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March 2, 2001

Notes from the Pentagon

Greeneville probe
The Navy Court of Inquiry, set to convene Monday at Pearl Harbor, will look at issues other than the conduct of four officers on board the submarine USS Greeneville.

Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander, has given the three-admiral court a wide berth to examine all issues in determining why the Greeneville surfaced underneath the Ehime Maru, sinking the Japanese fishing boat and killing nine students, instructors and crew.

Adm. Fargo, in a letter to Vice Adm. John B. Nathman, who heads the court, directed him to look into the policy of allowing civilians on board during the type of emergency surfacing drill the Greeneville was conducting when the accident happened.

"Provide your candid assessment and conclusions regarding the execution of this program on 9 Feb. 2001, as well as any recommendations the court may have for improving the policies and practices related to the [visitors] program," Adm. Fargo wrote.

There were 16 VIPs aboard the Greeneville. Three were at workstations during the surfacing or "blow."

A confidential Navy report, first disclosed in The Washington Times last week, found no accident link from civilians participating under close supervision. But Rear Adm. Charles Griffiths Jr. concluded that the VIPs "did interfere" by disrupting communications between a fire-control technician tracking the Ehime Maru and Cmdr. Scott Waddle, the captain.

Adm. Fargo also told Adm. Nathman to examine the practice of allowing subs to practice blows relatively close to shore. The accident happened nine miles off the Hawaiian coast where ship traffic is light to moderate.

"You are directed to examine the propriety of the assigned location for the USS Greeneville's operations on Feb. 9, 2001," Adm. Fargo said.

The four-star admiral named three officers as "parties" to the inquiry — Cmdr. Waddle, his executive officer and the officer of the deck. In addition, he told the court to examine whether the senior officer on board, Capt. Robert Brandhuber, should have intervened to rectify crew errors.

The Navy's internal report documents what the investigator believes are a number of crew errors, including a too-brief periscope search. Cmdr. Waddle's supporters say he followed all normal procedures before ordering the blow.

Wrote Adm. Fargo, "I have not given you a specific date to submit your report because I want you to take whatever time is required to address all relevant issues completely."

Lonely at the top
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the process of getting top people appointed to slots in the office of the secretary of defense is taking a long time. "It's lonely," he told us, as attested to by the numerous open parking spaces outside the river entrance to the Pentagon, where most of the top defense officials get to park.

Mr. Rumsfeld was especially anxious to get his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, in place. "As soon as you are confirmed, I want you reporting for duty immediately," Mr. Rumsfeld told Mr. Wolfowitz during a reception Tuesday night at the Willard Hotel sponsored by the Stanford-based Hoover Institution.

The Senate late Wednesday unanimously confirmed Mr. Wolfowitz, who now gets to move from his temporary office on the third floor of the E-Ring to his new office in the deputy secretary's office, a short walk down the hall from Mr. Rumsfeld's office.

At a surprise appearance in the Pentagon briefing room yesterday, Mr. Rumsfeld said up to 10 persons are awaiting official appointment and only two have been confirmed, himself and Mr. Wolfowitz. "The people part of this process is a difficult one, and I've been spending an enormous amount of time on it," he said.

Intelligence dodge
Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, wrote to all DIA personnel this week to explain the protest resignation of a DIA analyst in October. The analyst, Kie Fallis, quit the day after the USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers in Aden, Yemen. Mr. Fallis charged that a report he had written on the threat of a terrorist attack in Yemen was suppressed by senior DIA officials.

Mr. Fallis' resignation letter stated that he had "significant analytic differences" with DIA superiors over a terrorist threat assessment produced in June.

U.S. intelligence officials said there were warnings, but they arrived too late. The National Security Agency issued a report shortly after the Cole was bombed warning of attacks in the region —too late to be useful.

Adm. Wilson said he asked the Pentagon inspector general (IG) to investigate Mr. Fallis' charges. In an awkwardly worded statement, the three-star admiral said on Wednesday the IG "found no evidence to support the public perception that information warning of an attack on Cole was suppressed, ignored or even available in DIA." What about the private perception?

The admiral's statement drew smirks from several intelligence officials. It relied on a dodge often used by intelligence analysts to dismiss unwelcome information. Saying there is "no evidence" —like that presented to a court of law — is often used to mask the fact there is lots of intelligence to the contrary that spooks would rather not talk about in public.

Ships ahoy
The Navy this week brought its case for more ships to Capitol Hill.

At an event in the Capitol hosted by the American Shipbuilding Association, two admirals warned about the incredibly shrinking Navy fleet. There are predictions the 300-ship Navy will become a 180-ship Navy by 2023 unless Congress substantially increases the Pentagon's $7 billion annual shipbuilding budget.

"We can't always assume we're going to have maritime power" without more spending, said Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and programs. "At the present rate of investment the number will grow smaller."

A third of the fleet is at sea at any given time, putting wear and tear on ships and sailors. Rear Adm. Joseph Sestak, director of the Navy's Quadrennial Defense Review, said the sea service needs 360 ships to cover global requirements.

"We are already proportioning strategic risk," Adm. Sestak said.

One Navy pitch is the importance of "command of the seas" in the new global economy. Ninety-nine percent of all international trade moves by ship. Just one blocked major port could hurt the world's economy.

"We won't meet the necessary build rate if the funding is not there," Adm. McGinn said.

Gen. James Jones, Marine Corps commandant, said he is not too worried about an ongoing top-to-bottom review of military strategy and force structure.

"I don't see that the missions we're going to be asked to do are going to change that much," the commandant said.

Adm. McGinn, a balding former carrier pilot, filled in for Adm. Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations who is also hair-challenged.

"I'm not Vern Clark," Adm. McGinn told the audience. "We go to the same barber."


  • Conservatives in Congress and the Bush administration are concerned that Rear Adm. Lowell "Jake" Jacoby, the current Joint Staff intelligence chief, or J-2, will be appointed director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency — the Pentagon's photographic spying agency. Military sources say the two-star admiral is part of the China-is-not-a-threat school of intelligence analysis.

    "He's very soft on China," said our military informant who noted that Adm. Jacoby killed the Office of Naval Intelligence's program to produce unclassified reports on the Chinese military and navy when he headed the office.

    Adm. Jacoby's supporters disagree. They point to the December speech by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warning that China could emerge as the Soviet bear of the 21st century as a sign of the J-2's views on China.

  • Republican sources say retired Army Brig. Gen. Tom White, a Texas businessman, is now the front-runner to be the next secretary of the Army.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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