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China exchanges

Critics of the Pentagon’s aggressive military diplomacy program with
the Chinese military are preparing a counteroffensive. They complain of
a deliberate effort by pro-China officials in the Defense Department to
circumvent legal restrictions on the exchanges.

Pentagon officials told us the senators and congressmen better hurry.
More exchanges are planned that could aid China’s military with more
details on U.S. capabilities.

A case in point: Several months ago, the Pentagon offered the Chinese
a chance to visit the U.S. Strategic Command. They were offered
briefings on U.S. nuclear doctrine and operations at Stratcom’s
headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.

“The only reason the Chinese didn’t jump at the chance was their fear
of a congressional backlash,” one Pentagon official said.

The offer did not require the Chinese to provide a reciprocal visit
by Americans to Chinese nuclear command headquarters.

Other questionable activities are being planned for future exchanges.
They include trips by Chinese military officers to sensitive U.S. ships
and aircraft, and demonstrations of U.S. warfighting capabilities.

There is even consideration of lifting a ban on military sales to
China and permitting transfers of spare parts for U.S. equipment. China
bought the gear before the cutoff of arms sales after the 1989 Tiananmen
Square massacre.

Two groups of Chinese military officers were given sensitive
briefings by U.S. military officers last week and this week.

Barring a tough response from Congress to the current visit by the
Academy of Military Science officials and Pentagon speakers at the
Harvard University program involving 25 Chinese colonels, “there’s going
to be a Christmas offensive,” we are told. Meaning: more exchanges.

House and Senate national security aides tell us the recent
questionable visits and briefings of the Chinese have set off alarm
bells on Capitol Hill.

“We’re going to tighten things up,” said one senior House aide.

Officials tell us the aggressive exchange programs are being pushed
by retired Adm. Joseph Prueher, the U.S. ambassador to China and former
commander of the Pacific Command. Another supporter is the top defense
attaché in China, Brig. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, who is slated to move on
soon to a post with the Army in Hawaii.

Lott’s Navy

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R. Miss., is trying to sell
George W. Bush on a new Navy ship-building program.

Mr. Lott recently met with the Republican presidential nominee to
urge him, if elected, to boost procurement from $8 billion annually to
$22 billion. Mr. Lott’s blueprint would eventually increase the fleet
from an inadequate 316 ships to 350.

“All the admirals all say we are killing our sailors because we only
have a 300-ship Navy and are running our guys to death because we have
to send them off to sea so often,” said a Senate insider.

The plan calls for building annually three destroyers, two attack
submarines, two supply ships, two amphibious assault ships, one command
ship each year. Congress would also fund a new carrier every six years
and provide $1.3 billion for overhauls and nuclear refuelings.

Marine Corps assault ships, a platform for helicopters and Harrier
attack jets are built in Mr. Lott’s state.

The surface-ship Navy is not the only component afflicted by the
readiness flu. Navy air forces are also struggling with spare parts
shortages and lack of training hours. Vice Adm. John B. Nathman
confronted the problem head-on earlier this month in a speech as he
assumed command of naval Pacific air forces.

“To me, the fact is that we have reached such a low level of funding
it will soon be impossible to meet the expectations of this nation in
executing our operational tasks and completing the mission,” the
fighter pilot said.

“There is a fundamental disconnect between the value we provide and
the willingness of the richest nation on earth to pay for its demands.”

Training wheels

Readiness at the Army’s major training bases has been in a steady
decline since the mid-1990s, documents and Army officials say.

The Washington Times reported this week that 12 of 20 facilities –
including
those for field artillery, air artillery, intelligence and infantry –
have a C-4 readiness rate, the military’s lowest. Army officials blame
the shortfall of instructors on a recent plan to man 10 active divisions
at full strength. This has left the training sites woefully short on
personnel.

But the record shows the downturn began earlier as the Army was
deployed on more and more peacekeeping missions as its budget fell.

Our sources say that by 1996 nine institutions were graded C-4 within
a network of facilities managed by Army Training and Doctrine Command at
Fort Monroe, Va.

Documents show the quality of soldier being turned out is declining.

“Most field commanders will tell you candidly, they are filled up
with about as much ‘individual’ training they can handle,” said an Army
source. “They desperately want qualified personnel to report for duty,
not soldiers who still need to be individually trained before they can
be useful to the organization.”

For example, a confidential readiness report from Fort Sill, Okla.,
home to Army Field Artillery School, rates its training equipment C-4.

“The age of these major systems and their increased usage results in
degraded … course instruction,” the report states. “This is
compounded by high maintenance costs and a lack of available repair
parts in the system. There are two tasks not trained to standard because
of lack of equipment.”

CIA briefs Bush

Texas Gov. George W. Bush will get his first “presidential”
intelligence briefing tomorrow. Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin
leaves today for Austin, Texas, with a group of analysts who will give
Mr. Bush a classified tour d’horizon based on data from human and
technical intelligence gatherers.

The briefing is meant to keep the candidate informed of world affairs
and is a courtesy for presidential candidates. It was set up during a
telephone call from White House National Security Adviser Samuel Berger
to Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush’s foreign and defense policy aide,
following the Republican National Convention last month.

“He remembered a similar call from Brent Scowcroft back in 1992,”
said one intelligence official, referring to President George Bush’s
national security adviser, who offered Mr. Berger the intelligence
briefing during the 1992 presidential campaign of then-Gov. Bill
Clinton.

Intelligence officials tell us the briefing will include Miss Rice,
who still holds a security clearance from her days on the National
Security Council staff. Mr. Bush, who we are told at one time had a
clearance to receive classified information, will get a special one-time
clearance for the CIA briefing. “It’s a one-time thing,” the
intelligence official said of the briefing.

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