- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2002

The Army's investigation into whether officials improperly lobbied Congress to fund the Crusader artillery system will likely find there was no top-level Army effort to undercut Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Instead, officials said in interviews, the submission of Crusader "talking points" to a House committee appears to have been the work of one Army civilian who had not been authorized to fax the document.
The Army's legislative affairs office initially created the draft for internal consumption, the sources aid. Officials said they do not expect any disciplinary action outside the legislative affairs branch.
In part, the mix-up stemmed from the timing of the cancellation decision. Mr. Rumsfeld's staff decided to ax the Army's $11 billion howitzer at the very time the House Armed Services Committee was writing a new defense budget that included a request from President Bush to continue funding the weapon.
"What you have is one guy who screwed up, and not the whole Army," said one defense official. The official and two other sources said Army Secretary Thomas White was not aware that the "talking points" document had been drafted or presented to some congressional aides and the press.
When Mr. Rumsfeld's staff heard about the document, "they started yelling for scalps," one source said.
Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, announced Friday that the Army inspector general was investigating whether any Army officials were insubordinate in working behind the scenes against Mr. Rumsfeld's wishes.
Mrs. Clarke seemed to suggest Mr. White was not a party to the lobbying when she told reporters, "I can tell you we're confident that Secretary White and the IG will get to the bottom of any inappropriate behavior."
"One person did something stupid, knowing the stuff was a draft, and left fax numbers and markings on it," said another official. "White was unaware of it until he got a copy of it after everything blew up."
Investigators for the Army's Office of Inspector General already have interviewed Mr. White and Army officials in the congressional liaison office.
The imbroglio began last Tuesday afternoon when Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz informed Mr. White that the Pentagon had decided to kill the Crusader. He asked the Army to prepare a study in 30 days on what technologies could be developed to do the job of suppressing the enemy.
Later that day, Mr. White returned a phone call to Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and a Senate Armed Services Committee member. A spokesman for Mr. Inhofe, who has vowed to save the system, quoted Mr. White as saying he was fighting to save the Crusader, a 155 mm cannon mounted on a tanklike armor chassis.
This exchange points out the difficulty in deciding whether an official was working against a stated Rumsfeld policy. By the end of Tuesday, there was not an official, final decision to kill the Crusader, only an intention to do so in 30 days pending a study. Under Pentagon tradition, a service secretary is normally free to make his case inside the building. Once a decision is final, he must salute.
"We don't think he did anything wrong in this," said Gary Hoitsma, spokesman for Mr. Inhofe. "We called him, and he called us back. There wasn't anything improper in that."
On Wednesday, the House committee worked on producing a 2003 defense bill of about $380 billion. The Army legislative affairs office received no official guidance that the Crusader was killed. So, some staffers drafted the talking points that are at the center of the inspector general's probe.
"They decided to support the president's budget because no one told them not to," said a defense official. "Legislative affairs made this decision independent of the Army."
The Senate Armed Services Committee starts writing its defense budget today. Mr. Inhofe plans to introduce an amendment similar to one approved by the House panel. It prevents the Pentagon from canceling the Crusader pending reviews that would not be completed until next year.


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