Return to


January 14, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

Future war rules
A report by the National Intelligence Council on future threats states that most armed conflict in the next two decades will involve nontraditional forms of warfare.

They include "humanitarian interventions and operations designed to root out terrorist home bases," said the report, "Mapping the Global Future."

As future conflicts largely become unconventional or irregular instead of state-to-state wars, "the principles covering resort to, and use of, military force will increasingly be called into question," the report said.

The report said the rules of war are changing because of the legal status and treatment of prisoners in the war on terrorism, the role of contractors in conflicts, and the role of nongovernmental organizations in conflicts.

"The role of the United States in trying to set norms is itself an issue and probably will complicate efforts by the global community to come to an agreement on a new set of rules," the report said. "Containing and limiting the scale and savagery of conflicts will be aggravated by the absence of clear rules."

The report also warned that cyberwarfare by terrorists is emerging as a future threat.

"Over the next 15 years, a growing range of actors, including terrorists, may acquire and develop capabilities to conduct both physical and cyberattacks against nodes of the world's information infrastructure, including the Internet, telecommunications networks and computer systems that control critical industrial processes such as electricity grids, refineries, and flood control mechanisms," the report stated.

The report was based on interviews with U.S. and foreign experts and produced by the National Intelligence Council, a group of forecasting analysts who work for CIA Director Porter J. Goss.

The unclassified report said that "terrorists already have specified the U.S. information infrastructure as a target and currently are capable of physical attacks that would cause at least brief, isolated disruptions."

The report said that a key "cyber battlefield" in the future is the information on computers. "New technologies on the horizon provide capabilities for accessing data, either through wireless intercept, intrusion into Internet-connected systems, or through direct access by insiders," the report said.

McCain stoppers
Some conservative Republicans are dreading 2006.

That is when Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, is set to step down as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senate Republican Conference rules dictate six-year term limits for committee chiefs.

The abdication will pave the way for the ranking Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, to assume chairmanship. But a number of conservatives are leery of having a party maverick, anti-pork senator take over a committee that authorizes Pentagon policies and laws and more than $400 billion in yearly spending.

Uneasiness was heightened last year when Mr. McCain blocked a number of Pentagon nominations on the grounds that the department was not disclosing sufficient information on the Boeing tanker-lease scandal. The stalemate has worsened relations between the senator and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

There are two risky scenarios for stopping Mr. McCain. Congressional insiders tell us Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, is considering running when the conference elects chairmen in 2006. Another possibility is that Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, will rejoin the committee and run for chairman.

One staffer acknowledged that if Mr. McCain decides he wants the chairmanship and is denied it by party colleagues, "it will get real messy."

Abu Ghraib promotion
Pentagon officials tell us that they are outraged that the Army has decided to promote Lt. Col. James O'Hare, the judge advocate for the 800th Military Police Brigade, to the rank of colonel.

The brigade's soldiers were involved in the abuses of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison that were photographed and then publicized throughout the world.

Col. O'Hare "did nothing" in his position as the judge advocate and should have had a greater role in overseeing the activities of the 800th's soldiers, one official said.

The report on the Abu Ghraib prison abuses by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba criticized Col. O'Hare, among other brigade leaders, for the leadership failures that led to the detainee abuses. The report stated that Col. O'Hare "appears to lack initiative and was unwilling to accept responsibility for any of his actions."

Saving Harvey
New Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey can partly thank Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, for finally assuming the office at the Pentagon.

Mr. Harvey's nomination as Army secretary was one of a long list held up by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, over the botched Boeing tanker-lease deal.

As the nomination languished, Mr. Warner said the Army needed a civilian leader in time of war. Mr. Harvey, of course, was not linked to the Air Force deal, so Mr. McCain relented, insiders tell us.

Mr. Warner was showing his loyalty to President Bush when he might have done otherwise. His longtime aide, Les Brownlee, was serving as acting Army secretary and had been passed over by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for the full title.

Mr. Rumsfeld prefers corporate experience in his service secretaries and shies away from candidates who have strong ties to Capitol Hill.

America's finest
We received an e-mail from a senior enlisted man on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln who told of the effort by sailors to save lives in post-tsunami South Asia. Among the sailor's observations on relief operations:

"Today's youth has put on an impressive display the last couple of days with the sacrifices they have made. They are giving everything they have to these people. Lack of sleep and a drive to make a difference are what I have seen. The families of these kids should be proud of what I see. Dealing with death and disaster is not easy."

"The chaplains have been doing defusing on us as we return from the beach to help reduce post-traumatic syndrome. Everyone wants to stay ashore and have a hard time leaving with the people watching us leave."

An officer on the ship said in his e-mail:

"We have set up a system now to have 12 of our helicopters flying from sunrise to sunset to assist. We have been carrying everything from biscuits, rice, noddles, milk, water and medical supplies. We transport doctors and medical staff as well. The Indonesian people are in need of everything."

"I had breakfast with [Dan] Rather aboard the carrier as we discussed the day's events and what he would like to see. He and his staff's graciousness and professionalism impressed me."

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at bgertz@washingtontimes.com. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.


  • Inside the Ring Archives
    1999 Columns
    2000 Columns
    2001 Columns

    2002 Columns
    2003 Columns
    2004 Columns
    2005 Columns
    Return to