Washington Watch

Oct. 1, 2003
Rumsfeld’s “Open Mind” on Troops

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld faces mounting pressure to increase the number of airmen, soldiers, sailors, and Marines in the US military—and it may be having an effect.

In recent remarks, Rumsfeld declared that he is “absolutely open-minded” about possible increases in end strength.

At a minimum, it is a notable change in tone. Rumsfeld has consistently resisted calls to raise troop levels, despite major operations in multiple theaters. He has argued that outsourcing and wider use of technology can free up many uniformed people to move to true fighting duties.

However, Rumsfeld went on the defensive after his handpicked nominee for Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, seemed to lay down a challenge.

“Intuitively, I think we need more people,” Schoomaker told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I mean, it’s just that simple.”

Schoomaker hedged a bit, saying he needs time to “formally assess” the issue. However, he acknowledged he was taking “a little risk, here” by suggesting a need for more troops.

In response, Rumsfeld said he expects Schoomaker to be “a terrific Chief of Staff.” He also said, “I don’t think you’ll find a lot of daylight between his views … or mine.”

Then, Rumsfeld asserted: “We’re absolutely open-minded about how many people we have in the services. We want to have the right number.”

The supposed insufficiency of end strength is often presented as an Army problem, but the Air Force has been at least equally stressed by its numerous worldwide deployments. The problem is felt most acutely in the so-called low-density, high-demand fields such as intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance and security forces.

After his statement, Rumsfeld outlined—in great detail—his effort to identify military jobs that could be transferred to private contractors.

“Depending on who you talk to, it’s 300,000 or 320,000 or 380,000 people,” said Rumsfeld. “That is a pile of people. They need to be doing military functions. ”

He said that Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior leaders have been studying revisions and alternatives in deployments, exercises, war plans, etc. The Pentagon is also reassessing long-standing overseas deployments.

Rumsfeld said he is still unconvinced more troops are the answer to the situation, which he describes as a “spike” not a long-term condition.

USAF Gen. Richard B. Myers, the JCS Chairman, asserted that increasing end strength will not translate into a quick fix for overwhelmed troops.

“It takes time to recruit, train, and so forth,” Myers said. Meanwhile, increasing end strength is “one of the most expensive things you can do in the Department of Defense.” Personnel costs account for 60 percent of Pentagon spending, he noted.

“It’s a very expensive solution,” said Myers, “and it’s not a solution that comes online right away. … If you’re going to do it, you’re going to have to live with it, probably, for a long time, and you better think it through carefully, since that’s a significant part of your budget. ”

Rumsfeld pledged that if objective analysis points toward bigger forces, he’ll call for them.

He said, “I can assure you that if, at some point, the circumstances in the world are such that the President and the Congress and the country believe that we need to be doing so many things that it appropriately calls for an increase in end strength, we certainly would ask for an increase in end strength. We do not have a bias for it or against it. ”

Policy on Homosexuals Gets Review

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas sodomy law, the Pentagon is reviewing its policy regarding homosexuals in the uniformed ranks.

The review began after the court’s June decision prompted a number of lawsuits challenging the military stance on gays.

In Lawrence v. Texas, the Court ruled that the state sodomy law was unconstitutional because it restricted personal liberties without serving a “legitimate state interest.”

Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits “unnatural carnal copulation” and has been used, albeit rarely, to court-martial military personnel.

In 1992, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces upheld Article 125, citing a 1986 case—Bowers v. Hardwick—in which the Supreme Court held that the constitutional right of privacy did not apply to homosexual sodomy, and the states were free to make it a crime. However, Lawrence now supercedes Bowers.

Pentagon General Counsel William J. Haynes II has ordered the services to review Article 125, given the ruling in Lawrence.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), an openly gay member of Congress, on July 9 introduced a bill that would amend Article 125 to decriminalize sexual contact between consenting adults.

The Lawrence decision has also prompted challenges of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule, which was promulgated in 1993 when President Clinton moved to allow openly gay persons to serve in the military.

The law codifying this policy holds that the military can’t initiate an investigation of a service member’s sexual orientation (don’t ask) unless he or she openly professes homosexuality (don’t tell). Once a service member publicly asserts a gay sexual orientation, he or she may be prosecuted or expelled from the military.

