Military officials ask to add 50,000 recruits

Rumsfeld says expanding is too costly, despite war

April 19, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Contending that the armed forces have been stretched thin by the campaign against terrorism, senior military officials are urging Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to expand the forces by 50,000 or more men and women.

Though George W. Bush criticized the Clinton administration in the 2000 presidential campaign for overextending the military, Rumsfeld is resisting calls to expand the forces, arguing that the cost is too high.

The chiefs of the four services assert that the high pace of war operations in Central Asia, combined with heightened security at all military installations across the world and the expansion of military activities into such countries as the Philippines and Yemen, have put immense stress on the nation's 1.4 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

At the same time, the Pentagon has activated more than 80,000 National Guard and reserve troops to help in the war effort, requiring many of them to take extended leaves from jobs and, in some cases, to be away from families for months.

Rather than accept requests for added troops, Rumsfeld has ordered the secretaries of the armed services to eliminate nonessential duties or transfer people to relieve stress on the troops.

The services say there is no evidence that the strains of globe-spanning commitments are hampering the troops' abilities to perform their duties. Early statistics indicate that recruitment of troops and retention of current ones are level or slightly up - a result, senior officers say, of a national wave of patriotism stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks.

But military experts and officials say they expect the services to have problems retaining active duty and reserve troops if the high tempo of war continues for many months, as President Bush has predicted.

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