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April 20, 2001

Notes from the Pentagon

Missile security
U.S. spy satellites recently detected increased security for Russia´s road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles.

According to defense officials, the Russian military has assigned motorized infantry units to guard the nuclear-tipped SS-25 and SS-27 mobile missile brigades. Tracking the strategic missiles is a major mission of U.S. reconnaissance satellites.

Officials said reports from Russia over the past several years have indicated that the troops in charge of the missiles are poorly paid and there are fears someone in the Strategic Rocket Forces might steal one of the single-warhead missiles and sell it on the black market. Several years ago, the CIA reported secretly within the U.S. government how one SS-25 team left their missile unguarded as they stopped in a village to get something to eat.

The enhanced security for SS-25 and newly deployed SS-27 missiles is being viewed by Pentagon intelligence analysts as a sign Russia´s leaders are worried that organized crime groups or terrorists could steal one of the single-warhead long-range missiles.

The SS-25 and SS-27 are the world´s only deployed road-mobile ICBMs and its garrisons are scattered throughout eastern and western Russia. China is also working on a road-mobile DF-31, which was flight tested twice last year.

Wang Wei´s fate
U.S. intelligence agencies monitoring the Chinese military search effort for a missing pilot have picked up indications of what happened to Wang Wei. His F-8 fighter jet flew into the propeller of the U.S. Navy EP-3E surveillance plane April 1, sparking the recent international incident between the United States and China.

Defense officials said intelligence reports on the search and rescue effort indicate the pilot successfully ejected after the collision over the South China Sea. But his parachute failed to open and he plummeted to his death. Initial Chinese press accounts reported that a parachute was seen shortly after the collision.

China's government has lionized Mr. Wang as a hero and "revolutionary martyr." U.S. officials paint the picture of a reckless pilot who flew dangerously close to U.S. surveillance aircraft.

China´s military recently called off what the Chinese press described as one of the most extensive search and rescue operations ever mounted by the Chinese military, involving scores of ships and aircraft and thousands of troops.

One raw U.S. intelligence report based on sensitive information-gathering techniques had a perplexing twist on the entire affair. According to defense sources, the report stated that the entire episode was a Chinese military provocation designed to disrupt or frustrate U.S. electronic eavesdropping efforts. The report said Mr. Wang had volunteered to deliberately "bump" the U.S. EP-3E and then bail out and be rescued. Officials dismissed the report as far-fetched.

The Pentagon is close to picking its choice for the much-coveted Asia post within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The leading contender for the job of deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia is Peter Brookes, a North Korea specialist who recently worked for the House International Relations Committee, defense sources told us. Other major contenders include Pat Cronan of the U.S. Institute for Peace, Thor Ronay, a China specialist with the conservative Center for Security Policy, and William Triplett, an aide to Sen. Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican.

Another deputy assistant defense secretary candidate is said to be Danielle Pletka, who is vying for the Pentagon´s Near East and South Asia slot. Mrs. Pletka currently is a Middle East specialist for Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Warner´s plans
Don't look for a John W. Warner-Donald H. Rumsfeld confrontation over big-decked carriers at least not yet. The Virginia Republican and Senate Armed Services chairman spoke to us from the "bowels of Virginia," as he put it, to say he has no plans to hold up Pentagon nominees as leverage against losing construction of large carriers.

Senate sources this week have said Mr. Warner plans to hold up several key appointments until Defense Secretary Rumsfeld makes a decision on future carriers. Mr. Warner´s state is home to the nation´s only carrier builder, Newport News Shipbuilding. An ongoing Pentagon strategic review is examining whether the Navy should shift to smaller, stealthier ships.

Asked about reports he may hold up a nomination or two, Mr. Warner said, "I can assure you that as chairman I would not let the committee use that type of leverage . That's not my tactic. We´re going to wait patiently until Rumsfeld completes his study and until he formally comes before the committee and tells us what are our goals."

Mr. Warner said he recently discussed the review with Mr. Rumsfeld, who described speculation about scrapping large carriers as merely "rumors."

Navy Earth Day

As the Navy fights to preserve the carrier battle group and at least a 300-ship fleet, sailors are being asked by the high command to reflect on another topic: Earth Day.

The special occasion is not until Sunday, but the Navy already has celebrated by holding a ceremony this week at the downtown Navy Memorial. And, Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, sent a message to sailors earlier this month bragging at how environmentally correct the fleet has become.

"Commands throughout the Navy will celebrate Navy Earth Day 2001 with shore, beach, river and neighborhood cleanups, tree plantings, habitat restoration efforts, environmental education programs for schools, fairs and many other events and projects," said Adm. Clark´s message. "As you plan your Navy Earth Day 2001 festivities, I urge you to partner with your local communities to spread the word about the Navy´s successes in preserving the world we share and our continuing commitment to environmental excellence."

Adm. Clark said the theme for this year´s special day is "New Technology for a Clean Environment."

"As Earth Day 2001 approaches, Navy personnel should reflect with pride on our Navy accomplishments in environmental stewardship," the message says. "After over three decades of policy evolution, education, and a significant investment of resources, our progress and performance have been impressive. None of our many accomplishments would have been possible without the caring, dedication and achievements of our military and civilian personnel and their families. As a result, today we are viewed as a leader in many areas of environmental stewardship."

In response, one naval aviator commented: "Ever wonder what´s wrong with today´s Navy."

Not to be outdone, the Air Force also has big plans for Earth Day. Top Air Force officials tomorrow will participate in a stream cleanup at Four Mile Run in Northern Virginia.


  • The last Vietnam prisoner of war on active duty is retiring. Vice Adm. Joseph S. Mobley, whose A-6 Intruder was shot down over North Vietnam, relinquished command April 12 as head of the Atlantic Fleet air forces. He was succeeded by Rear Adm. Michael Malone.

  • A retired Army officer has produced a dramatic pictures-to-music Web site, with commentary on what he considers today´s "political correct" armed forces. The title: "We Have Lost Our Way."

    As a picture of D-Day troops appears, a caption states, "An Army of One did not assault this beach." The Army's new campaign slogan, "An Army of One," has replaced the traditional slogan of "Be All You Can Be."

    A picture of American troops in the Pacific has this comment: "For him, 'consideration of others´ was keeping his troops alive while killing as many as possible." Consideration of Others is the Army-wide sensitivity training program.

    The web site is

  • 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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