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Technology is No Substitute for Troops: Donald Rumsfeld Replies

Last week, our Max Boot wrote to disagree with a New York Times column that supported Pentagon budget cuts and praised former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s position on transformation of the military. Mr. Rumsfeld has written us to reply:

I was amazed to read in Max Boot’s blog post, “Technology is No Substitute for Troops,” that “Rumsfeld was actually planning to cut two divisions from an army which had already been cut by one-third since the end of the Cold War.” That is flat wrong. There was not any plan to cut the size of the U.S. Army that I was ever aware of. No such plan was ever presented to me. Further, I would not have supported it if such a plan had been brought to me. Nor have I ever uttered the words that “technology is a substitute for troops.”

When I arrived at the Pentagon in 2001, my focus was on increasing the budget for the Defense Department to undo the damage that cuts in the 1990s had inflicted on our Armed Forces. That included investing in technologies such as UAVs and precision guided munitions, and considerably strengthened our special forces—in numbers, equipment and authorities–but also increasing the size of our ground forces as necessary. Indeed, in 2004 and 2006, we increased the end strength of both forces by tens of thousands of troops.

Boot, apparently with no documentation to support his misguided allegations, then attributes a view to me that is preposterous: “Slash ground forces to the bone, they argue–we’ll never need to fight another major ground war again.” His assertion flies in the face of the facts. During my two tenures as secretary of defense, I never advocated reducing the size of ground forces, nor was I ever asked to approve a plan to do so. In the process of writing my memoir, I have scoured hundreds of thousands of documents, many of which have been made public at www.rumsfeld.com, and not one even hints at the idea that I favored cutting ground forces. 

Donald Rumsfeld


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