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November 3, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

China defense budget
The Pentagon has had two rounds of discussions with the Chinese military on the defense budget process, with the United States explaining in detail how its military spending works and China revealing very little about its secret military budget.

Chinese military officials met Pentagon officials in June and provided a very limited explanation of the process Beijing uses to support its weapons and forces.

"We're trying very hard to get an exchange of experts on the budgeting process so that we can understand how they create their budgets, since this is an area where we have a very large disagreement with them," a senior defense official said.

China is engaged in a major military buildup but will not disclose the amounts or systems it is building. The budget secrecy, among other factors, has prompted the Pentagon to start a major force buildup in the Pacific as a "hedge" against China emerging as a threat. U.S. officials traveled to China in December to explain how U.S. budgets are created, including details such as line items for life-cycle costs of weapons systems or costs for bases.

The Chinese did not reciprocate and in June provided "a lesser level of detail" on its budget, the official said. "But at least it was the beginning of a discussion about how the two budget processes are fundamentally different," the official said.

The Chinese did not explain how much it costs them to build a Russian-designed Su-27 bomber and limited the briefing to principles they use to guide budgeting, a second official said.

China does not include its foreign arms purchases, which in recent years have included billions worth of Russian, European and Israeli weapons. It also does not include budget costs for its space program, which the military runs, or funding for numerous research institutes that make military satellites, another costly procurement item, the senior official said.

"We are right now at that very process level with them," the official said. "We don't know if they're going to be willing to engage us at the next level but we're going to try."

Chinese officials complained last year that the Pentagon exaggerated Beijing's military spending in the annual report to Congress.

The latest report states that Chinese military spending is so secret that Pentagon estimates are off by 20 percent to 180 percent of what the Chinese are actually spending.

China claims its latest annual defense budget, which has been growing by double-digit percentages over the past decade, is about $35 billion. The Pentagon estimates it is $105 billion or more.

Chinese officials insist the Pentagon is overestimating defense costs. But some Pentagon officials said the Chinese budget talks are part of a Beijing deception program aimed at minimizing the aggressive arms buildup.

Somalia war clouds
A former military specialist with close ties to the Horn of Africa tells us the situation in Somalia is getting worse after the rise of the terrorist-linked Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU earlier this year took over major portions of the country and is seeking to impose Islamist rule.

The opposition Somali government in Baidoa is said to be in danger of being defeated in the next few weeks.

The U.S. Central Command and the Special Operations Command are closely watching the country but so far have not been taking major action to prevent the creation of a new terrorist base in Somalia.

According to the former military official, there are six senior al Qaeda operatives in Somalia working with the ICU. Additionally, Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists are in the country, also backing the ICU. Iranians are said to be in Somalia as well, eyeing a large uranium ore deposit in the south.

The government in Baidoa is being backed by thousands of Ethiopian troops now in Somalia. U.S. support should be provided, including weapons, advice and "a bit of intelligence," the source says.

Global Strategies Group, a private security firm, this week sent a warning notice to nongovernment organizations that opposing forces in Somalia are getting ready for conflict and that "the situation is very tense."

Talks in Khartoum between faction representatives broke down yesterday, and the ICU is demanding that all Ethiopian troops leave Somalia.

"It is assessed that if conflict does erupt, it will be with little or no notice and will quickly spread to other areas," according to the notice.

Abizaid's assessment
Army Gen. John Abizaid, the man in charge of the bulk of fighting in the war on Islamic extremists, sat down with defense reporters recently to size up the conflict. A few salient points:

"I believe that our strategy for the area can't be to control it. No nation on Earth has ever controlled the Middle East. As a matter of fact if you try to control the Middle East, you'll rapidly find out that the Middle East is going to control you."

"We need to build capacity, local capacity, to do the institution building to make societies that are going to be more resilient against the broader extremist trends in the area. The extremism is not mainstream. In many ways we're kind of at a point where we could have been if we decided to resist Fascism in the '20s or Bolshevism in the 1900s."

"The problem is, you know, a lot of [people] have a hard time understanding why it's to our advantage to be out there in the middle of this. And it's to our advantage so that these terrible ideological movements do not become mainstream and start moving us in a direction that can move toward World War III."

The Army's Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is putting the finishing brush work on a new counterinsurgency manual. But there is no time for rest.

It is beginning work on a more far-reaching field guide that will describe how to conduct full-spectrum operations. One change:Post-war stability operations will be woven into war plans. It's a lessons-learned from Afghanistan and Iraq, where the importance of rebuilding was driven home. A new Pentagon directive puts the chore on a par with the fighting itself.

As the Army sees it, a brigade combat team can be fighting to secure a town in one sector while other brigade soldiers are starting stability operations in a nearby town.

The doctrine is known as FM-3-0, or field manual-3, last updated in June 2001, a few months before the September 11 attacks. Chapters include "the Army and the Role of Land Power" and "Conducting Full Spectrum 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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