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December 3, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Chinese sub
China's navy recently deployed an attack submarine in what defense officials say was a rare demonstration of out-of-area underwater operations. U.S. intelligence agencies recently published a classified map of the submarine's movements throughout the western Pacific.

The submarine was detected throughout its voyage beginning in late October through mid-November from its home port of Ningpo south past Taiwan to Guam where the U.S. Navy has three attack submarines and plans to deploy up to seven more.

The submarine then sailed near Okinawa, where it was detected by Japan's navy. The discovery prompted Japan to demand an explanation from Beijing, which promptly issued an apology and explained that the submarine was in Japanese waters as the result of a technical error.

Boy Scouts
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent a letter yesterday to the Senate Republican leader, backing the senator's bill to protect the Boy Scouts.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, submitted a bill that says no federal agency can enact a rule that limits support for the Boy Scouts. Mr. Frist's move came after the American Civil Liberties Union won a limited settlement from the Defense Department to no longer officially sponsor Scout troops.

"I am concerned with the impression left by the ACLU in recent reporting of this matter that suggests the Department of Defense is changing its relationship with the Boy Scouts," Mr. Rumsfeld said in the letter, a copy of which we obtained. "Recently, I supported Sense of Congress resolutions introduced in the House and Senate that the department should continue to exercise its statutory authority to support the activities of the Boy Scouts, in particular the periodic national and world Boy Scout Jamborees."

Mr. Rumsfeld is an Eagle Scout.

Transition notes
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has not yet received affirmation from President Bush that he is staying on in the second term as defense chief. The delay in the public affirmation has fueled a new round of rumors on the leadership of the lead agency in the global war on terrorism.

One idea being floated in the Pentagon is to create a bifurcated deputy defense secretariat, with current Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz becoming deputy for policy and a second deputy to come in for managing the building.

The dual system would alleviate problems with what many defense officials see as the current inefficient system for running the day-to-day operations of the department.

Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita told us the two-deputy system had been discussed in the past but that Mr. Rumsfeld does not support it. As for Mr. Rumsfeld's future as secretary, Mr. DiRita said: "When the secretary has something to say on the matter, he'll say it."

Word has reached us that one potential replacement for a senior position at the Pentagon is Sean O'Keefe, a former Navy secretary who now heads the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Mr. O'Keefe is a close ally of Vice President Dick Cheney and could end up with the jobs of deputy or even secretary of defense.

Mr. DiRita also said that Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith plans to stay on in the No. 3 policy post.

Defense review
The Pentagon is gearing up for the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR. The review is being shepherded by Pentagon leaders and the Senior Level Review Group, led by both Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Mr. Rumsfeld's key aide for the review is Ryan Henry, and Mr. Wolfowitz has picked Deputy Undersecretary Jim Thomas as another point man.

One fight already brewing within policy circles is how to characterize China. The most recent review, made public in September 2001, did not name China but referred obliquely to the "rising" power of the communist nation and its military competitor status in Asia.

Pro-China officials within the Bush administration (few are in the Pentagon) want to play down the China threat in the new QDR as part of what some officials call the administration's "strategic pause" toward Beijing. The idea is that the global war on terrorism has prompted the United States to put on hold efforts to check the growing power of China.

Transformation woes
The Pentagon is said to be considering a change at the helm of the key office set up to work the issue of U.S. military forces transformation, we are told. Retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, currently director of the Office of Force Transformation, has not done enough to initiate changes within the military and defense establishment, a key element of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's long-range plans, we are told.

"He has seemed more of a thinker who does studies rather than actually transforming any forces," one Pentagon insider said of Adm. Cebrowski.

Another Pentagon official described Adm. Cebrowski as "smart and focused," but said he may be leaving of his own accord soon.

Mr. Rumsfeld is said to be looking for a replacement.

Another disappointment is said to be the efforts of the Office of Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, headed by Assistant Secretary Thomas O'Connell.

Word is that senior Pentagon officials are disappointed that the SOLIC office, as it is called, has not done enough to use U.S. special operations commandos.

One official tells us part of the problem is that the Special Operations policy shop has been too willing to let the CIA operations directorate call the shots.

Hoover East
The Stanford-based Hoover Institution came east on Wednesday. The venerable think tank hosted a talk at the Metropolitan Club by conservative scholars Peter Berkowitz of George Mason University School of Law, and Victor Davis Hanson, author of books on immigration and national security.

The audience was a small group of Washington's media establishment, including editors and reporters from The Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Business Week and Newsweek.

Mr. Hanson, a professor of classics at California State University at Fresno, pointed out the United States' great achievements so far in the war on terror. Toppling the Taliban and deposing Saddam Hussein, he said, stand at the top of a number of advances that show the United States is winning the overall global struggle.

Mr. Hanson told an anecdote to illustrate the humanity the Pentagon tries to exercise in fighting a foe that has no regard for human life.

He said he was at the Pentagon briefing the Joint Chiefs of Staff when a military aide bragged to him how strike aircraft used inert cement bombs to hit artillery pieces parked next to mosques so as not to damage the religious centers.

Mr. Hanson said his response was to chastise the military for not bombing the mosque itself. That way the enemy would stop using them for military purposes, in violation of international law.

  • 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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