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Ask a general officer to name the No. 1 theme of Rumsfeld's latest Pentagon tour, and the answer probably won't be war. At the heart of Rumsfeld's activism is a desire to re-establish civilian control over a military that ran circles around the Clinton Administration. Not long after arriving in 2001, Rumsfeld announced plans to "transform" the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines into lighter, faster, stealthier fighting units. To the guys in uniform, "transform" meant not only cuts but also civilian oversight, so the military did what it does best: it prepared for a long siege. Rumsfeld ran into a wall of generals, Congressmen, lobbyists and weapons makers, who worked quietly together behind Rumsfeld's back to foil his plans.
Rumsfeld was among the first to grasp what others would take months to understand: that threats to America overseas were no longer deterred by tanks, bombers and aircraft carriers. However clean his logic, getting the generals to give up their gadgets was turning out to be much dirtier work. "This is a very large organization," says General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, "and as with any ship, there's a lot of inertia that won't allow you to turn it 10 degrees. You need energetic people to make that happen." But one man was no match for the nation's four military services. Rumsfeld found he could not make a move without its being leaked to the newspapers, and pretty soon he knew he was beaten. Right after Labor Day in 2001, Rumsfeld declared "the Pentagon bureaucracy" a mortal enemy of the U.S. The next day, the Pentagon was attacked by terrorists.
Rumsfeld and the services put aside their feud for a real war, and over time the need to transform things seemed to disappear, partly because the terrorist attacks opened the cash spigot and hard choices didn't seem necessary. Instead of having to choose either weapons of the future or those of the past, the Pentagon last year bought both. Rumsfeld has canceled only a single major weapons program in two years, the $11 billion Army Crusader artillery gun, while allowing such dubious programs as the Air Force's $200 million F22 Raptor fighter and the Navy's $2 billion Virginia-class submarines to move forward. Everyone knows there isn't enough money to pay for all these weapons (and others on the drafting board) unless defense budgets continue to rise dramatically--and almost no one thinks that will happen. "We have not totally left behind the cold war legacy," Myers told TIME. "We need to do a lot of work to make ourselves agile and flexible to address the new security environment."