- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2000

Missile defense bids

The Pentagon will soon send out its formal request for proposals, known as RFPs, to contractors for work to begin on the first component of the U.S. national missile defense.

The proposals will seek contractor bids for building the long-range radar station at remote Shemya Island at the far western tip of the Aleutian chain of Alaska.

The contracting process was part of a political battle within the administration over concerns that beginning work might violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, viewed by the president as the "cornerstone" of U.S. strategic nuclear policy. It bans nationwide missile defenses.

One official told us the RFPs were ready to go out weeks ago but were blocked by White House officials concerned about violating the ABM treaty. A White House spokesman, however, said there was no effort to hold back the contracting process.

James Bodner, a senior Pentagon official, told a conference in Philadelphia last week that Pentagon lawyers determined that work can begin without violating the treaty and that construction can proceed without treaty changes until 2002. The old policy: Once concrete for the radar's foundation is poured, ABM treaty changes will be required.

Rolling Stone

The Pentagon has given racy Rolling Stone magazine its seal of approval at least when it comes to attracting inductees in a tight recruiting market.

A small anti-drug organization in Massachusetts had petitioned Defense Secretary William S. Cohen to stop advertising for recruits in the rock-oriented publication. Otto Moulton, president of the Committees of Correspondence Inc., objected to Rolling Stone's graphic photographs and risque approach to sex. He argued that the Army, which spends $400,000 in Rolling Stone advertising annually, shouldn't covet the kind of young people who read the publication.

But the Defense Department rejected Mr. Moulton's concerns.

Wrote W.S. Sellman, director of accession policy: "Service advertising in a periodical does not constitute an endorsement of its content. Rolling Stone magazine enjoys wide readership by the 18-24-year-old target audience. The service works with magazine editorial staffs to ensure recruitment advertising does not appear in issues containing objectionable material.

"If an edition is considered to be in poor taste, the services normally withdraw their advertisements, but they may elect to selectively advertise in future issues. While containing subject matter that some may find offensive, Rolling Stone also represents an opportunity to project a positive message of patriotism and service to the nation through armed forces advertising."

Vaccine shortage

The Food and Drug Administration will decide not to approve the last available batch of anthrax vaccine, we are told.

The Pentagon on Monday will run out of the anthrax vaccine, Bernard Rostker, the nominee for undersecretary of defense for readiness, told senators this week.

The Defense Department program to inoculate 2.4 million members of the armed services will grind to a halt because the FDA last weekend rejected three of the last four remaining batches of the antidote for the biological weapon that kills 99 out of 100 persons exposed to the "weaponized" spores. The FDA will disapprove the fourth batch, too, we learned.

Enough vaccine is left about 200,000 doses to continue vaccinations for the service personnel who already have begun to receive the series of six shots. But no new vaccinations will begin as a result of the shortage of vaccine.

The Pentagon had been hoping a federal license for the only manufacturer of the vaccine, Michigan-based BioPort Inc., would be approved soon. But we are told that such approval is not likely this year.

Current Pentagon policy calls for all service personnel deployed to the Middle East or Korea to be vaccinated. The vaccine shortage could create problems in the near future for the military because there may be a shortage of vaccinated personnel for troop rotations. "This is creating a whole pool of people who can't be sent or changed," one U.S. official told us.

China reports missing

Members of Congress are growing angry at the Pentagon's refusal to provide several reports on China required by law. The Pentagon months ago completed work on one report about China's growing military power. The report will incorporate a required report on the military balance or imbalance, as the case is today across the Taiwan Strait.

Where is it? The report, we are told, has been parked in the office of Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. So far, he has refused to send it to Capitol Hill. It appears the report violates the central tenet of Clinton administration policy toward China: Do nothing, say nothing and write nothing that will portray China as the growing military threat it is.

Testing secrets

The testing of armored vehicles for the Army of the future has been shrouded in unusual secrecy, Pentagon observers tell us.

The Army put 35 of the wheeled and tracked medium assault vehicles (MAVs) through their paces in January at a "Platform Performance Demonstration" at Fort Knox, Ky. Six months later, it's nearly impossible to obtain the official evaluations. The reason: the Army classified them.

"I can't tell exactly how the vehicles performed because [a commander] classified all of the data," said a critical Pentagon official. "None performed up to expectations."

Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, is driving the 480,000-soldier service to transform itself into a lighter, more mobile force, able to reach international trouble spots in days, not weeks.

The Army will soon award a contract for a family of MAVs as troop, mortar and assault-gun carriers.

Some observers charge the Army lowered requirements after some wheeled vehicles performed poorly at Fort Knox, the Army's tank development center.

For example, the armored gun system was supposed to be able to shoot on the run. Now, it doesn't have to.

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