PLA on Taiwan

The People’s Liberation Army does not want to see a resolution of
the current Taiwan Strait crisis. That’s the view from Pentagon China
watchers. Keeping tensions at a low boil gives the PLA’s top generals
the basis to argue inside the Central Military Commission for more
resources for China’s
military buildup. This includes a potent arsenal of short-range
ballistic missile targeted at the island.

A resolution of the crisis would mean China’s military might lose the
rationale for the buildup. Since last summer, when Taiwan’s President
Lee Teng-hui called for “state-to-state” relations between the island
and mainland, tensions have run high. The PLA brass would like to keep
it that way.

The Chinese military buildup includes changes to both the hardware
and software elements of its forces. The PLA is working on new
“asymmetrical” warfare weapons — systems that will give them the
biggest bang for the buck in a possible conflict with high-technology
enemy forces, namely the United States.

Among the key features of China’s military modernization:

  • Increasing capabilities for joint war fighting.

  • Revising doctrine and downsizing many divisions to brigade-size
    units and an overall troops reduction of 500,000.

  • Cutting back on military academies by one-third.

  • Creating a noncommissioned officer corps, like the U.S. military.

  • Cutting mandatory military service from the current
    three-to-five-year hitch to two years.

One troubling aspect of Chinese military activities in recent
years has been Beijing’s strategy called “advance and reassure” — like
the takeover of islands in the South China Sea and then announce to the
world, falsely, that China is not expansionist.

This raises the chance for miscalculation. The PLA might try to use
force against Taiwan thinking the U.S. will not intervene. “They have an
ability to get it quite wrong,” said one Pentagon official.

Army ‘Coo’ (cont.)

This is the latest installment in our monitoring of the Army’s
“consideration of others” (Coo) program. An officer tells us he’s been
scheduled to go cooing next month and is appalled at the pre-class

Each unit member must paste a picture of himself or herself on a
piece of paper and then write alongside the five or six words that best
describe the person.

“Place them around the picture,” the instructions say. “You may draw
a picture or use an actual photograph but you are to use your own
descriptive words.”

Personnel must also list groups to which they belong or with which
they relate.

The objective, says the lesson plan, is to “allow soldiers to become
familiar with each other. This exercise is designed to give soldiers the
opportunity to learn a little about their coworkers and understanding
their characteristics, values and interests. By understanding each
other’s makeup,
you have a better understanding of the individuals as a whole.”

The Coo assignment tells each soldier they must discuss all their
answers aloud and be prepared to answer questions. One soldier told us,
“I am appalled that the military would allow such an invasion of
soldier’s privacy to occur, especially in light of the hierarchical
nature of the military. Is there any doubts that if a soldier’s values
are not those of the group that the soldier might feel pressured to
conform? This program smacks of brainwashing and indoctrination.”

Top gun down under

Actor Tom Cruise tried last week to reach Defense Secretary William
S. Cohen during the Pentagon chief’s visit to Sydney, Australia. Mr.
Cruise lives in Sydney with his Australian wife, Nicole Kidman. The star
of the action movie “Top Gun” about Navy fighter pilots spoke to the
defense secretary several months ago about getting a ride in an Air
Force F-16. The call in Sydney was to follow up on the request, we are

Mr. Cohen, who was in Australia on Saturday and Sunday to sign an
agreement with Australian Defense Minister John C. Moore, was not able
to hook up with Mr. Cruise during his stay.

“He was great in ‘Top Gun’ but I didn’t see ‘Eyes Wide Shut,'” — the
steamy drama featuring Mr. and Mrs. Cruise, the latter appearing naked
in several scenes, Mr. Cohen said.

The defense secretary told us that the 1986 movie, filmed at the
Navy’s Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, boosted Air Force
enlistments — but surprisingly did not lead to more Navy sign-ups.

Mr. Cohen told reporters in January he had contacted a number of
Hollywood big shots, including Mr. Cruise, to persuade them to take part
in a new Pentagon recruiting campaign. Perhaps Mr. Cruise is holding out
for a ride on an F-16 in exchange for an Air Force public service

Fox/chicken coop

The number of communist Chinese nationals working inside our
nation’s high-tech and defense companies is growing. Former Reagan
administration officials claim they disapproved of Chinese technicians
working on so-called “dual use” technologies that can be used on
military as well as civilian purposes.

But under the Clinton administration, the Commerce Department is
approving hundreds of Chinese each year to come to America to work on
“dual use” commodities whose export to China is tightly controlled. The
upward trend comes despite repeated warnings from the administration’s
counterintelligence people that China uses any means available to steal
U.S. technology.

We’ve obtained a confidential Pentagon document (a snapshot of one
year’s worth of applications) that lists more than 250 Chinese citizens.
They work, or want to work, at such high-tech giants as Honeywell,
Intel, Texas Instruments, Sun Microsystems and General Electric. We
placed calls to some of the companies, but got no reply.

The documents show the Chinese get access to encryption, integrated
circuits, source coding, software programs, gas turbines,
semiconductors, microprocessors and “missile technology.”

Commerce calls the hirings “deemed exports” because allowing a
foreign worker to enter our high-tech world is tantamount to providing
the know-how to the foreign country.

The department, which Republicans have accused of liberally approving
technology transfers to Beijing in a consuming effort to increase trade
dollars, operates “deemed exports” in virtual secrecy. On its website,
the department posts the number of applications processed each year, of
only 1 to 2 percent are disapproved. But it keeps confidential the
worker’s identity, his company and the technology commodity on which he
or she works.


  • Candidates for the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
    have emerged to succeed Gen. Henry H. Shelton, who has another year to
    go. They are: Gen. James Jones, the Marine Corps commandant (who would
    be the Corps’ first chairman); Adm. Dennis Blair, who heads U.S. Pacific
    and the new chief of naval operations, Adm. Vernon Clark.

  • Air Force Secretary F. Witten Peters gave his service bad marks
    in managing the flurry of Clinton administration peacekeeping
    deployments overseas. Mr. Peters told graduates at the Air Force
    Academy: “These airmen too often were dispatched on short notice with no
    specified return date. We tried to operate with volunteers, but as these
    missions continued and new ones were added, volunteers became short.

    “We did not budget for these operations — either with dollars or
    manpower. We operated this way because each new mission was ‘temporary’
    and many were supposedly of short duration. This was ad-hocery at its
    worst, and we paid a huge price.

    “Contingency operations drained off money intended for training and
    maintenance. They also drained off our experienced airmen, who were sent
    forward at the cost of reduced on-the-job training at home. Airmen who
    deployed were overworked and in many cases were unable to continue
    combat skills training.”

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