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April 27, 2001

Notes from the Pentagon

B-1s threatened
A group of U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers in the Middle East came close to getting fired on by the Yemeni air force in an encounter several days ago.

Defense officials tell us the four B-1Bs were flying down the Red Sea as part of a global exercise when they were warned by ground controllers in Yemen their flight path was too close to Yemeni airspace.

Two Yemeni MiG-21 jets scrambled to intercept them. U.S. intelligence officials said communications intelligence indicated that orders were given to fire on the bombers. Luckily, no shots or missiles were fired and the aircraft passed safely through the Bab el Mandeb, as the strait between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden is called.

"They harassed us," said one senior official.

A second official said the Yemenis ordered the aircraft to change course and the bombers were unable to do so without violating Eritrean airspace. "This was an innocent right of passage," this official said, who noted that the bombers´ flight path was scheduled well in advance and that the Yemeni government should have known about it.

The Navy put its Pascagoula, Miss., base on high alert earlier this month after the Naval Criminal Investigative Service learned that an ex-military chaplain might want to plant a bomb, says an internal memo we obtained.

"According to the Marshal Service, subject possesses the background and knowledge to follow through on a terrorist attack," the Navy memo states. "Law enforcement sources indicate the subject may be in Mississippi for a convention related to his white supremacist affiliations circa mid-May 2001. His presence would coincide with the planned execution of the Oklahoma City bomber."

The memo says the naval station at Pascagoula decided to increase its "threatcon" or threat condition after a nearby air base increased force protection.

"According to an anonymous source, this named individual had made comments sympathetic to the Oklahoma City bomber and was reportedly planning something similar to the OK bombing."

A Navy spokeswoman said yesterday the base remains on high alert.

North Korea-Iran spat
New shipments of North Korean missile components and technology are being held up -- but not because of any covert U.S. counter-proliferation efforts.

U.S. intelligence officials said a dispute broke out over a letter of credit between Iran´s missile-building defense organization and the North Korean government. The disagreement was detected by U.S. intelligence agencies in the past two weeks.

North Korea sent its last shipment of missile parts by Il-76 transport planes in late February from Sunan International Airport north of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. The earlier shipment, first disclosed by The Washington Times on April 18, included documents and missile components that U.S. intelligence officials believe are intended for Iran´s medium-range missile program.

Rumsfeld´s rules
An anonymous Senate aide is lampooning Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld´s famous "Rumsfeld´s Rules" in a show of pique over the way the new Pentagon team is treating Hill staffers.

Mr. Rumsfeld, a career corporate manager who served briefly as defense secretary under President Ford, is proud of his set of 19 rules on carrying out top private sector and government jobs. One rule states, "The secretary of defense is not a super general or admiral. His task is to exercise civilian control over the department for the commander-in-chief and the country."

In his parody, the Hill staffer writes, "Your previous service as secretary of defense predates the post-Watergate reforms . . . You cannot run the Pentagon the same way as you did in 1975. That world no longer exists. Get used to it."

There are several undercurrents driving a schism between the Rumsfeld team and the Hill. Staffers believe job screeners are denying top budget and acquisition jobs to congressional aides because Mr. Rumsfeld does not want aides beholden to powerful senators and House members. And the new defense secretary is bent on running the building like a corporation, with strong civilian control and less congressional rule-making.

States the parody, "The Pentagon´s mission is about the defense of our nation and her interests. It is not a company. It does not seek to maximize profits, and meeting payrolls is not its primary objective."

Mr. Rumsfeld´s complaints of excessive congressional oversight is, however, popular with some Hill staffers.

Said one Senate aide, "The disdain for Congress is well deserved. Staff up here is lousy. It caters to the self-serving interests of members and industry. The contempt for congressional staff is well deserved. It´s not technically competent. They think they know what they´re talking about, but all they are doing is shilling for their services and their bosses."

One revealing statistic: when Mr. Rumsfeld held the defense post 25 years ago, the Senate and House Armed Services committees produced a bill containing 17 pages of legislation and directives. This year´s bill contains 534 pages.


  • The Pentagon is still working out details on its planned sale of eight Harpoon missile-equipped diesel submarines to Taiwan. A spokeswoman for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency told us yesterday the agency is still looking into the issue. "We will not have detailed plans until we sit down with the Taiwanese and discuss it." When will that be? "We do not know."

  • Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld´s inner circle is invoking the name of a former president in explaining the type of transformation they foresee. The ex-president is Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Rumsfeld aides often cite his transformation of a World War II force into a Cold War force as the kind of change President Bush wants. Critics point out that Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander in Europe during World War II, slashed conventional forces to dangerously low numbers.

  • The Weekly Standard normally devotes it cover story to political news. But this week´s edition devotes the top spot to the U.S. Army. Under the headline "The New Army: Be Whatever You Want to Be," writer Matt Labash skewers the Army for a decade of political correctness that produced easier boot camps, a recruit ad campaign aimed at self-centered youth and black berets for all.

  • The retired Army officer who produced the Web site "We Have Lost Our Way" was kicked off the site shortly after Inside the Ring gave it some publicity last week. One of the new sites is http// .

  • Douglas Paal, the pro-China director of a one-man think tank funded by overseas Chinese friends, is said to be in the running for the much-sought-after job of deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia. The other leading contender identified by us last week remains former House International Relations Committee Asia staffer Peter Brookes.

  • Bill Inglee, who spent 15 years on Capitol Hill and was top national security adviser to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, is moving up at Lockheed Martin. Mr. Inglee has been promoted to the post of top Washington lobbyist.

  • 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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