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July 12, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Rummy's warpath
A memo from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to his top deputies says he is fed up with irresponsible spending and wants the practice cleaned up.

"I sure hope that when you have all investigated the problems here, that we don't decide there is no one to be held accountable," Mr. Rumsfeld states in a June memo to his three service secretaries and four undersecretaries. "These sound like very poor decisions, and we are never going to change the culture around here without imparting the appropriate sense of urgency about our responsibilities as stewards of taxpayer money.

"Please look into this and into our spending practices generally and let me know what course of action you recommend," said the memo titled "Wasteful Spending," a copy of which we obtained.

Mr. Rumsfeld's anger was raised by a Scripps Howard News Service story. Pentagon reporter Lisa Hoffman wrote of a new General Accounting Office report that told of $101 million in questionable spending out of $2.2 billion in contingency funds. One item: $19,000 in decorative "river rocks" for the air base in al Jaber, Saudi Arabia. The U.S. military also purchased a $2,200 coffee table for the Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Rumsfeld's warning memo is being sent down the chain of command. John J. Young, assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, wrote his own memo to managers, attaching the memo from his boss.

"I would like each of you to take steps to ensure that our work force understands that wasteful spending will not be tolerated and that we will hold people accountable if they fail to spend our resources prudently," Mr. Young said.

Several senior officials have reported back to Mr. Rumsfeld that inquiries are under way. There was no immediate word whether any commander has been replaced.

Kicking dogs
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is intent on creating a new position within the office of the secretary of defense devoted to dealing with the alphabet soup of intelligence agencies in the Pentagon.

The person who is likely to get the job of the new undersecretariat for intelligence is Richard Haver, a longtime intelligence official who has a reputation for breaking a lot of china when it comes to intelligence issues. His no-holds-barred approach to intelligence has won him a lot of detractors inside the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy.

Mr. Haver, a special assistant to Mr. Rumsfeld for intelligence, spoke recently at the Joint Military Intelligence College. He said that while the intelligence community is not failing, spy agencies are standing still. The community of intelligence agencies needs to get moving in ways similar to the late 1950s, according to one participant who sat in on Mr. Haver's lunchtime speech.

Mr. Haver said the intelligence community suffers from a "poverty of imagination" and needs to take risks to increase its capabilities to deal with terrorist threats. Mr. Haver identified one problem: the intelligence community's unwillingness to recognize its gaps and shortcomings, or negative intelligence. For example, he said, it can be just as important to know where something isn't, as to know where something is.

Asked about plans to create an undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Mr. Haver said Mr. Rumsfeld strongly favors the new post.

"I want one dog to kick, but when it comes to intelligence, I have to go down to the kennel," Mr. Haver quoted the defense secretary as saying.

The Senate version of the fiscal 2003 defense authorization bill contains the new undersecretariat and must be reconciled with the House version, which does not have the measure.

Criminal court setback
The recent Bush administration compromise on the International Criminal Court was a setback for pro-defense hard-liners led by Vice President Richard B. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld fought hard during interagency meetings to convince the president that the court is a bad idea that could put U.S. troops deployed overseas in jeopardy of prosecution from the court.

Arguing in favor of the compromise between demanding a total exemption for troops and diplomats from nations that don't ratify the court and full membership in the court was Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Internal critics claim that Mr. Powell, with a few exceptions, has turned State Department policy-making over to Foreign Service bureaucrats.

The Cheney-Rumsfeld axis fought during meetings of the National Security Council (NSC) for the United States to hold fast to its demand that U.S. peacekeepers and diplomats be given a blanket exemption from the court.

The swing vote on the issue within the NSC turned out to be National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, who sided with Mr. Powell in favor of the compromise. Under the modified U.S. government position presented earlier this month to the United Nations, U.S. personnel will be given a one-year exemption from the court.

After that, they become fair game and no doubt will be targeted for legal action by America's enemies, according to U.S. officials who oppose the compromise.

Talking Iraq
Defense officials tell us Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz spent a good deal of his recent overseas trip talking about U.S. military options to oust Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

The key regional player in the U.S. plans is Turkey, whose government is seeming to unravel on a day-to-day basis. Turkey, a NATO ally, is supporting U.S. plans but does not want to be surprised and opposes any kind of Kurdish separatist state in the northern part of Iraq.

Mr. Wolfowitz mentioned to reporters at the airport in Istanbul yesterday as he was about to leave the country that his visit comes amid "political uncertainty" in Turkey.

Asked about Iraq, Mr. Wolfowitz said the regime in Baghdad is "a serious danger" to the United States because of its support for terrorism and its development of weapons of mass destruction. But no decisions have been made on when or how to take action, he said.

When could a U.S.-led attack begin against Iraq?

"All the president has decided is what he has told the whole world, which is that this is not a danger he is prepared to live with indefinitely," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "But it is simply not the case that any decision has been made about what to do, when to do it, or how to do it."

Day of reckoning
This fall, Pentagon budgeteers and the defense secretary will make the most profound decisions on major acquisition programs since President Reagan's first term 20 years ago.

The 1980s marked the largest peacetime military buildup in U.S. history. This time, the dynamics are different.

The Pentagon will embark on a major modernization campaign. But once-robust budgeting will be pared back to meet two realities: The Defense Department will not get the billions of dollars needed to buy every planned weapon system; and President Bush wants to cancel some items in favor of more advanced systems that can better counter 21st-century threats, such as terrorism.

People in the building tell us of this scenario:

  • The Air Force F-22 stealth-fighter buy of more than 300 jets will be cut to about 200. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the Air Force, Navy and Marines will also survive, but be scaled back.

  • The Navy already has said it does not need as many F-35s as it plans smaller carrier-based squadrons. The new, bigger carrier, the CVNX, will be canceled. The Navy will continue building Nimitz-class big-deck flattops.

  • The Marine Corps V-22 Osprey helicopter-fixed-wing hybrid will get one last chance at successful test fights. If there is another mechanical failure crash or major test failure, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will cancel the Osprey in favor of troop-carrying helicopters.

  • Civilian budgeteers are likely to cancel the Army's Comanche, a planned armed scout helicopter. The troubled program has gone through several restructuring efforts. Mr. Rumsfeld's aides are increasingly investing in unmanned aircraft as the way to do some of the missions of manned fighters and surveillance planes. Some believe a new unmanned vehicle can perform the Comanche's role.

  • 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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