DefenseLINK News: Rumsfeld Says Better Management Needed for Force

Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee [Feb. 4]. He told the senators that the military force is stressed now, but that it is more a management problem than a force size problem.

The secretary said one effect of the war on terror is a significant increase in operational tempo and an increased demand on the force. “To manage the demand on the force, we first must be clear about what the problem really is, so we can work together to fashion appropriate solutions,” he said.

Operations in Iraq are causing a “spike” in the number of forces deployed, Rumsfeld noted. There are now 115,000 U.S. service members serving in Iraq. They are being rotated out, and another 110,000 U.S. service members are replacing them. “For a moment, the increased demand is real and we’ve taken a number of appropriate actions,” he said.


“Think of it. At this point we have a pool of about 2.6 million men and women, active and reserve,” he said. “Yet the deployment of 115,000 troops in Iraq has required that we temporarily increase the size of the force by 33,000. That suggests strongly that the real problem is not the size of the force per se, but rather the way the force has been managed, and the mix of capabilities at our disposal.”

That challenge, he said, is not going to be solved for the long term by adding to end strength. The secretary said all troops — active and reserve — need to be accessible.

The same management problem surfaces specifically with the reserve component. “Fact is, since Sept. 11 (2001), we’ve mobilized only 36 percent of the selected reserve — a little over one-third of the available forces,” he said. “But while certain skills are in demand, only a very small fraction of the Guard and reserve — just 7.15 percent — have been involuntarily mobilized more than once since 1990.”

That means that the same people in high-demand skills are getting stressed, while others — in less needed skills — are not. “The vast majority of the Guard and reserve are not being used,” he said. “A full 58 percent of the current selected reserve — or about 500,000 troops — have not been involuntarily mobilized in the last 10 years.” These statistics argue that too few Guard and reserve forces have the skill sets that are in high demand, the secretary said.


“The Army has put forward a plan that will increase force levels by about 6 percent, but because of the way it will do it, they will add up to 30 percent more combat power,” he said. “Instead of adding more divisions, they are focusing on creating a 21st-century modular Army made up of more self-sustained brigades that are available to work for any division commander. As a result, 75 percent of the brigade structure would always be ready in the event of a crisis.”

The focus needs to be on more than just numbers, Rumsfeld emphasized. “We should be focusing on finding ways to better manage the forces we have and by increasing the speed, agility, modularity, capability of usability of those forces,” he said.

Good. I’ve been arguing this for about twelve years now. This was obvious during all the peace ops missions in the early 1990s. It’s amazing that essentially nothing has been done until now.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. melvin toast says:

    Actually it’s not amazing. Aside from the fact that Clinton couldn’t care less about the military, the military like any other government organization is a bureacracy. And bureacracies aren’t known for their nimbleness.

    Seems to mean Rumsfeld has been talking about agility ever since they appointed the current JCS.

  2. James Joyner says:


    I wrote my dissertation on the topic. Yes, bureaucracies are resistant to change. And most of the blame goes to the Clinton team since they were in charge the longest. But Rummy hasn’t made a lot of progress in his three years, either.

  3. melvin toast says:

    Three years isn’t that long… especially when you’re in the
    middle of fighting two wars. It can take a company more than 3 years to implement an enterprise integration system. It probably takes GM at least three years to close down a single plant. Even in a small company, changing the way people do things is hard, and takes time.