Monday, May 27, 2002

Clinton undead haunting Pentagon

by J. Michael Waller
Insight magazine, May 27, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his team are pulling their hair out trying to bring the Pentagon's policy apparatus into line with the president's wishes. At every turn, it seems, they run into entrenched bureaucrats, Clinton holdovers and others who not only pursue their own agendas but actively fund outright opponents of the administration.

The Pentagon's policy shop faces the tremendous challenge of serving as the brain of an open-ended international war on terror while also providing guidance on reshaping the nation's defenses to meet new threats and adopt new technologies. The first of these tasks was thrust upon it Sept. 11, when the Department of Defense (DoD) senior-management team was only a couple of months into the job; it since has remained that team's primary focus.

Daily headlines ranging from the shooting wars in the Middle East to a possible war between India and Pakistan to an escalation in narcoterrorist violence in Colombia and a host of other crises continue to show that the Pentagon can't pick the time or the place where its attention will be needed.

Added to the mix are the quotidian tasks of negotiating five-year budget plans through a difficult election-year Congress, balancing the State Department's college of rationalizers on international arms and defense agreements with existing allies, new friends and old enemies — and trying to move ahead on presidential priorities such as defending the nation from missile attack.

With a clear and urgent set of missions and an experienced leadership, several observers ask why there isn't a clearer focus with a more purposeful movement on key policy issues at a time of tremendous popular support for the war, for the secretary of defense and for the president himself.

Part of the answer lies in the degree to which the message is muddled — not only in the media, in Congress and within the DoD, but by the scores of Clinton holdovers and countless bureaucrats whose opposition to presidential initiatives and policies is in fact funded by the Pentagon itself through internal think tanks and external consultants.

"This cognitive dissonance is to be found in three places: Pentagon and interagency-loan billets, the defense university system and in grants to contractors, academics and the 'CINC-tank' system of specialized regional policy shops — a series of self-styled policy centers created during the Clinton administration to bring what [conservative public intellectual] David Horowitz labeled 'tenured radicals' into the DoD ranks," says a Rumsfeld operative who asked to remain anonymous.

"CINC tanks" is shorthand for the five policy groups under the direction of the regional military commanders-in-chief (CINCs) that frustrated officials say have become sponsors of sinecures for shelved Clinton/Gore policy operatives. While not necessarily "radicals" in the political sense, such individuals have used their Pentagon-funded platforms to attack President George W. Bush's policies.

The Honolulu-based Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the CINC-tank of the U.S. Pacific Command, has come under fire during the last year for sponsoring outspoken opponents of the president's initiatives. When Rumsfeld curtailed Chinese military access to the United States following Beijing's forced downing of a U.S. Navy intelligence aircraft last year, the center's director, retired Marine Lt. Gen. H.C. Stackpole, openly criticized the secretary's move. Stackpole also drew ire for allegedly undermining the president's missile-defense initiative by criticizing it publicly during a visit to Australia — one of the few countries wholeheartedly behind Bush's early national missile-defense plan.

The DoD's Africa Center for Strategic Studies is a virtual hive of left-wing activists at a time when Africa is of increasing importance as a theater of fighting international terrorism. One of the center's senior academic officials previously was with the International Human Rights Law Group, and was a World Bank consultant and U.N. diplomat. The center's academic chair of civil-military relations is listed as "a development and gender consultant." Its academic coordinator is noted for her experience in "policy analysis and community activism" with the Washington Office on Africa, which actively sympathized with Soviet-backed revolutionary movements during the Cold War.

"The runaway CINC tanks are polluting the military officers they share billets with, they sow discord against the president's policies and legitimize criticism through their supposed representation of the JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff], and they spin our allies' rising officers in the wrong direction," says a defense scholar currently trying to fix the problem for the Pentagon. "Some of the CINC tanks credentialize leftists and people with few legitimate credentials even as they deny the same opportunities to our good junior officers who are needful."

The National Defense University (NDU), in addition to educating U.S. military officers, plays host to research and advanced-studies institutes that focus on different defense areas. Adm. Paul Gaffney, the NDU's president, wins high marks for keeping the university on an even keel. Its Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) operates as a think tank for the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I

nsiders tell Insight that politicized Clinton appointees are being rotated out as soon as their contracts expire. "INSS was a problem area, but it's come a long way and still needs a little more work," says a longtime veteran of the Pentagon policy shop. "It needs good people who can follow national-security-related immigration and energy issues. It needs a Claire Sterling to connect the dots on terrorism, drugs and proliferation — a big-picture person who is cleared to study highly classified information and put the pieces together."

The late Claire Sterling was a journalist who defied the U.S. intelligence community's conventional wisdom in the late 1970s and early 1980s and pieced together a covert Soviet-sponsored operation in support of international terrorism that she dubbed the "terror network."

The Pentagon policy veteran adds: "It also needs some good China people. The China part of INSS is too small and it doesn't have the ability to fight the 'panda huggers' in every other institution of government. Congress tried to give INSS a strong China shop but refused funding when a panda hugger was to be appointed to run it."

It's hard for the defense secretary to promote the president's policies when members of his own think tank publicly undermine them, insiders tell Insight.

Richard Sokolsky, a visiting INSS senior fellow, blasted Bush's nuclear-posture review in a Washington Post op-ed last January. Arguing that Bush's proposed unilateral cuts of 6,000 operationally deployed warheads to fewer than 2,200 didn't go far enough, Sokolsky compared them to President Bill Clinton's "timid" proposals of five years before. The INSS figure said that "it is hard to imagine a plausible contingency" that would merit Bush's plan to stockpile nuclear warheads, and said that Bush should make further radical cuts to help "Russian President Vladimir Putin defend his pro-American policy from domestic hawks." Sokolsky argued that the Bush plan leaves 10 times as many operational warheads as the United States ever would need. The United States should make further unilateral disarmament cuts until it had only "a few hundred" nuclear warheads, this Pentagon "expert" argued, keeping none in reserve.

"Those types of public articles undermine policy and don't serve the secretary or the president," says a senior Pentagon official dealing with nuclear-missile issues. Nobody has produced a dollar figure, but it appears the national-security community is paying more people to oppose administration policy than to develop it.

Some make a finer point: The money is going to political opponents of the administration to shape the administration's own policies. A case in point, one critic says, was a May 6-7 National Security Agency-sponsored conference to map out a four-year strategy for homeland defense. Administered by ANSER, a major defense consulting firm, the conference recruited a range of policy experts from across the political spectrum.

This created "an opportunity for the field's leading thinkers and practitioners to examine how the nation can cultivate an effective homeland-security posture for the long term," according to ANSER. It was "intended to provoke debate, develop new ideas and offer recommendations for policymakers who must design homeland-security policies, strategies and institutions."

But the invitation list shows that, apart from a few invited Bush-administration officials, the participants were weighted against the administration's conservative approach and included many former Clinton-Gore appointees.

Even where a sponsored policy event was organized by friends of the administration, such as a November 2001 Rand Corporation conference to develop a new policy toward Cuba, out-and-out apologists for the Cuban regime such as Wayne S. Smith were included in the deliberations.

A source close to the Pentagon's policy office laments, "You have no idea how hard it is to work on the war, find extra hours to develop a forward-looking policy that tracks with the president's and SECDEF's [secretary of defense's] priorities and then try to advance it on the Hill or in the [decision-making] process, and find yourself outmanned by an opposition funded not by the leftist foundations or the congressional-opposition staff budget, but by your own policy shop's budget."


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