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April 12, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Iraq gets defensive
Iraqi military forces are moving mobile air-defense radars to the western part of the country and have taken other military steps indicating that Baghdad expects President Bush to order an attack.

U.S. intelligence officials said the air-defense radar systems were deployed in western Iraq over the past several days. They would detect aircraft penetrating their airspace from Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Earlier reports indicated that some military forces were dispersing out of main garrisons. The dispersal also was viewed by U.S. intelligence as a sign the Iraqis are attempting to protect weapons from U.S. precision air strikes.

Also, a military intelligence source tells us that Saddam Hussein's armed forces have begun building scores of concrete revetments to protect soldiers, tanks and aircraft. The building campaign began shortly after September 11, when Mr. Bush revved up the war of words against Baghdad.

White's warning
Army Secretary Thomas E. White tells us he's running out of patience. The Army has been developing an armed scout helicopter, first known as the LHX, since the height of the Cold War. Now called the Comanche, the program still is not in production.

Asked if it was time to kill the program, the Army secretary said, "This thing has been going on since 1983 and it has suffered every disease known to man that a program can suffer. Now is the time to either do it or don't do it. We are desperate to replace the [current Kiowa scouts]. God, I used to fly [the Kiowas]. That's how old they are. If we can't hold the baseline, nobody else will have to kill it because I will kill it."

On other issues, Mr. White, a retired one-star Army general and decorated Vietnam War combatant, delivered an upbeat status report on Army recruiting. Critics slammed the "An Army of One" recruiting slogan as promoting self-centeredness.

"In a nutshell, we're having a great year," he said. "As an old soldier, I was probably one of those critics early on."

The four branches are now preparing budget submissions for the fiscal 2004 budget, which goes to Congress next February. This means a seasonal budget battle in the Pentagon over not only the Comanche, but also the self-propelled Crusader artillery system. The Army has trimmed its weight by one-third and cut overall cost in an effort to win a production decision. Mr. White suggested the current gun is the real relic.

"In the whole 40 years I've been around the Army, the Army has been outgunned artillerywise," Mr. White said.

"The president's grandfather was a World War I artilleryman," Mr. White said. "And if the president's grandfather got in the back end of the Paladin he'd be right at home. It is time to move on."

Bomb damage
Here's how the Pentagon arrived at an early estimate of a 75 percent bomb-accuracy rate in Afghanistan:

First, some strikes initially declared misses were changed to hits based on late-arriving aerial photos and videos. In some cases, space-based images and pictures from the high-flying U-2 failed to pick up bomb craters. A lot of the assessment came from the pilots who dropped the munitions and their gun-camera footage. The Predator drone and the Navy P-3 Orion, which has proved critical in hunting down al Qaeda, also captured video for official bomb-damage assessments, or BDA.

The Navy's future
The Navy fleet's structure by decade's end is being decided now inside the Pentagon. Planners are wrestling with the makeup of 11 carrier air wings and how to get the Navy off the current path that will see the fleet dip below 300 ships.

On the air-combat front, the Navy is acting on a consultant's study to integrate Marine Corps and Navy squadrons. Currently, not all carriers go to sea with a Marine fighter squadron. Under the new plan, each of 11 carrier air wings would contain one Marine squadron of the new Joint Strike Fighters (JSF).

The Navy also wants to shrink its buy of JSFs based on two premises: the $6 billion needed annually to fund tactical air procurement will not materialize in 2007-2008. And, more capable new planes mean the Navy can send smaller squadrons to sea.

On shipbuilding, Navy Secretary Gordon England and Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, are being grilled in Congress for limiting ship procurement to free up money for combat-readiness accounts. At current buying rates, the Navy will dip below a 300-ship fleet and some shipyards may go out of business, critics say.

Defense sources say the Navy has made an internal decision to boost fiscal 2004 shipbuilding from five ships to seven.

But Rear Adm. Stephen Pietropaoli, chief Navy spokesman, tells us no decision has been made.

One defense source said the Navy is realizing the grass-roots way to cure readiness shortfalls is to buy new weapons. "The older weapons get the more money they need to run like new," said one source. "The Navy wants to fill up readiness buckets. They don't fill up. They're an endless pit." Said Adm. Pietropaoli, "It is clear that Admiral Clark has made keeping faith with sailors and their families on pay, benefits and 'quality of service' a top priority. Admiral Clark has also made it clear that the only thing worse than too few ships is having warships and crews that simply aren't properly prepared for their missions while deployed."

The Navy's '04 budget is scheduled to be submitted to Pentagon civilians next month.

War college
Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis is one of Washington's leading conservative voices on the damage done to American values by the popular culture and political correctness.

Yesterday, the Army provided him an audience of its future leaders and civilians at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. Col. Maginnis, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council, urged the officers to maintain the institution's time-tested values.

He said, in part, "The future will not be particularly friendly to the military. You face a culture that espouses values radically different from those that must be embraced in order to maintain the military not only as a fighting force, but also as a social institution.

"Society is sending you people who more closely resemble 'Beavis and Butthead' than George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower," he said, referring to the MTV cartoon characters. "And you must work in a media-saturated world where your decisions could be exposed in public opinion and in the courts."

China report held
Senior Pentagon officials continue to block release of a report to Congress on China's military.

The annual report is required by a provision of the fiscal 2000 Defense Authorization Act to highlight China's "current and future military strategy," including the security situation on the Taiwan Strait.

Despite the legal requirement, none was produced last year and no one in Congress demanded the Pentagon obey the law.

Now this year's report is caught up in a dispute within the U.S. government because its findings are said to present a picture of a threatening Chinese military buildup, especially toward Taiwan.

That assessment runs counter to a new U.S. intelligence estimate on China's nuclear missiles. Critics say the estimate will play down Beijing's strategic nuclear-forces modernization as numerically inferior to U.S. arsenals.

China has been building up its short-range missile forces opposite Taiwan for the past several years with more than 350 CSS-6 and CSS-7 missiles. It also is buillding two road-mobile ICBMs that will target the United States and U.S. forces in Asia.

Beijing recently sent a new batch of CSS-7s to a base at Yongan, intelligence officials said.

The Pentagon report is finished and is said to contain 40 points showing why Chinese military forces pose a direct threat to Taiwan.

The facts of the 40 points are not being challenged. "The dispute is about whether or not to make the points public," the official told us.

A Pentagon spokesman said the report could be released in the next 10 days or two weeks.

A more likely scenario is that the report will leak out just in time to embarass Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao during his upcoming visit to the United States. China yesterday announced that Mr. Hu would meet Vice President Richard B. Cheney on May 1. (Note to insiders: Our address is 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002.)

  • 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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