May 18, 2001
Notes from the PentagonCIA China Wars
A secret commission sought by Congress to check CIA analyses on China is bitterly divided. The 12-member commission, headed by retired Army Gen. John Tilelli, met yesterday at CIA headquarters to hash out differences.
We were first told the commission is fighting over whether it can reach a consensus for a final report. But Gen. Tilelli said in an interview the panel is only three-quarters finished and has no draft yet.
Asked if the panel is divided, Gen. Tilelli said he could not characterize where the panel members stand because they are working on various aspects of the review. The meeting yesterday was "one of many" held by the commission and "we have a ways to go before we finish up," he said.
Other officials said the commission is divided over whether to endorse CIA analytical reports on China or condemn them.
Critics in Congress said they are concerned about the commission´s work and will legislate a much tougher competitive analysis unless the CIA produces an honest assessment. "If they don´t do it, we will," said one congressional aide.
The CIA panel of outside experts was formed last year under pressure from the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, has criticized CIA analysis of China as inaccurate and generally portraying a benign view of the communist state.
Problems with CIA analysis also surfaced during the recent Hainan island crisis, when 24 Americans from a downed U.S. EP-3E surveillance plane were held captive following a collision with a Chinese jet over the South China Sea.
A White House source said senior policy-makers were not happy with CIA reporting during the standoff. Agency analysts made incorrect forecasts on how the Chinese would react.
The Senate committee wanted the CIA to conduct a "Team B" analysis similar to the all-critic group of arms experts formed in the 1970s to second-guess estimates of Soviet strategic forces and the 1998 commission headed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that challenged CIA analysis of emerging missile dangers.
Instead, we are told the agency´s senior China analyst, Dennis Wilder, maneuvered to stack half the commission with CIA supporters. One commission member, Davidson College professor Shelley Rigger, identified herself on a Web site as a "CIA consultant" -- undermining her credibility for commission work. Another member, retired Air Force Col. Larry Mitchell, also serves as a paid CIA consultant.
All the commission members were selected by Mr. Wilder, who has a lot riding on the final report, including a promotion from China division chief to head of the Asia-Pacific/Latin America division.
Also, commission members at first were blocked from studying "raw" intelligence -- a key requirement for judging finished reports.
CIA Director George Tenet relented and granted some access to raw reports under pressure from commission members such as former CIA officer James Lilley, Heritage Foundation China hand Larry Wortzel and Peter Rodman, a current nominee for assistant defense secretary.
The commission is being "assisted" by James Harris, head of the CIA´s Strategic Assessment Group. Mr. Harris, like Mr. Wilder, is a former China division chief and has a reputation as a pro-China analyst. Mr. Wilder and Mr. Harris are part of an exclusive group of ideologically motivated analysts who insist that all views of China must lean toward making Beijing a strategic partner, while playing down or ignoring all threatening activities by the Chinese.
Words and deeds
At the top are two true believers, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
But underneath those two are a gang of pro-missile defense policy-makers who will shape the programs and write the memos to get things done.
The panel concluded that rogue nations will have the ability to hit U.S. soil with an intercontinental missile sooner than intelligence agencies are predicting.
A federal law known as the Berry Amendment dictates that military uniforms must be bought from American suppliers and made of 100 percent U.S. products.
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which got a tongue lashing from a House committee two weeks ago for buying millions of black berets overseas, is now checking to see if Bancroft is using foreign-made components.
We obtained a May 8 memo from Bancroft to the DLA that states, "We are now using 100 percent domestic wool in all of our yarns."
The letter goes on, "The leather is imported as tanned item from Pakistan and finished in the United States. There is no leather market available in the United States."
Critics of the Army´s decision to equip virtually all soldiers with black berets tell us there are "several" U.S. leather producers.
The Bancroft snafu follows a series of Pentagon stumbles in trying to find enough berets to put on the heads of every soldier by June 14, the Army´s birthday.
The Army won´t make that deadline after rejecting more than 600,000 berets made in communist China, and after rejecting over a million defective berets made in Third World countries.
NIMA under fire
NIMA´s director, Army Lt. Gen. James C. King, was supposed to carry out a cost-benefit study as part of the privatization program. But Gen. King instead exercised an option allowing the agency to forgo the cost study if the agency selects a contractor that is 51 percent owned by an American Indian tribe.
An Alaska native-owned company, NJVC, is expected to get the contract for computer support and other services in September.
The congressmen, including House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, and Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said in their letter that the process is unfair because it prevents NIMA employees from having the opportunity to "compete in defense of their jobs."
NIMA´s conversion of government employees to contractors also is expected to increase taxpayer costs, not reduce them, we are told by an agency source.
A NIMA statement said the agency estimates it will save 20 percent to 30 percent over the long term. The agency said privatization will be done in phases over seven years and will use early retirement incentives to avoid firing workers.
The agency also defended its choice of the Native American company, which it said has been certified by the Small Business Administration.