- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

Clarke leaving

Victoria Clarke, the assistant defense secretary for public affairs, is leaving the Pentagon, according to defense officials.

Mrs. Clarke has held the position of top Pentagon spokeswoman since May 2001 and has won mixed reviews from officials in the Pentagon and those in the press who cover it.

One official said Mrs. Clarke, a former public relations executive, is leaving to spend more time with her family.

Another official said she may be taking time off over the next several months in preparation to join the communications team for President Bush’s re-election campaign.

Mrs. Clarke’s last presidential campaign was 1992, when she worked as press secretary for the re-election campaign of President George H.W. Bush.

Mrs. Clarke was traveling with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and could not be reached for comment. Spokesmen at the Pentagon declined to comment.

Procurement woes

Pentagon officials tell us the hope of getting Congress to fund the procurement of new weapons to replace those used during Operation Iraqi Freedom is fading.

The Pentagon’s current $62.6 billion share of the supplemental funding bill to pay for the war in Iraq includes about $15 billion for weapons replacement — things like new Tomahawk cruise missiles and Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAM bombs.

Defense officials tell us, however, that Pentagon budget officials failed to move quickly enough with the cash, and as a result Congress plans to take a big chunk back, as much as $3 billion to $4 billion, and put the money in to domestic programs.

Additionally, up to $10 billion of the new weapons money is being given to the Army to pay for the cost of occupying Iraq.

That leaves about $1 billion to $2 billion for new arms.

Cash flow

The Pentagon is sending cash to Iraq, literally.

Defense officials tell us that after an urgent request from U.S. administrators in Iraq, several tractor-trailers were filled with numerous pallets stacked high with money. The military needed cash in small denominations to pay municipal workers in occupied Baghdad. So the Pentagon ordered up stacks of $5, $10, and $20 bills and flew them off on C-17 transports.

The truck convoys were protected by armed Army security guards.

One C-17 mission carried $20 million. So far at least $500 million in cash was rushed to Iraq.

Intelligence wars

The creation of a new undersecretary of defense for intelligence is already creating new divisions within the fractious U.S. intelligence community.

Defense sources tell us the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, recently locked horns with CIA Director George J. Tenet over a sensitive electronic-eavesdropping program. Adm. Jacoby resisted CIA’s efforts to press DIA into a special request to facilitate a “sigint” — for signals intelligence — operation, we are told.

The response from Adm. Jacoby was that he works for the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Steve Cambone, and not Mr. Tenet.

Seabiscuit and Iraq

Next month, Hollywood releases what it touts as the summer’s biggest blockbuster.

In Iraq, there is a Marine Corps engineering officer with a special interest in the upcoming film, as he toils to make life better for average Iraqis.

The movie is “Seabiscuit.” The story line: how a Buick entrepreneur named Charles Howard bought a run-down thoroughbred of majestic bloodlines, turned him over to a magical trainer and saw Seabiscuit become the toast of a Depression-era America.

A revitalized Seabiscuit won big-stakes races on both coasts, including a spectacular match race against War Admiral at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The track still keeps a video of the race on file. Viewers can see Charles Howard sitting in Pimlico’s wooden grandstand with his wife, Marcela, as underdog Seabiscuit beats War Admiral to the lead and never looks back.

The Marine officer in Iraq is Col. Michael C. Howard, Charles Howard’s great-grandson.

Today, Col. Howard is deployed in the Iraqi town of Hillah (ancient Babylon) helping Iraqis build schools, bridges and other civilian infrastructure. He commands the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, and currently serves as operations officer for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force’s Engineer Group.

Col. Howard served as the family’s unofficial historian, collecting Seabiscuit and Howard memorabilia, which he later donated to the racing hall of fame museum in Saratoga Springs.

When Washington’s Laura Hillenbrand began researching Seabiscuit, Col. Howard’s scrapbook collections became indispensable to the author’s thoroughly researched best seller, “Seabiscuit: An American Legend.”

“Laura really cares about this entire story in an amazing way,” Col. Howard told us via email from Iraq. “Our family has adopted her.”

Asked why he chose the Marine Corps over a career in the racing business, Col. Howard said, “My dad was a WWII Marine corporal. He was very patriotic, as was my mom. I wanted to serve my country and the USMC clearly appeared to be the premiere force. … I grew up on a ranch loaded with hundreds of thoroughbreds and quarterhorses. My entire family was in this business. Though I loved the personal aspect of owning and riding a fine horse, this was simply not my ‘calling.’”

Of his great-grandfather (played by actor Jeff Bridges), Col. Howard said, “‘Poppie’ was a self-made man who believed in and loved America for the freedom and opportunity that it extends to all of us. He also clearly understood that with this freedom, fame, wealth and power goes considerable responsibility, grace and selflessness.”

Col. Howard told us it’s up to his commander in chief on whether he gets to attend the “Seabiscuit” premiere.

Col. Howard’s assessment

We also asked Col. Howard to judge the rebuilding phase at this point from his vantage point in Shi’ite-dominated Iraq:

“America did the right thing and continues to do the right thing in giving the Iraqi people a real chance for freedom. (Most are glad we did what we did and are making sure their security is improved.) Yes, there are members of the old regime who want us to fail, but we are accomplishing much.

“You would be so proud of these Marines and other young Americans who did all we asked them to do and more. The war was so one-sided due to our hard work, dedication, training and leadership. Anyone who doubts what we did need simply travel a few miles north of me to one of many Saddam massive grave sites that we have had to excavate and document. Twelve thousand to 15,000 men, women and children, some still holding dolls, tied together in groups and brutally executed.”

Col. Howard signed off by saying, “It is 119 degrees here and I have bridges to build and enemy weapons and ammo to destroy.”

Shinseki retires

Our spies at Gen. Eric Shinseki’s retirement ceremony Wednesday said they did not see one senior official in attendance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).

“It was the ultimate snub,” said one attendee.

Gen. Shinseki, a highly decorated Vietnam War combatant, retired after a four-year term as Army chief of staff and 37 years of service. He suffered several run-ins with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld over the canceled Crusader artillery system, Army transformation and the number of troops needed to keep peace in Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld is traveling in Europe. But Army officials note there are senior OSD officeholders in town who could have attended.

In his retirement speech, the four-star general answered his critics in OSD without naming names.

“We understand that leadership is not an exclusive function of uniformed service,” he said. “So when some suggest that we, in the Army, don’t understand the importance of civilian control of the military — well, that’s just not helpful and it isn’t true.

“The Army has always understood the primacy of civilian control. We reinforce that principle to those with whom we train all around the world. So to muddy the waters when important issues are at stake, issues of life and death, is a disservice to all of those in and out of uniform who serve and lead so well.”

Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Mr. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or bgertz@washingtontimes.com. Mr. Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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