- The Washington Times - Friday, April 21, 2000

Cyberspace dangers

A senior Pentagon security official sees the major threat to the U.S. military today as enemies who use "asymmetrical" means. J. William Leonard, deputy assistant defense secretary for security and information operations, provided a threat briefing this month for a group of corporate security specialists.

While no military force on earth can defeat, say, the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Leonard said, the Air Force can be "functionally" defeated by attacking a logistics system heavily dependent on information technology.

"Offensive information operations is obviously a threat we have to contend with," he told some 200 security managers at the National Security Institute's Impact 2000 meeting. One example of a strategic information attack: A foreign power attacks U.S. medical databases and changes blood polarities of U.S. military personnel. That could result in deadly transfusions of blood to the wounded in a conflict.

"Think of what that would do to a nation's warfighting capability, what sort of chilling effect a simple event like that would have," Mr. Leonard said. Computer attacks are a "very significant" asymmetric threat. "We're in a continual state of war within the cyber-arena," he said. "It's not an armed conflict, a conflict where bullets are flying. But it's a conflict nonetheless where electrons fly back and forth through information systems."

Strategic nuclear weapons continue to be a threat, he said, as are terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. "The strategic nuclear threat is very real," he said, noting that Russia recently revised warfighting doctrine to lower the threshold for their use.

As for China's strategic nuclear buildup, Mr. Leonard said, "The Chinese continue to embark on a modernization of their strategic nuclear weapons capabilities. And of course you have rogue states like North Korea and Iran who continue to attempt to develop not only a nuclear capability but a missile capability to deliver those weapons on a strategic basis." The latter statement is contrary to the Clinton administration's public position that the 1994 Agreed Framework has "frozen" North Korea's development of nuclear weapons.

The Dutch example

Back in 1993, when Congress was engrossed in debating gays in the military, liberals used the Dutch military as an example of the virtues of allowing open homosexuality in the ranks.

Now, the Dutch armed forces are setting an example for how to run a mixed-sex warship.

This summer, the frigate HMS Bloys was sailing the Mediterranean Sea when six of 11 women sailors on top deck proudly bared their breasts to the crew of a passing Italian warship. Male crew members, standing behind the frolicking women, are seen smiling.

A photo of this exhibition in unit cohesion was splashed across the front page this month of Amsterdam's De Telegraaf newspaper.

An Associated Press story said the Dutch ship's captain was reprimanded. "We are not at all happy with this," a navy spokesman said.

The U.S. Navy has used sex-integrated crews on support ships since the 1970s. It broke the all-male barrier for combat ships in 1994. The service has encountered some problems in enforcing rules against onboard sex, but to our knowledge does not endorse on-deck striptease.

"It appears funny but it's not a joke," said Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness, which opposes women in combat. "I think it must be seen as a cautionary note as the debate continues about the culture of the military. Should it become more like the European culture or civilian world? Of course the answer is no. The Netherlands and these other countries depend on us for their ultimate national defense."

Iceland heats up

The Pentagon is in danger of losing a key overseas facility the military base at Keflavik, Iceland, near the capital of Reykjavik. Military officials said a new law proposed by the Icelandic government calls for blocking U.S. companies from contracts related to supplying the U.S. troops on the North Atlantic island nation.

If the legislation passes, "It would be a tripwire for us to remove our forces," said one military officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"It's the only forward deployed military base in this region and if we pull out it would leave us without a major base," the officer said.

Keflavik is home to a U.S. naval air station and the Air Force's 85th Group, as well as a detachment of Marines and some Army personnel. The base includes F-15 and F-16 fighters as well as strategic KC-135 air-refueling tankers, C-130 transports and helicopters. It is a frequent stopping-off point and refueling post for troops and cargo traveling from the United States to Europe and other parts of the world.

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright has written to Iceland Prime Minister David Oddsson about the problem. "The legislation would restrict contracts and that would increase our costs," said a State Department official. "The problem we have is that the legislation was introduced without any consultation with us. We should talk about it and not get hit with it."

The prime minister is considering a U.S. request to delay the legislation. It was introduced in February and already has cleared two committees.

Private lives

People looking for consistency in the White House enforcing the federal Privacy Act will not find it in the case of former Navy Lt. Patrick J. Burns.

This month, the Defense Department inspector general testified that Kenneth Bacon, spokesman for Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, ordered the release of parts of Linda Tripp's protected personnel file to a reporter for New Yorker magazine. The IG said the Justice Department declined to file criminal charges.

Compare that case to the fate of Lt. Burns. A back-seat weapons officer on the F-14 fighter, and by all accounts a dedicated officer, Mr. Burns was taken off the promotion list for violating the same act. In his case, he distributed training records for two women aviators who he believed were pushed through qualification school.

President Clinton himself signed the order revoking Lt. Burns' promotion to lieutenant commander, thus forcing his retirement after 20 years.

Lt. Burns said he considered the women's training a critical safety issue and tried to raise the issue up the chain of command before releasing the records.

The 1998 memorandum to Mr. Clinton reads, in part, "The secretary of the Navy withheld Lt. Burns' name from nomination for intentionally violating the Privacy Act by releasing the personal training records of another officer to an individual outside the federal government who lacked authority to receive such records."

"Your signature below will constitute removal of Lt. Burns' name from the promotion selection board report." The memo was approved by the signature of "William J. Clinton."

The White House press office declined comment Thursday.

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