Monday, September 27, 2004 / World / US - US 'must raise troop numbers' to fulfil commitments / World / US - US 'must raise troop numbers' to fulfil commitments:
A Pentagon-appointed panel has found that the US military will not be able to maintain its current peacekeeping commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan without a significant increase in the size of the armed forces or scaling back the objectives of the stabilisation missions.

"A report by the respected Defence Science Board was presented to Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, late last month. Mr Rumsfeld found the study compelling and ordered it to be presented earlier this month to all the uniformed chiefs of the four armed services as well as the military's combatant commanders, who oversee each of the Pentagon's six regional commands.

Although the report, first disclosed in the newsletter Inside the Pentagon, has not been made public, pages from the study reviewed by the Financial Times state that while some of the stresses on the US military could be mitigated by private contractors and improved technologies, such measures are unlikely to be sufficient.

'It is not clear that our new stabilisation capabilities will suffice if we maintain the current pace of stabilisation operations,' the study says. "

The report, entitled Transition to and from Hostilities, could re-ignite the debate over the size of the US military, particularly the army, which many analysts warn is becoming overworked and stretched thin by repeated rotations through Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr Rumsfeld has largely resisted moves to enlarge the army, although he has given General Peter Schoomaker, army chief of staff, permission for a temporary increase of 30,000 soldiers.

The report was discussed briefly in a congressional hearing last week, where Mr Rumsfeld described it as "a good one". Congressional critics, however, used it to denounce his reluctance to back army enlargement.

"I think the major point, the one I think the Defence Science Board concludes with, is that we have put ourselves in a strategic position where we may not be able to respond to obvious threats that we're seeing today," said Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat on the armed services committee.

The Defence Science Board, founded in the 1950s, is made up of leading academics and experts appointed to examine science, technology and research issues that could affect security policy.
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