It has been a restoration, all right, but of which presidency? First came Dick Cheney, next Paul O'Neill. Now comes Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, and the new Administration seems to have as much to do with the Ford Administration of the mid-1970s as it does with Bush I.
With Rumsfeld at the helm, the Pentagon is likely to be faced with the same challenge of 25 years ago: the desire to keep its expensive conventional weapons systems and build an expensive but unconventional new one. Despite the end of the cold war, the Pentagon budget Rumsfeld inherits will be larger--at $295 billion--than his 1976 budget of $282 billion, after adjusting for inflation. But even as his boss talks of modernizing the military for the surprises of a post-cold war era, Rumsfeld is going to need all that bigger purse, and more. Bush has pledged more pay for the troops, and Rumsfeld has called for restarting production of $2.4 billion B-2 bombers and wants to begin building the $200 million F-22 fighter. Both men want to build a shield to protect the U.S. from missile attack, which could cost as much as $100 billion, if it is even feasible.
An ex-Navy pilot and Princeton wrestler, Rumsfeld was, at 43, the youngest Defense Secretary in history when he ran the Pentagon for the last 14 months of Ford's term. Now 68, the Chicago native spent six years in Congress and eight in the Nixon and Ford administrations before beginning a successful pharmaceutical career at G.D. Searle & Co. Pentagon officials and Bush see Rumsfeld as a counterweight to Colin Powell, the retired Army general tapped to run Bush's foreign policy. "General Powell is a strong figure and Dick Cheney is no shrinking violet, but neither is Don Rumsfeld," the President-elect said before making clear he would settle any squabbles among the trio.
If Rumsfeld is serious about remaking the U.S. military, his outmaneuvering of the CIA two years ago will offer a blueprint for how he might achieve the goal. In the mid-1990s, the agency upset G.O.P. boosters of a missile shield because it kept reporting that any nuclear threat, beyond Russia and China, was at least 15 years away. But Rumsfeld and his bipartisan panel concluded in July 1998 that Iran, Iraq and North Korea posed near term threats, and that they could hide their missile-building progress until shortly before launching an attack on the U.S. North Korea bolstered the report's contentions when it fired a long-range missile over the Pacific a month later.
Rumsfeld's report proved contagious. By 1999 the CIA had changed its tune and was echoing him. But the agency had to bend the rules to do it: no longer did a foe have to be capable of reaching the 48 contiguous states to be deemed a threat to the U.S.; Alaska and Hawaii were added, putting the territory to be defended far closer to North Korea. The CIA began assuming enemy missiles could be fired without years of testing. Most critically, it stopped predicting what was "most likely" to happen in favor of what "could" happen.