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June 24, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Missile advance
Pentagon officials tell us China's recent flight test of a new 6,000-mile-range JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile earlier this month was not the only recent troubling development in Beijing's military buildup.

About the same time as the JL-2 test, China also test-fired a new long-range air-to-air missile.

"The missile has over-the-horizon capability, something they have not had before," said one official familiar with the test.

Defense analysts believe the missile, which was not identified by type, could be one of China's new PL-12 air-to-air missiles, an indigenous missile that has beyond-visual-range radar guidance and targeting.

Air Force Gen. Paul V. Hester, commander of Pacific Air Forces, said in a recent meeting with reporters that China's fighter modernization is being watched closely and warned against underestimating Chinese military air power, as occurred with Soviet warplanes during the Cold War.

"They have great equipment. The fighters are very technologically advanced, and what we know about them gives us pause or concern against ours," he said.

Job openings
The Pentagon inspector general's recently released report on "accountability" in the Boeing tanker lease deal is not expected to derail the job prospects of Michael W. Wynne, insiders tell us.

Mr. Wynne is principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, as well as a favorite of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld was eyeing Mr. Wynne as the next acquisition czar, but never made the move. Standing in the way was Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who has showcased the scuttled Boeing lease as a sweetheart deal, as an example of cronyism in the industry-Pentagon culture, and as Pentagon officials not following acquisition rules.

But time has passed since Mr. McCain held up nominations last year. Air Force officials have acknowledged failures and commended Mr. McCain for his diligence. Officials believe Mr. Wynne would likely win confirmation as Air Force or Navy secretary.

One potential snag was the IG report. But it went relatively soft on Mr. Wynne, leveling its harshest criticism on Mr. Wynne's former boss; the former Air Force secretary; his top acquisition official; and his deputy, Darleen Druyun, who is now in prison.

The report commended Mr. Wynne for raising concerns about the lease price and the way an analysis of alternatives was conducted. But it criticized him for not requiring the Air Force to adhere to certain Defense Department directives.

Gitmo report
Word on Capitol Hill is that the next report on the U.S. prison at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will come out of U.S. Southern Command in weeks, not months.

Congressional sources say they do not expect any startling revelations, but a rehash of a few cases mentioned in a previous report and for which a handful of military personnel were punished.

Still to come, however, is a report from the Justice Department inspector general, who is investigating complaints of prisoner abuse filed by FBI agents. The IG report may take a dimmer view of military interrogation techniques.

The military may explain the issue by pointing out there are different rules in law enforcement for questioning a criminal suspect, compared with how military intelligence personnel interrogate an al Qaeda operative who may know when the next attack on America is coming.

There is no doubt military personnel used stress techniques to put pressure on some al Qaeda figures, but the Pentagon's view is that stress is short of torture.

In the end, interrogators found that the best way to break an al Qaeda terrorist was isolation and sleep deprivation, one U.S. official told us.

MOUT warfare
We've obtained a copy of several recommendations and suggestions made by a Marine Corps machine gunner and veteran of Fallujah. He offered his thoughts on how to better wage urban warfare, what the military is now calling MOUT, for military operations in urban territory.

Marine Sgt. Garrett A. Barton, now based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., says Marines need more realistic training, have equipment that's too heavy, and need better-penetrating armaments, such as armor-piercing rounds, to use against Islamist car bombers.

"A firefight in a MOUT environment against drugged-up insurgents is not the place to discover Pfc. Smith needs to work on his shoulder pressure and manipulation of the [testing and evaluation]," he said.

"This is life and death. The average grunt is swamped with weight," he said. Marines carry gear and ammunition that include flak jackets, Kevlar helmets, two ceramic plates, M-16s with seven magazines, grenades, radios, water, chow, night-vision equipment and more.

"Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain," he said. "This is not good when Marines need to move quickly in a combat situation, and the extreme weight reduces their fluidity."

As for weapons, "the M-16 is prone to jams," he said.

"I can personally attest that I kept my weapon properly cleaned and lubed yet within ten minutes I had two jams ... in Al Fallujah," Sgt. Barton said. The M-16 round also is "too fast, too small and too stabilized. It cannot compete with the 7.62 fired by Warsaw Pact weapons" such as AK-47s.

Sgt. Barton said he has never seen armor-piercing rounds for his M-240G medium machine gun.

"Our current enemies like to use [car bombs]. Personally, I would feel more comfortable shooting at a vehicle laden with explosives if I had armor-piercing rounds," he said.

Troops also need more powerful hand grenades. "The insurgents in Iraq like to inject themselves with adrenaline," Sgt. Barton said. "The casualty radius of our current grenades is insufficient."

Sgt. Barton concluded his "grunt wish list," which was sent to the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va., saying he tried not to be too critical, knowing current resources are limited. But he noted: "Any improvement is a big step in our capabilities."

Rummy on Hagel
Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican and a frequent guest to present the Republican side on the networks' Sunday talk shows, says the United States is "losing" the war in Iraq.

Fox News Radio host Tony Snow asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld about the assessment this week:

"No. We're not losing the war in Iraq at all, and I don't think there's any military commander or person who's involved over there who believes that's the case. I've not heard that from anyone who's knowledgeable and engaged in it on a continuing basis."

  • 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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