- The Washington Times - Friday, December 8, 2000

Fidel's underground

Cuban President Fidel Castro's military forces are underground, literally. According to a classified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, the Cubans have built an extensive network of underground bunkers and tunnels for key military forces, air-defense sites, and command-and-control facilities.

"A massive tunnel network constructed along the northern coast protects the most combat-ready troops needed for a defense of Havana," the report labeled "secret" states.

"All essential Cuban command, control, and communications sites are now in hardened bunkers," it says. "Many of the sites are greater than 20 meters [about 65 feet] below the surface, making some too deep to attack with conventional munitions."

The report notes that the bunker construction was carried out throughout the 1990s despite severe economic problems facing Mr. Castro's communist government.

"Fidel Castro … expects the United States to eventually invade Cuba and attempt to gain control of the government by rapidly capturing the cities of Havana, Matanzas, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba," the report says, noting that half the Cuban military budget since the early 1980s has gone to building the tunnel networks.

"These tunnels are said to house Cuban motorized infantry and tank units whose mission would be to stop or delay landing forces while the rest of the Revolutionary Armed Forces mobilize for war," the report said.

The plan is to have the underground troops survive bombardment and then emerge "to confront and attack the enemy as it lands on the beaches," according to DIA.

Mr. Castro knows some of his bunkered military units would be trapped in the concrete-lined tunnels during U.S. airstrikes. But "he is willing to take this risk to gain time to mobilize the country for war and launch a worldwide propaganda effort to influence public opinion against the attacker," the report says.

The underground bunkers and tunnels were built with the help of some expert tunnelers the Vietnamese, North Koreans and former Soviets, the report says. "All of these [Cuban] facilities are extremely difficult to attack with conventional weapons," it said. "Placement and design of the command posts especially their use of concealment, hardening, and camouflage techniques are intended to raise the cost of military operations against the island as high as possible for any attacking force."

Vegetation is used to obscure most entrances. All the facilities are lined with 12-inch-thick, arch-shaped reinforced concrete. However, the facilities are not sealed against chemical or biological weapons, the report said.

The DIA has identified more than 400 bunkers in Cuba under construction or completed, including underground facilities for the Armed Forces Ministry headquarters, the Interior Ministry headquarters, Communications Ministry headquarters, and the Cuban Communist Party headquarters.

Most are 60 feet below ground, and several are up to 180 feet below ground.

Not a prayer

Last Saturday's Army-Navy football game discarded a pre-game ceremony conducted at virtually every game for 100 years: a prayer given by a service academy chaplain for cadets, midshipmen and the crowd.

West Point and the Naval Academy bowed instead to a Supreme Court ruling that outlawed official prayer at high school football games, citing the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion.

The decision to scotch prayer before the nationally televised game in Baltimore is not sitting well with religious conservatives. We are told the Air Force Academy and West Point have shut down prayers at other football games.

Robert Maginnis, a West Point graduate and military analyst at the Family Research Council, said there was no need to ban prayer because the Supreme Court made a distinction between high schools and colleges.

"What I'm most concerned about is the chill it sends across the services with regards to religious expression," Mr. Maginnis said. "We have a military that is pretty religious. If this administration continues to push for every one of these bizarre politically correct directions, we're not going to be able to attract good people and we're not going to be able to retain them."

Transition watch

Sources close to the transition team of Texas Gov. George W. Bush say top officials are in a quandary over what to do with Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet. Mr. Tenet, a former Democratic Senate staffer and White House aide in the first Clinton administration, is lobbying to stay on at CIA headquarters.

Senior Bush aides picking personnel have a problem: There are not enough high-ranking administration positions for the small coterie of eight foreign and defense policy advisers known as the Vulcans.

One of them, Paul Wolfowitz, is said to want the coveted job of defense secretary. That slot, we are told, is promised to someone else. Bush aides now are hoping to coax Mr. Wolfowitz into taking the CIA post.

Some on the Bush team favor keeping Mr. Tenet at CIA, not so much to run the spy agency but for continuity in the ongoing Middle East peace talks. Mr. Tenet has played an intimate role.

Other Bush officials argue it's time for Mr. Tenet to go and are critical of his intelligence policies. They view him as too partisan and want to replace him for failing to promote intelligence reports unpopular with the Clinton White House exposing high-level Russian government corruption.

Mr. Tenet is also under fire from some in the Bush camp for defending the CIA's weak analysis of China. The CIA's China analysis shop has been criticized by Republicans in Congress for what they say is a pervasively benign view of the last nuclear-armed communist state.

One solution: Put Mr. Wolfowitz at CIA and appoint Mr. Tenet as special adviser on the Middle East.

Army clothes woes

If Army leaders ever quell the uproar over issuing black berets to every soldier, not just the elite Rangers, they might want to examine unhappiness over helicopter flight suits.

Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, recently announced the new beret-wearing policy as a morale builder, only to see special-forces soldiers howl in protest.

Less-audible griping is going on among Army aviators. They had to relinquish their more distinctive one-piece flight suit in favor of the Aviator Battle Dress Uniform (ABDU), a trouser-coat ensemble issued in 1996. Now, they look like every other soldier.

Aviators tell us the old one-piece looks better, lasts longer and is unique among the Army's 450,000-plus soldiers.

"The only good use of the ABDU is in the field," one pilot tells us. "When you need to go to the latrine, you don't have to take half your clothes off to do it."

"Most people I know feel the ABDU is an attempt by the senior leaders in aviation to strip us of our aviation identity, and blend us in with the rest of the Army," he added. "For whatever reason, a lot of the Army resents the Aviation Branch and our leaders, instead of holding fast and trying to take care of aviation and aviators, try to placate the other branches by trying to make us more like them.

"Hence, the ABDU. I can only speak for myself. I didn't go to flight school to be like everyone else. I wanted to be an Army aviator."

Maj. Scott Ross, spokesman at U.S. Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., said aviator trainees are issued three two-piece flight suits upon arrival. Once they join an operational unit, it is up to commanders to decide whether they may switch to the old suit, he said, adding that most commands stick with the camouflaged ABDU.

Maj. Ross, an aviator, said the newer suit is "more practical."

"When you're out in the field and have a one-piece, just to go to the bathroom, you have all this gear you have to take off and pull down the flight suit … . Just because we're in the cockpit doesn't mean we can't look just like the rest of the Army."

Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are syndicated columnists. Mr. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at gertz@twtmail.com. Mr. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at scarbo@twtmail.com.

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