I won't knock the decision to relieve SECDEF Rumsfeld. And as you know I am not particularly a fan of the administration either. But...
So many people are outwardly hailing the decision, blaming Rumsfeld for countless operational SNAFUs in Iraq. I'm no admirer of his, nor a firm believer in his command abilities. But there often seems to be much confusion about what the SECDEF's job actually is and what the Pentagon actually does. Many are blaming Rumsfeld for problems running the war. But operations in Iraq aren't run by Rumsfeld. They aren't even run by the Pentagon. They are run by CENTCOM in Tampa, FL.
Since the DoD reorganization in the early 1990s, combat operations have run through the Unified Combatand Commands, by a 4 star general or admiral who is ultimately responsible for the combat operations in his or her geographical area and reports directly to the Commander In Chief. The chain of command runs to each of those Generals in each geographical location - The Pacific, Europe, The Middle East, South America, and North America. The SECDEF, then, acts generally as an intermediary or an observing authority on the operational end. Any choices on troops force levels, for example, are determined by the combatant commanders (Generals) on the ground based on what is needed for the mission and what resources and capabilities the Pentagon has to give them. While they are doing this, those in the Pentagon are busy raising the force, training the force, and putting together think-tanks of field grade and flag officers to generate OPLANs for future conflicts. In a nutshell: the Unified Combatant Commands run the wars in the present, the Pentagon raises and equips the military for the future.
While there have been plenty of planning and operational SNAFUs, people often don't realize what SECDEF Rumsfeld has really accomplished in his actual job. He is personally responsible for what has essentially been a revolution in the affairs of the Department of Defense - DoD Transformation - which will allow the US Military to do what it wasn't originally designed to do: respond to terrorism. Important examples of his masterwork include: The reorganization of Army Divisions into highly responsive Brigade Combat Teams, the creation and strengthening of new combatant commands such as Special Operations Command and the up-and-coming Unified Medical Command (which will be crucial for the success of the vastly increased amount of humanitarian and civil-relief missions that the military is now taking part in). Not to mention that he is also wholly responsible for the new Rapid Fielding Initiative, which allows new equipment to be tested quickly, on the ground and in the conflict and gets needed equipment (eg. advanced body armor, stryker vehicles, &c) where it needs to be as soon as it is battle ready. Before him, the military did not have anything close to that capability.
It is because of Rumsfeld that the Armed Forces are positioned to respond to a multitude of asymmetric threats that they did not have the capability to defend against only 6 years ago. Just remember that as you cheer his resignation.
An interesting conversation below: