China tests DF-31 again
China last week carried out the second flight test in two months of a new road-mobile missile, the DF-31. The successive tests show Beijing’s program to field mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles is speeding up.
“They are continuing work apace” on the DF-31, said an intelligence official, who noted that analysis of the test is not complete, but that initial results show it was “successful.”
The missile blasted off from the Wuzhai Space and Missile Center and flew westward inside China, landing in a remote area. The flight was tracked by U.S. intelligence ships, aircraft and spacecraft.
Defense analysts say it was unusual for the Chinese to conduct missile-flight tests so close in time.
In the past, China’s missile tests were spaced over many months. Until the two most recent tests, China had not tested the new missile since August 1999. That test was formally announced, but the last two were not made public.
The Saturday flight test came two days after a speech by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Henry H. Shelton. He warned that China is aggressively building its military and could emerge as a 21st-century version of the Soviet Union.
The single warhead DF-31 is China’s state-of-the-art long-range ballistic missile. It has a maximum range of about 5,000 miles enough to hit targets in Alaska, Hawaii and the western United States.
China also is developing a longer-range, 8,000-mile version known as the DF-41 and is building a new class of ballistic-missile submarines.
The DF-31 is the first Chinese strategic system to incorporate U.S. missile and warhead technology obtained covertly from the United States through espionage and other technology-acquisition efforts, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
China last tested the DF-31 in early November as Gen. Shelton was making his first trip to China. The timing was viewed by many defense analysts as a political signal of China’s growing nuclear prowess.
During the Nov. 3-5 visit, Gen. Shelton observed Chinese war games in the southern province of Nanjing. The live-fire exercises pitted People’s Liberation Army troops, tanks and aircraft against a “blue team” of opposing forces modeled on U.S. military forces.
“There was no question who they were against,” Gen. Shelton told us. The general said he was told by his hosts that “all the maneuvers were yours.”
Congressional budgeteers are beginning to discuss a springtime Pentagon supplemental bill that would shore up combat readiness. It would give President-elect George W. Bush his first chance to fulfill a campaign promise and bolster the armed forces with a stroke of the pen.
Right now, aides are discussing a $5 billion to $10 billion package. It would fund $1.7 billion in new health care initiatives, bump up operations and maintenance (O&M) accounts and provide more weapons-buying dollars.
“We’re going to do it. Hopefully, we can keep the bill from exploding,” said one aide, noting Congress’ penchant to lard any supplemental measure with home-state projects.
The Navy and Air Force privately have told congressional staffers they each need $1.2 billion more in O&M funds. The Army will also likely submit a bill.
Then there’s the USS Cole. The destroyer, ripped apart by a terrorist bomb, was first thought to need $150 million in repairs. But a closer look found extensive damage to its phased-array radar. New estimate: $300 million.
The transition team of President-elect George W. Bush is eyeing Maj. Gen. Daniel James III, adjutant general of the Texas National Guard, for a senior post in Washington, perhaps as secretary of the Air Force.
Mr. Bush appointed Gen. James in 1995 as head of the state’s Air and Army National Guard. They reportedly enjoy a warm relationship and Bush aides have let it be known there will be a top Washington job for the 55-year-old officer if he is interested.
Gen. James spent 10 years on Air Force active duty, flying F-4 observer jets in Vietnam. As an Air Guard officer, he flew the F-16 Falcon.
Gen. James is the son of the late Air Force Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James, who flew combat missions in three wars and was the military’s first black four-star general.
Gen. James, creating time between his official duties and a dental appointment, told us in an interview last week that he would be honored to be considered for a Bush administration job. Service secretary jobs are typically filled weeks after a president-elect names his defense secretary.
“That would be quite an honor,” Gen. James said, when told he was being studied as a possible Air Force secretary. “However, I believe there are a lot of strong candidates out there. I have been honored to be part of the Bush team here in Texas.”
“I’d have to talk to my three-star, my wife, and see what she had to say about it… . I’ve never considered working in an administration at that level and I’m flattered that someone would think I have the credentials to do that.”
In his five years as an adjutant general, Gen. James said he has been a “change agent,” modernizing and making more professional a much-criticized Guard operation in Texas.
As for Mr. Bush, a former Air Guard fighter pilot, the general said, “We have a good relationship. I’m comfortable with him and I think he’s comfortable with me.”
GOP sources said Rep. Tillie Fowler, Florida Republican, is a leading candidate for either Navy or Army secretary. Mrs. Fowler, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, honored a term-limit pledge and did not seek re-election after eight years in Congress.
Sources say her spot might be determined by whether former Navy and Dallas Cowboy quarterback Roger Staubach accepts a Bush offer to be secretary of the Navy.
President-elect George W. Bush’s transition folks have bandied about the name of Frederick W. Smith as the president-elect’s defense secretary. It’s unlikely, but the idea is intriguing.
Mr. Smith is founder of FedEx, a pioneer in overnight package delivery and one of the country’s most successful companies. He is also an ex-Marine Corps officer who flew helicopters in Vietnam. FedEx’s political action committee, largely through donations from Mr. Smith’s pockets, has donated millions of dollars to political candidates, most of them Republicans in recent years.
And, he’s a friend of the president-elect. They were fraternity brothers at Yale in the 1960s.
One source said the transition team sent feelers to FedEx headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., and got a negative response.
Mr. Smith’s spokeswoman, Shirley Clark, said Mr. Smith does not want a Cabinet position.
“He would be honored to be considered for a Cabinet position. However, he is completely focused on the growth and success of FedEx and has a passion for continuing to lead one of the premier companies of the world,” she said.
Still, the possibility is intriguing. What better person to streamline the Pentagon and carry out Mr. Bush’s vision of a futuristic, high-tech force 10 years from now?
Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney, a former defense secretary, and Secretary of State-designee Colin Powell could handle heavy policy questions. Mr. Smith would have time to do something long overdue: deliver new weapons systems “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
If Dan Coats, former Indiana senator and member of the Armed Services Committee, finally gets the nod, people close to the transition say he would not be a good fit with Richard Armitage. Mr. Armitage is a Bush defense adviser who was thought to be the next deputy defense secretary. He may be assigned a senior spot at the State Department, reunited with his good friend Colin Powell.
Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are syndicated columnists. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at email@example.com.