- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

An internal Army memo is ordering Pentagon officials to tightly control the flow of information on policy debates after draft briefings leaked to a newspaper showed proposals for putting female soldiers closer to land combat.

The internal memo was written by Lt. Gen. James Campbell, who directs the Army staff at the Pentagon. The Campbell memo was sent to a list of more than 30 Army policy-makers, warning them about press leaks.

The memo was dated Dec. 13, the same day The Washington Times reported on an Army briefing to Gen. Campbell that recommended doing away with a Pentagon rule against mixed-sex units commingling with direct land combat battalions.

The issue is sensitive politically because it would involve selling the idea to the staff of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Congress, where many lawmakers oppose shifting combat rules for women.

“I know each of you share my concern that poor control of sensitive materials seriously hinders our senior leaders’ being able to make decisions on their own time table,” Gen. Campbell wrote. “They trust us to guard pre-decisional materials until decisions are made.”

“In many cases,” continues the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, “we have lost positive control of pre-decisional briefing materials, decision memorandums and otherwise generally sensitive information. The result is misinformation being provided to the public on matters yet to be acted upon by our decision makers. This is a disservice to both our leaders and the American people.”

Col. Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said “you could draw that conclusion” that the Gen. Campbell memo was a response to leaks to The Times.

“The leadership is only taking a prudent move to remind the Army staff that they must practice information discipline,” Col. Curtin said.

But Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness and is fighting any plan to put women closer to combat, said the Army should share more information about the issue — not suppress it.

“There is a time and a place to keep some decisions confidential, but this is not one of them,” Mrs. Donnelly said. “Several briefings have shown that a few uniformed personnel and Pentagon civilians are not acting in accordance with the law requiring formal, advance notice to Congress before regulations exempting women from land combat are changed.”

At issue are newly configured combat divisions planned by Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff. The Army has created brigade “units of action,” self-contained combat teams that deploy and fight with support units in close contact.

Under some internal plans, co-ed Forward Support Companies would collocate with combat brigades. The problem is that a Pentagon policy adopted in 1994 bans collocation. Federal law requires the services to notify Congress if they plan to change the 1994 rule.

A Nov. 29 briefing to Gen. Campbell, previously disclosed by The Times, states, “The way ahead: rewrite/eliminate the Army collocation policy.”

The briefing contains a proposal for how to change the regulation to delete any reference to banning women from units that “collocate routinely with units assigned to direct combat mission.”

In his Dec. 13 memo, Gen. Campbell lists several ways to restrict the flow of information.

“All staff and secretariat offices will keep strict accountability of the number of copies produced,” Gen. Campbell ordered.

He also ordered staffers not to list the subject of specific meetings and briefings on calendars others can read.

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