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May 24, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Keep Kadish
Influential Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee have written to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, urging him to keep his current missile defense director for at least another three years.

"He embodies the new sort of transformational military leader we have all been saying we need," the congressmen wrote May 17 of Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, who heads the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency.

The letter comes after we reported in this space that Gen. Kadish has agreed to stay on one year past a normal three-year term that shortly expires. His supporters also want Mr. Rumsfeld to award him a fourth star in recognition of his stewardship, which has resulted in a string of recent test intercept successes. Deploying missile defenses against attacks of weapons of mass destruction is one of President Bush's top priorities.

"Mr. Secretary, it is the consensus of the members of Congress below that Gen. Kadish is the right man for the job during this pivotal time in our nation's history," the 14 representatives wrote. "We wholeheartedly support reappointing him as the director of the Missile Defense Agency for at least another three years. We are confident you would not have a problem having him reconfirmed, with a promotion to four-star general if you deem both Gen. Kadish and the position worthy."

The letter was spearheaded by James V. Hansen, Utah Republican. Also signing was Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, who is expected to become Armed Services chairman next year if the GOP retains a House majority. In all, 14 congressmen, 12 Republicans and two Democrats, signed the letter.

"From a historical perspective, what this country needs right now is someone on a par with Gen. Leslie Groves leading the Manhattan Project or Gen. Bernie Shriever leading the ICBM and early warning programs of the Cold War."

KGB soul
President Bush said Wednesday in Berlin he remains convinced he can "trust" Russian President Vladimir Putin after looking into his eyes and seeing his soul.

What the president apparently cannot see is how Mr. Putin is living up to his reputation as a former KGB officer by unleashing his nation's spy services against the United States. Mr. Bush meets the Russian leader in Moscow this week. Unfortunately, Russian spying is not listed on his talking points.

A senior U.S. counterintelligence official said privately that Russian spying operations against the United States are continuing apace, regardless of Mr. Bush's friendship with Mr. Putin. Spying activities by agents of the successors to the KGB, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, known as SVR, and Federal Security Service domestic spying agency, known as FSB, are even increasing. Moscow's spies are seeking a broad array of U.S. government and economic secrets.

"We're finding the FSB and the SVR to be as aggressive now, if not more aggressive, than they were during the Cold War," the senior official said. During the Cold War, a large percentage of Russian diplomats posted to the United States were identified as intelligence officers working undercover.

Kandahar's gate
Elements of the 101st "Screaming Eagles" Airborne Division began withdrawing from Afghanistan this week, to be replaced by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Among the gear being packed by some 3,000 soldiers of the 187th Infantry Regiment is a makeshift gate. More specifically, it's a replica of a classic Japanese Torii gate that the regiment has taken as its non-animal mascot since its role in the Japanese occupation.

The Japanese began calling the regiment the "Rakkasan," which roughly translates to "falling umbrella" as a description of 187th soldiers practicing parachute drops.

Soldiers of the 101st no longer travel by parachute. Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters take them into battle. But "Rakkasan" stuck as a nickname and a Torii gate as the regiment's symbol.

Some visitors to the 101st headquarters at the Kandahar international airport in southern Afghanistan wondered why the Army used up so much airlift space to transport the 50-foot-high gate.

Maj. Paul Fitzpatrick, a 101st spokesman, assured us the wood gate was built in-country, not brought from the United States.

A military officer who served in Afghanistan said the gate still "caused a lot of consternation." A message to the effect "the 101st welcomes you to Kandahar," this officer said, appeared to stake a claim to property a message the United States does not want to send to local Afghans.

"We couldn't even fly an American flag there," this officer said. "We couldn't do anything that implied this was U.S.-controlled territory."

After relieving the Marines in Kandahar in early January, the 187th played a major role in Operation Anaconda in March, the war's biggest land battle. Since then, the regiment served as a standby rapid-reaction force for troops sweeping the cave complexes of eastern Afghanistan.

Said Maj. Fitzpatrick, "When the last element of the 101sts pulls out and is relieved, they bring the torii back with them."

Anaconda look-back
Soldier of Fortune magazine usually touts the adventures of special operations forces in a positive light. But in its current issue, the publication run by former commandos takes a critical look at Operation Anaconda.

"We know it's easy to criticize and SOF certainly doesn't want to appear to be a Monday-morning quarterback," begins the article, titled "Success or Failure in the Shah-i-Kot?" "However, information from U.S. forces at Kandahar and Bagram air fields tells us that Operation Anaconda mission planners violated just about every rule of the tactics manuals."

The magazine said planners underestimated al Qaeda's strength.

Marine cutter
The U.S. Marine Corps Logistics Base gave out an unusual free item at the recent National Defense Industrial Association small-arms conference last week in Atlantic City, N.J.

The Marines gave away small key-shaped box cutters that featured an easily concealed razor blade just the kind of thing terrorists might try to use to sneak a weapon past airport security.

One Pentagon official who attended the Small Arms Systems Symposium said he was "dumbfounded" by the giveaway item at the Marines' information booth.

"I found it somewhat incredulous that, in the post 9/11 environment, a U.S. government display would be passing out a potentially lethal item that could be smuggled past airport security," the official said.

The knife, called a "Cutzit," is described by its manufacturers as "the world handiest retractable knife." It boasts "hundreds of everyday uses" from "slitting cartons to news clippings."

The conference was closed to the public, but a member of the hotel custodial team was seen picking up a handful of the cutters as he was walked by the unmanned Marine Corps booth. "So much for security," the official noted dryly.

A Marine Corps spokesman said giving out the cutters was a mistake and that the item had been removed from the service's inventory. "This is not the type of thing we want floating around out there," Maj. Guillermo A. Canedo told us.

  • 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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