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April 1, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

England's foes
Navy Secretary Gordon England has been confirmed twice by the Senate. But three times may not be the charm for President Bush's choice to replace Paul Wolfowitz as deputy defense secretary.

Mr. England, who was also the No. 2 official at homeland security, is a favorite of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. But he has enemies in the Senate, especially from states that make ships.

Under Mr. England's stewardship, the future year's shipbuilding budget has shrunk from 67 ships, to 55, and then to 49. The Navy leadership argues technology allows it to do more with fewer ships.

Shipyard advocates say the number is simply not sufficient to maintain a strong blue-water Navy and give work to all the current shipyards in Maine, Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana and California.

Therein may lie the answer. The Navy's unstated goal is to force closure of one big shipyard, thereby cutting support costs, defense officials say. "They are trying to reduce excess capacity," a source said.

The advocates say the strategy became even clearer when Mr. England deep-sixed the Navy's plan to have two yards, Maine's Bath Iron Works and Mississippi's Grumman Ship Systems Ingalls Operation, each build the DD(X) next-generation destroyer. The new plan is winner-take-all. Grumman could survive a loss, but analysts say Bath needs DD(X) work to stay open long term.

Mr. England further grated senators this month when he rejected a proposal to delay a DD(X) decision until the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is completed later this year.

No dice, he said in a March 23 letter to Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, and other senators.

"There would be little benefit in delaying any decision until after the 2005 [QDR]," the Navy secretary said. "While the 2005 QDR will identify future threats to national security and the capabilities required to defeat those threats, it is not expected to produce specific force structure prescriptions that would impact the current DD(X) procurement rate."

In explaining the winner-take-all strategy, Mr. England said, "The Navy's revised DD(X) acquisition strategy is intended to reduce ship unit cost and thus save taxpayers' dollars by concentrating the workload associated with the lower build rate at a single shipyard."

The Navy had planned to build two or three destroyers annually, but now plan on just one.

There is talk in Senate corridors that some senators may delay or try to defeat an England nomination in retaliation.

Sea hunt
We hear that Robert D. Johnson, former president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Aerospace, is a candidate to succeed Mr. England as Navy secretary.

Honeywell announced in January that Mr. Johnson would remain as nonexecutive chairman until retiring in January.

The Washington Times previously reported that Dan McKinnon, a former Navy pilot who owns and runs North American Airlines at John F. Kennedy International Airport, is another prospect.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld likes CEO experience in his service secretaries. All so far have run a corporation or a corporate division.

Data-sharing dangers
The report made public yesterday by the Commission on Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction calls for greater information sharing, a key shortcoming of U.S. intelligence agencies.

It states that policy and technical barriers that prevent exchanging intelligence should be removed. The administration should create, "to the fullest extent possible, uniform standards across the Intelligence Community designed to facilitate implementation of a networked community."

However, an earlier strategy report by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, a White House-level office in charge of counterintelligence, warned that too much sharing can undermine security.

That report warned against compromising security through improper intelligence sharing. "We must ensure that intelligence-sharing is measured against potential risks and that sensitive intelligence sources, methods, and operations are safeguarded," the report said.

Pantano update
We earlier told you about a comment from White House spokesman Scott McClellan about how soldiers in Iraq must make life-or-death, split-second decisions when firing at a suspected enemy.

We juxtaposed that quote with the Marine Corps' decision to charge 1st Lt. Ilario Pantano with two counts of premeditated murder for killing two Iraqi insurgents who he says moved toward him.

This week, Lt. Gen. John Sattler, back at Camp Pendleton after six months in al Anbar province, had this to say, according to the Los Angeles Times:

"Often it's an 18- or 19-year-old infantryman who has less than two seconds to make that decision: Is this person convertible or can I capture him, or do I have to kill them?"

Iraq beat
U.S. military commanders have become more upbeat on Iraq for a number of reasons, not least of which is that more Iraqis are beginning to trust the American-trained Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), a military source tells us.

The belief is that al Anbar province, which includes the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, will be the last of four restive provinces to be subdued. But even Sunnis in Ramadi are growing tired of the insurgency and more receptive to joining the new Shi'ite-dominated government, our source says.

Of the ISF, about one-third of 100 combat battalions are now involved in daily operations. But their leadership remains the biggest challenge, as U.S. commanders search for the right Iraqis to spearhead units.

Now that they have lost Fallujah as a large base of operation, the insurgents are on the move, setting up camp where they can, attacking and then moving on.

"The insurgents are still viable," the source said.

Senior commanders, including Army Gen. George Casey, the top man in Iraq, regularly brief Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on what they consider a new tide in Iraq.

Fallujah post-mortem
Some Marine units moved through Fallujah in November with Arabic translators. The infantrymen wanted to be able to eavesdrop on the terrorists' radio net.

A Marine told us that, roughly translated, one terrorist was heard to say: "We are fighting. But the Marines keep coming. We are shooting, but the Marines won't stop."

The Marines, backed by Army tanks, captured Fallujah in 11 days and with it the last large base for Abu Musab Zarqawi.

  • 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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