Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Rumsfeld crisis : Mutiny or Wasted Words ?

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has been a hot topic during this election season punctuated by calls from Republican candidates and officeholders to resign (Hagel, Shays, Kean) joining those who have previously expressed a voice of no confidence by Senators McCain, Snow, Lott and Minnesota’s own Norm Coleman.
Retired generals have spoken out before but on Monday, an editorial appeared in four military newspapers calling for Rumsfeld to be replaced. The editorial rehashes a number of mistakes and questions whether he still has the allegiance of the military establishment.

From the editorial http://www.armytimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-2333360.php

Now, the president says he’ll stick with Rumsfeld for the balance of his term in the White House.
This is a mistake. It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation’s current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.
Obviously there is a question of confidence in leadership, but as a fiscal conservative, I am as concerned about the Bush/Rumsfeld handling of the funding for the war on terror.

The wars have contributed to the rising deficit. And how the war spending is authorized has created a situation of irresponsible budgeting whereby the wars have been paid for through emergency spending bills and “bridge funds” that amount to about $450 billion so far. Congress recognized that we are masking the problems of the future by not including provisions for war funding in the budget process. An amendment requiring war funding to be included in the regular defense budget, introduced by Sen. John McCain, was approved 99 to 0 by the Senate in July. It was accepted by the House in September. In a “signing statement” released when Bush signed the 2007 Defense Authorization Act on Oct. 17, the President listed two dozen provisions in the act that he indicated he may or may not abide by. Among the provisions is Section 1008 of the Authorization Act, which requires the President to submit defense budgets for 2008 and beyond that include funding for the wars.

Centcom’s commander, Gen. John Abizaid, likes to refer to it as the “long war,” where “long,” means generational, with no end in sight … so why isn’t it being included in the budget ?

At a press conference during the last week of October, Rumsfeld was asked about funding shortfalls and his response was to wave it off as insignificant since they would rely on supplemental spending bills … obviously rejecting the efforts by Congress to include some degree of fiscal responsibility for the Department of Defense.

Q I've got a quick question on the Army budget. Last week, Gordon England came out with his three-page fiscal guidance to the Army, giving them $120.6 billion in '08 instead of the $138 billion that you and General Schoomaker have pressed OMB on.

Question one, why did you not get the larger figure? And two, how are you going to make up this rather large shortfall where the Army --

[snip to his answer]
SEC. RUMSFELD: You see, the trouble with chasing that number until you look at the totality of it is that in the environment we're in, we have to give guidance, so the work has to be done, and then the services do the work. And then they start putting all that together, and simultaneously there is a -- the issue of a supplemental. And it is very difficult to know what ought to go in the budget and what ought to go in the supplemental.

The question is will it make any difference if Rumsfeld resigns, as the Bush’s management of the will not change ?
Past experiences (i.e. replacing the CIA Director, Chief of Staff, Press Secretary, etc). seem to be more akin to changing chairs on the Titanic than addressing the problems of accountability – both of the operation of the war and its fiscal management.
When the 109th Congress returns next week, it needs to address the Bush Administration's financial management of this war.

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