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Rumsfeld: 'The last thing we need is a draft'

From CNN's Paul Courson

• Bush picks Pace to replace Myers
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
Donald H. Rumsfeld

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has sent letters to congressional leaders urging them to pass the final 2005 budget supplemental bill before the Army runs out of operating funds.

The Army has slowed its spending, so it can continue operations in Afghanistan and Iraq through early May when the funds are due to run out, Rumsfeld said.

He sent the letters Wednesday, along with handwritten notes that read, "Our folks out there need these funds."

The letters were sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran.

"I want to emphasize how important it is that Congress pass the final legislation prior to the upcoming Senate recess," Rumsfeld wrote in the letter.

The Senate is due to recess on Friday.

Without its passage, Rumsfeld warned he would have to move funds which would "seriously disrupt other activities," and he might have to invoke the "Feed and Forage Act" to keep the deployed troops operating.

The Feed and Forage Act allows the military departments to incur obligations in excess of available appropriations for clothing, subsistence, fuel, quarters, transportation and medical supplies, according to Pentagon officials.

Rumsfeld invoked the act in September 2001 after the terrorist attacks on the United States.

Military budget gets Senate hearing

The Pentagon's military budget was the focus of a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Lawmakers questioned Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the military draft, troop levels in Iraq, armor for troops and something called the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, the Democrat from Hawaii, said, "For the first time in many years the Army and Marine Corps are not meeting their recruiting targets. There are some who are already discussing the draft."

Rumsfeld leaned closer to the microphone and said, "I think the only people who could conceivably be talking about a draft are people who are speaking from pinnacles of near-perfect ignorance."

He added, "The last thing we need is a draft. We just don't." He explained that recruitment and retention in the part-time forces have been affected by active duty troops who are staying longer in the regular military.

Rumsfeld also staunchly defended the number of U.S. troops used in post-major combat operations in Iraq, saying the Pentagon has consistently followed the recommendations of commanders on the ground.

He also refuted comments made in 2003 by Gen. Eric Shinseki, then-Army Chief of Staff, who said he believed several hundred thousand soldiers might be required in Iraq following major combat -- a figure far lower than the actual number of soldiers there.

"The fact of the matter is that the military experts on the ground from the beginning have said what they thought the number ought to be," Rumsfeld said.

"The more troops you have, the more targets you have, and the more people you might get killed. The more troops you have, the more of an occupying power you are, the heavier footprint, the more force protection you need, the more logistics you need and the more intrusive you are on the people of that country."

The size of the U.S. military presence in Iraq has ranged from about 110,000 to 150,000 since May 2003, when President Bush declared major combat operations were over.

Rumsfeld noted the Soviet Union had 300,000 troops in Afghanistan during the war there in the 1980s and that "they lost." He said the United States used a fraction of that force and quickly toppled the Taliban in a matter of months following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Testifying at the same hearing, Myers said that before the Iraq war was launched Bush met with his commanders and asked if "anybody had any reservations, if they had everything we needed, and if we're ready to go."

"Everybody gave a thumbs-up on that," he said, adding Shinseki was present.

Asked if Shinseki had raised any objections, Myers said, he "certainly didn't bring up a couple hundred thousand" troops for post-combat operations.

"All the service chiefs were in total support of Gen. [Tommy] Franks' plan, the numbers we had planned, all of that. We were all on board," Myers said.

Fortified, 38-pound leggings

Rumsfeld also discussed a prototype version of fortified leggings the Army wants to try. At $9,400 a pair, they use air conditioning technology and weigh 38 pounds, according to one lawmaker, who asked whether they could protect a soldier from roadside bombs.

Rumsfeld did not address the cost or the effectiveness of the prototype, saying instead that the idea is to avoid having "vehicles operating without appropriate armor in areas outside of protected compounds."

Myers said, "There is an effort ongoing in the armed services to continually improve the garments they wear," to deal with an increased threat.

Myers is slated to retire from the military September 30 after 40 years. Last Friday President Bush named Marine Gen. Peter Pace Myers' successor.

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