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March 30, 2001

Notes from the Pentagon

Missile movements
North Korea's military is on the move near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the country from South Korea, causing jitters among some Pentagon intelligence officials.

"Something is going on," one official familiar with reports of the activities told us.

According to intelligence reports based on reconnaissance aircraft flights, the most visible activity has been recent movements of SA-2 surface-to-air missile batteries to locations along the DMZ. The missiles are part of the North's air-defense system geared to repulsing U.S. air strikes in a conflict.

The activity is getting more attention than usual because of Pyongyang's reversion to hard-line anti-U.S. rhetoric in its official government radio broadcasts and publications. Earlier this week, the official newspaper Rodong Shinmun stated that "it is the invariable strategy of the U.S. imperialists to stifle [North Korea] by means of war and invade and dominate Asia."

Army commodes
The Army has become so cash-strapped, some bases are being told to put off repairs indefinitely, even for such unit necessities as the commode.

With President Bush refusing, at least for now, to ask Congress for emergency readiness money, all the services are looking for ways to save money.

At Fort Lee, Va., a training base for cooks and logisticians, the cutbacks are running deep.

"Recent budget reductions have forced us to implement drastic cost saving measures at Fort Lee," says an internal Army memo we obtained. "The impact is that [directorate of engineering and logistics] will only be authorized to respond to and repair emergency service orders those affecting health, life, safety or causing property damage."

Broken items that will be repaired: natural gas leaks, broken water pipes, loss of heat in winter, hot water heaters and "complete failure of air conditioning system in summer."

More importantly to soldiers, here's what won't be fixed:

"Commodes/urinals will not be repaired as long as one functional commode/urinal is available in a facility. Leaking sinks, broken screens, loose doorknobs, broken thermostats and similar problems will not be repaired. DEL sincerely regrets the inconvenience this will cause to our facility customers. If and when the budget situation improves, customers will be notified and routine repairs will resume."

Said one Army official to this column, "Evidently, we can't even afford to fix the toilets these days. Hope this doesn't affect our readiness posture."

The 'unders'
The White House has been holding up an announcement of its civilian picks to run the Air Force, Army and Navy until the Pentagon settles on who will be nominated as service undersecretaries.

We are told the undersecretary front-runners are Albert E. Smith, executive vice president for Lockheed-Martin Space Systems Co. in Denver, for the Air Force; and Matt Fong, an Air Force academy graduate and former Republican U.S. Senate candidate, for Army. We are told a female aviator is in line for the Navy job.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wanted a space expert at the Air Force since his own blue-ribbon commission recommended that that service become the executive agent for running the military's various space programs. The defense secretary views space as another potential battlefield, like the open seas and regional hot spots.

The Washington Times has reported that Gordon England (Navy), James G. Roche (Air Force) and retired Army Brig. Gen. Thomas E. White (Army) are Mr. Rumsfeld's choices as service secretaries.

Panel envy
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has established more than 10 study groups to recommend how to reform the military, top to bottom, for the 21st century. Here's some of the big players.

Andrew Marshall, who directs the Pentagon Office of Net Assessment, is heading the strategy group, with help from former protege Andrew Krepinevich and former Senate staffer Chris Williams.

David Gompert of Rand is heading conventional forces. Retired Air Force Gen. James McCarthy is lead man on transformation, intelligence and space, aided by retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch, retired Marine Gen. Carl Mundy and Paul Kaminski, acquisition czar in the Clinton Pentagon.

Financial management is headed by Stephen Friedman, retired chairman of Goldman Sachs.

Quality of life and morale is run by retired Adm. David Jeremiah, with help from various retired generals and admirals.

Ballistic missile defense is led by Stephen Cambone, who is on Mr. Rumsfeld's personal staff.

Bush wars
Two newspaper articles this week one in the New York Times and one in The Washington Post reported how policy splits are emerging in the Bush administration, supposedly between hard-liners and moderates. And of course the Pentagon was portrayed in the articles as a bastion of right-wing zealots, while the alleged voices of reason, correctness and moderation are located in the State Department.

Pentagon officials tell us the word has come down from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that there will be no engagement or counterattack with unnamed officials at State who appear to be behind the verbal thrusts.

"The Pentagon is taking the position that we don't leak; we don't reveal our differences; we don't undercut State and NSC; we don't take our quarrels public," said one official.

Some feel the turn-the-other-cheek strategy is doomed to fail, as the Pentagon loses more and more ground in the policy debates.

And we are told that the State Department is very happy with the notion that the Pentagon will not be fighting back.

The most important issue in the debate is over personnel appointments. State officials are trying to portray the appointment of Doug Feith, as a senior assistant defense secretary, and Peter Rodman, as undersecretary for policy, as bad for moderates. Mr. Rodman, of course, worked for Henry Kissinger before working for Ronald Reagan.

One of the major disputes now under way is arms sales to Taiwan. Although no presidential decision has been made, holdover officials from the Clinton administration are scrambling to block sales of advanced weaponry in order to avoid upsetting ties to Beijing.

Most of the new administration's working-level policy-makers are still not in place due to delays in background checks and security clearance adjudication, sidelining key personnel from the dispute.

One option being considered: Delay a final decision on several big-ticket items, such as Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with Aegis battle management systems, until later in the year.

Adm. Dennis Blair, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the president is considering an offer to the Taiwanese of several older Kidd-class destroyers that are less capable than Aegis-equipped ships. If China then continues to build up its 300 short-range CSS-6 and CSS-7 missiles opposite Taiwan, the United States would then sell Aegis ships that can be used for future missile defenses, Adm. Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this week.

The Taiwanese, we are told, appear more anxious to win approval for diesel-powered submarines that would be assembled and outfitted in the United States than for the Aegis ships, which will take up to eight years to deploy.


  • Defense officials tell us accused Moscow spy Robert P. Hanssen may have compromised the SIPRNET the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network. Officials are investigating whether, with Mr. Hanssen's help, the Russians may have placed secret entrance points allowing covert access to the SIPRNET, the Pentagon's backbone router for secret-level data and intelligence and military communications.

  • The White House has tapped Kenneth Juster as the next Commerce undersecretary for export administration, a key job in guarding against American military know-how falling into the hands of China, Iran and other potential adversaries.

    Mr. Juster was more than a loyal State Department aide during the administration of President Bush's father. He penned a long article in Foreign Policy in 1994 on how the media created the "Iraqgate" scandal and damaged Mr. Bush's 1992 re-election chances. Mr. Juster was vindicated when the Clinton Justice Department concluded there was no evidence of any criminal conduct. What the media trumpeted as a scandal was merely a foreign policy initiative, via agriculture credits, that failed to moderate Saddam Hussein's behavior.

  • Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican, has introduced legislation to make life easier for Guard and Reserve members.

    His bill, which is supported by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, would give tax deductions for non-reimbursed travel expenses for weekend soldiers and sailors.

    The bill is backed by the Reserve Officers Association of the United States.

  • 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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