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May 5, 2016
Notes from the Pentagon

Forbes: Send carriers to Taiwan
A senior House Republican this week called on the Obama administration to shift its policy toward Taiwan in the aftermath of China’s refusal to allow the aircraft carrier USS Stennis to make a port call in Hong Kong.

Rep. J. Randy Forbes, the Virginia Republican who chairs the House Armed Services subcommittee on sea power, said his major concern was that China’s denial of the carrier visit disrupted planned meetings between sailors and their families.

“It’s a huge disruption to the men and women on those ships,” Mr. Forbes told Inside the Ring.

Some of the sailors’ families spent large sums to travel to Hong Kong for the ship, and China appears to have canceled the call abruptly to signal its displeasure with the Pentagon, he said. As a result of Beijing’s increasing control over Hong Kong, the Pentagon should consider sending the carrier to Taiwan or other more stable locations in the region.

Planning a carrier visit to Taiwan “might make it less attractive for China to continue to treat the United States Navy the way they did in this particular situation,” said Mr. Forbes, who also co-chairs the Congressional China Caucus.

“The time has come to consider these alternate locations going forward,” Mr. Forbes said.

The Chinese denied entry to the Stennis amid increasing tensions with the United States over Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.

The Stennis passed through the key waterway last month. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter went aboard the warship, which has been a symbol of U.S. power projection in a region where China has been seeking to expand its maritime control.

Since the United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China in 1979, military relations with the island have been limited. Visits to Taiwan by senior U.S. military officials and Navy warships are strictly limited to avoid upsetting Beijing, despite the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, Congress’ answer to the shift in diplomatic ties, which requires the U.S. military to defend Taiwan from a Chinese military takeover.

On Wednesday, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry declined to comment on Mr. Forbes’ suggestion of a carrier visit. Deputy Defense Minister Cheng De-mei said during a legislative hearing, “We’ve only read the news reports.”

In 2007, the carrier USS Kitty Hawk was similarly blocked from visiting Hong Kong. In response, the carrier sailed through the Taiwan Strait in a show of U.S. support for the island. A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment.

The CIA has concluded an internal reorganization that sought to modernize the agency’s structure and function, notably through the consolidation of analysts, operators and technicians in 10 “mission centers.”

An organizational chart published as part of the CIA’s quarterly newsletter for retirees reveals that the new structure means more layers of bureaucracy and staff units, with four senior officials within the office of director and 14 high-level “enterprise functions” at CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia, including a measures of effectiveness office and a strategy and corporate governance office.

A senior U.S. intelligence official close to the agency told Inside the Ring that the CIA reorganization was disappointing and appeared more directed at “consolidating power” within the office of agency Director John O. Brennan instead of seeking to streamline and improve the functioning of the agency.

Surviving the bureaucratic reshuffle are the analysis, operations and science and technology directorates. A new digital innovation directorate includes a data office, a center for cyberintelligence and an information technology enterprise. The open-source center, which translates and publishes openly available information, will now be known as the open-source enterprise.

The agency’s storied espionage unit, once the heart of the CIA, was further bureaucratized under the reorganization, with staff devoted to human resources, operations and resource management, and support resources. The main human spying group has been tagged with the nondescript label of the intelligence and foreign affairs section.

Centers that remain include the counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and weapons and counterproliferation centers. New major mission centers include the East Asia and Pacific center, which is focused mainly on China; the Europe and Eurasia center, which deals with Russia; the Near East center devoted to issues in the Middle East and North Africa; and the South and Central Asia center, focused on Afghanistan.

Lesser centers include the global issues center, the Western Hemisphere center and the Africa center.

A similar reorganization is underway at the National Security Agency, where public affairs officials told us, not surprisingly, that details of the changes are being kept secret.

A CIA spokesman said a primary driver of the reorganization was the creation of mission centers to better integrate existing capabilities and streamline the agency.

“Now that integration of effort is pushed down to the mission center chiefs,” the spokesman said. “Under the old model, information and activities were trapped in directorate stovepipes — now those stovepipes are being broken down, and we’re seeing positive results.”

The next time an Islamic terrorist group pops into the news, there’s a new reference book to turn to.

The London Center for Policy Research has published The Encyclopedia of Militant Islam, a directory of 44 Muslim terrorist armies and their leaders, funding, locations and objectives.

Lawyer Bryan Griffin produced the encyclopedia with input from columnist Jed Babbin and Herb London, who founded the eponymous think tank.

“As many have suggested,” Mr. London writes in the prologue, “one cannot defeat an enemy that one cannot define. The definition lies ahead of you.”

The Islamic State terrorist group is the richest in the world, the book says, organized by a vicious leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“Even when addressing his commanders, al Baghdadi supposedly wears a mask,” Mr. Griffin writes. “Only two photos of him are known to exist and to some in the IS he is known as the ‘invisible sheikh.’”

The London Center features a roster of conservative thinkers: Walid Phares, a foreign policy adviser to the Donald Trump campaign; retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West; columnist Deroy Murdock; retired Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer; and columnist R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.

According to the center, “As we see it, this is the first book of its kind and arguably the most useful way to understand the threat we in the West are facing.”

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz. Staff writer Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

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