- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2000

Army aviation 'crisis'

The Army National Guard has sent an alarming message to aviation units, declaring there is a "current crisis" due to defective engines in AH-1 Cobra attack and UH-1 Huey utility helicopters. Pilot skills will suffer, the memo says, as the Guard prepares to send two divisions to the Balkans over the next two years.

We obtained a copy of the Feb. 11 message that states, "There are no timely actions that would preclude the fleet from extensive grounding."

As a stopgap, the Guard's Aviation and Safety Division is distributing 160 spare T-53 engines to keep some choppers airborne, and is telling units to use OH-58 observation helicopters for limited attack training.

The message said the best the National Guard can achieve is a "minimum" pilot proficiency. It said some downgraded pilots will be put on limited flying.

The message orders a cancellation of all Guard "collective" training inside the United States. "AH-1 crew members are restricted from performing live aerial gunnery until further notice," it says. "Commanders are required to appropriately downgrade aviators when not meeting the helicopter gunnery training program …"

Guard headquarters is urging pilots to maintain skill as much as possible through computer simulations.

The Army National Guard announced in 1998 that it was grounding 907 Hueys for between six months and two years due to gearbox problems. Since then, the Army has discovered significant problems with the T-53 engines.

"They're going to prioritize which one of these airframes stay in the air to maintain a lesser degree of aviator requirements," said Guard spokesman Jack Hooper. "We're going to have to reduce it simply because there are simply not enough engines to go into all the aircraft."

An Army source said the groundings have left the Guard with only five operational AH-1 Cobras and less than half its Huey inventory. Some Cobra pilots have been told not to expect to fly for two years.

"This means that just about every National Guard division now has no attack helicopter assets and minimal utility helicopter assets," the source said.

This includes two Guard divisions scheduled for peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo: the 29th Light Infantry Division in Maryland in 2001 and the 28th Division in Pennsylvania in 2002.

China plan nixed

Pentagon officials recently rejected a proposal drawn up by Ronald Montaperto, chief Sinophile at the National Defense University (NDU), for a congressionally mandated center to study the threat posed by China.

Officials familiar with the plan said Mr. Montaperto's proposal lost out because it would have produced the exact opposite of what was called for in legislation that authorized the center.

Instead of providing members of Congress with a place to go for unfiltered intelligence about China, the Montaperto-designed center would have become what critics called an "anti-threat" center. It would downplay the Chinese military threat, like missile deployments and new weapons purchases.

The $3 million proposal called for setting up offices outside the NDU complex at Fort McNair. It also funded a staff of 33 experts, many former military attaches, but all vetted for their views on China by Mr. Montaperto. Mr. Montaperto also was rejected as the proposed center's director because the legislation requires someone with Chinese language skills.

"The Montaperto plan was even too extreme for the Clinton administration," one official told us.

Mr. Montaperto has a reputation for being an apologist for Beijing. In 1996 he agreed with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chi Haotien, who embarrassed his Pentagon hosts during a speech at NDU by saying no one died during the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Even the State Department, known for its soft line toward Beijing, rejected Gen. Chi's remarks, saying "many people died in Tiananmen."

By rejecting the Montaperto plan, the Pentagon has put the NDU chief, Gen. Richard Chilcoat, out on a limb. Under the law establishing the center, he has until Wednesday to come up with another plan.

Asked about the proposal, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said officials "are in the process of discussing the possibilities [for the center] with NDU."

What about the deadline? "We're not at March 1," he said.

And speaking of intelligence on China, some defense officials were heartened that longtime Sinophile John Nixon retired last month as the Defense Intelligence Agency's top China analyst.

The bad news, however, is that another pro-China analyst and Nixon protege is getting the job. Army Lt. Col. Lonnie Henley is expected to assume Mr. Nixon's former post of defense intelligence officer for East Asia in the near future, a spokeswoman said.

EPA shock troops

More evidence of the Clinton administration's wacky environmental policies has come our way. This time it not environmentally safe "green" bullets and artillery shells. What's next, international environmental military forces?

A color brochure from the Environmental Protection Agency, titled "Environmental Security: Strengthening National Security Through Environmental Protection" says there is a "new definition of national security" that is defined by the threats posed by "environmental mismanagement, natural resource depletion, overpopulation and the environmental consequences of the Cold War."

In EPA's view, saving the whales and hugging trees is the key to world peace: "… [B]y addressing the environmental components of potential security 'hot spots,' threats to international security can be prevented before they become a threat to political or economic stability or peace."

The brochure notes that in 1998 the Pentagon signed a joint statement with the Chinese defense ministry on the cooperation on "military environmental protection." But it did not further specify how the U.S. military and People's Liberation Army will team up to limit China's population and pollution.

According to EPA's top general, Carol Browner, we can forget about the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Says the administrator: "By preserving the global environment, we promote the peace and prosperity of America and its allies."

The cover of the brochure shows a military helicopter and a Navy warship superimposed over a tree, fish and an eagle in flight.

Reagan's health

Former President Ronald Reagan, still a popular ex-commander in chief among the officer corps, has deteriorated in recent months, but is not near death, a knowledgeable source tells us.

Rumors of his demise circulated across the country this week. But a friend says, "I would be surprised if it happened anytime soon."

Mr. Reagan suffers from Alzheimer's, a debilitating brain disease that eventually leads to death.

Mr. Reagan is no longer able to leave his Los Angeles home. He moves around the house with the help of his wife, Nancy, and a full-time nurse. He enjoys sitting in the back yard, eyeing birds, flowers and L.A.'s skyline in the distance.

"Six months ago, he was getting around much better," a source said.

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