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November 5, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

CBS vs. Bush
There was the bogus National Guard memos that disparaged President Bush. Then the iffy story on missing explosives in Iraq, not to mention the line of anti-Bush authors who sat down in the "60 Minutes" studio to bash the president, uninterrupted.

CBS' "60 Minutes" ended the election cycle Sunday night with another hit a somewhat outdated story on the Army needing to re-equip soldiers once the insurgency in Iraq took hold one year ago.

We've obtained a letter from acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee to "60 Minutes." It details how the Army reacted to shortages of body and truck armor.

"As major combat operations concluded in Iraq in May 2003, the security environment was changing," Mr. Brownlee writes. "Commanders on the ground determined that the up armored High Mobility, Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) was better suited in most of these situations than the tanks and infantry fighting vehicles that had defeated the Iraqi Army.

"In September of 2003, commanders requested increased numbers of these vehicles ranging from less than 300 initially to over 8,000 today. The Army moved aggressively to address these new requirements, accelerating the production of up armored HMMWVs from 15 vehicles per month in May 2003 to the current rate of 450 vehicles per month.

"Over 5,000 up armored HMMWVs have already arrived in the theater with the remainder expected by March 2005. Additionally, by December 2003 the Army accelerated production of add-on armor kits for its wheeled vehicles in the theater of operations and to date has produced almost 9,300 kits.

"By January 2004, the Army provided enough Interceptor Body Armor including Small Arms Protective Inserts (SAPI) to the theater sufficient to equip every soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq. As of September 2004, the Army has purchased more than 400,000 sets of Interceptor Body Armor."

Weapons buy
The Pentagon is expected to announce several key arms-budget decisions on major programs, perhaps as early as today, we are told.

Key spending decisions on the arms were put off until after the presidential election and now a series of program budget decisions, or PBDs as the Pentagon calls them, will be announced. Most involve billions of dollars in weapons to be produced or developed.

One new item, defense officials said, is a decision to spend over $1 billion on equipment and technology for defenses against weapons of mass destruction.

The program will be one of the first efforts to buy goods that will be needed in response to an attack from what the Pentagon calls "CBRNE," or chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-explosive strikes.

The defenses include everything from new protective suits to capabilities to quickly mass-produce vaccines for use against biological weapons. It will examine whether buildings need special air controls to block the introduction of deadly chemicals or germ weapons.

Sensors to detect chemical and biological arms also will be included. The WMD program is being compared to the big push by the Pentagon in the 1990s to bolster military "force protection" following terrorist attacks on troops overseas.

Another big-ticket item to be announced is a plan to direct the Air Force and Navy on purchases of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the newest generation warplane. The jet comes in conventional and short-takeoff configurations. The aircraft will be adapted for use by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The PBD is expected to direct the Navy and Air Force to adopt two different jet engines, in case one engine is found later to have flaws. Using different engines one from General Electric and one from Pratt & Whitney is a hedge to prevent an entire fleet of more than 1,000 aircraft from potentially being grounded at the same time.

A third decision will be to direct the Navy to continue development of the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, instead of relying solely on the Tomahawk cruise missile.

Also, the Air Force will be required to buy the Joint Standoff Weapon, or JSOW, a precision-guided bomb, instead of its precision-guided cluster bomb kits for "dumb" bombs called the Wind Corrected Munition Dispenser-Extended Range, known as "WICMID-ER."

Pacom battle
The withdrawal of Air Force Gen. Gregory Martin last month as the nominee for the new commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific has set off a behind-the-scenes race for a replacement.

The U.S. Navy, which traditionally has held the Pacific Command post, is hoping Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will pick a Navy admiral as a replacement for commander Adm. Thomas Fargo, who will step down in January.

Defense sources tell us Mr. Rumsfeld's pick of an Air Force weapons specialist was a deliberate attempt to shake up the command's traditional Navy-oriented approach, which has often translated into being too soft on communist China.

Mr. Rumsfeld is said to be considering another Air Force general, along with Navy and non-Navy candidates, for the post.

Gen. Martin withdrew his nomination after a confrontation with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, over questioning about improprieties involved in an Air Force-Boeing deal to lease Boeing 767 jets as aerial-refueling tankers. Gen. Martin had worked with a former Air Force civilian involved in the tanker deal.

Several other Air Force generals are said to be under scrutiny for their role in the matter, complicating the unprecedented pick of an Air Force general for the job.

Boykin reprimand
A defense source tells us U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin received a letter of reprimand for comments he made in speeches describing the war on terrorism as a Christian battle against evil.

The letter was issued by Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody to Gen. Boykin, special operations forces specialist, for violating Pentagon rules. The source disclosed the letter after Gen. Cody declined to specify type of punishment received by Gen. Boykin.

"I took the appropriate action based on the recommendations of the inspector general," Gen. Cody told Reuters during the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army. He noted that the action taken was not significant.

The Pentagon inspector general stated in a report in August that Gen. Boykin, a deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, should face "appropriate corrective action" for failing to clear official data in a series of religious speeches given after January 2002.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has praised Gen. Boykin for his "outstanding record."

Iraq poll
A poll you won't see mentioned much in the big media is one Harris did on American attitudes toward the war in Iraq.

Over 60 percent said history will give the United States credit for bringing democracy to Iraq and the same number said Saddam Hussein was a serious threat to America's security. And 90 percent believe Saddam would have resumed production of weapons of mass destruction if given the chance.

Exit polls of voters on Tuesday showed 51 percent approved of the decision to go to war, but 52 percent said things are going badly there.

  • 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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