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May 4, 2007
Notes from the Pentagon

Democrat defense cuts
Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee this week slashed Pentagon funding for U.S. missile-defense programs in ways critics say will severely harm efforts to build an integrated system to defend against missile attacks.

A total of $764 million was cut from the $8.9 billion missile-defense budget request during a mark-up hearing on the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill before the strategic forces subcommittee, headed by Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher, California Democrat.

The Democrats' most controversial cut came in halving money for building a third ground-based interceptor site in Poland and Czech Republic, effectively killing plans for the site, according to Republican congressional aides. The subcommittee cut $160 million from the $300 million request for the third site and called for a study of the site.

Plans for the third interceptor site are the focus of major U.S. diplomatic efforts to convince the Europeans of the need to begin thinking about countering the threat from Iranian missiles. It also comes amid U.S.-Russian tensions over Moscow's fears the interceptors would be used to counter Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles, something the Pentagon has said repeatedly the interceptors are incapable of doing.

According to House Republicans, the Democrats are biased against missile defense because they don't think it will work, and they don't want a third missile-defense site in Europe to upset the Russians and other anti-defense Europeans.

The Democrats also don't think the missile threat from Iran poses a danger to Europe, despite the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies say Tehran has medium-range missile now capable of hitting some parts of Europe and is working on longer-range missiles.

The subcommittee also slashed $400 million from the $517 million budget of the exotic Airborne Laser Program, the most prominent "boost phase" missile-defense system that uses a laser gun mounted in a Boeing 747 to shoot down missiles shortly after launch. The cut effectively kills the program, aides said.

The panel also voted to cut $45 million from the $119 million requested for a modernized nuclear warhead, needed to keep the U.S. nuclear arsenal a viable deterrent.

Mrs. Tauscher defended the missile-defense cuts, which likely will be approved by the full committee next week, saying the country needs a system that "works." She criticized Pentagon missile-defense testing as unrealistic.

Guerrilla terrorism
The U.S. government's annual report on international terrorism states that al Qaeda is shifting from being an "expeditionary" terrorist organization to one that conducts "guerrilla" terrorist attacks.

The early al Qaeda attacks were carried out after training a group in one country and then sending it abroad to attack pre-planned objectives, like the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Tougher border controls and increased security have made it more difficult to conduct these attacks, according to the latest "Patterns of Global Terrorism."

"Clandestine insertion across borders is harder, reconnaissance is more risky, and international movement of funds and equipment is more likely to be detected," the report said.

"Thus we have seen a trend toward guerrilla terrorism, where the organization seeks to grow the team close to its target, using target country nationals."

These groups use intermediaries, Web-based propaganda and subversion of immigrant expatriate populations to develop local cells that carry out attacks. They then exploit the attacks for propaganda purposes.

"This circumvents the need to insert a team across borders or clandestinely transfer funds and material," the report said, noting the 2004 Madrid bombing, the July 2005 London attacks and the thwarted August 2006 attempt to attack passenger jets flying from British airports were examples of the new trend.

Both expeditionary and guerrilla terrorism by al Qaeda are used with home-grown terrorism by local cells acting spontaneously.

Between seams
U.S. special operations commando activities are among the most secret in the U.S. government, but they play a leading and decisive role in the global war on terrorism. The annual posture statement of the U.S. Special Operation Command sheds some light on the secret command work.

The report states that special operations forces are working to track and kill foreign terrorists and networks around the world. The command "synchronizes [U.S. counter terrorism] activities at the global, strategic level," the report said.

"This ensures unity of effort and allows [U.S. Special Operations Command] to look 'between the seams' as terrorists move, communicate, finance and operate between regions."

The commandos use both direct and indirect operations, with most visible military action in the Central Command region including the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa.

Indirect activities include such programs as the Sovereign Challenge Program, which along with the U.S. Strategic Command "focuses on the sovereignty of independent nations, the ways in which terrorism violates that sovereignty and how these nations can assist each other in combating terrorism."

"The program is based on the premise that each nation has a responsibility, in its own self-interest, to develop programs which counter or prevent terrorism while supporting and cultivating its national interests, cultures and citizens," the report said.

Sovereign Challenge works with foreign militaries to stop terrorist financing, the creation of terror bases, disruption of terrorists' travel, counter ideology efforts and prevention of computer-based training and recruitment.

CORDS reunion
Civilian veterans of the Vietnam pacification program known as Civil Operations and Rural Development Support (CORDS) are planning a reunion at Arlington National Cemetery on May 12 to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The contact is Bruce Kinsey, who worked in Long An Province from 1968 to 1970 (

Former CORDSmen include Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Raymond Burghardt.

Mr. Kinsey notes that CORDS was staffed by civilians from many agencies, but primarily U.S. AID. The workers helped build roads, hospitals, aid stations, training facilities and schools.

A subgroup of the CORDS program was the CIA's Phoenix program that Mr. Kinsey said was "so unfairly maligned but ultimately so very effective at rooting out the underground communist cadres who had terrorized the lowest levels of the hapless South Vietnamese government almost unopposed for nearly seven years until [former CIA Director] Bill Colby came up with Phoenix."

"War destroys people," he said. "It destroys their lives, their homes, most of all their spirits. CORDS tried to build them back up. That's what the CORDS program was, and we're having a reunion to celebrate it."

  • Bill Gertz covers the Pentagon. He can be reached at 202/636-3274 or at

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