Return to

December 15, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Spy probe
The Air Force is investigating whether a Chinese agent is working inside the service, a situation similar to a defense contractor in Los Angeles who was charged with providing sensitive Navy weapons technology to China.

Intelligence sources tell us the probe by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the service's counterintelligence arm known as OSI, is an outgrowth of the Chi Mak case. The defense contractor is suspected of being part of a spy ring that passed to China sensitive details of Navy programs, including information on Virginia-class submarines, Aegis-equipped ships and advanced quieting technology for warships.

The OSI is investigating whether two persons who are in the service or are working as contractors may have secretly provided detailed information about Air Force weapons programs to Beijing, which is engaged in major spying operations against the United States, specifically targeting weapons systems.

An OSI spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

The probe represents the second technology compromise for the Air Force. The service lost extremely sensitive technology to China in the case of Indian-born defense contractor Noshir S. Gowadia, who was charged with spying in a federal indictment in Hawaii last month. Investigators say Mr. Gowadia was paid by China to reveal secrets about the radar-evading B-2 bomber's engine exhaust system, which is being adapted by China to a stealth cruise missile.

New duds
The Air Force has come out with a new Airman Battle Uniform. It's permanent press wash-and-wear, less expensive and comes in 236 sizes for men and women. The Air Force will start issuing them next spring.

"The Airman Battle Uniform will replace the current woodland pattern Battle Dress Uniform and Desert Camouflage Uniforms and will feature a distinctive Air Force digitized tiger stripe pattern, which shares three colors with the Army Combat Uniform and one additional color of slate blue," according to a message to the troops Tuesday.

"We will treat the ABU like any other weapon system by continually upgrading our capabilities in blocks as we learn from the emergence of new technologies," the Air Force says.

Airmen will save money on cleaning because the uniform cannot be starched, hot-pressed or dry-cleaned.

Vietnam and Iraq
Not every conservative completely dislikes the Iraq Study Group report. While some label it the "Iraq Surrender Group,"

retired Marine Lt. Gen. Charles Cooper embraces some of its ideas on working to get most combat troops out of Iraq by early 2008.

"I think the report is very constructive and useful," he tells us. "It does an excellent job of defining the problems, showing the complexity of the situation and most importantly states its purpose is 'to give Iraq an opportunity to avert anarchy.' "

"It is not 'cut and run,' as some Democrats may have wished. It also stresses that we must get more directly involved with the Iraq government, the political leaders, and stop playing nice while we wait for good things to happen in the current government."

But the idea for taking out most combat troops by early 2008 and other military options "are largely impracticable," he tells us.

Gen. Cooper has the experience to judge such questions. He fought in Vietnam. And, as an aide to the chief of naval operations in 1965, he witnessed President Johnson chew out the Joint Chiefs of Staff over Vietnam policy.

The scene: Maj. Cooper, the five Joint Chiefs members and Mr. Johnson in the Oval Office. The public did not know it then, but a schism had developed between the nation's highest military officers and Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara. Mr. McNamara endorsed a big buildup of ground troops. The chiefs opposed it. The objectives were not clear, they said. They wanted Mr. Johnson to approve air strikes on Hanoi and harbor mining to inflict pain on the North.

That day, Maj. Cooper held the map of South and North Vietnam. The general later recounted the White House war planning in his autobiography, "Cheers and Tears." The part on the secret White House session was published as a stand-alone article in Naval Institute Proceedings, titled "The Day It Became the Longest War."

"[The chiefs] expected it to be of momentous import, and it met that expectation, too," Gen. Cooper wrote. "Unfortunately, it also proved to be a meeting that was critical to the proper pursuit of what was to become the longest, most divisive, and least conclusive war in our nation's history a war that almost tore the nation apart."

Mr. Johnson, Gen. Cooper wrote, remained calm and seemingly attentive, during the briefing.

"Then suddenly discarding the calm, patient demeanor he had maintained throughout the meeting, [Johnson] whirled to face them and exploded," he wrote. "I almost dropped the map. He screamed obscenities, he cursed them personally, he ridiculed them for coming to his office with their 'military advice.' Noting that it was he who was carrying the weight of the free world on his shoulders, he called them filthy names ... . He then accused them of trying to pass the buck for World War III to him. It was unnerving, degrading."

We tell Gen. Cooper's story because it has relevance to today's debate. As far as we can tell, President Bush and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of whom he appointed, generally see eye-to-eye on Iraq.

Farewell tour
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is eschewing the traditional press in his final days in office. Instead, he has given exclusive interviews to a more sympathetic crowd: Conservative columnists and commentators.

He sat down with Cal Thomas and was interviewed by radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.

The most exclusive access was given to Sean Hannity. Mr. Hannity, a popular radio commentator and co-host on Fox News Channel, traveled with the secretary to Iraq last weekend. Mr. Hannity brought back video, including an impromptu session he conducted with soldiers in Mosul. One remarked that when Washington politicians say the United States can't win in Iraq, they are voicing no confidence in American troops.

Rumsfeld on Democrats
During the recent visit to Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was asked how the Democratic takeover of Congress will affect the military. His response was that the country probably will survive.

"One wag one time said that politics in the United States is basically between the 40-yard lines; that we don't ever really end up off the edge; and that the debates are fierce and the arguments are fierce, and as I mentioned earlier, sometimes they're even nasty," he said Sunday at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

"But over time, successive administrations of both political parties have managed to basically see that our country stayed on a reasonably steady course, and I think that that will be our experience in the coming period."

  • 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

  • Inside the Ring Archives
    1999 Columns
    2000 Columns
    2001 Columns

    2002 Columns
    2003 Columns
    2004 Columns
    2005 Columns
    2006 Columns
    Return to