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June 6, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

NSA sex month
Political correctness continues to assert itself within U.S. intelligence. The supersecret National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping around the world, is no exception.

NSA notified its 40,000 employees this week that June is National Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

"During this time, we are going to increase our awareness of sexual orientation as it relates to the workplace," Michael O'Hara, director of NSA's office of diversity management, said in an e-mail. "Everyone has a sexual orientation — be it heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. There will be opportunities throughout June to meet some of our employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT); to hear about their experiences in the work environment; and to learn of their contributions to our missions' successes."

Not everyone at NSA agrees with the politically correct effort. Some members of the agency question whether NSA should be promoting the homosexual agenda.

The disclosure of NSA's efforts comes as the agency is about to get stripped of major funding power.

A provision in the fiscal 2004 defense authorization bill would take away NSA's power to build major electronic intelligence systems that cost more than $115 million. It would transfer the authority to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition.

The move is part of an effort by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to limit NSA's budget power.

The agency's budget is classified, but it consumes a major portion of the annual $35 billion intelligence budget.

"NSA can't build systems, but it sure knows how to promulgate a social agenda," one source told us.

Once regarded as an espionage recruiting vulnerability, homosexuality among NSA employees is now a point of pride. The agency is urging its employees to "listen, discuss and learn" about NSA's homosexual employees who are "part of the NSA family," Mr. O'Hara said.

"Participation in these events is not to be viewed as a statement of one's sexual orientation, but as a statement regarding one's commitment to learning and continuous improvement," he said.

Not everyone at NSA can celebrate homosexual month. Mr. O'Hara's e-mail includes a warning to NSA military employees, saying "please note that we honor and respect the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy."

The policy requires the discharge of homosexual military personnel who "tell" their orientation, although for the military agrees not to ask about it.

Letter from Baghdad
The mainstream media is feeding the American public a steady diet of Iraqi complaints about the U.S. occupation. We thought we would convey a few complaints from our guys.

Homesickness sits at the top of complaints from GIs trying to pacify Iraq and build the Arab world's first free-market democracy. But there are other gripes, according to communications we've had with boots on the ground.

c Food. Soldiers say the primary source of nourishment is still the vacuumed-packed Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs), a cold, soggy, three-course treat that is great in combat, but that gets old in peacetime.

The Army is trying to get more heat-up frozen foods into Baghdad but lacks the refrigeration and kitchens to store and cook them. Our sources say the lack of food variety is made worse by commanders discouraging troops from buying food from local vendors.

"The Iraqis could put arsenic or something else into the soda-canning process," one soldier said. "The field PX shelves are empty. Soldiers are only allowed to buy one cold or six warm sodas on the rare occasions they are available. The chips and salsa on the shelves sell out the same day they are stocked, and most soldiers lack access to field PXs to begin with."

•Mail. Troops say mail service is slow at best. It takes weeks to hear of a death in the family, in this age of e-mail and satellite communications. • Recreation. There is virtually none.

"The Army has been extremely slow to install any quality-of-life services, such as swimming pools, movies, recreation tents or even physical fitness tents," one combatant said.

Letter from Baghdad II
Soldiers also tell us the new firearms-confiscation program will not work until the Coalition Provisional Authority offers money and Iraqis are certain Saddam Hussein is dead.

"There is no incentive for the people to turn in what they consider to be an asset," one insider said.

"The locals believe that eventually we will offer money or ration vouchers for weapons, so they're just holding onto them."

The gun amnesty program ends June 14, after which the coalition will start seizing weapons.

U.S. Central Command reports that as of Wednesday, Iraqis had turned in 30 pistols, 57 semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, 180 automatic rifles, 8 machine guns, 60 anti-tank weapons and 68 explosive devices.

Army chief
Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, the highly regarded deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, came back to his old haunt, the Pentagon, this week. One source said he was scheduled to pop in for a visit with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Gen. Abizaid is most often mentioned as the next Army chief of staff, replacing Gen. Eric Shinseki, who steps down next week after a four-year term.

Insiders say Mr. Rumsfeld met Wednesday with his top advisers about senior job placements — Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers and consultant Stephen Herbits.

The Army also is losing its vice chief, Gen. John Keane, who is retiring.

He has agreed to put off departure until a successor to Gen. Shinseki is in place.

The appointments come at a crucial time in Army history. Mr. Rumsfeld and his staff believe the Army has been too slow to get on the transformation train.

Mr. Rumsfeld fired Thomas White as Army secretary and picked the harder-nosed James Roche, the Air Force secretary, as the next Army civilian boss.

Some insiders suggest Gen. Abizaid may want to stay at Central Command and succeed its chief, Gen. Tommy Franks, who is retiring this summer after victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One officer frequently mentioned as Gen. Franks' replacement is Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald, who is deputy commander of U.S. European Command. A fighter pilot by training, Gen. Wald was the Air Force's top officer at Central Command during the early stages of the Afghanistan war and ran the air campaign from Saudi Arabia.

Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Persian Gulf, traditionally has been led by an Army or Marine general.

Speicher Field
Members of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division honored missing Navy pilot Capt. Michael Scott Speicher recently by naming an airstrip in central Iraq after him.

Troops from the 4th Aviation Brigade, which fly Blackhawk, Apache and Kiowa helicopters, call the former Iraqi air base "Speicher Airfield," our reporter Guy Taylor, who is embedded with the 4th, tells us.

The soldiers chose the name to highlight the fate of Capt. Speicher, who went missing in 1991 during the Persian Gulf war and was declared killed in action.

He was then reclassified as missing in action based on numerous intelligence indicating that Saddam Hussein's government was holding an American pilot captive.

The soldiers felt strongly that naming the airstrip northwest of Tikrit after Capt. Speicher was appropriate considering that neither he nor his remains have been found.

A U.S. intelligence team is in Iraq to help resolve the fate of the pilot, and an Army forensic team is attempting to determine whether the initials "MSS" found carved into a prison wall were made by Capt. Speicher.

  • 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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