Thursday, February 02, 2006

Overhaul Eyed For Rumsfeld's Policy Office

By Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times
February 2, 2006

Senior planners for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have presented him with confidential recommendations for the first overhaul of his policy office since the Cold War.

Some officials fear the overhaul will dilute the power of the civilian subordinate office within the policy office that oversees special operations, the lead force in tracking and killing al Qaeda terrorists.

Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Ryan Henry, his chief deputy, spearheaded the study designed to make the policy-writing shop within Mr. Rumsfeld's office, which had been run by Douglas Feith, more compatible with fighting terrorists and to interact with the increasingly powerful U.S. combatant commanders around the globe. Mr. Feith was a key architect of the Iraq war.

Mr. Rumsfeld takes a keen interest in policy development, choosing an "iterative" process whereby the plan matures and changes through research and discussion.

A senior defense official, who confirmed the study's existence, said it is "very premature" to speculate on specific changes, but he added "the secretary always has a sense of urgency."

The policy bureaucracy under Mr. Feith has played a prominent role in the war on terror. It devised a key objective in the war of denying territory as the best way to stop al Qaeda. It also developed the blueprint for vastly increasing Special Operations Command's power and numbers, and augmented plans for war and post-war operations in Iraq.

But to some, the policy shop's structure has one foot in the Cold War. Principal offices for overseeing policy in Europe and Asia -- International Security Policy and International Security Affairs respectively -- were set up under President Reagan. And some officials complain of poor liaisons between policy and the new undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

"The idea is that a lot of the organization for policy is stuck, despite our best attempts, more or less in the Cold War," the senior defense official said.

The source declined to provide specific options but did say one focus is "a way to align the undersecretary of intelligence and special operations."

The policy shop oversees commandos through the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict (SOLIC). That post is now held by Thomas O'Connell, a former commando.

The office has limited influence with Mr. Rumsfeld, according to defense officials who say it had little involvement in the soon-to-be released Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The QDR contains significant new programs for special operations, yet most of the initiatives came not from SOLIC, but from U.S. Special Operations Command (SoCom) in Tampa, Fla., the sources said.

Some in the defense establishment fear the Edelman study is a route to abolishing SOLIC altogether and putting policy oversight closer to Mr. Rumsfeld's office.

Mr. Rumsfeld takes a special interest in SoCom, and frequently discusses missions with Gen. Doug Brown, who heads the organization.

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