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High-Tech Strategy Guides Pentagon Plan

Military: The Cold War era is left behind in the secret document, which stresses a long-range approach to a new breed of enemies.

July 13, 2002|JOHN HENDREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — A secret Pentagon plan for the next five years directs the military to focus more of its spending to combat Afghanistan-style threats and weapons of mass destruction and to develop even greater precision-strike capabilities, according to a document reviewed by The Times.

The "Defense Planning Guidance" for 2004 to 2009 puts into action the Pentagon's plan to replace a Cold War-era strategy of being able to fight two major-theater wars at the same time with a more complex approach aimed at dominating air and space on several fronts.

The annually updated five-year plan, the first since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, represents an acceleration of the shift toward the high-tech gadgetry of warfare on which the Pentagon has relied since the Persian Gulf War of 1991.

The classified document requires the military services to further develop the capability to launch "unwarned" preemptive strikes, a new doctrine President Bush outlined in a May graduation address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

The document appears to emphasize the kind of nontraditional enemy American soldiers have faced in Afghanistan, rather than a peer-to-peer war with large numbers of conventional troops and weapons against such possible foes as North Korea and China.

The plan directs the armed services to spend their money on five areas: countering terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, intelligence, cyber-warfare, airstrike capabilities and military systems in space.

It also sets specific goals, such as the development of a squadron of a dozen unmanned fighter jets by 2012 and a "hypersonic missile" that can travel 600 nautical miles in 15 minutes--capable of taking out mobile missile launchers before they can be moved--by 2009.

The more than 50-page document is detailed in The Times' Sunday editions by defense analyst and columnist William M. Arkin.

Defense officials said the plan codifies the military transformation that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has touted since he took over the Pentagon.

It places emphasis on capabilities such as surprise "high-volume precision strikes," and calls for laser- and microwave-powered weapons and nuclear-tipped "bunker buster" bombs capable of striking deeply buried cave complexes such as those in the mountains of Afghanistan.

The weapons called for in the plan enhance the military's ability to launch stealthy preemptive strikes against a new breed of enemy, which the Bush administration has suggested could include North Korea and Iraq.

In his June 2 address announcing his "strike first" policy, Bush said U.S. forces need to be "ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world."

"We face a threat with no precedent," he said.

"Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies."

The emphasis on high-tech warfare appears to benefit the Air Force most and the Army least, a senior defense official said on condition of anonymity.

That may have an effect on the way the document is received by each of the military services. The document calls for the services to make cyber-warfare a "core competency."

That includes protecting critical U.S. computer networks and destroying or sleuthing the enemy's networks.

The policy blueprint outlines a shift from a "threat-based" strategy, aimed at combating major adversaries such as China or Russia, to a "capabilities-based" system, designed to develop the ability to "deter, deny and defeat adversaries who will rely on surprise, deception and asymmetric warfare to achieve their objectives."

Some defense analysts expressed a concern that the plan would send the message that wars can be fought with few casualties by "push-button warfare."

"It's this concept that we can sit in our air-conditioned bunkers and push buttons," said Ivo Daalder, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution.

"That leads to the absurd decision to fight a Kosovo war without a ground component. It leads to relying on insurgents and precision strikes to overthrow Saddam. It's absurd to think that that's the way we ought to fight warfare in each and every circumstance....

"Wars are still fought and won in the old-fashioned way: by killing more of the others than they kill of you. And by taking territories."

Nevertheless, some of the technologies envisioned in the plan could be used in traditional large-scale wars, said Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon official at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington foreign policy think-tank.

The paper indirectly criticizes U.S. intelligence performance, calling for major changes.

"It is also essential over the midterm period that we transform intelligence capabilities to provide sufficient warning of an impending crisis, identify critical targets" and develop new ways to monitor military campaigns and measure their success, the report says.

The edict follows criticism that the intelligence community had too little information on Al Qaeda operatives before Sept. 11, and often failed to communicate what it had with other government agencies.

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