As questions surface, Rumsfeld defends pre-war planning

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld defended the Bush administration's pre-war planning effort for Iraq before Senate appropriators Wednesday in response to questions raised in a recent RAND Corp., study.

During a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing Rumsfeld lashed out at Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., when he raised questions about issues addressed in the report as well as the pre-war prediction of former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki that several hundred thousand troops would be needed to execute the war plan as well as any post-war conflict.

"I am tired of Shinseki being bandied about," Rumsfeld said. "We have done what the generals on the ground believed to be the right thing."

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that in the buildup to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, all the military service chiefs supported the war plan, including Shinseki. Myers said Shinseki only offered his best guess as to the number of troops needed in Iraq after he was pressed by lawmakers. He said Shinseki believed such decisions should be left to the commanders charged with overseeing the contingency plans.

Specter noted that while Congress is supportive of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the recent approval by both chambers of an $81 billion supplemental spending package to pay for the ongoing conflicts, there is "a lot of disquiet out there among the people about what is happening in Iraq, and what is happening with our discretionary budget."

Myers said the department is aggressively pursuing lessons learned from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and working quickly to implement any needed changes. Rumsfeld said the department is anxiously awaiting the supplemental funding and risks running out of money if the legislation is delayed. He noted that by as early as next week some commands might stop hiring, ordering supplies and letting contracts if the funds are not approved, and that the Army has already begun slowing obligations to make funds last in the interim.