U.S. Army Secretary Thomas White is in Hawaii for meetings with cvilian advisers to the Army. He met with the media at the Sheraton-Waikiki Hotel yesterday.

Army secretary expects
larger force to Philippines

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Army Secretary Thomas White said he believes an additional 100 soldiers will be sent to the Philippines in the latest U.S. change in counterterrorism tactics, which will allow the military to have a direct combat role.

The Pentagon said Thursday that more than 1,700 military personnel, including 350 Special Forces soldiers, will be allowed to fight back for the first time since the United States began advising the Philippine armed forces more than a year ago.

After spending yesterday at Schofield Barracks meeting with soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division, White, who has been their civilian head since 2001, said their "training is at a very high operational tempo."

Talking about the Philippine operation, White told reporters that the Army Green Berets and the other soldiers "will continue their training support activities, but they will have quick force responsibility ... to respond to any contingencies that might occur during the operation."

The Green Berets will be sent to the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines in the continuing battle against the Abu Sayyaf rebels as early as next month, the Pentagon said.

As for a possible realignment or reduction of the 37,000 troops now in South Korea, White said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Leon LaPorte, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, are evaluating the situation, "looking at the most appropriate posture."

White said other considerations might be whether there "are other things we can bring -- firepower-related, air-related -- to change the type structure we have there (and) to better the situation as it currently exists and the capabilities of the South Koreans."

That matter will be determined by LaPorte, Rumsfeld and Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Forces commander, White said.

The evaluations are under way as South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, who wants the United States to realign and readjust the roles of American troops, takes office on Tuesday.

During his nearly week-long visit here meeting with 70 civilian advisers to the Army, White said he was not able to confer with Fargo since the admiral is in Alaska visiting Army leaders and soldiers.

As for his "Third Wave" initiative that would let private companies compete for the jobs of more than 200,000 Army workers, White said he expects to decide within the next 60 days what jobs can be considered "noncore" and could be outsourced or privatized. In Hawaii more than 4,200 civilians work for the Army.

In the past, the major type of jobs that could be privatized were those in the areas of maintenance and repair.

White cited running the maximum-security prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas as a possible activity that the Army could get out of doing.

"The Federal Bureau of Prisons," White said, "has excess capacity in the criminal system, and they can run the place a lot cheaper than we can, so why not outsource the prison business to the Federal Bureau of Prisons?"

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