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March 14, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Iraq moves boats
Iraq's military recently moved a number of patrol boats to Basra, Iraq's main port on the Tigris River.

More than a dozen small patrol boats were sent as part of Iraqi military preparations for the coming conflict with the United States, we are told.

Defense officials said Iraq is attempting to mount a defense but that its forces are ill-prepared to do better against superior U.S. and allied forces.

Iraqi military forces appear to be giving up defenses in areas far from Baghdad and focusing defenses on protecting Baghdad and areas near the Iraqi capital.

Iraq has only a small number of heavily armed patrol boats, including one Russian-made Osa-class boat armed with anti-ship missiles. It has about 80 smaller patrol boats.

China aerial intercepts
U.S. intelligence officials said Chinese interceptor jets are flying closer to U.S. reconnaissance aircraft following the North Korea incident involving four MiGs that threatened an RC-135 jet March 2 over the East Sea/Japan Sea. Several times since then, Chinese jets have flown within two miles of U.S. reconnaissance flights in international airspace.

Space war
The Pentagon's senior space official this week called for revising the U.S. policy banning weapons in space.

Peter Teets, Air Force undersecretary and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, made the remarks this week at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee.

Mr. Teets said the military policy on space weapons is being reviewed and "could conceivably change."

The policy needs to be changed so that space weapons can be used to defend the hundreds of satellites used for spying, communications and warning, he said.

"But I, for one, believe that the time has come for us to consider a change in policy which would allow us to have some offensive capability as well," Mr. Teets said.

Later before the same subcommittee, Air Force Gen. Lance Lord, commander of the Air Force Space Command, said "offensive counterspace" arms are needed because space attacks are inevitable. "I think it's not a matter of if, it's when somebody is going to try to perturb our asymmetric advantage in space," Gen. Lord said.

Twenty years ago, about 250 satellites, three-quarters of them owned by governments, were orbiting the Earth. Today, about 1,000 satellites are in orbit and half are owned by governments.

U.S. defense officials have said Russia and China are developing lasers and other weapons that can attack satellites.

A privilege, not a right
The war on terrorism is hitting the world's largest office building where it hurts: coveted parking spaces.

The Pentagon invoked a policy this week that requires every car on its complex of 8,000 parking spaces to have a permit. "Parking is a privilege and not the right of an individual," states a two-page letter jointly signed by two officials in the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

The new rule means that visitors who used to park at the Pentagon on weekends and holidays and after hours can no longer do so.

But what's got some Pentagon workers upset is the abolition of "floater parking permits" temporary passes. Now, employees working special shifts and not able to take the Metro must apply for "special parking permits" that require extensive justification.

Glenn Flood, a Pentagon spokesman, tells us two factors are at work. First, the Pentagon has lost 1,000 spaces to construction projects. And, secondly, in light of September 11, when the Pentagon was attacked by terrorists, officials want to know that every car on the sprawling lots belongs to an authorized user.

"Security is the main reason, and the fact that we are losing spaces," Mr. Flood said.

Nearly everyone is feeling the crunch. "We've had to move VIPs away and have them park farther from the building," Mr. Flood said.

The Pentagon is continuing an old policy of issuing permanent passes only to VIPs and carpoolers.

Says the enforcement letter, "Parking at the Pentagon is extremely limited at this time due to ongoing renovations and various security/anti-terrorism measures affecting the parking lots."

Dari survival
Special Forces in Afghanistan carry Dari-English translations for a few dozen critical words that can mean life or death if there is a miscommunication.

A few examples: Don't do it (En rana kuned). I will kill you (Man tu ra mekusham). Run (Bedau). Enemy (Doshman). Go away (bro bro).

A few good reserves
A Marine is different. The Corps has a special culture, a mix of unabashed patriotism, adherence to tradition, unit camaraderie and bravado. Anywhere, anytime, a Marine will tell you.

Its uniqueness is pointed out once again in a newsletter called Armed Forces Law. Editor and publisher Grant Lattin, in the March 1 issue, reports statistics on how the four branches muster out reservists for unsatisfactory participation in required weekend drills and two-week active duty.

The numbers show the Air Force and Army discharge relatively few. When they do, the offender is likely to receive an honorable or dishonorable discharge.

The Navy got rid of 1,260 the last two years, and all received either honorable or general discharges.

The Corps, the smallest of the four branches, by far had the largest number of dismissals 2,590 in 2001 and 2002. Of those, all but three received "other than honorable" discharges a much more severe penalty for failing to complete the commitment, as compared with a "general" discharge.

The statistics raise two questions. Why does the Marine Corps discharge so many more people and why do they besmirch them? Mr. Lattin, a civilian military defense lawyer, writes that the practice should not continue.

He writes, "Though the American public and Congress should accept some disparity between military services in the judgments made to discharge its sons and daughters, we should not permit one service to impose the highly stigmatizing other than honorable (OTH) discharge for the same conduct that would be given a discharge of under honorable conditions in another service.

"The stigma of an OTH discharge will remain with the person throughout their lives, usually blocking employment in many occupational fields. ... The above statistic suggests an injustice is occurring in the lives of thousands of former Marine reservists."

Mr. Lattin obtained the numbers through a Freedom of Information Request.

Glosson book tour
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Buster Glosson, who designed the Desert Storm air war, is out with a memoir on the 1991 war. "War with Iraq: Critical Lessons," tells the story of how a North Carolina-born, Vietnam War fighter pilot created the first modern air campaign.

Along the way, Gen. Glosson criticizes advisers, including Colin L. Powell, for convincing the first President Bush to stop the ground campaign just when they had the Iraqi Republican Guard cornered.

"It was a tragic mistake, there's no doubt about it," he told CBS' Dan Rather this week. "If all that equipment had been destroyed, those Republican Guards would have been captured, the number of divisions he had today would be significantly less."

Mr. Glosson is using his ongoing book tour to criticize the current war plan for Iraq. He says it does not give air strikes sufficient time to take down Iraq's ground forces before sending in Army soldiers and Marines.

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

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