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October 3, 2003
Notes from the Pentagon

Elusive report
Ever since The Washington Times disclosed a secret Pentagon "lessons learned" report Sept. 3, House Democrats have tried to get a copy. But they keep being blocked by the Defense Department and the Republicans.

The Democratic effort reached a new level this week when a resolution, sponsored by Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida, was introduced during a House Armed Services Committee markup. The resolution demanded that the Pentagon turn over a copy but was rejected on a party-line vote.

Last month, the House International Relations Committee voted down the same resolution. Now, the only way the resolution can reach the House floor is for Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, to allow a vote which he won't.

Behind the scenes, Democrats are trying other tactics to get a copy of "Operation Iraqi Freedom Strategic Lessons Learned." The report, labeled a "final draft," was prepared by the Joint Staff, the planning arm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Democrats asked the Pentagon for a copy and were told no. Then they asked if a copy could be brought to a classified briefing room, where it would be read but not copied. Again, the Pentagon said no.

There is good reason to keep the report from the opposition party. The report gives the Bush administration poor grades on planning for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. This is the Phase 4 operation for which the president's advisers are getting so much criticism for failing to foresee the ongoing guerrilla war.

One part of the report says, "Late formation of DoD [Phase 4] organizations, limited time available for the development of detailed plans and pre-deployment coordination. Command relationships (and communication requirements) and responsibilities were not clearly defined for DoD organizations until shortly before [the war] commenced."

The Pentagon initially responded to The Times story by saying the report reflected the military's tradition of being "brutally honest" so mistakes are not repeated. After a few weeks, however, the spin turned to casting doubt on the report's accuracy and saying, "It's only a draft."

Senate sources say Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also has been rebuffed in his attempt to get a copy of the "final draft" report. The sources say the Pentagon promises to provide a copy once it is finalized.

Clark's deception
Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark was quick to criticize the Bush administration for the war in Iraq.

Mr. Clark, a retired army general, appeared on Fox News Channel on July 11 and accused the Bush administration of lying to the American people. "When I was in the military," he said, "I took an oath to uphold the Constitution. There is nothing in the Constitution that says you can mislead people." He was talking about the Bush administration's case for ousting Saddam Hussein.

The remarks by Mr. Clark, who has since announced he is running for president as a Democrat, drew fire from a Pentagon official who remembers a bit of deception on the part of the four-star general.

Back in December 1995, the Clinton administration announced it was sending U.S. military troops to the Balkans for one year.

"It was common knowledge within the Pentagon, as the deployment plan was coordinated among the services, that the Clinton administration intention from the get-go was to keep the forces there longer, but to make the one-year commitment to get past the 1996 presidential election," the official said.

"General Clark was the leading cheerleader within the [Joint Chiefs of Staff] for the Clinton plan," said the official, who sat in on one meeting when it was made clear to all present that the public position of only a year was a ruse.

U.S. troops have been in the Balkans since January 1996, despite the best efforts of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to get them out.

He's back

Col. Douglas A. Macgregor drove the Army top brass crazy in the late 1990s with publication of his "Breaking the Phalanx: A New Design for Landpower in the 21st Century."

While Army generals at the Pentagon worked on making the existing 10 active divisions lighter and faster, Col. Macgregor's book called for elimination of the divisions themselves, replaced by high-tech battle groups.

The top brass may not have liked Col. Macgregor, but Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is said to have warmed to some of his ideas.

Now, Col. Macgregor, a senior fellow at the National Defense University, is out with a new book, "Transformation Under Fire: Revolutionizing How America Fights." It is endorsed by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee Democrat and House Armed Services Committee member, among others.

"America needs a new Army to prevail in a world teeming with new threats," a press release states.

Says Mr. Gingrich, "Colonel Macgregor is to the information-age joint military what Billy Mitchell was to air power and what Liddell Hart, Fuller, DeGaulle and Guderian were to armored warfare. He understands what has to be done, understands the principles for creating a 21st-century joint military, and has outlined a practical guide to America's next quarter-century of military effectiveness."

Blair to IDA
Retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the former head of the U.S. Pacific Command, is expected to become the new chief of the Pentagon's think tank, the Institute for Defense Analyses, or IDA. The IDA provides its analyses to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the unified commanders and defense agencies on national security issues. The institute's most recent focus has been on terrorism and defense transformation.

Adm. Blair has worked on the Joint Staff, with the CIA and with National Security Council staff. He will replace retired Air Force Gen. Larry D. Welch, the current IDA president.

During the U.S.-China standoff over Beijing's seizure of a U.S. EP-3 spy plane in April 2001, Adm. Blair criticized the Chinese for the recklessness of the F-8 pilot who nearly killed the crew of the U.S. jet. "It's not a normal practice to play bumper cars in the air," he said at the time.

Said Gen. Welch, "Adm. Blair was selected after an extensive search in which I participated. He is extraordinarily well-qualified, and I am pleased to turn over the helm to him on Nov. 3, at which time I will complete 50 years of continuous service to the Department of Defense.

  • 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.


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