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SecDef: Up-or-out policy 'lousy idea'

TOKYO (AFPN) -- The U.S. military's "up-or-out" personnel policy is "a lousy idea," Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said in Yokosuka, Japan, on Nov. 15.

Speaking aboard the USS Blue Ridge, flagship of the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet, the secretary told sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines that he believes the practice of forcing people to separate or retire if they are not promoted is wrong for the military.

"There's something wrong with a process that (forces people to retire in their 40s)," he said. Other reasons to consider longer military careers are that people are living longer and that knowledge and experience are becoming more and more valuable, he said.

Rumsfeld made brief remarks and took questions aboard the ship.

Rumsfeld's comments included remarks on the situation in Iraq and the importance of the U.S. military presence in Asia. He also spoke in depth about a number of personnel issues. Aside from the up-or-out policy, Rumsfeld shared his thoughts on troop rotations, the balance of the active and reserve components, and civilian versus military people in various jobs.

Regarding assignments, Rumsfeld said he believes military servicemembers change assignments too quickly to "clean up their own mistakes." He said he is concerned people "just trip along the tops of the waves and never really get engaged."

He said he hopes to be able to lengthen the average length of military tours and expand the number of years people are able to serve in the military.

He expounded on the virtues of the total-force concept as "the right concept.

"We need to have active-duty forces, and we need to have ready Reserve and Guard forces that are capable of supplementing the active force during a period of spike in activity, as we have now in Iraq and Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said.

"The problem we've got is that we have an imbalance. We have people in the Guard and Reserve where we really need to have those skills on active duty," he said. "And we probably have some skills on active duty that would be better off in the Guard and Reserves."

A decrease in the total number of U.S. military forces is not likely, Rumsfeld said; however, an increase may eventually be in order.

"One of the things we can do is increase the size of the force," he said, "but we've got a lot of things we can do before we increase the size of the force."

Current commitments, such as in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Sinai, need to be looked at very closely, he said. Officials are also looking closely at moving some jobs into the civilian workforce.

"At the moment, we have something like 300,000 men and women in uniform doing jobs that everyone agrees could be done by civilians," Rumsfeld said, acknowledging it makes more sense to keep some jobs in the military that technically could be done by civilians.

"There (are) a lot of things we can do to reduce the stress on the force," he said. "The people part of it is so critically important that we've got to make sure we do it right."

Rumsfeld is in Asia to discuss security arrangements in the region, U.S. force structure and support to the war on terrorism.

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