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US Military in Reboot Camp

Only two weeks ago, political battle lines were forming around a Bush administration proposal to substantially boost military spending. Those battle lines faded after Sept. 11, replaced by a willingness in Washington to spend whatever's needed to end terrorism that strikes civilians.

But money may not be the issue. The bigger question is: What's the best way to end global terrorism?

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Broad speculation about the nature and origin of that threat has led to debate about retooling the armed forces away from conventional warfare. Finding well-organized, widely dispersed terrorist cells that can arm themselves with lethal weapons won't take a heavy armored division or an aircraft carrier. Attacking terrorist compounds and capturing their leaders will demand small, fast-moving units and enhanced communications abilities. The need for such units was widely acknowledged before the tragic attacks. Now, it's heavily underscored.

The military may be tempted to stay in old ruts of thinking - generals often like to fight the most recent war. The present US strategy of being ready to fight two conventional regional conflicts at once obviously needs an overhaul. And members of Congress may want to maintain the military structure of bases and research to support jobs back home.

It's a new day, however, and military-spending priorities should reflect that.