- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

The Army has begun an investigation into whether its own officials tried to circumvent Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's plans to terminate the service's $11 billion Crusader self-propelled howitzer.
Victoria Clarke, spokeswoman for Mr. Rumsfeld, announced the investigation yesterday while delivering a blunt warning to anyone in the Pentagon who tries to block President Bush's desire to transform the military.
"If people haven't figured out over the last seven months how important it is to move quickly to transform the military so it can really face and address and overcome the kinds of threats we're facing, then they've just been asleep," Mrs. Clark said at a Pentagon press briefing.
The Army inspector general's investigation was requested by Army Secretary Thomas E. White, who early on promised his generals he would fight to save the Crusader from civilian budget cutters.
The inspector general is looking into the Army distributing "talking points" in defense of the Crusader to House Armed Services Committee members on Wednesday, the day after Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Mr. White that the system would be canceled. Some on Mr. Rumsfeld's staff consider the action insubordination, an official said yesterday. Army supporters say officials were only supporting an item the Crusader that is in the president's budget request as the committee wrote a defense bill.
Two sources said Mr. White was not involved in the decision to circulate the talking points, which charged Pentagon civilians with putting soldiers "at risk."
Mrs. Clark said: "Sometime after the deputy met with Secretary White and communicated what we would like to have happen, there were people making comments. There were talking points and fact sheets being sent around that did not support that direction. Who talked to whom, who did what, those are the kinds of things I'm sure the IG will look into."
She said Mr. Rumsfeld allows advocates in the military to express their points of view. "But when the decision has been reached, the expectations are that you will support that," Mrs. Clarke said. "And that's what we expect. And that's what I think we'll see."
The Crusader has suddenly emerged as a pivotal test case in Mr. Bush's desire to shift the military from a Cold War force to a more agile, technology-based war machine that can deal with varied threats, including terrorism here and abroad.
Mr. Rumsfeld not only has a tough sell within the Army, but on Capitol Hill as well. On Thursday the House Armed Services Committee approved language in the fiscal 2003 defense bill that prohibits the Pentagon from canceling the Crusader. Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and Senate Armed Services member, has promised a similar fight.
The Crusader, a tanklike vehicle fitted with a 155 mm cannon, was developed by United Defense, which is controlled by the Carlyle Group. The investment firm is led by Frank Carlucci, who served as defense secretary at the end of the Reagan administration.
Mr. White, a retired Army general and decorated Vietnam War combatant, has had a rocky start as service secretary. The Bush team recruited him from Enron Corp. He has been forced to answer a multitude of questions from Congress about his activities at the failed energy-trading company. The Pentagon inspector general is investigating Mr. White's handling of personal business during two official trips.
Mr. White says he acted properly and that he expects to be exonerated.
Mr. Rumsfeld's staff views the Crusader as outdated for an emerging battlefield that depends on lighter-weight systems that can get to the war theater quickly. They want Crusader money diverted to new technologies, such as satellite-guided artillery shells.
The Army says the Crusader is vital in military battles in which soldiers must suppress enemy fire and destroy encampments.

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