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November 24, 2006
Notes from the Pentagon

Pentagon politicals
Defense officials tell us word is circulating in the Pentagon that Defense Secretary designate Robert M. Gates is planning to order the resignation of all political appointees once he is confirmed and in place.

The mandate would affect scores of Pentagon officials, from Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England down to such positions as that held by Tony Dolan, one of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's low-profile special assistants, who works public affairs and speechwriting issues.

The officials tell us the mass resignations will be pro forma and simply allow Mr. Gates to pick and choose which ones to keep on during the final two years of the Bush administration.

Shinseki's back
That was retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, former Army chief of staff, walking in the Pentagon on Monday. It made some wonder whether the man who famously said a larger invasion force was needed for Iraq -- and was shot down by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz -- was called in to help with an ongoing review of Iraq war policy.

The answer is no. Gen. Shinseki came back to Washington to witness the promotion of Col. Keith Walker, who is on the Army headquarters staff, to brigadier general.

The two soldiered together when Gen. Walker was a cavalry squadron captain and then-Maj. Shinseki was its executive officer. "Major Shinseki had a great and positive impact on Captain Walker," said Brig. Gen. Tony Cucolo, Army chief of public affairs. "Keith is a wonderful officer. One of our best from a great military family."

By the way, Gen. Shinseki was further vindicated last week, when Gen. John Abizaid, the top commander in the Iraq region, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the general was correct in 2003 when he told the same committee that a larger invasion force was needed to keep order.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, said he could find no evidence that Gen. Shinseki ever officially recommended more troops to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of which he was a member, or to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In another personnel development, Ronald J. James was sworn in Nov. 6 as assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.

Faulty China intel
The annual report by the congressional U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission, released recently, calls for improving U.S. intelligence on China's military buildup.

"The commission recommends that Congress instruct the director of national intelligence, working with the Department of Defense, to formulate and establish a more effective program for assessing the nature, extent and strategic and tactical implications of China's military modernization and development," the report stated.

The recommendation is a rare open criticism of U.S. intelligence related to Beijing's growing military buildup.

Defense officials tell us the main cause of poor U.S. intelligence estimates and analyses of the Chinese arms buildup is a pervasive bias among senior U.S. intelligence and policy-makers who have sought to play down or dismiss China's military efforts as non-threatening.

Among the key players is Thomas Fingar, a China specialist who is the deputy director of national intelligence for analysis and chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Another is Lonnie Henley, the deputy national intelligence officer for East Asia, who was recently investigated for supporting a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who illegally retained classified documents and passed top-secret intelligence to the Chinese military. A third key figure in numerous intelligence failures on the Chinese military is White House National Security Council Asia Director Dennis Wilder, who for years headed CIA analyses of the Chinese military and whose career is marked by frequent underestimates of the buildup.

The commission recommendation reflects a highly classified intelligence report produced last year that concluded U.S. intelligence analysts missed more than a dozen key military developments related to China's military for a decade.

Among the failures were China's development of a new long-range cruise missile; deployment of a new warship equipped with a stolen Chinese version of the U.S. Aegis battle management technology; deployment of a new attack submarine that was missed by U.S. intelligence; development of precision-guided munitions; and the importation of advanced weaponry, including Russian submarines, warships and fighter-bombers.

McCaffrey's view
Retired Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey has issued some focused criticisms and assessments of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now Gen. McCaffrey, an adjunct professor at West Point, is delivering his opinion on the global war against Islamic extremists as well as the other conflicts.

Here are some excerpts from his presentation to a National Defense University conference.

Global war on terrorism:

  • Terrorist organizations have been intimidated and badly damaged.

  • Global animosity toward U.S. foreign policy and the administration is universal, intense and growing.

  • Homeland security has improved immeasurably since September 11 (not withstanding Hurricane Katrina).

  • The proliferation of [weapons of mass destruction] nation-states and technology remains the principal threat to the American people and our allies.


  • The morale, fighting effectiveness and confidence of U.S. combat forces continue to be simply awe-inspiring. Our allies are leaving.

  • The Iraqi Army is real, growing and much more willing to fight. However, they are very badly equipped. The Iraqi police are a disaster.

  • Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's administration is dysfunctional. Governance is broken. The nation is gripped with fear and distrust.

  • Coalition and Iraqi forces have largely succeeded in neutralizing the foreign jihadist threat at a strategic and operational level.

  • There is growing animosity by the U.S. armed forces toward the press.


  • The U.S. economy continues to dominate the global marketplace.

  • North Korea comes apart.

  • Terrorists strike America.

  • 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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