2015  War on Terror   Transformation   News Products   Press Resources   Images   Websites   Contact Us 
Positioning America's Forces for the 21st Century
By Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

Throughout our history, Americans have shown a talent for innovation and invention. Ulysses S. Grant made skillful use of the rifle, the telegraph, and railroads to win the Civil War. Visionaries like Billy Mitchell predicted the rise of air power as critical to future battles. Patton and Eisenhower's awareness of the importance of armored warfare helped us prepare for World War II.

America is the world's preeminent military power because its leaders have dared properly challenged assumptions and the status quo, invested in and made use of new technologies, and abandoned old certainties and strategies when freedom's defense required it. And we must continue to do so.

We have entered an era of enemies without country or conscience, who operate in small cells scattered across the globe. Yet our forces continue to be arranged essentially to fight large armies, navies, and air forces. The world has changed, and so must we.

This week, in testimony to Congress, I will outline changes underway in the Department of Defense to transform our military to confront these new threats, including changes in America's global posture.

The course we have charted is not novel or sudden. Key points were designated by President Bush before he was even elected.

In a 1999 speech at the Citadel, then-Governor Bush warned of the rise of terrorism, the spread of missile technology, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- what he termed a "world of terror and missiles and madmen."

Calling for a "new spirit of innovation," he outlined ambitious goals: "to move beyond marginal improvements -- to replace existing programs with new technologies and strategies. Our forces in the next century must be agile, lethal, readily deployable, and require a minimum of logistical support. We must be able to project our power over long distances, in days or weeks, rather than months."

During the past 3½ years, much of what then-Governor Bush proposed has started to be put into action.

For example, w e have increased the size of the U.S. Army and are reorganizing it into more agile, lethal and deployable brigades. We are retraining and restructuring the Active and Reserve components to achieve a more appropriate distribution of skill sets, so that individual Reservists and Guardsmen with needed skill sets will mobilize less often and for shorter periods of time. We are increasing jointness between the services, and we are enhancing our communications and intelligence capabilities, among many other activities.

Transformation is about more than just new ways of fighting. It's about new ways of thinking.

Today, our forces are still situated in large part as if little has changed for the last 50 years - as if, for example, Germany is still bracing for a Soviet tank invasion across its northern plain. In South Korea, our troops have been virtually frozen in place where they were when the Korean War ended in 1953.

So we have developed, in frequent consultation with our allies and with Congress, a set of new concepts to govern the way we will align ourselves in the coming years and decades.

Our first notion is that our troops should be located in places where they are wanted, welcomed, and needed. In some cases, the presence and activities of our forces grate on local populations and have become an irritant for host governments. The best example is our massive headquarters in some of the most valuable downtown real estate in South Korea's capital city, Seoul - long a sore point for many South Koreans. Under our proposed changes, that headquarters will be dramatically reduced in size and moved to a location well south of the capital.


Second, American troops should be located in environments that are hospitable to their movements. Because U.S. soldiers may be called to a variety of locations to engage extremists at short notice, we must be able to deploy them to trouble spots quickly. Yet over time, some host countries and/or their neighbors have imposed restrictions on the movement and use of our forces, which has complicated our ability to move our own troops.

Third, we need to be in places that allow our troops to be usable and flexible. While the 1991 Gulf War was a stunning victory, it took six months of planning and transport to summon our fleets and divisions and position them for battle. In the future, we cannot expect to have that kind of time.

Finally, we should take advantage of advanced capabilities that allow us to do more with less. The old reliance on presence and mass reflects the last century's industrial-age thinking.

Precision weapons have greatly expanded our capability, while significantly reducing the number of weapons needed. If a commander has a smart bomb that is so precise that it can do the work of eight dumb bombs, for example, the fact that his inventory is reduced from ten dumb bombs to five smart bombs does not mean his capability has been reduced -- indeed his capability has been significantly increased. The same holds true for deployment of our forces. For example, t he Navy's response time for surging combat ships has been shortened to the point that we will likely not need a full-time carrier strike group presence in every critical region.

One additional benefit to our proposed new arrangements is that they will significantly improve the lives of U.S. military families. This is important. Over the coming period of years, we plan to transfer home, to American soil, up to 70,000 troops and some 100,000 family members and civilian employees. In addition, deployments of the future should be somewhat shorter, families should experience somewhat fewer permanent changes of station, and thus less disruption in their lives.

Any initiative as complex as the proposed global posture realignment will stimulate questions and criticisms. Some have expressed concern, for example, over proposed changes in South Korea. For years, the Defense Department has been investing in and making arrangements for improved capabilities -- such as long range precision weaponry - to be available on the Korean peninsula. As a result, as we are increasingly able to transfer responsibility to Korean forces, we will be able to reduce U.S. troop levels. The combined capabilities of the U.S. and the Republic of Korea will make the defense of Korea stronger than before.

Critics of these proposed moves seem trapped in the thinking of the last century. In some ways, that is understandable. It is difficult to part with thoughts that one has harbored for decades. But the world changes and updated thinking is needed. We owe an up-to-date defense posture to our troops in the field and the generations that may be called to battle in the future.

One day, historians will look back at what is being done today and say that our actions helped to make the world more peaceful, our military more formidable, and our freedom more secure; that America proved again to be the engine of ingenuity, innovation, and progress that it always has been in the past.

Last Updated:
12/01/2005, Eastern Daylight Time
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