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May 30, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Domestic dispute
The country's beleaguered shipbuilding industry has shown it still has muscle, at least on Capitol Hill.

The Defense Department's voluminous Defense Transformation Act for the 21st Century contained a little-noticed provision (Section 432). It would have allowed U.S. Navy ships home ported in the United States to receive routine repairs while deployed overseas. If enacted, the law would have shifted millions of dollars, and hundreds of jobs, to foreign depots.

But both the House and Senate Armed Services committees deleted 432 from their versions of the 2004 defense-authorization acts, thanks to an intense lobbying campaign by the Shipbuilders Council of America.

"The SCA is concerned that Section 432 would seriously weaken the already struggling domestic ship-repair industry," Allen Walker, the council's president, wrote May 5 in a letter to Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, and House Armed Services chairman.

"Further movement of Navy work from domestic to overseas repair facilities will only exacerbate this trend."

U.S. yards in 23 states, employing 35,000 workers, have long complained that they are losing repair work to overseas yards that operate with lower wages and less regulation.

Jay Spiegel, an attorney for the council, said those economic factors played a role in the U.S. Navy asking Congress for permission to get destroyers, cruisers and other ships repaired overseas.

"The Navy's own regulation requirements make the domestic shipyards less competitive in price," Mr. Spiegel said.

He said the council had two major pitches to Congress in defeating 432: "a loss in American jobs and terrorists' threats to Navy ships."

"American shipyards engaged in Navy maintenance and repair are required to maintain drydocks and facilities to Navy specifications," Mr. Walker wrote. "This requirement ensures the quality of work done in U.S. shipyards but also drives up the costs of repair.

"Overseas facilities are not required to maintain drydocks or facilities to Navy specifications, which gives overseas facilities an unfair economic advantage over domestic facilities."

Abe's impressive run
The carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was the longest-deployed carrier in the war on terrorism.

When it returned this month, greeted by a presidential jet landing off the coast of California, the ship had run up some impressive stats during the 10-month deployment.

The Lincoln, which was almost halfway home when it was forced to leave a cozy Australian port and return to the Persian Gulf for the war with Iraq, launched more than 16,000 sorties, dropped nearly two million pounds of ordnance, and steamed more than 100,000 miles.

On the more mundane side, it clipped 35,000 haircuts for a crew of 5,000, did 4,316 dental cleanings and 227 root canals, mailed 1,415 tax returns and consumed 29,000 pounds of hamburgers.

In the process, the ship did not lose one life to battle or accident, and returned with all aircraft still onboard.

Army JAG cuts
Army General Counsel Steven Morello recently said at a conference in Florida that he plans to cut the active-duty Judge Advocate General Corps from 1,500 to 500 Army lawyers.

The plan is part of efforts by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to reduce bureaucracy and increase what the military calls the "tooth-to-tail ratio" making more deployable soldiers and reducing those involved in staff work.

According to defense officials, Mr. Morello wants active-duty Army JAGs to work on military justice, and international and operational law, leaving the rest to civilian lawyers.

The plan calls for adding 1,000 civilian-lawyer slots so that the Army will have 1,000 more soldiers who are "trigger pullers," not paper pushers.

One defense official said that of all the military services' JAG Corps are overstaffed, having convinced higher-ups that JAGs were needed to oversee expected legal problems with the post-Cold War reduction in force levels.

However, there was no increase in legal work, and "much of the work being done today [by JAGS] is make work," this official said.

"The Army has shrunk by almost half [in active-duty divisions], but the Army JAG Corps strength has remained almost the same," the official said. "So the Army general counsel's remarks make sense."

Other service secretaries are likely to be considering similar JAG cuts, consolidation and the hiring of more civilians.

An Army official said Mr. Morello did not intend to give the impression that the Army JAG Corps will be cut to 500 people.

He is considering a proposal for the next Army secretary to conduct a review of the legal functions of military lawyers and whether they can be done by civilian lawyers.

"Creating civilian legal positions to perform those functions would free military spaces to be filled by combat soldiers, thus improving the tooth-to-tail ratio that is of widespread departmental concern," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The idea is "a rough idea" still being discussed.

"Any numbers mentioned were illustrative only and were neither a target nor a goal," the official said.

CFR China threat
The Council on Foreign Relations released the largest private-sector report of its kind recently on the Chinese military buildup.

Most of the conclusions of the report by a panel of experts support the dovish view that the 1.6-million-member People's Liberation Army is two decades behind the U.S. military.

A careful reading of the 98-page report, however, reveals the views of defense hard-liners who see China as a growing threat to the United States, especially as its relates to the danger of U.S.-China conflict about Taiwan.

A section of the report draws from two books published by the Pentagon and written by Michael Pillsbury, a Rumsfeld adviser, on writings by Chinese military and Communist Party officials.

The report is also based on speeches by Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Stokes, who works on the Pentagon China desk.

Mr. Pillsbury stated in a dissenting view in the report that there are "major uncertainties" about China's military and intentions and capabilities based on Beijing's pervasive secrecy.

"A secret military buildup focused on Taiwan can only further undermine progress toward a peaceful settlement," he said, noting that China could miscalculate U.S. military power and resolve.

"It is not reassuring to read the many Chinese military writings about how the wily inferior force can always defeat the overconfident superior force as long as surprise and deception are employed," Mr. Pillsbury stated.

The 44-member task force was dominated by Sinophile experts who favor a U.S. policy of appeasement toward Beijing. The panel also included a few who view China as a danger to U.S. national security.

The report warns that tensions in the Taiwan Strait are an "area of near-term military concern." The council Task Force's solution echoes the pro-Beijing approach of the Clinton administration, which was rejected as destabilizing by President Bush: Limit military cooperation with Taiwan.

The report notes that the Chinese have adopted a surprise-attack doctrine for Taiwan that calls for massive missile and aircraft attacks to retake the island before U.S. carrier battle groups can respond.

China's surprise-attack doctrine has been highlighted by Col. Stokes.

It also lists indicators of China's military buildup that are signs that Beijing could shift the trajectory of force modernization to preparing for attacks on U.S. aircraft-carrier forces and space satellites. Some of the signs are present today.

On China's nuclear weapons, the report stated that China has a nuclear arsenal of 410 to 440 nuclear weapons, including 140 warheads on medium- and long-range missiles.

One hundred fifty nuclear bombs are carried on aircraft. And as many as 150 weapons are "low-yield tactical" bombs, artillery shells and short-range missile warheads.

  • 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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