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December 13, 2002
Notes from the Pentagon

Xiong send-off
China's military conducted a test firing of a new short-range ballistic missile last weekend.

The flight test coincided with the departure from Beijing of Chinese Lt. Gen. Xiong Guankai, the deputy chief of staff for intelligence, who got an earful from National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice this week for his 1995 remarks threatening Los Angeles with a nuclear strike.

Miss Rice informed the general that such threats are unacceptable and any further threats would derail U.S.-Chinese ties.

China often uses its missile tests to send political signals and the CSS-7 test fit that pattern. China has deployed up to 400 CSS-7 and CSS-6 missiles within range of Taiwan in an effort to intimidate the Taiwanese.

Shortly after the missile test, China then released a major defense-strategy paper that takes a tough line against Taiwan.

The report states that Taiwan "is the biggest threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits."

And in a shot at the United States, which has provided Taiwan with advanced arms, the Chinese defense report stated that "by continuing to sell weapons and military equipment to Taiwan and elevating relations with the Taiwan authorities, a handful of countries have interfered in China's internal affairs, inflated the arrogance of the separatist forces and undermined China's peaceful reunification."

Army-Air Force call-up
The Army is close to concluding a memorandum of understanding with the Air Force that will trigger a call-up of Army reservists, we are told.

The memo will outline a unique "jointness" effort: Army reservists for the first time will be used to conduct security of Air Force bases around the United States and the world. The goal is to take the burden for conducting security off the Air Force and allow its reservists to be used for other missions.

Kuwaiti headquarters
Perhaps overlooked in coverage of the Internal Look exercise in Qatar is the fact that the Army has set up a new command center in Kuwait.

Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of the Army's V Corps in Germany, tested the new center this week, talking to the staff of Gen. Tommy Franks, who manned the overall command-and-control facility across the Persian Gulf in Qatar.

An Army official says Gen. Wallace and his staff will leave Kuwait, but the corps' new command tent city will remain in Kuwait. It will likely be the nerve center for any ground invasion of Iraq.

Sacre bleu
For all of Paris' balking at the tough new arms resolution on Iraq and its public opposition to going to war, behind the scenes, France is preparing military units for participation in an invasion.

A senior administration official gave us this tidbit, and added, "You will be surprised at the number of countries who join in at the last moment."

No veils required
The defense authorization act signed into law by President Bush contains a provision that bans the military from requiring female soldiers deployed in Saudi Arabia to wear abayas, the head-to-toe garment Saudi women are required to wear in public.

The law states that "no member of the armed forces having authority over a member of the armed forces and no officer or employee of the United States having authority over a member of the armed forces may require or encourage that member to wear the abaya garment or any part of the abaya garment while the member is in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pursuant to a permanent change of station or orders for temporary duty."

As an added dig at the U.S. Central Command, which had ordered female service personnel to wear the veils while off U.S. bases, the law also bans the Pentagon from purchasing abayas "for regular or routine issuance" to military women in Saudi Arabia.

The measure was sponsored by outgoing Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican.

"Now the Defense Department is prohibited from purchasing abayas and our servicewomen with Joint Task Force Southwest Asia will not longer be subjected to this demeaning, ridiculous and completely unnecessary policy which the DoD did to itself, post-Gulf war. It was never a Saudi mandate," said a Senate aide who supported the measure.

The Pentagon this week swore in a smaller and more-focused Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). The old Clinton-appointed board frequently pushed the issue of putting women in more combat jobs. The new 13-member committee adopted a different agenda.

"The committee adopted three topics to focus on as priorities: women's health care, women's retention, and the effects of deployment on family life," a Defense Department statement said. "They will visit 12 installations in the coming year and one team of two members will visit an overseas installation."

The House Armed Services Committee has compiled some interesting demographics on the 1.4 million-member active force.

More than 270,000 are blacks; about 200,000 are women; there are nearly 110,000 Hispanics; over half the enlisted force and more than 70 percent of officers are married; and about 97 percent of officers hold college degrees.

Army training days
We received a duffel bag full of e-mail in response to our item about the Army giving its Pentagon military workers "training days" off after the Thanksgiving holiday, while its civilians were required to work as a cost-saving measure.

Many current and former military both officers and enlisted wrote to remind us that all military personnel often spend long hours deployed with no holidays.

An Air Force captain was particularly upset and pointed out that he was unable to take 10 of his annual leave days because of deployments.

"Please continue your hunt for these types of wasteful spending going on within the federal government," he wrote. "Without responsible, well-researched journalism like yours, the military and federal government might spend money so frivolously as to recruit and retain a world-class armed forces capable of meeting the demands placed on it by the president, Congress, and the American people."

Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dave Mattox reminded us that "those on active duty who are always on duty, or on call, who are keeping this country safe so that you can lie down in your warm bed at night and know that we will not get overrun at our border and taken over by a foreign entity.

"And yes, I know of more than one military office worker who puts in more than 40 hours a week and is deserving of the additional time off," he wrote.

Alan Dooley, a retired Navy commander who once worked in the Joint Chiefs of Staff public-affairs office, wrote to tell us that "the Army has it right" in giving its Pentagon military workers a break. "Soldiers seldom have 40-hour workweeks and that compensatory time is a powerful morale booster and battery recharger," he wrote from an Army Corps of Engineers office. "Oh yes, I'm a civil servant now and didn't mind working Friday or taking annual leave," he said.

  • 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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