Bringing Troops Home: Tough Task

They went through the ceremony before, just after the president was sworn in. But Friday, two key members of the Bush national security team took their oath of office again— this time for the cameras.

First, Colin Powell was sworn in as Secretary of State, followed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose job, Mr. Bush confirmed Friday, will include building a national missile defense system.

The president also wants Rumsfeld to cut U.S. troop deployments overseas. But as CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports, that falls squarely into the category of "easier said than done."

The U.S. currently has 10,000 troops in the Balkans, and even before taking office the Bush administration was talking about bringing them home.

But Pentagon officials say the first place U.S. troops should be pulled out of is the Sinai Desert, where for 18 years, Americans have been monitoring the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, watching for violations that never occur.

The biggest enemy?

"I'd say our biggest enemy is probably boredom," said one commander.

One Pentagon official told CBS News there is no military mission for U.S. troops in the Sinai. In fact, the Pentagon tried to convince the Clinton administration to pull them out.

But the State Department objected, arguing the troops are an important symbol of American commitment to the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Every six months about 800 soldiers from elite army units, like the 82nd Airborne, take their turn in the Sinai.

"We decided early on that we were going to provide our first rate forces, top of the line, combat ready U.S. Military forces to perform this mission," said Middle East expert Baltimore Perry, a retired colonel.

But with spy planes and satellites keeping watch over the Sinai, those crack troops have very little to do but kill time.

"We pull two hours of guard up here," said one soldier. "I try to work out as much as I can. We play volleyball, probably two to three hours a day."

The Sinai mission costs the army $50 million a year, but the real cost is combat readiness. By the time the troops come home they are no longer ready for war. And a battalion getting ready to go to the Sinai has to suspend its normal combat training.

But before the Pentagon can bring the boys home it will have to convince one of its own—the new Secretary of State— retired General Colin Powell.