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December 6, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Guns and butter
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is targeting the Pentagon's network of senior dining rooms for consolidation under one Rumsfeld-chartered organization.

Nothing, it seems, is escaping Mr. Rumsfeld's drive to transform and streamline the military.

According to an internal memo we obtained, Mr. Rumsfeld wants to consolidate dining rooms operated by the Joint Chiefs chairman, the military services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The rooms will come under a "Pentagon Senior Leadership Dining Facility (PSLDF). And for the first time, members will pay an annual fee, maybe as high as $300.

The PSLDF, the memo states, will "provide senior civilian and military officials and their guests private, secure areas where they can dine and, at the same time, conduct official business, and where senior defense officials may host special functions for visiting foreign dignitaries and top-level government officials."

"The SecDef requires that the dining facility be operated in an efficient, economical manner, with one set of business practices, providing professional service to the authorized clientele."

Mr. Rumsfeld is a big proponent of "jointness" in military planning and execution. That theme is carried over to the PSLDF.

"The most notable change to dining operations under the PSLDF concept will be that the main dining areas, i.e., those open to the general membership, will be open to all members of the PSLDF, that is, an Army flag officer could chose to dine in the dining area located along the Air Force corridor, etc."

A Pentagon spokesman said a Pentagon directive setting up the new unit has not yet been signed. Under the PSLDF, everything will be centralized, from accounting to purchasing to storeroom operations, to pricing for what one official told us are excellent cheeseburgers.

Jiang offer
Chinese President Jiang Zemin privately suggested to President Bush during the summit meeting in Crawford, Texas, in October that China would cut back its short-range missile deployments opposite Taiwan if the United States stopped selling advanced weapons to Taiwan.

The president dismissed the offer. He told Mr. Jiang that the United States is committed to the Taiwan Relations Act, passed by Congress to protect Taiwan after the diplomatic recognition of communist China.

Administration arms-control officials have been trying to get Beijing to halt the missile buildup but continue to come up short.

China is deploying 50 short-range missiles a year opposite Taiwan in what the Pentagon views as a destabilizing arms buildup. As many as 400 missiles may now be in place, within range of Taiwan's cities.

A Bush administration official said Mr. Jiang's offer was not a serious gesture. "It was in the context of Jiang saying 'the only reason we're deploying missiles is because of U.S. arms sales,'" the official said.

Taiwan's legislature approved the budget for the purchase of four U.S.-built Kidd-class guided missile destroyers on Nov. 1.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Bush's conversation with Mr. Jiang, but said the United States remains committed to carrying out the Taiwan Relations Act.

Watch out, L.A.
A top Chinese general is due in the United States next week for a series of discussions with senior Bush administration officials. He is Lt. Gen. Xiong Guankai, the communist military's key foreign liaison officer and also deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

Gen. Xiong is set to meet with Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and Undersecretary of State for International Security John Bolton as part of renewed military exchanges that were restarted as a result of the Crawford summit.

It will be the first high-level talks in the United States with the Chinese military since the April 1, 2001, inflight collision between a Chinese F-8 jet and a U.S. EP-3 surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea.

The Chinese jet flew too close and ended up crashing into the sea, killing the pilot. The 23-member U.S. military crew of the EP-3 made an emergency landing on Hainan island. The Chinese, rather than providing help, imprisoned them for 11 days.

For many U.S. officials, the incident highlighted the folly of conducting military exchanges with China. One of the reasons pro-China officials use to justify exchanges was that U.S. military leaders then could rely on their Chinese contacts in a crisis. But in April 2001, nobody from the Chinese military would talk to a U.S. military official for the crisis' first two days.

Gen. Xiong is best known for his private remark to a former Pentagon official in 1995 that the United States would not risk defending Taiwan from a Chinese military attack because "you care more about Los Angeles than Taipei," the Taiwanese capital.

The remark was reported to the White House at the time as a threat to use nuclear weapons against the United States.

Charm offensive
The Bush administration's public relations campaign to sell the country on toppling Saddam Hussein has targeted some of the nation's most influential authorities cable TV's talking heads.

In late October, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hosted some of the better-known military analysts in his Pentagon conference room for two hours of briefings. Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs chairman, also attended.

It was a mixed bag of pro- and anti-war experts. The Democratic-leaning talking heads included retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, and retired Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, President Clinton's Joint Chiefs chairman.

More Republican-friendly analysts included retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney and retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis. "They're trying to set up relationships with some of the talking heads so some of them aren't off the reservation," one source said. In fact, Mr. Rumsfeld's staffers believe the session went so well that they are organizing a second one.

Army training days
President Bush decided not to give federal workers a paid holiday on the Friday following Thanksgiving because of cost to taxpayers. The U.S. Army, however, took the day off anyway, as it does every Friday before a federal holiday weekend.

The service sees no problem with fudging the rules for its military office workers, even though civilians were required to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

"The Army calls these additional days of leave 'training holidays,' ostensibly because their troops in the field train so hard," said a defense official. "Yet they apply the 'training holiday' policy throughout the Army, so in addition to the 30 days paid leave every soldier receives, the chief of staff of the Army gives them an additional ten. Consider the size of the Army, the number of federal holidays, and multiply the second number by 1 (days actually given off each federal holiday), and you'll see that the costs of these additional, unauthorized days cost taxpayers millions of dollars annually."

  • 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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