More than 9,000 military men and women have been discharged for cause since the rule was adopted.

An immediate, though indirect, legal challenge to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and other restrictive laws was filed by Steve Loomis, a former Army lieutenant colonel. Loomis, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, was discharged for homosexuality only eight days short of fulfilling 20 years of service. He is suing the Army for more than $1 million in claimed pension benefits.

Loomis’s suit argues that the military ban on gays is “not rationally related to any legitimate government interest,” echoing the language used by the Supreme Court in Lawrence. He argues that his career and decorations are adequate proof that homosexuality is not an impediment to good order and discipline in the ranks.

Loomis’s case and several others now in the courts do not directly challenge the constitutionality of the military ban on open homosexuality. Opponents of the law are studying the June ruling to see if a constitutional challenge can be made using it.

Unlike civilians, military personnel do not expressly possess a right to privacy, because the military makes demands that supercede personal liberty. This fact has been routinely acknowledged by the courts, which have given the military great leeway in setting highly restrictive rules on its personnel.

The 1993 law notes that military persons must “involuntarily … accept living … and working conditions that are Spartan, primitive, and characterized by forced intimacy with little or no privacy,” and under such conditions, homosexuality poses “an unacceptable risk to the armed forces’ high standards of morale, good order, and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”

The law was promoted by then-Sen. Sam Nunn, the powerful Georgia Democrat who headed the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Gen. Colin Powell, who was JCS Chairman, as well as the other service chiefs. It was signed by President Clinton.

Barrett Tapped for SECAF Post

President Bush has nominated Barbara M. Barrett, an Arizona lawyer and businesswoman, to be the next Secretary of the Air Force. If confirmed, Barrett would succeed James G. Roche, who earlier was nominated to become Secretary of the Army.

In her career, Barrett has moved between public and private enterprises, frequently dealing with aviation issues. She is currently on the board of Raytheon. During the Reagan Administration, she was deputy administrator of the FAA and served as vice chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board.

She served on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services during the George H.W. Bush Administration.

In 1994, Barrett unsuccessfully challenged incumbent and fellow Republican J. Fife Symington for the Arizona governor’s post. Barrett holds B.A., M.A., and law degrees from Arizona State University. She has held instrument pilot ratings and is president of a Montana resort.

The Senate plans called for confirmation hearings this fall.

Iran: Nukes? What Nukes?

Iran—viewed by Washington as the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism—is now embarking on a cat-and-mouse game of “hide the nukes” from nosey foreigners.

There is little question Iran is close to building nuclear bombs, but the Islamic Republic is doing its best to bamboozle international inspectors.

In a June report, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, criticized Iran for denying IAEA inspectors access to all its nuclear facilities, which Iran insists are for peaceful purposes—nuclear research and power generation.

In a follow-up visit and report, the IAEA found traces of highly enriched uranium, prompting ElBaradei to assert in an interview with the German magazine Stern, “This worries us greatly.”

President Bush has said that a nuclear-armed Iran is not acceptable, but he has stopped short of declaring what steps the United States might take.

Iran is signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which allows it to have nuclear power plants so long as they are open to IAEA inspection. The inspections are meant to ensure that nuclear materials are not illicitly diverted to bombs.

Iran plainly deceived inspectors about a secret facility in Natanz, which it had not declared as a nuclear-related plant. An opposition group in exile tipped off the IAEA about the facility, which was eventually opened to inspection. Investigators in May found more than 100 centrifuges for enriching uranium to bomb-grade material. The centrifuges appeared to be of Pakistani design.

In the follow-up visit report, leaked to reporters in August, IAEA inspectors said they detected traces of highly enriched uranium at the Natanz plant. The Iranians explained that it must have been on the equipment when it was purchased from another country.

The Iranians declined to name the country that sold them the gear, but promised the IAEA it would eventually do so. Iran also delayed access to the Kalaye Electric Co. plant near Tehran. Iran eventually admitted it had been used for assembly of the centrifuges.

Iran is also known to have received help from North Korea, both on its nuclear program and in development of the Shahab-3 intermediate-range missile. Pyongyang is also reportedly helping Iran develop a nuclear warhead for the Shahab-4, which could reach most of Europe from Iranian soil.

Tehran has also now admitted receiving a shipment of 1.8 tons of uranium ore from China in 1991.

