Schieffer reported Rumsfeld's rejection of Democratic study on military strain, omitted Pentagon-funded study with similar conclusion
On the January 25 broadcast of CBS' Evening News, anchor Bob Schieffer reported that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "took strong issue today with former Clinton administration officials who say the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the U.S. military to the near breaking point." But Schieffer failed to note that, at the same press conference, Rumsfeld also rejected the findings of a Pentagon-funded report that came to a similar conclusion.
Schieffer highlighted comments Rumsfeld made at a January 25 press conference, where he objected to a report released by the National Security Advisory Group, an organization headed by William J. Perry, secretary of defense under President Clinton, that includes other members of the Clinton administration. Titled "The U.S. Military: Under Strain and at Risk," the report warned that "[t]he Army and the Marine Corps cannot sustain today's operational tempo indefinitely without doing real damage to their forces."
But Schieffer failed to report that, at the same press conference, Rumsfeld was also questioned about a similar report written by former Army officer Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr. and funded by the Department of Defense. Krepinevich serves as executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Associated Press military writer Robert Burns first reported on Krepinevich's unreleased November 2005 study in a January 24 article. Burns wrote: "Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a 'thin green line' that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon." Krepinevich further concluded, in Burns's words, "that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency" and "suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended."
At his January 25 press conference, Rumsfeld also rejected Krepinevich's conclusions:
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, may I continue on along much the same line? There's another report on the table, one ostensibly ordered by the Defense Department and prepared by a retired military officer, which refers to a thin green line and says the Army is stretched so thin it's close to breaking. But the bottom line of this report, as I read it, is that the OPTEMPO (operational tempo) is so severe and so demanding on particularly the Army now in Iraq and Afghanistan that if we continue at this current OPTEMPO, we cannot outlast the insurgents. Can I get your specific reaction to that, please?
RUMSFELD: Well, it's just not consistent with the facts. I just came from the White House, where the president was meeting with eight or 10, 15 senators. And [Army chief of staff] Pete Schoomaker was with me, and someone asked that question. And Pete Schoomaker's answer was that it's just not correct; that he's seen a broken Army, he knows what a broken Army looks like, in the post-Vietnam period. There's no question that during the period of the '90s, a number of aspects of the U.S. armed forces were underfunded and there were hollow pieces to it. Today that's just simply not the case. Close to breaking is -- only someone -- I just can't imagine someone looking at the United States armed forces today and suggesting that they're close to breaking. That's just not the case.
From the January 25 broadcast of CBS' Evening News:
SCHIEFFER: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld took strong issue today with former Clinton administration officials who say the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the U.S. military to the near breaking point. At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld called that misdirected, and he praised the military as, quote, "enormously capable and battle-hardened."