- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2000

Ambassador talk

Joseph Prueher, U.S. ambassador to China, is under fire again.
The retired four-star admiral was in town this week and met with members of Congress. According to congressional aides, Adm. Prueher told lawmakers that he has been working in Beijing to convince Chinese leaders to pull back the mobile short-range missiles being deployed in large numbers opposite Taiwan, in Fujian province.
Our sources say the ambassador has been telling the Chinese the removal of the missiles "would make the people in the United States feel like they were actually backing off the Taiwan issue."
Adm. Prueher, the aides say, also suggested to the Chinese how they could carry out a bit of threat-reduction-by-deception: "And besides, if anything happened, the missiles could always be moved back quickly," he was quoted as saying.
The ambassador provided another curious explanation for urging the Chinese to move their missiles: "It would undercut American hard-liners who think China is a threat," he was quoted as telling lawmakers.
The remarks raised eyebrows from several aides who called Adm. Prueher a "panda hugger" critics' term for pro-China officials and their acolytes in academia. The corresponding label for the anti-Beijing crowd from the huggers: "alarmists."
Asked about the remarks, a State Department spokesman said Adm. Prueher "didn't think it was appropriate to discuss his private conversations with folks on the Hill."
The Chinese in the past have rejected U.S. appeals to pull back the missiles. The Defense Intelligence Agency warns in secret reports that the missiles could reach most of Taiwan's major military bases with little or no warning.
Adm. Prueher had his nomination held up temporarily last year by Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican, over questionable contacts with the Chinese military. And in April, he was criticized for hosting a dinner at his Beijing residence with three U.S. satellite makers and Chinese satellite companies who were under federal investigation for improperly sharing missile technology.

Navy transformed

Adm. Vernon Clark, the new chief of naval operations, is living up to his reputation as a revolutionary thinker who will shake up the orthodoxy.
Navy officers tell us that Adm. Clark is preaching, in so many words, "it's the requirements, stupid," as the sea service participates in the Pentagon's second quadrennial defense review (QDR). The officers said the chief wants planners to justify any bid for new ships or sailors with a concrete requirement, not a fuzzy scenario.
Adm. Clark already has ordered a shake-up of his Pentagon staff effective Oct. 1. He has established the new positions of deputy chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and programs, and deputy CNO for fleet readiness and logistics.
Unlike before, the newly configured warfare office will deal strictly with the needs of the fleet, leaving budgeting concerns to another office. He wants a constant dialogue between his staff and the force, which suffers shortages of ships, sailors, spare parts and training hours. A Navy memo from the top also promises changes in readiness and training.
"A flag-level study group will be established … to examine the appropriate alignment for Navy training responsibilities and resources," the memo states. "This group will report its recommendations to the Chief of Naval Operations coincident with the results of the full-time effort to be charted at the Naval War College to determine how to initiate and implement a revolution in Navy training."
Adm. Clark's appetite to shake things up may mean he is receptive to new ideas from the outside.
The boldest proposal yet comes from Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, who would become House Armed Services Committee chairman if Democrats win back the House in November.
Earlier this week, as top admirals and Marine Corps generals dined on asparagus and pine-nut salad, salmon, and filet mignon, Mr. Skelton called on the Navy to transform itself into a lighter, more mobile fleet.
"I'm not much given to dramatic statements, but let me say this clearly: America should rebuild its Navy. And we should begin now," Mr. Skelton said of a fleet that has dipped to 316 ships, about 30 below a floor set by President Clinton in 1993. His appearance was sponsored by the Washington-based Business Executives for National Security.
The Navy is building seven ships each year, an insufficient rate to sustain even a 300-ship force, experts said.
Mr. Skelton said the Navy should continue to build large-hull ships to patrol the open oceans the so-called "blue-water Navy." But it also needs to develop a new generation of smaller attack ships that could operate in coastal waters, such as enforcing the oil embargo against Iraq.
"I know that some find it hard or even distasteful to imagine a Navy with smaller ships," he said. "But it is hard or even distasteful to imagine a Navy rendered irrelevant by a focus on yesterday's missions or shrunken to Lilliputian proportions by a tunnel-vision fealty to large platforms."

Numbers scrub

The Pentagon is deep into the process of writing a new national military strategy and a force structure to match contained in the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).
The Joint Staff the Joint Chiefs of Staff's planners and functionaries are leading the search for the right mix of strategy, force structure and weapons.
War games are to begin shortly. The strategy is due out in June, with the QDR out in September. Officers at the Pentagon say they expect the reports to retain the primary military requirement of being able to fight two "major regional contingencies" (MRC) nearly simultaneously.
Officers say they expect the QDR to endorse a ramp-up in weapons research and development and in procurement to replace equipment worn out by a decade of miniwars and peacekeeping.
The two most likely flash points are South Korea and the Persian Gulf. But last year, the Air Force itself fought the equivalent of a major regional conflict in the skies over Serbia. So, even if tensions ease on the Korean Peninsula, QDR number-crunchers would be hesitant to change the two-MRC scenario.
In this regard, Gen. Henry H. Shelton, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, is required to submit his independent assessment. Pentagon planners say that if the general decides the two major regional conflicts present an unacceptable risk to his troops, he will say so.
The risks of increased casualties in a second war has shot up the past year because of combat-readiness shortfalls. Not all units have sufficient weapons and men to carry out their missions.

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

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