Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld apologized to veterans Tuesday for comments he made on the military draft that he said had been misconstrued by some as disparaging their service.
Rumsfeld issued the written apology shortly after three Democrats in Congress expressed outrage at his remark that draftees had added "no value, no advantage" to the U.S. military because they served for such short periods.
The letter, signed by Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Rep. Lane Evans of Illinois, argued that Rumsfeld's remarks at a news conference were offensive to veterans.
"We are shocked, frankly, that you were apparently willing to dismiss the value of the service of millions of Americans, tens of thousands of whom gave their lives for their country in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam," they wrote.
Rumsfeld made his comments Jan. 7 in response to a reporter's question about an effort by some in Congress to reinstitute the draft. He said he saw no need for a draft because the all-volunteer system works better.
In his written apology Tuesday, Rumsfeld described his remarks on draftees as "not eloquently stated."
He said he had not meant to say draftees added no value while they were serving.
"They added great value," he said. "I was commenting on the loss of that value when they left the service."
Rumsfeld added that he had no intention of disparaging the service of draftees.