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August 2, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

New China aide
Pentagon officials tell us the new deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia, the important China policy-making post, will be Richard P. Lawless. He is a former National Security Council staff member in the Reagan administration and ex-CIA operations officer.

Mr. Lawless is the chairman of USAsia, a business consulting company in Washington that does business in Japan, South Korea and China.

James Lilley, a former ambassador to China, said Mr. Lawless is an experienced Asia hand who speaks fluent Korean and is well-versed in all key areas of the Asia-Pacific, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. "He's a good choice," Mr. Lilley told us.

Mr. Lawless is not expected to take over the post until September. He will replace the outgoing deputy assistant, Peter Brookes, who was criticized for not handling U.S. allies in Asia well.

U.S. government officials say Mr. Lawless got the job with the help of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Some conservatives are concerned that the appointment will solidify Mr. Armitage's control over Bush administration Asia policy in general, and China policy in particular.

How to deal with China remains a hotly debated issue within the Bush administration. Pentagon officials want a tougher approach to the communist government in Beijing than officials at the traditionally pro-China State Department. The National Security Council staff also is opposed to the Pentagon's hard-line approach to Beijing, we are told.

The White House is reviewing the appointment before it becomes official, possibly as early as next week.

A Pentagon spokesman had no comment on the pending appointment.

Tenet's tenure
Word is circulating within the upper levels of the Bush administration that CIA Director George J. Tenet will step down some time in the next several months. Mr. Tenet has been CIA director since 1997.

Among the names mentioned as replacements are Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who, as a former CIA spook, has been one of the agency's most ardent defenders.

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey also has been mentioned as a candidate, along with Richard Haver, a special assistant to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for intelligence issues.

A CIA spokesman says Mr. Tenet has no plans to quit.

England's homeland
Navy Secretary Gordon England is being mentioned in some administration circles as the perfect man to be deputy secretary of the proposed Department of Homeland Security. The White House likes the way he is running the Navy, says one insider, and believes the former General Dynamics executive would get the new department up and running.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, now Mr. Bush's homeland security adviser, will likely be named secretary of the new department, which needs final congressional approval.

Transformation progress
The Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation is circulating a paper this month listing some of the new ideas from the military's all-consuming push to transform itself.

The Navy, for example, is moving to make maritime intercepts, such as those used to keep al Qaeda members from crossing the Arabian Sea to Somalia, a core naval function. It also wants more SEAL commandos and to improve the way they work with other special-operations forces.

The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking into developing a "lethal, stealthy, high-speed maritime 'fighter' platform," say agency documents. Called "Loki," the DARPA effort "is now focused on testing subscale components, like a vortex combustor and other propulsion, materials, structures and sensing technologies, to determine if such a vehicle can be designed."

The document says that Norfolk-based Joint Forces Command is short some 400 officers and civilian personnel to carry out war games. The command is playing a big role in starting transformation programs, causing it to take on new responsibilities.

Night games
Military aviators report that the Afghanistan landscape, from their vantage point, has been filled with what they identify as surface-to-air fire for months.

The sources say there were at least eight sightings of ground fire before the April 17 "friendly fire" bombing that killed four Canadian soldiers. They say not all pilots were briefed on the fire before they began combat patrols over southern Afghanistan, a hotbed of hard-core Taliban fighters.

There were also a string of such ground-to-air volleys before July 1, the night that an AC-130 gunship attacked what the crew identified as an anti-aircraft artillery battery. Locals say perhaps 40 Afghan civilians were killed in the attack.

Pilots say U.S. Central Command needs to come up with better procedures to brief pilots on what they may see as they roam the skies, ready to aid coalition ground troops hunting Taliban and al Qaeda.

General retires
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, director of operations for the Pentagon's joint staff, is retiring after more than 30 years. But he is not being allowed to step down without taking a few more jabs from his bosses.

Gen. Newbold, in a briefing for reporters last year, said U.S. airstrikes had "eviscerated" Taliban military capabilities shortly after bombing raids began Oct. 7.

A few days later, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld publicly chastised the craggy Marine combat veteran for overstating the effect of the initial airstrikes, even though what the three-star general said eventually came true.

To mark Gen. Newbold's departure, Mr. Rumsfeld cued a videotape made up of broadcast comments of the general making the remarks. Shown to reporters in the Pentagon press briefing room, the tape was followed by the ribbing he took from Mr. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard Meyers, who joked on a Sunday television show that he was surprised a Marine even knew what "eviscerated" meant. The soundtrack for the video was Johnny Mathis' 1957 classic "It's Not For Me To Say."

The video ended with a clip of a much-younger Mr. Rumsfeld talking about fish being "eviscerated" in the 1970s, when he was an economic adviser.

Asked by Mr. Rumsfeld to make some comments, Gen. Newbold joked that he would use only one-syllable words.

Democratic volleys
It seems clear the Democratic Party strategy is to try to drive down President Bush's approval rating, in part, by criticizing his conduct of the war on terrorism. The people doing the criticism are the Democrats who boast a war record.

Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, a decorated Vietnam-era Navy veteran, has been the most conspicuous critic. He has second-guessed the tactics in Afghanistan, especially during December's battle, Tora Bora.

This week, it was the turn of Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, who was seriously wounded in Vietnam. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday, Mr. Cleland criticized the witness, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, for spending too much time nation-building in Afghanistan and not enough time hunting terrorists. The senator said Operation Enduring Freedom should be renamed "Enduring Frustration."

Mr. Rumsfeld shot back, "You can be frustrated if you want. I'm not."

  • 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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