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August 23, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Missile tests
      China conducted a flight test of a long-range ballistic missile on Wednesday in what officials are calling a political signal to departing Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

The flight test of a Dong Feng-4, or DF-4, missile was monitored by U.S. intelligence as it was fired from the missile test facility in southern China to a remote impact area in the northwestern part of the country.

China is believed to have about 20 DF-4s with a range of up to 4,340 miles. The missile was designed to attack the U.S. military base at Guam as well as targets in Russia and Europe, according to military analysts.

The test came a day after Mr. Armitage left China. During his visit, China announced that it is imposing new export controls aimed at curbing foreign missile transfers. The Bush administration has sanctioned Chinese companies four times in the past year for missile-related transfers to Pakistan and Iran.

China in the past has used its missile tests to send political signals. In November 2000, it test fired a DF-31 missile during the visit to China by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The test firing has raised concerns within the Bush administration that China is preparing for additional missile tests or other military activities during the visit to the United States in October by Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

Meanwhile, Iran's military also conducted a recent flight test of the new Shahab-3 medium-range missile, U.S. intelligence officials say.

The failed test took place last month in northern Iran and was at least the fourth flight test of the nuclear-capable missile that is said to be ready for deployment in the next several months.

A defense official said recent Shahab-3 tests have had mixed success, with about 50 percent of the missiles flying successfully and the rest failing. "This one was in the latter category," the official said.

The 800-mile-range Shahab-3, which is said to be modeled after North Korea's Nodong missile, has enough range to hit U.S. troops deployed in the Persian Gulf, Turkey and Central Asia.

SOF boss
With Congress refusing to downgrade and consolidate the office of assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict (SOLIC), the Pentagon is bouncing around candidate names for the unfilled post of assistant defense secretary.

One person frequently mentioned is Richard S. Williamson, U.S. alternate representative to the United Nations for special political affairs.

A lawyer who specializes in international affairs, Ambassador Willliamson held several senior diplomatic posts in President Reagan's administration.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had wanted to combine SOLIC under a new assistant secretary for homeland security. But some lawmakers balked. They said it sent the wrong signal to have policies for special operations forces (SOF) hammered out in an office that also deals with domestic affairs.

The assistant secretary for SOLIC has not had a Senate-confirmed officeholder since President Bush took office. The White House withdrew its first nominee and has yet to send a second one.

Budget season
The four military branches have submitted their fiscal 2004 budgets to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The presentation last week signals the start of internal debates that will likely decide the fate of a half-dozen weapons systems, including the Marine Corps' V-22 Osprey and the Air Force's F-22 Raptor.

The Navy is asking Mr. Rumsfeld to ramp up shipbuilding from five ships to seven, and to increase aircraft procurement from 83 to 100.

"The average age of aircraft in our forces now exceeds that of our ships for the first time in our history," Navy Secretary Gordon England said in an Aug. 22 letter to Mr. Rumsfeld. "This trend has brought with it the troubling increase in operating costs to support older aircraft, along with an absence of the modernity we seek in our platforms."

Texas playbook
Insiders tell us the budget brief delivered to President Bush by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at the Crawford, Texas, ranch had one major goal: To let the commander in chief know he will likely face major decisions this fall on whether to cut or kill major weapons.

What is referred to inside the Pentagon as "the Crawford Texas Brief" lays out the possibility that the Pentagon will find alternatives for the F-22 or V-22, but makes no final decisions. The brief, delivered by Mr. Rumsfeld, was authored by his favorite bureaucrat, Stephen Cambone, director of program analysis and evaluation.

Sources say the brief was also a message to the president that the Pentagon will not repeat the tactical mistakes it made when it moved to kill the Army's Crusader artillery system.

In that case, the president sent his budget to Congress asking for Crusader funding, then later demanded that Congress kill the system.

Army's future
The Army is circulating its "Transformation Roadmap," 100 pages describing how the Cold War force will become lighter, more agile and meaner to fit the president's wishes.

"Army formations will become even more strategically responsive, full spectrum capable, modular and scalable," states the document endorsed by Army Secretary Thomas White and Gen. Eric Shinseki, service chief of staff. "They will leverage the power of information to conduct distributed, simultaneous operations, exploiting the full range of Army, joint and coalition capabilities to defeat the enemy.

"The attacks of September 11 provide compelling evidence that the strategic environment remains dangerous and unpredictable. The emerging strategic environment of the 21st century demands land forces that are responsive, deployable, versatile, agile, lethal, survivable and sustainable across the full range of military operations."

The report uses all the right buzzwords to please President Bush, who wants a lighter Army. But the roadmap also reminds civilian policy-makers who may want to cut Army troop strength that the possibility of a major land war still exists. "North Korea remains both a concern and a question mark," the Army says. "Tensions between India and Pakistan persist even as the latter supports our war on terrorism."

Interestingly, while the document acknowledges that the chance of a major conflict between major states has decreased, the chances of "conflict itself will likely change in character and increase in frequency."

The Army bases this on a number of possible ignition points: Transnational terrorism; organized terrorism; sale of illegal arms; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and shortages of resources. All of these "complications," the Army says, will be fanned by "aggressive ideologies."

The Army also warns of an emerging capability gap within its own organization.

The gap requires "profound change," the Army says. "We recognize our future shortcomings and we know that we have real operational deficiencies today. The Army must transform."

The Army's answer is the "Objective Force," brigades of highly maneuverable armored vehicles that can reach destinations in days, not weeks, yet still size up against big armies.

It acknowledges it was somewhat lucky during the 1990 buildup in Saudi Arabia in preparation for attacking Iraqi forces.

  • 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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