In addition to pursuing enriched uranium as a source of fissile material, Tehran is constructing a heavy-water plant near Arak, which it has told the IAEA is producing radioisotopes for medical purposes. The heavy-water method is considered a shortcut to production of plutonium.

In developing its nuclear program, Iran seems to have taken pains to protect it, distribute it, and put it well out of range of most US aircraft.

The Natanz facility, for example, comprises deeply buried bunkers with eight-foot-thick concrete walls. Its construction appears to have been designed to survive an air raid similar to the Israeli attack on the Iraqi Osirak reactor in 1981.

Iran’s nuclear facilities are spread out, eliminating the possibility of a quick, single-point surprise attack such as was seen at Osirak more than two decades ago.

Iran’s nuclear facilities are protected by new, state-of-the-art S-400 air defense systems.

However, Iran’s facilities may now be in the wrong place, from a defensive standpoint. It broke ground long ago, before the United States had gained access to air bases in the region. As a result of recent wars, US forces have gained access to bases in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, not to mention Pakistan and Iraq itself. All could greatly simplify planning for a pre-emptive air attack on Iranian facilities.

China Focuses Power on Taiwan

Although China is pursuing vigorous economic ties with the US—it is America’s No. 1 trading partner—China’s military modernization plans are based on the prospect of conflict with the US, especially over Taiwan.

So says the Pentagon’s official assessment of Chinese strategy and force capabilities, contained in an annual report to Congress, “The Military Power of the People’s Republic of China.”

China’s efforts at buying top-line fighters from Russia, developing military data networking systems, and developing long-range precision strike technology are geared—for now at least—toward thwarting a US defense of Taiwan, the Pentagon said.

“Preparing for a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait is the primary driver for China’s military modernization,” according to the report. China is also seeking “ways to target and exploit the perceived weaknesses of technologically superior adversaries.”

China increased its defense budget by 17.5 percent last year and now spends $45 billion to $65 billion annually on defense. This puts China on a par with the military spending of Japan and the UK.

The Pentagon determined that China’s technology priorities are aimed at defeating stealth aircraft and precision munitions and thwarting US electronic warfare and reconnaissance. It is improving the quality of its officer corps and mechanizing more of its ground forces. China is also improving its use of combined arms, with frequent exercises aimed at coordinating land, air, and sea forces, as well as special operations units.

With 450 short-range ballistic missiles already on hand, China will be adding 75 SRBMs to its inventory every year, at the same time improving their accuracy and lethality. All of these are positioned on the mainland in an arc facing Taiwan.

China is modernizing its ICBM force, replacing all its CSS-4 missiles with longer-ranged CSS Mod 2 models.

In addition to consistently adding new squadrons of top-line Russian Su-27 Flankers and Flanker variants, China is obtaining Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile-equivalent AA-12 missiles for them and antiship missiles for a navalized Flanker to be deployed on a Chinese aircraft carrier.

Electronic warfare versions of fighters are being developed, and China is looking to acquire Antonov A-50 Mainstay Airborne Warning and Control System-equivalent command and control aircraft as well. Pilot training “is becoming more advanced,” and China’s air tactics “continue to evolve.”

While the ship-based, Russian-built SA-N-7 surface-to-air missile represents Beijing’s best air defense system right now, China is expected within the decade to acquire or develop its own version of the SA-10/20 land-based SAM series. These systems will be improved with Western electronics.

The new Type 093-class attack submarine is nuclear-powered and will have torpedoes on a rough par with those in the West—both wire-guided and wake-homing. China has also purchased four Kilo-class very quiet diesel subs from Russia and is sending its submarines on farther, longer patrols.

Production of the newest Chinese tank, the Type 96, is continuing, and 1,500 are expected to be deployed within two years. Another 1,000 older Type 59 tanks are being upgraded with a 105 mm gun, of the same size as on the US Abrams tank.

China has cut its 100 Army divisions to 40—a reduction of 500,000 troops—and plans to use the savings to modernize and focus on improving the quality of those it retains. China announced in September a further cut of 200,000 troops by 2006. Meanwhile, China has worked hard to improve its logistics, develop new armored vehicles, and improve its amphibious attack capabilities.

Improving command and control is a top priority, but China has not caught up to the US and its allies.