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April 7, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Socom future
One of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's key priorities for transforming the U.S. military remains turning the U.S. Special Operations Command (Socom) into an aggressive strategic warfighting component.

Socom has been a pet project for Mr. Rumsfeld since the September 11 attacks, when he sought to change the Tampa, Fla.-based command from a supporting unit to a front-line leader in the global war on terrorism.

Pentagon officials tell us the command has resisted the change. A study produced last fall for Mr. Rumsfeld by retired Army Gen. Wayne Downing, a former Socom commander, was critical of the command under its current leader, Army Gen. Doug Brown.

"Socom was criticized as little more than a planning staff that lacks operational focus," said one Pentagon source familiar with the report. Many in Socom are frustrated. One officer described duty there as a daily series of meetings.

The command also is expected to be the focus of scandal in the coming weeks, we are told. Two enlisted soldiers purportedly were caught involved in illegal activities, including a sergeant who tried to bring cocaine on a military flight.

Word was circulating in Congress that Gen. Brown would be replaced this summer. That set in motion a push to replace him with Army Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, a special operations veteran and currently deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

However, a senior defense official tells us that Gen. Brown's tour of duty at Socom was just extended and that Mr. Rumsfeld likes him and the job he is doing.

Gen. Boykin got into trouble because of his 2003 statements that cast the war on terrorism as a battle of good versus evil, the evil being Islamist extremists.

Some military and civilian defense officials see Gen. Boykin as the logical choice to head Socom and help transform the command according to Mr. Rumsfeld's model.

But the senior defense official said Gen. Boykin is not on the list of candidates for Socom. "He's doing a great job in intelligence," the official said.

The choice already has set off a debate in the Senate, which would have to approve the next commander. Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, is backing Gen. Boykin and Sen. John W. Warner, Virginian Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, favors keeping Gen. Brown and is opposing Gen. Boykin.

Cap's style
Sitting in the back of the chapel on Tuesday at Fort Myer was Charles Krohn, a retired Army public affairs officer who worked in the Pentagon during the rule of Caspar Weinberger.

Mr. Krohn had come to bid farewell to Mr. Weinberger, who died March 28. The funeral service featured former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, whose eulogy touched on the career of the 1980s defense secretary who oversaw President Ronald Reagan's $2.5 trillion military buildup that helped send the Soviet Union to the dustbin of history.

Mr. Krohn told us he had fond memories of the Weinberger years. "In those days, giants walked the earth," he said. "And if not the earth, at least the halls of the Pentagon. I still remember Secretary Weinberger's humility and graciousness in all the capacities of life."

For a time, the Army "loaned" Mr. Krohn to Henry Catto, Mr. Weinberger's spokesman, to answer the mail. It was February 1983 when Mr. Weinberger was revealing the huge budgets Mr. Reagan wanted for defense. During a Senate Budget Committee hearing, the defense secretary received rough treatment from Sen. Don Riegle, Michigan Democrat. Mr. Krohn became incensed, called the senator's officer and sent a memo to Mr. Catto.

A few days later, Mr. Krohn received a signed note from Mr. Weinberger: "Dear Mr. Krohn, Henry Catto has passed along to me your very nice letter of February 4, concerning my recent appearance before the Senate Budget Committee. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to write so nicely, but assure you I certainly don't blame the other good people of Michigan for the senator's behavior. Judging from the phone calls, cables and other communications I have received, from Michigan and from many other states, there may not be too many who agree with him."

King Bush
When it comes to deciding what and when to declassify government information, the buck stops squarely in the Oval Office.

Through several presidential executive orders begun in the 1970s, the president is the ultimate authority. And his executive orders delegate authority to agency heads, such as the secretary of defense, to declassify also. The current one is Executive Order No. 12958. It was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and updated by President Bush on March 25, 2003.

The issue arose yesterday when court filings showed that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, has testified that President Bush authorized leaks to the press on Iraq's weapons programs. The White House ultimately declassified much of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs, a significant part of which turned out to be wrong, but was used to justify the war with Iraq.

Dan Gallington is a former government lawyer who worked in the Justice Department on order No. 12958 and later was top counsel at the Senate Intelligence Committee. He did policy work for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, then retired and landed at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. He told us the president is the ultimate authority for the government's entire classification system. "He is the source of authority so he can declassify any information pursuant to his order," Mr. Gallington said.

He said the process often involves speechwriting. The president or national security adviser decide they want to disclose a secret national security fact, such as country "A" has developed a new missile or is moving to build nuclear weapons. Normally, the White House would check with the classifying agency, such as the CIA, and then publicly release the information.

Mr. Gallington said there is usually a memo written, or notes taken to record the president's declassification action.

Mr. Libby has cited the Bush authorization to show he did not break the law when he disclosed information on Iraq to a reporter. He is awaiting trial, not on that charge, but on counts of lying to the grand jury investigating the leak of the identity of a CIA employee Valerie Plame, who has since retired.

"If the president authorized the disclosure, then it is not an unauthorized disclosure and there is no criminality," Mr. Gallington said.

Warfare update
A State Department official said that only one of the two Chinese colonels who wrote the 1999 book "Unrestricted Warfare," visited the United States as part of the International Visitors Program.

Col. Wang Xiangsui was in the United States from March 6 to March 24 as part of the State Department program, but his co-author, Col. Qiao Liang, did not take part. The official said Col. Wang was identified by the department as a "professor" and the director of a Chinese strategic studies center. The official had no details on Col. Wang's visit.

The two colonels' book has raised concerns among Pentagon officials about Chinese military strategy and whether it supports the use of state-sponsored terrorism, as advocated in "Unrestricted Warfare."

The book stated that China must employ all forms of warfare, including "a traditional terror war" in waging war.

  • 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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