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September 19, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Cinc lives
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld banished the acronym "CINC" (commander in chief) last year. He ordered subordinates to instead use "combatant commanders" when referring to generals and admirals who run the big stateside and overseas military commands. His reason: There is only one commander in chief and that's the president, or POTUS.

That's why we were surprised to see "CINC" re-emerge in a recent Pentagon memo especially since the author was Mr. Rumsfeld himself.

"Let's make sure that no service, CINC, or others make announcements on troop rotations, stop loss or mobilizations, without the proposal having been worked through the Joint Staff, David Chu and me personally," Mr. Rumsfeld wrote in a Sept. 15 memo to Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs chairman, and to various top officials. (Mr. Chu is undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.)

A defense official, who asked not to be named, shrugged off the "CINC" use with a laugh.

On the thrust of the defense secretary's message, the official said Mr. Rumsfeld wants to make sure a final policy is approved for something as important as troop rotations in Iraq before anything is announced. The memo was spurred by the Army's decision to announce a new policy on the use of reserve forces in the war before a final OK.

"What he's saying is, 'I'm involved in this and I want to know,' " the official said. "These things are big decisions and we all need to be working on them together."

There are few issues more sensitive right now than how long a unit will stay in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld does not want the troops subjected to the emotional ups and downs of a premature announcement that is reversed later.

Cambone visits Socom
Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, visited the U.S. Special Operations Command in Florida, where he was greeted by some wary members of the commando community. Mr. Cambone, we are told, spoke to a group of commandos and told them that the Pentagon is lacking focus on the issue of special operations and he is going to fix the problems. Mr. Cambone has been viewed with concern by some of the Special Forces troops because of a remark he made several months ago to a Pentagon official that he would like to see Socom restructured. According to defense officials, Mr. Cambone views himself as eventually becoming the "undersecretary of operations" at the Pentagon, a position he envisions will combine both intelligence and special operations authority.

Congress created the post of assistant secretary of defense for special operations in 1987. Any power grab of that position by Mr. Cambone would require congressional approval.

A Pentagon spokesman did not return telephone calls seeking comment on the Cambone visit. A Socom spokesman confirmed that the visit took place but declined to comment.

Weapons hunt
Chief weapons inspector David Kay has told senators he expects his final report to conclude that Saddam Hussein had an active biological weapons program at the time the United States invaded in March. But Mr. Kay, who is the CIA's top weapons sleuth in the Iraq Survey Group, did not offer proof.

That, he said earlier this summer in a closed briefing, will come in his final report. Like Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, that issue too is wrapped in mystery. Senators expected it this month. Mr. Kay is due in Washington later this month and may have something to say on the matter then.

"I think if they had found something significant, it would have leaked out by now," said one U.S. official.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met with Mr. Kay during a trip to Iraq earlier this month. Mr. Rumsfeld said he did not ask the inspector if he had found weapons of mass destruction.

Iraqi missiles to U.S.
The U.S. military plans to send several Iraqi short-range missiles from Iraq to the United States to better study the missiles' capabilities and to find out if they were built with illegal foreign assistance, according to Pentagon officials.

One official said the objective is to learn "how technically advanced" the missiles are. "We'll be looking to see if there is anything we didn't know," the official said.

The missiles also will help in tracking the proliferation of missile components and materials.

A group of missile specialists belonging to the Joint Captured Material Exploitation Team, which is part of the Iraq Survey Group, helped find and ship the missiles to the United States. Several al Samoud 2 missiles were sent to Missile and Space Intelligence Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the National Ground Intelligence Center in Charlottesville.

Five al Samoud 2s were fired by Iraq during combat operations and all five were knocked out with U.S. Patriot interceptors. The al Samoud has a range of about 93 miles.

New flack
President Bush has approved the appointment of Larry Di Rita to be the next assistant defense secretary for public affairs, we have learned.

Mr. Di Rita is currently a special assistant to the secretary of defense, a sign he is the fairest of Mr. Rumsfeld's fair-haired boys the coterie of special assistants and officials who make up Mr. Rumsfeld's inner circle of advisers.

Mr. Di Rita, formerly with the conservative Heritage Foundation, has been the acting assistant secretary for public affairs. Before his current assignment, he was dispatched to Iraq by Mr. Rumsfeld to help organize the initial post-major-combat phase of operations.

  • 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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