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July 29, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Blair considered
Retired Adm. Dennis Blair is being considered by the White House for the post of director of the FBI National Security Service, which President Bush announced recently would be set up to improve FBI intelligence-gathering on terrorists and spies.

Adm. Blair, a former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command and a former CIA military director, currently heads the Institute for Defense Analysis. A source close to the White House said Adm. Blair is among several candidates and that there is hope the post will be filled by a non-FBI agent since the bureau opposed creating the service, which was recommended by the presidential commission that looked into intelligence on Iraq.

Other candidates include Gary M. Bald, current FBI counterintelligence and counterterrorism chief; Pasquale J. D'Amuro, recently retired assistant director of the FBI's New York office; and Maureen A. Baginski, the FBI's intelligence analytical chief.

Bogota blues
The U.S. Embassy in Bogota requires 72 hours of planning before approving U.S. air assets to help in a search for high-value narco-terrorists in Colombia.

House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde is infuriated by the bureaucratic delay in the long war between Colombian government troops and the ruthless Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

"We have heard time and time again about these concerns from the Colombian government at many levels," the Illinois Republican wrote in a July 19 letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "I urge a timely resolution of these problems before we lose the momentum responsible for the tremendous progress we have made in Colombia."

Mr. Hyde said the Colombian national police are renowned for their ability to plan and execute raids - so much so that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Afghanistan police are trying to duplicate the process.

Yet, Mr. Hyde said, requests from the Colombian police for U.S. air assets are being turned down at rate of eight out of 10.

House QDR
Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has ordered his committee staff to conduct its own version of the four-year defense review now being worked on by the Pentagon.

The House quadrennial defense review, or QDR, will be "threat-based," unlike the Pentagon version, which will be based on applying U.S. military capabilities to various world hot spots, said Mr. Hunter, California Republican.

The House QDR also will focus its attention on the rising military power of China, something that initially was ignored by the Pentagon officials in charge of doing the Joint Staff-Office of the Secretary of Defense QDR.

Defense officials said the first draft of the Pentagon QDR's terms of reference, which are used to guide the review, included North Korea, Iran and terrorism but in a glaring omission left out China, we are told. Pro-China advocates in the Bush administration thought they had managed to keep China out of the QDR planning as part of a larger strategy of playing down its threat. They argued that China should not be included because Beijing's military is viewed by some in the U.S. intelligence community as not posing a major threat in the four years covered by the review.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, alerted to the omission, ordered the assessment to include how the U.S. military and defense establishment should respond to the military threat posed by China.

Congressional aides said Ryan Henry, a defense undersecretary in charge of the QDR, signed off on the China omission, as did outgoing Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith.

Son of the heartland
Dustin Berg was like most kids in America's heartland who join the National Guard. A furniture upholsterer, farmhand and volunteer firefighter, Berg signed up so he could help Indiana in a time of crisis. Then came the September 11 attacks and President Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

The Pentagon activated Berg's unit, and the 22-year-old found himself in faraway Iraq, a corporal leading a reconnaissance squad in house-to-house fighting. From all accounts, he performed well.

"Corporal Berg showed personal and moral courage every evening while conducting mounted and dismounted patrols," a superior wrote. "Cpl. Berg also led his squad through clearing numerous enemy fighting positions, houses and haystacks in search of weapon caches." Berg received the Army Commendation Medal, with a "V" for valor device.

"All through high school and even now, Dustin has been the kind of guy who always wants to help other people," said his wife, Amber, who is expecting their first child, a son they plan to name Trevor, in August. "He has a big heart. He joined the National Guard in order to serve his country."

Berg's firm middle-class roots made his appearance this week in a Fort Knox, Ky., courtroom seem fanciful. But in fact, the firefighter from Ferdinand, Ind., stood accused by the Army of being a murderer.

His hometown stood by him, donating to a legal defense fund. Friends staged a pork chop fundraiser and served more than 900 plates.

His attorney, Charles Gittins, says Berg thought an Iraqi police officer was about to turn on him on patrol on Nov. 23, 2003. Berg was radioing for help to catch a suspect. The officer said, "No, my friend," and began to point his weapon at Berg, who shot him with his M4 carbine.

Berg then made his biggest mistake. Fearful his commanders would not believe him, he shot himself in the stomach with the officer's AK-47.

Mr. Gittins says he could have beaten the murder rap, but lying carried a stiff prison term, so he decided not to risk it. Berg pleaded guilty to negligent homicide. The prosecution settled for 18 months in prison, which Berg likely will serve at Fort Knox.

"He is so sorry that he killed that man, but he was scared and acted without thinking," Mrs. Berg told the military judge. "Dustin is proud of his service in the Army and in Iraq, even though he made a terrible mistake."

  • 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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