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 rive 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 tire 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. …