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Military News Briefs for the Week of April 20, 2001

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2001 – (This is a summary of the American Forces Press Service news stories for the week ending April 20, 2001.)



DoD and the services are now keeping a closer eye on how many days service members spend away from home, in accordance with the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act.

DoD is trying to reduce the number of days service members are deployed. To keep these numbers down, Congress provided a financial disincentive: DoD will have to pay $100 a day to any service member who's deployed more than 400 days in the previous two years. The days need not be consecutive.

Stark explained reporting began Oct. 1, 2000. Only deployed days past that date count toward the additional payment. So, conceivably, heavily deployed service members may be eligible for the "high-deployment per diem" as early as November 2001.

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The U.S. government is looking at possibly reducing or eliminating American participation in the peacekeeping force in the Sinai, Pentagon officials said April 19. Currently, 865 U.S. soldiers are deployed to the area.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had discussed the possibility of reducing U.S. troop levels to the Multinational Force and Observers during meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on April 3 and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on March 19.

Quigley said this was in keeping with President Bush's campaign pledge to examine U.S. troop stationing around the world and see where they might be reduced. U.S. forces have served with the MFO in the Sinai since April 25, 1982. Congress capped troop participation at 1,200.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters April 13 that U.S. Navy pilot Lt. Shane Osborn's EP-3 surveillance plane was on auto pilot and flying straight and level when a Chinese fighter jet hit him March 31.

The Chinese jet was "buzzing" the EP-3 when its tail hit the Navy aircraft's No. 1 engine propeller, Rumsfeld said. At that point, the EP-3's auto pilot went off and the plane made a steep left turn and lost some 5,000 to 8,000 feet in altitude before Osborn regained control.

"Our EP-3 was flying an overt reconnaissance and surveillance mission in international airspace in an aircraft clearly marked 'United States Navy,'" Rumsfeld told reporters. "It was on a well-known flight path that we had used for decades. Many countries perform such flights, including China."

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The Persian Gulf is the crucial area for U.S. Central Command, but the command has much more on its plate, Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks told Congress recently.

"The volatility of our region requires that USCENTCOM remain adaptable and agile," the CENTCOM commander in chief told members of the House Armed Services Committee. "Without a large footprint in the region, we must be truly 'deployable.' Responsive command, control and communications during peace, crisis and conflict will remain key to our ability to accomplish the mission."

CENTCOM's area of responsibility includes the northern Red Sea, Egypt, Jordan, East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and South Asia from Pakistan up to Kazakhstan -- 25 nations in an area about twice the size of the continental United States, Franks said.

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The U.S. Army has finished field-testing a computer system that allows commanders at many levels to talk, exchange information and perform many missions. Two brigades tested the system April 1-14 during Division Capstone, the largest battle games in years at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.

Officials said the system is a concrete example of "information superiority." Army Col. John Antal, exercise chief of staff, said the system allows commanders to know exactly where all their vehicles are and -- with input from intelligence systems -- where the enemy is.

Essentially, the tactical network mimics the Internet. Commercial software runs the system and any casual computer user should be able to figure out how to navigate the system easily. On the screen, friendly forces are shown in blue. Enemy forces -- when found -- appear in red.

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