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August 16, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Feds under fire
          The FBI was criticized in the aftermath of September 11 for not having good intelligence analysis. To fix the problem, bureau managers imported several analysts from CIA headquarters to help in the battle against Islamic terrorists.

     The results have not been good, we are told.

     A senior law enforcement official said the FBI has adopted the same "dismissive" approach to intelligence that the CIA often uses. The differences are causing tensions between FBI and local law enforcement counterterrorism groups.

     The problem showed up during a recent incident in Los Angeles involving suspected terrorists who cased the World Cruise Center at the Port of Los Angeles.

     Two men were seen taking photographs of the center at intervals of 15 paces — an indication they were preparing to produce a panoramic photograph of the facility.

     Police believe the effort was a clear sign of possible terrorist preparations for an attack. That kind of reconnaissance is one of the few signs of an impending terrorist attack.

     The FBI, however, dismissed the men's actions — as well as other suspicious incidents in the area — as inconclusive.

     "They pooh-poohed it," the official told us. "We're out there trying to find evidence and FBI dismisses it."

           Air Force transforms
     The Air Force is circulating a thick, "official use only" report, "Transformation Flight Plan," on how it plans to carry out President Bush's order to get ready for 21st-century threats.

     "Changes are required not only in air and space capabilities, but also in how the Air Force thinks about war, requiring transformation of our culture, training and doctrine," states the report from Air Force Secretary James G. Roche and Gen. John P. Jumper, service chief of staff.

     The document states a lot of things we already know. The service wants new types of precision munitions that put less risk on pilots and can be tailored for particular targets. "The ability to achieve specific, tailored effects on a target, short of total destruction," is the way the Air Force puts it. It wants to be able to attack any target, anywhere as fast as possible, "precisely and persistently."

     The Air Force needs to "conduct effective and persistent air-to-ground operations beyond the range of enemy defenses under adverse weather conditions, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," the report says.

     The Air Force has a well-earned reputation for cleverly knocking the Navy and Army during internal budget debates on what major weapons to buy. It is common knowledge inside the building that most fighter jocks believe air power can stop an invasion of South Korean from the North, oust Saddam Hussein and protect the homeland against terrorists.

     The Transformation Flight Plan keeps up the pressure, getting in gentle digs against the other services. Under the heading of "current limitations," the report says:


  • "Defeating an adversary often requires amassing forces in order to win by attrition. [This is a shot at the Army's argument for large ground forces.]


  • "It is difficult to rapidly deploy forces abroad in a timely manner." [Again, read Army.]


  • "It is very difficult to strike anywhere, anyplace in a timely manner — indeed it can take days." [This dilutes the Navy argument that big deck carriers project power around the world and do not require basing rights. The Navy will tell you Afghanistan showed how basing rights are not always attainable.]

         Just to be sure the "limitations" do not offend the other services and do not offend Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who demands "jointness," the Air Force concludes, "The Air Force will continue to work with all the services, [office of the secretary of defense], and the Joint Staff to keep transformational focus and provide the air and space capabilities required for the nation in a changing security environment well into the 21st Century."

               Washington bound
         Vice Adm. John Nathman, the commander of naval air forces and a conspicuous cheerleader during the heavy bombing of Afghanistan, has left his post in San Diego to come to the Pentagon. He is the Navy's next deputy chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and programs.

         "America is at war," Adm. Nathman said in a farewell message to the carrier fleet. "And because our nation and its president intend on winning this war, our service is forward and performing as we have come to be expected. Naval aviation is at the forward edge of this conflict. Air combat over a remote, landlocked, desolate reach called Afghanistan. Our men and women are completing their missions with skill and courage. They are performing superbly. They are battle-tested force.

         "Because of their strength and guts, we are prevailing, and because it is our duty, the Navy will stay until this war is won."

               CIA objects
         The Pentagon has nearly won approval for a new intelligence czar. But one roadblock has popped up.

         Language to create an undersecretary of defense for intelligence is in the Senate version of the 2003 Pentagon budget bill. Only the House needs to agree in a reconciliation conference.

         But congressional sources say Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, has raised some reservations. They say he is reflecting the views of the CIA, which worries about turf battles within the intelligence community.

         Meanwhile, speculation on who might get the new job intensifies. Pentagon insiders say they doubt the post will go to Richard Haver, Mr. Rumsfeld's special assistant for intelligence. Instead, said one source, "look for a big name." Mr. Haver may become principal deputy undersecretary.

               China-al Qaeda nexus
         Gen. Richard B. Myers and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were asked last week whether China is supplying arms to al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan. The answer was a qualified no.

         "On the help from China, we know that they want weapons, they want weapons of mass destruction," said Gen. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "They probably need all sorts of supplies and they'll go to whoever will provide those."

         Gen. Myers did not rule out that China is arming al Qaeda but said he would be "very surprised" if the Chinese government was behind the effort.

         "We've gotten pretty good support from China on the war on terrorism, and it would be hard for me to believe that they'd want to help al Qaeda," Gen. Myers told reporters at the Pentagon.

         The comments were made in response to a report in the Christian Science Monitor last week, quoting Afghan military intelligence officials, that stated al Qaeda forces in Pakistan are attempting to buy surface-to-air missiles from China.

         Mr. Rumsfeld, appearing with Gen. Myers, noted that Afghanistan is a nation "filled with weapons" and that some recently discovered arms caches contained Chinese weapons. But the defense secretary sought to play down the discovery of Chinese arms by saying that it "isn't anything distinctive" because other countries also provided weapons.

         U.S. intelligence agencies have identified other connections among China and Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

         China's military provided training for the Taliban and al Qaeda before September 11 and also sent weapons shipments from China to Taliban forces in Afghanistan after September 11, according to intelligence officials. U.S. forces also found 30 HN-5 surface-to-air missiles, the Chinese designation for Russian-made SA-7 missiles, in southeastern Afghanistan.

  • 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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