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November 27, 2008
Notes from the Pentagon

Prompt global strike
The U.S. military is moving ahead with a new strategy to develop precision-guided, conventionally armed missiles that can hit targets anywhere in the world within minutes.

John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said he thinks plans for so-called "prompt-global-strike" missiles should be assessed carefully because of costs and infrastructure.

Mr. Young approved a revised strategy on prompt-global-strike weapons earlier this year after Congress blocked plans to use conventionally armed Trident submarine-launched missiles armed with conventional warheads.

"I expect and assume that the strategy, negotiated between my office and the vice chairman's office, is being executed," Mr. Young told Inside the Ring.

Some form of the precision-guided, non-nuclear strategic missile program is expected to continue under the new Obama administration because of President-elect Barack Obama's call for eliminating nuclear weapons. The Obama campaign report "Blueprint for Change," stated that the Obama administration will keep nuclear weapons "as long as nuclear weapons exist" but "will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and pursue it."

Earlier, Mr. Young was asked if prompt global strike died after the Trident conversion was blocked. "My experience in the Pentagon is ideas never die; they just get new labels or different things like that," he told defense reporters on Nov. 20, noting that cost questions need to be assessed carefully.

For example, Mr. Young questioned the utility of a plan to use funds slated for demobilizing Trident missiles to instead convert them into conventional missiles.

"The complaint was there's not enough accuracy. So what, shoot two of them because they're going to de-mil[itarize] them anyway? But when you start escalating up that ladder and buying long-range delivery systems that cost tens, approaching a hundred million dollars for one weapon, those are national decisions that need to be taken carefully, and you have to convince yourself you have all the elements to support that," Mr. Young said.

New conventional-strike weapons need good command authority, chain of command and intelligence for effective use, he said.

"I think there are a lot of people who think we ought to have this in our arsenal," he said. "I'm not sure I want to argue all day with them. But I do think it is a very expensive capability that I'm not sure all the rest of the elements of our structure are prepared to support."

The U.S. Strategic Command would be in charge of the conventional-strike missiles that the military says are needed to attack missile-launch sites, weapons-of-mass destruction facilities, or even terrorists within one hour.

Strategic Command spokesman Navy Lt. Charlie Drey said the command is working with Mr. Young's office on "the path forward to provide an operational system as soon as possible while maintaining the ability to increase future capability."

"The vision is for a spiral development toward a family of prompt-global-strike systems which expands payload capacity, weapons effects and flight profile as new technologies are fielded," he said.

Congress appropriated $82 million for the precision-guided prompt-global-strike program in fiscal 2009. Two systems being looked at include a new Air Force "conventional-strike missile" that could be ready by 2014, and an Army "advanced hypersonic weapon" - a high-speed, missile-launched vehicle that could hit targets anywhere on Earth within 35 minutes.

Intelligence replacements
President-elect Barack Obama is continuing the search for a replacement CIA director after his senior campaign intelligence adviser, former CIA analyst John O. Brennan, withdrew from consideration this week amid protests over his likely appointment from critics of the agency's interrogation tactics.

The move bolstered hopes within CIA that current CIA Director Michael V. Hayden will be kept on. On Monday, Mr. Obama is expected to announce that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will stay after January.

Others mentioned for the CIA post include Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat, and Donald M. Kerr Jr., a long-time CIA official currently the deputy director of national intelligence.

One candidate mentioned as a possible replacement for Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell is retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair, former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command and former CIA chief for military intelligence support.

Mr. McConnell also is thought to want to remain as DNI, although he has said that, like all appointees, he serves at the pleasure of the president.

New Afghan surge?
The Pentagon is putting the final touches on its Afghan policy review that is expected to recommend adapting the successful counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq to Afghanistan, including the addition of troops and weapons.

Eric S. Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, told defense reporters on Nov. 14 that U.S. and allied forces already tried a "silent surge" between 2006 and 2008 when funding was increased and security forces were doubled to around the current 60,000 troops, 40 percent of which are U.S. forces.

Unfortunately, "the scale and the pace of the insurgency outpaced" that surge, "because any time you adjust your strategy, the enemy gets a vote," Mr. Edelman said.

"We're now looking at the question of what is the right level of resources both in terms of funding and force levels and what is the appropriate role for the Afghan national-security forces," Mr. Edelman said.

Mr. Edelman said one reason security failed to improve in Afghanistan was Pakistan's disastrous effort at "peace deals" with militants in the remote Waziristan region.

"And those peace deals, which we at the time questioned and thought were not well-advised, did in fact, I think, contribute to an increase in the ability of the insurgency to project power back into Afghanistan and created some of the difficulties that we face today," Mr. Edelman said.

The new government in Pakistan will likely present "some potential for change" in the region and will be part of the review, he said.

FBI guidelines challenged
Four Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are asking Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to delay implementing new guidelines that would expand FBI investigative power until after the Obama administration can review them.

The new attorney general guidelines are slated to go into effect on Dec. 1, but Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and three other senators want the implementation delayed.

"As you know, we have substantial concerns about the new attorney general guidelines and do not believe they should go into effect during this lame duck period, but rather should be reviewed by the new administration prior to implementation," the senators, all Judiciary Committee members, stated.

"Likewise, the FBI policies implementing those guidelines are hundreds of pages long, and would benefit from input not only from the new administration, but also from members of Congress, experts in the relevant fields, and affected communities."

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the department will review the senators' letter.

"The guidelines are the result of nearly two years' worth of discussions within the department and the FBI, along with unprecedented consultation with Congress and interest groups," Mr. Boyd said.

The consultation involved three oversight hearings and formal and informal briefings, along with outreach efforts to other groups.

"The FBI and other affected Justice Department components are undergoing training to ensure that their personnel understand these new rules and are ready to apply them when they take effect on Dec. 1," he said. "We are confident these guidelines will allow the FBI to be more effective in carrying out its critical national-security and foreign-intelligence missions while also protecting privacy and civil liberties."

The guidelines are used to inform FBI national-security investigations and foreign-intelligence activity and supercede earlier guidelines from 1976, 1988, 2002, 2003 and 2006.

The American Civil Liberties Union is opposing the new guidelines as giving too much power to the FBI. For example, under the new guidelines, FBI agents can investigate anyone without any fact-based "predicate" by asserting they are acting to prevent crime, protect national security or collect foreign intelligence. The guidelines permit FBI assessments without requiring records and without time limits.

"The FBI can even start an 'assessment' of you simply to determine if you would make a good FBI informant," according to an ACLU fact sheet. "Innocence no longer protects ordinary Americans from being subjected to a wide range of intrusive investigative techniques."

FBI assessments can utilize online sources, databases, the recruitment of informants, the use of false pretenses to gather information, and the use of surveillance.

Additionally, the new guidelines would permit the FBI to conduct full investigations against anyone at the request of a foreign government, opening the way for potential abuse against both domestic and foreign dissidents.

Other signers of the Nov. 25 letter included Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat; and Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat.

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at

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