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July 13, 2001
Notes from the Pentagon

Lawmakers have questioned Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld about whether he privately has referred to them and their staff as "hillbillies," congressional sources say.
The sources said several senators and at least one senior House Republican asked Mr. Rumsfeld during closed-door meetings on Capitol Hill if he uses the pejorative term. Mr. Rumsfeld has denied to them that he does call them "hillbillies," but, the sources say, some lawmakers have heard from a Pentagon official that he does use the word.

The term has taken on a life of its own in some Hill quarters. A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee considered asking a "hillbilly" question at the recent confirmation hearing of Stephen Cambone, a Rumsfeld confidant whom the White House nominated as deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. The senator decided against asking the question in public, said an aide, who asked not to be identified. Another senior senator started jokingly referring to himself as the "hillbilly in chief" a play on the title of commander in chief.

The sources identified Rep. Jerry Lewis, California Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense as one lawmaker who has questioned Mr. Rumsfeld about using the word "hillbilly" to describe politicians on Capitol Hill. Mr. Lewis' spokesman, Jim Specht, declined to comment this week. "He is not going to comment on something like this," Mr. Specht said.

The concern about the term has become a symbol of poor relations, at times, between Mr. Rumsfeld and Republican lawmakers who want to be kept in the loop on the administration's defense transformation plans.

Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said in an interview this week that Mr. Rumsfeld was asked by some senators "several months ago" whether he uses the term. "He told them it was 'utter nonsense,'" Mrs. Clarke said.

She said no lawmaker presented any proof that the defense secretary has used the word to describe them.

Webster's dictionary defines "hillbilly" as "someone who lives in or comes from the mountains or backwoods."

Mrs. Clarke acknowledged that Mr. Rumsfeld got off to a somewhat rocky start with Congress. This, she said, "is often the case with a new administration and often the case when you're dealing with tough issues."

Indeed, even Mr. Rumsfeld's detractors on the Hill concede he has been given a daunting assignment by President Bush: To come up with a new strategy that will transform the military for 21st-century threats.

Mrs. Clarke said communications with Congress have improved significantly in recent weeks.

"I think things are getting better all the time," she said. "There have been extensive and repeated consultations with the Hill on a variety of fronts from hearings, to one-on-one meetings to breakfasts we have been hosting down here with members."

Taiwan outreach
The private Center for Strategic and International Studies recently hosted a group of some 20 Taiwanese colonels and navy captains. The welcome mat is viewed as a political counterweight to a similar Harvard University program that critics say is boosting Chinese war-fighting capabilities.

The Taiwanese officers who came to Washington last month heard lectures and briefings from U.S. academics, including some who favor the Clinton administration's pro-Beijing policies.

Unfortunately, the officers did not get such a warm welcome from the Pentagon. The highest ranking official to see them was Fred Smith, the holdover deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia from the Clinton administration. Mr. Smith has been told he is being reassigned. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was supposed to have met with the group but did not have the time, we are told.

Army to Taiwan
A team of Army experts is being dispatched to Taiwan to carry out a force structure survey of Taiwan's army and how to reorganize the ground forces for any future warfare.

The U.S. survey team is expected to arrive in Taiwan in the near future to evaluate the Taiwan army's capabilities, defense officials tell us. The goal of the survey will be to help the Taiwanese find the right mix of ground, naval and air forces.

Some of Taiwan's military leaders are said to want more U.S. Army hardware to upgrade its aging U.S. weapons systems, even though most conflict scenarios involving the Taiwan Strait anticipate primarily air and naval battles not forces on the ground.

China's main battle plan for a conflict with Taiwan would begin with electronic warfare attacks and computer-based information warfare strikes, followed by large-scale missile attacks, we are told. Airborne paratroop assaults would follow the strike in areas along the non-mountainous western side of the island.

Taiwanese Army leaders want to build up ground forces to counter anticipated airborne attacks. The review is similar to a classified maritime study conducted by the Pentagon last year. It found Taiwan's naval forces were in need of a major upgrade.

The study weighed heavily in the administration's decision to approve sales to Taiwan this year of four Kidd-class guided missile destroyers, eight diesel submarines and 12 P-3 surveillance aircraft.

Taiwan's army is currently equipped with outdated U.S. military hardware, including artillery, tanks, armored personnel carriers and jeeps. The Bush administration earlier this year deferred permitting Taiwan to buy advanced U.S. AH-64 attack helicopters and M1-A2 tanks. The study of Taiwan ground forces is aimed at determining whether the attack helicopters and tanks should be sold next year.

One war, plus
The Washington Times reported last month that Pentagon officials have decided to scrap the two-war requirement that has driven U.S. military strategy since the end of the Cold War. In its place will be a sort of "one-war plus" policy. Later, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee the two-war standard "can't be said to be working."

This week, Gen. Michael Ryan, the Air Force chief of staff, went even further, telling the same committee the two-war capability is definitely being replaced.

"We have set in general the terms of the force construct, and that is to be able to protect the force, the capability to win a major theater one major theater war while in other vital areas being able to repel attacks, while at the same time doing a series of smaller or lesser-scale contingencies. And that replaces the two [war strategy]," he said.

Next air chief
Gen. Michael Ryan is retiring Oct. 1 after four years as service chief. We are told there are two generals vying to replace him: Gen. John Jumper, chief of Air Force Air Combat Command, and Gen. Gregory S. Martin, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

But sources say that if Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, who heads U.S. Space Command, is not picked by President Bush as the next Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, he would likely beat out both men to become Air Force chief. A White House announcement on the Air Force chief's and chairman's jobs is due soon.

  • 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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