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June 1, 2001

Notes from the Pentagon

China sub untracked
A Chinese submarine conducted secret underwater operations for more than a month without being detected by U.S. intelligence agencies, according to defense sources. The Ming-class attack submarine snuck out of its port at Qingdao, on the Yellow Sea coast opposite Korea, and returned 31 days later.

Intelligence officials said the "undetected SSN deployment" is an indication that Chinaīs Navy is improving its underwater-warfare skills. Chinaīs military has harassed the Navy surveillance ship USS Bowditch, sailing in international waters in the Yellow Sea, on two occasions in the past three months. Intelligence officials told us the submarine could have been operating in the region to support Chinese countersurveillance of the U.S. ship.

China has 20 of the Ming-class diesel-electric-powered boats. The submarines are equipped with anti-ship cruise missiles. Intelligence officials said the Mings will be replaced in the next decade by a new generation of nuclear attack submarines called the Type O93, now under construction.

China also is building a new class of ballistic-missile submarine known as the Type 094. It will carried a variant of the DF-31 ICBM, a road-mobile missile that was flight tested twice last year.

Hamel on hold
Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican, is holding up the promotion of Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Hamel, the serviceīs chief space planner. Mr. Smith is looking into charges by Bush administration critics, who say Gen. Hamel helped scuttle key defense-related space initiatives when he was a military aide to Vice President Al Gore. The charges first appeared in this space two weeks ago. Mr. Smith has placed a formal Senate "hold" on Gen. Hamelīs nomination to two-star rank.

The senator also is investigating Gen. Hamelīs role in using his Air Force office to fund a project by George Washington University professor John M. Logsdon, an opponent of using space for military power.

The Air Force brass is closing ranks in an effort to push Gen. Hamelīs promotion through, claiming the general is being unfairly targeted. Gen. Michael Ryan, the Air Force chief of staff, is said to be lobbying hard for Gen. Hamelīs promotion. "Anyone who believes Gen. Hamel is somehow politically tainted as a result of his tour as a military adviser to Vice President Gore is terribly mistaken," Gen. Ryan told us through a spokesman.

Steve Cambone, a key aide to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, also is looking into the matter, we are told.

Laser incident update
The Navy is continuing to deny it covered up evidence about a Russian merchant ship firing a laser at a helicopter during an encounter that caused permanent eye damage to a U.S. Navy intelligence officer in 1997. Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican, is trying to get straight answers from the Navy about why the Pentagonīs version of a photograph showing a red light coming from the bridge of the Russian merchant ship Kapitan Man appears doctored.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jack Daly suffered permanent eye damage during the April 1997 laser incident. He continues to experience headaches and eye pain more than four years later.

Mr. Smith, in a letter to the Navy, identified 13 misstatements of fact contained in a Navy "white paper" on the incident. The senator said the Navy failed to adequately search the Kapitan Man for a laser device. He noted that the red light emanating from the bridge of the Russian merchant ship was analyzed by laser experts and identified as a laser device -- not one of the shipīs running lights, as the Navy contends.

"Although I am disappointed that there still has not been finality on the Daly lasing incident and its aftermath, I am hopeful that with Secretary Rumsfeld and the new team heīs assembling, we will be able to revisit these issues and arrive at a fair and expeditious resolution," Mr. Smith told us.

A Navy spokesman denied the senatorīs claims of a coverup that were first reported by Insight magazine reporter J. Michael Waller.

"We did not doctor the photo. Our interpretation is it is not a laser device but a running light," the spokesman said.

Army manual
We recently browsed through the Armyīs "Soldierīs Handbook" given to each recruit as he or she begins boot camp. Some instructions caught our eye:

  • For men, "As a minimum, use a condom when having sex to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases (STD), including venereal disease, HIV and so forth." For women, "Protect yourself by insisting that your sex partner use a condom." There is no mention of abstinence as a way to prevent disease.

  • Under the heading of "Environmental Awareness," the handbook states, "When you were in school, you learned that an environment consists of everything around an organism. Sunlight, temperature, air, soil, minerals and other living things are elements of an organismīs environment. All these elements work together to make life possible on earth."

  • The handbook describes sexual harassment as "telling sexual jokes, using profanity, off-color sexual comments or threats; or barking, growling, oinking and whistling at passers-by." Physical contact includes "touching, patting, hugging, pinching, grabbing, cornering, or kissing."

    The Army suggests victimized soldiers "keep a diary or daily journal."


  • Rear Adm. Craig Quigley took issue with our characterization of his recent conversations with presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer. The two spoke amid the Pentagonīs flip-flop on whether its military-to-military program with China was killed or continued.

    Adm. Quigley told us that Mr. Fleischer did not dictate a news release on the exchange program. "The wording of the release was done here," he said from his E-ring office. "By the time we talked, it was done."

  • Congressional sources say the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, is not happy with the string of conservatives being nominated to key policy-making posts inside the Pentagon.

    The sources said look for Mr. Levin to try to find grounds to stop one or two nominees. President Bush is stocking the building with strong advocates of a missile-defense system. Mr. Levin is skeptical that a national-protection interceptor will work. One possible target is J.D. Crouch, picked to be assistant defense secretary for international security policy. Mr. Crouch was a lower-level Pentagon aide in the administration of Mr. Bushīs father.

  • Stephen E. Herbits, a homosexual activist who was helping Mr. Rumsfeld screen candidates for senior policy jobs, left the Pentagon May 18, driven to the airport by another top consultant. Mr. Herbits left before a 130-day limit on consultants had expired. Congressional sources say some leading Republican senators objected to Mr. Herbitsī tenure and held up some Defense Department nominees needing Senate confirmation. Some senators do not like the way some aides have been treated in Pentagon job interviews.

  • Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, now an investment banker for politically savvy Stephens Inc. in Arkansas, came to town this week to pitch his book on the war in Kosovo, "Waging Modern War." The man who led NATO during the spring bombing campaign writes that former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Gen. Henry H. Shelton, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, displayed poor leadership during the war.

    A book-signing soiree was hosted Wednesday night by GOP fund-raiser Julie Finley. Mrs. Finley is founder and a board member of the U.S. Committee on NATO, a private bipartisan group working to expand the European allianceīs membership.

    Gen. Clark, 56, is the focus of speculation he may soon declare himself a Republican or Democrat and run for office. "Iīm not ruling it in and Iīm not ruling it out," he told us after signing scores of books. But the former supreme allied commander told us his priority right now is to "make some money."

  • 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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