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May 9, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Russian germ weapons
U.S. intelligence officials said Russia is secretly continuing to build deadly biological weapons in violation of an international treaty. "Their BW production is actually increasing," said one official with access to reports on the issue.

Moscow for decades denied that its military had any offensive biological weapons.

Then in 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin stated that both the Soviet Union and Russia had top-secret offensive germ-weapons programs.

The arms programs violated the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which banned such munitions.

Mr. Yeltsin issued an edict that called for Russia to eliminate the biological weapons programs.

However, recent intelligence from Russia makes it clear that the Russians under President Vladimir Putin are continuing the banned germ-weapons programs.

Defense officials said the work is being carried out in still-secret defense laboratories in Russia that are supposed to have halted all work on biological weapons.

Intelligence on the Russian biowarfare programs are particularly embarrassing to officials in charge of the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which has spent millions of taxpayer dollars in recent years to supposedly disarm Russian biological warfare centers.

Russia's secret germ-weapons program was believed to be the most advanced of its kind, according to the officials. In addition to anthrax and other traditional warfare agents, Russian scientists had developed genetically engineered weapons that were resistant to antidotes and vaccines.

Air Force candidate
We are told that Barbara Barrett a pilot, lawyer, corporate figure and ex-Reagan administration official is a leading candidate to be the next Air Force secretary.

Mrs. Barrett is the wife of Craig R. Barrett, the chief executive officer of technology giant Intel Corp.

She understands Washington as both a politician and an administrator. She ran unsuccessfully for the Arizona governorship. During the Reagan years, she served as deputy administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration and as a special trade adviser.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is looking for a replacement for current Air Force Secretary James Roche, whom President Bush plans to nominate as the next Army secretary.

Clinton's military
Some in the military are chuckling over assertions by former aides to President Clinton, who say his military won the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Never mind the fact that he had eight years to get Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, say some rank-in-file members who contacted us. In the late 1990s, the military's combat readiness had reached such a low point that Republican senators had to threaten the Joint Chiefs of Staff to come to Capitol Hill and testify about the sorry state of affairs. Their testimony led to a big influx of cash.

A longtime Army officer tells us: "Jokes within the military during Clinton's reign reflected the 'Meals on Wheels' mentality. We dreaded the 'Snacks on Tracks' and 'Green Beret Buffets' missions. The bottom line is that had Clinton had his way, the military would have been decimated and marginalized. The truth is that the military fought him tooth and nail every step of the way. The military that prevailed in Afghanistan and Iraq did so in spite of Bill Clinton. I have been in the military since President Nixon and all I can say is, thank God for President Reagan's vision and the way President George W. Bush has revived it."

Quantico's star
The Marine Corps has the fewest generals per capita of the four armed services. In recent years, it has looked for ways to get more top brass out into the field. For example, it consolidated control of air stations instead of having one general for each station. It then put two generals over the network, one in the east and one in the west.

"We are a lean force at the top," said Brig. Gen. Andrew Davis, the Corps' chief spokesman.

Now, the push has hit locally. When Brig Gen. Joseph Composto retires as commanding general of the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., his replacement will be Col. Mike Lowe.

The post largely has administrative duties, running the sprawling base south of Washington and Henderson Hall barracks near the Pentagon. Quantico is home to 5,000 military and 2,000 civilian workers, and 4,000 Marine family members.

Quantico remains one of the Corps' doctrinal and training hubs, and there is no lack of general officers walking the grounds.

The Marine Corps University is led by a one-star general. The Combat Development Command is headed by a lieutenant general. The Corps' systems command, a weapons-buying agency, is supervised by a brigadier general, as is the war-fighting lab.

Bush's on-time flight
The Navy said yesterday that President Bush's landing on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln did not delay the ship's arrival in San Diego by a day, as one newspaper reported.

A senior Navy official told us that, for more than two weeks before the mooring, the carrier received orders to drop anchor in California on May 2 and it kept to that schedule.

"The White House made clear it did not want to interfere with the schedule and it did not," the official said.

The official, who asked not to be named, said it is standard operating procedure for a carrier to wait off the coast, as the Lincoln did, until the scheduled mooring time arrives. This is because of the logistical support needed to moor the huge ship and because thousands of spouses and other relatives have scheduled that day to arrive at the pier.

This official also said that it was the Navy, not the White House, that suggested Mr. Bush land in a jet, not a helicopter. Mr. Bush agreed.

"We thought it would be neat for the crew. We thought it would be a great thing and it was," the source said.

Mr. Bush spoke to the nation from the Lincoln's flight deck, declaring an end to major combat activity in Iraq.

Wolfowitz on Korea
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is skeptical about the latest offer by North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for major concessions from the United States.

"I think what we're really dealing with on their side is a certain pattern of believing that bad behavior can be rewarded with more concessions from us and our allies," Mr. Wolfowitz told us. "One would have to ask whether what they're talking about is revisiting essentially the whole 1994 agreement but with bigger rewards, or are they really talking about something that is actually realistically dismantling their program and not replacing the framework."

North Korea agreed in 1994 to give up its nuclear arms. But in October, the Bush administration forced Pyongyang to disclose it had been secretly developing a uranium-enrichment program, which can only be used for making fuel for nuclear arms.

  • 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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