- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

China exchanges

Critics of the Pentagon's aggressive diplomacy program with the Chinese military are preparing a counteroffensive. They complain of a deliberate effort by pro-China officials in the Defense Department to circumvent legal restrictions on the exchanges.
Pentagon officials told us the senators and congressmen had better hurry. More exchanges are planned that could aid China's military with more details on U.S. capabilities.
A case in point: Several months ago, the Pentagon offered the Chinese a chance to visit the U.S. Strategic Command. They were offered briefings on U.S. nuclear doctrine and operations at Stratcom's headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
"The only reason the Chinese didn't jump at the chance was their fear of a congressional backlash," one Pentagon official said.
The offer did not require the Chinese to provide a reciprocal visit by Americans to Chinese nuclear command headquarters.
Other questionable activities are being planned for future exchanges. They include trips by Chinese military officers to sensitive U.S. ships and aircraft, and demonstrations of U.S. war-fighting capabilities.
There is even consideration of lifting a ban on military sales to China and permitting transfers of spare parts for U.S. equipment. China bought the gear before the cutoff of arms sales after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Two groups of Chinese military officers were given sensitive briefings by U.S. military officers last week and this week.
Barring a tough response from Congress to the current visit by the Academy of Military Science officials and Pentagon speakers at the Harvard University program involving 25 Chinese colonels, "there's going to be a Christmas offensive," we are told. Meaning: more exchanges.
House and Senate national security aides tell us the questionable visits and briefings of the Chinese have set off alarm bells on Capitol Hill.
"We're going to tighten things up," said one senior House aide.
Officials tell us the aggressive exchange programs are being pushed by retired Adm. Joseph Prueher, the U.S. ambassador to China and former commander of the Pacific Command. Another supporter is the top defense attache in China, Brig. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, who is slated to move on soon to a post with the Army in Hawaii.

CIA briefs Bush

Texas Gov. George W. Bush will get his first "presidential" intelligence briefing tomorrow. Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin leaves today for Austin, Texas, with a group of analysts who will give Mr. Bush a classified tour d'horizon based on data from human and technical intelligence gatherers.

The briefing is meant to keep the candidate informed of world affairs and is a courtesy for presidential candidates. It was set up during a telephone call from White House National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger to Condoleeza Rice, Mr. Bush's foreign and defense policy aide, following the Republican National Convention last month.
"He remembered a similar call from Brent Scowcroft back in 1992," said one intelligence official, referring to President George Bush's national security adviser, who offered Mr. Berger the intelligence briefing during the 1992 presidential campaign of then-Gov. Bill Clinton.
Intelligence officials tell us the briefing will include Miss Rice, who still holds a security clearance from her days on the National Security Council staff. Mr. Bush, who we are told at one time had a clearance to receive classified information, will get a special one-time clearance for the CIA briefing. "It's a one-time thing," the intelligence official said of the briefing.

Lott's Navy

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, is trying to sell George W. Bush on a new Navy shipbuilding program.
Mr. Lott recently met with the Republican presidential nominee to urge him, if elected, to boost procurement from $8 billion annually to $22 billion. Mr. Lott's blueprint eventually would increase the fleet from an inadequate 316 ships to 350.
"All the admirals all say we are killing our sailors because we only have a 300-ship Navy and are running our guys to death because we have to send them off to sea so often," said a Senate insider.
The plan calls for building three destroyers, two attack submarines, two supply ships, two amphibious assault ships and one command ship each year. Congress also would fund a new carrier every six years and provide $1.3 billion for overhauls and nuclear refuelings.
Marine Corps assault ships, a platform for helicopters and Harrier attack jets are built in Mr. Lott's state.
The surface-ship Navy is not the only component afflicted by the readiness flu. Navy air forces also are struggling with spare parts shortages and lack of training hours. Vice Adm. John B. Nathman confronted the problem head-on earlier this month in a speech as he assumed command of naval Pacific air forces.
"To me, the fact is that we have reached such a low level of funding it will soon be impossible to meet the expectations of this nation in executing our operational tasks and completing the mission," the fighter pilot said. "There is a fundamental disconnect between the value we provide and the willingness of the richest nation on earth to pay for its demands."

Training wheels

Readiness at the Army's major training bases has been in a steady decline since the mid-1990s, documents and Army officials say.
The Washington Times reported this week that 12 of 20 facilities including those for field artillery, air artillery, intelligence and infantry have a C-4 readiness rate, the military's lowest. Army officials blame the shortfall of instructors on a recent plan to man 10 active divisions at full strength. This has left the training sites woefully short on personnel.
But the record shows the downturn began earlier as the Army was deployed on more and more peacekeeping missions while its budget fell.
Our sources say that by 1996 nine institutions were graded C-4 within a network of facilities managed by Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va.
Documents show the quality of soldier being turned out is declining.
"Most field commanders will tell you candidly, they are filled up with about as much 'individual' training as they can handle," said an Army source. "They desperately want qualified personnel to report for duty, not soldiers who still need to be individually trained before they can be useful to the organization."
For example, a confidential readiness report from Fort Sill, Okla., home to Army Field Artillery School, rates its training equipment C-4.
"The age of these major systems and their increased usage results in degraded … course instruction," the report states. "This is compounded by high maintenance costs and a lack of available repair parts in the system. There are two tasks not trained to standard because of lack of equipment."

Bill Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at [email protected] Rowan Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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