- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pentagon reclama-mode

Defense and military officials are working quietly on plans they hope will reverse some of the weapons cuts and defense policy changes made by outgoing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who said in a recent speech that he had canceled 30 arms programs during 4 1/2 years on the job.

Study groups within the military services, the Joint Staff and the office of the secretary of defense are already working on a series of appeals that bureaucrats call “reclamas” for the next defense secretary, expected to be current CIA DirectorLeon Panetta.

A reclama is defined by the Pentagon as “a request to duly constituted authority to reconsider its decision or its proposed action.” According to defense officials, the appeals will include calls for reviving some of the canceled Army, Navy and Air Force weapons programs killed by Mr. Gates as well as reversing decisions on defense policies ranging from China to Russia.

Air-power advocates are hoping the next defense secretary will revive the F-22 jet program that was ended by Mr. Gates after 187 aircraft. The jet is considered the most advanced in the world and has not had the problems faced by the overbudget F-35.

Mr. Panetta is expected to continue the defense cuts launched by Mr. Gates after President Obama said in April he wants to cut $400 billion from the Pentagon.

Weapons officials in the services also are studying Mr. Panetta’s record as a member of Congress from 1977 to 1993 for clues to his defense biases. What they found, not surprisingly, is that he supported programs that benefited his native California, such as keeping open the Naval Post-Graduate School at Monterey during one of the past rounds of military-base closures.

The overall picture that emerged from preliminary research on the incoming defense secretary is that he is “not a squishy liberal,” said one official familiar with the effort.

On China, one of the current areas of debate within the defense and intelligence communities, initial assessments are that the CIA director is expected to be tougher than Mr. Gates on the issue. At the CIA, Mr. Panetta pushed the spies to step up intelligence collection against China, which some agency bureaucrats opposed, favoring a more cautious spying approach that would avoid upsetting Beijing.

Another big question being asked in the Pentagon is whom Mr. Panetta will bring with him as close advisers if he is confirmed by the Senate and whether they will be career CIA officials or past advisers.

Mr. Panetta, as a former congressman, is also expected to be more attuned to Congress than Mr. Gates, who often regarded the legislative branch of government and its numerous reporting requirements as a nuisance.

DOD counterspying

The Pentagon two weeks ago issued a new counterintelligence directive following one of its worst information-security failures in history: the leaking of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents to the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks.

The May 17 directive outlines new requirements for all military and civilian defense officials to report “contacts, activities, indicators and behaviors associated with foreign intelligence entities (FIEs),” a term that includes international terrorists. The directive also says military personnel are now subject to prosecution under military law for violating the reporting requirements, while civilians face disciplinary action.

The directive also updates official reporting on foreign intelligence “cyberspace contacts, activities, indicators, and behaviors.” The directive is titled “Counterintellignece Awareness and Reporting” and says all personnel must be trained on threats from foreign spies and terrorists, their methods, including the use of the Internet and other communication such as social networking sites.

Pentagon officials also will be trained about the “CI insider,” perhaps the closest the directive comes to discussing the case of Army Sgt. Bradley Manning, who was charged with using his access to military and diplomatic secrets while posted in Iraq to download and transfer hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks. Among the charges against Sgt. Manning are “aiding the enemy.” The directive was first reported by Secrecy News.

Navy Cmdr. Bob Mehal, a Pentagon spokesman, said the new directive was not issued in response to WikiLeaks but replaces a 2004 directive.

The updated directive also includes more suspicious behaviors to report that would help identify possible links to terrorist groups, and it adds the prosecution provisions for violators.

The deadly massacre at Fort Hood carried out by Islamist terror suspect Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan also played a role, Cmdr. Mehal said.

A Pentagon report on the shooting called for reporting on “self-radicalization” and also fixes the problem of how to report suspicious behaviors not linked to foreign intelligence services or international terrorists but that should be alerted to commanders.

Army dissent

An Army sergeant who served in Iraq has taken the extraordinary step of writing to the House Armed Services Committee to complain about how the Pentagon is indoctrinating troops to accept open gays in the ranks. And Army Staff Sgt. Paul Hair told his superiors about his dissent.

In his May 25 letter to committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, California Republican, Sgt. Hair said the training at Fort George G. Meade resulted in “Orwellian-like answers.”

For example, soldiers were told they would not be permitted to quit the Army because they disagreed with the new policy. Defense SecretaryRobert M. Gates made this point when talking to Marines in Afghanistan this week. But Sgt. Hair told special correspondent Rowan Scarborough that one briefer said the Army would work to release soldiers who asked for a discharge.

Sgt. Hair also wrote: “When I asked if soldiers would be able to openly express their disagreement with the new policy on their own time and out of uniform - just as soldiers who disagree with the ban on homosexuality currently can express their opinions - the consensus emerged that soldiers will not be able to do so.

“The Army briefing, however, stated that troops won’t be required to change personal beliefs,” he said.

“Further debate concluded that while troops won’t officially be banned from speaking against the pending new policy on their own time and out of uniform, they might suffer unofficial retribution. Is this what the Congress wants? If so, why?”

Sgt. Hair also said the briefing reached the conclusion that any chaplain who expresses opposition to homosexuality will be reported to superiors and silenced, even though the Pentagon has said they will be free to speak.

Sgt. Hair declined to comment on the letter, except to say it reflects his personal opinion.

“I implore the Congress to halt further implementation of this pending new policy and spend time reconsidering it,” he wrote.

Viva Las Vegas

The Pentagon has not yet said it’s OK for gay service members to come out of the closet. But that has not stopped a secretive military gay group from organizing chapters and planning its first convention.

The group OutServe, which claims a membership of more than 3,000 lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) in 42 chapters worldwide and publishes a magazine, is staging a convention in Las Vegas in October.

OutServe said, “Among the many topics to be featured: how allied military forces have welcomed LGBT personnel; latest research on diversity inside the military and out; and resources for LGBT military partners and families.”

OutServe has lined up at least one corporate sponsor, Amazon, as well as various gay rights groups.

The Pentagon is indoctrinating the armed forces on how to accept open gays in the ranks after Congress voted to end the ban. The ban is scheduled to be lifted by year’s end. That may mean military gays going to Las Vegas will have to go - and party - anonymously.

“We believe diversity is a force multiplier, and this conference will bring together veterans, active-duty military, and other experts to help us leverage LGBT inclusion for the benefit of military readiness,” OutServe said.

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