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March 22, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

China missile test
China's military conducted a flight test of a CSS-6 short-range missile recently as part of efforts to build up its missile forces near Taiwan. The missile test took place several weeks ago and was monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies, said officials familiar with reports of the test.

China has deployed hundreds of CSS-6 and CSS-7 short-range missiles opposite Tawian. U.S. intelligence agencies estimate there are about 350 of the systems now deployed. The missiles are destabilizing because they provide little warning of an attack.

CIA Director George J. Tenet said on Tuesday that "China continues to upgrade and expand the conventional short-range ballistic missile force it has arrayed against Taiwan."

Intelligence officials tell us that a trainload of 20 new containers was spotted leaving a missile factory in China. The containers are believed to be either new CSS-6s or CSS-7s bound for the China coast near Taiwan.

Adm. Dennis Blair, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, told the House Armed Service Committee on Wednesday that the Chinese missile buildup is threatening.

"Where we are right now is that China is capable of causing a great deal of damage to Taiwan, damage that cannot be stopped by the Taiwanese armed forces or by forces of the United States, if they were ordered in," Adm. Blair said. "And this is because of China's buildup of short-range ballistic missiles ...."

The flight test also comes amid increasing anger in Beijing over the Bush administration's decision over having permitting Taiwan's defense minister to attend a defense-related conference in Florida earlier this month.

NASA's loss
The White House said last week it had withdrawn the nomination of a Marine Corps general to be deputy director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration because he was needed for the war on terrorism. That's only part of the story.

Two key senators weighed in on the issue, sending a letter to the White House that may have doomed the nomination of Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden. The general is commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in Miramar, Calif.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, and the committee's ranking Republican, John W. Warner of Virginia, wrote a letter to the administration saying the appointment would set a bad precedent for putting active-duty officers in a civilian policy-making job.

Our sources also say the Pentagon was not eager to help NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe in winning his handpicked choice for deputy. Mr. O'Keefe made some enemies in the Pentagon during his short tenure as White House deputy budget director.

Gen. Bolden, 55, is a four-time shuttle astronaut and was a combat pilot in Vietnam. The White House withdrew his nomination on the eve of a scheduled confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.

Hellfire shot
The more people who view the video of the Hellfire missile strike on Feb. 4 in Zhara Kili, Afghanistan, the more people there are who say the Predator hunted and killed a senior al Qaeda member. They reject out of hand assertions by local Afghans that the CIA-operated Predator killed three innocent scavengers.

One person with direct knowledge of the tape says a tall man in a robe seems to realize at some point that he is being watched by the pilotless drone. He and two other men scurry into a wooded area and stand under a tree. But the maneuver fails to evade the Predator's electronic eyes. A CIA operations team aims the warhead at the robed man's chest and the Hellfire missile scores a direct hit.

U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in the Southern Hemisphere, is keeping its four-star billet. The post had gone vacant since last summer and there was speculation it might be reduced to a three-star post.

But under a new plan devised by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for his regional commanders in chief (CINCs), SouthCom will be consumed by a new CINC, Northern Command. NorthCom will be responsible for homeland security in the war on terrorism.

Officials liken the merger to the arrangement in the Pacific. U.S. Forces Korea enjoys a four-star billet, but falls under Pacific Command.

Terror training
The U.S. military has embarked on a number of training missions worldwide to help indigenous armies fight Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network. Now, ex-military personnel are finding a need for the private sector to offer anti-terror training to our own government.

Protac Global, a firearms training company in Texas, has teamed with American Express Financial Advisers to plan a huge anti-terror complex in Ellis County, Texas. The 200-acre site was developed by the Energy Department's superconducting supercollider project and then abandoned in 1993.

The facility will be named the Counter Terrorism Training Center. Two-ex Marines who own Protac Global will seek contracts from all government entities involved in the war on terrorism.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host a briefing Monday on the ex-Marines' plans. Said retired Army Col. William Taylor, who is advising the group, "It's all there in a complex of 18 miles of underground tunnels, 450,000 square feet under roof, a landing strip, a large pond and training opportunities that can challenge the minds of those responsible for the many aspects of counterterrorism, offense and defense."

The group's mission statement reads: "Deliver the physical facilities to carry out a range of training scenarios to the counter terrorism training missions of various organizations to include operations initiated from land, air and water environments into surroundings which can include warehouses, prison facility, drug lab, trains, bus, aircraft, tunnel complex and urban area. Additionally, these operations can be conducted both night and day."

Pro-China center
The Pentagon's inspector general is investigating the U.S. Pacific Command's Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, which many in the Pentagon view as a haven for pro-Beijing thinking. It is headed by retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Hank Stackpole.

The probe is focusing on whether there was any improper hiring and employee practices by the center's executive director, Jimmie R. Lackey, we are told.

Pentagon sources tell us the real problem at the Hawaii-based center is its pro-China bias, which is demonstrated in the vehement opposition to U.S. missile-defense efforts from center officials.

Top center officials have stated in not-for-attribution lectures to U.S. military officers and visiting foreign military officers that "missile defense will cause the PRC to mount an arms race," one official told us. "In fact, PRC (People's Republic of China) concerns seem to take prominence" for most of the center's top leaders, the source said.

The biased lectures are said to be presenting a false picture of U.S. defense policy, the official said.

Gen. Stackpole, for example, recently criticized President Bush for identifying Iraq, Iran and North Korea as "axis of evil." Gen. Stackpole claimed the president made the remarks only because he is intent on disrupting U.S. relations in Asia.

Before his current job, Gen. Stackpole was president of Loral Asia-Pacific, a subsidiary of Loral Space and Communications Ltd. In January, Loral paid a $14 million fine to the State Department, ending a five-year investigation into charges the company illegally helped China improve its long-range missiles through satellite deals.

A Pentagon official told us Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has been looking for an excuse to shut down the center because of its pro-China views.

  • 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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