Aspin overhauls Defense Department New secretary creates post in human rights

January 28, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- In a sweeping overhaul of the Defense Department, Secretary Les Aspin is creating posts on human rights, arms proliferation and the conversion of military industries, a plan intended to strengthen the Pentagon's involvement in foreign and domestic policy.

Among the least traditional of Mr. Aspin's choices for the new jobs is Morton H. Halperin, a former official in the Johnson and Nixon administrations who fought a lengthy legal battle with Henry A. Kissinger over wiretapping and who later served as director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Mr. Halperin is Mr. Aspin's pick for assistant defense secretary for democracy and human rights.

In reorganizing the Pentagon, Mr. Aspin is forming a 1990s group of the "best and the brightest" to deal with the new agenda of foreign policy issues, drawing on specialists from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Rand Corp., as well as present and former government officials.

Altogether, Mr. Aspin's plan and personnel choices are intended to forge a new approach and structure for dealing with the national security problems that the United States is facing with the end of the cold war.

These include the possibility that democratic reforms in Russian might fail, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the surge in ethnic strife and the need to retrain workers in the arms industry.

Some critics assert that Mr. Aspin's plan is a power play to strengthen the Pentagon's hand on foreign policy at the expense of the State Department.

They assert that the plan may divert Pentagon energies from its primary task: overseeing the shrinking of the military and maintaining and equipping the reduced forces.

Under Mr. Aspin's plan, the traditional civilian Pentagon functions will be handled by four branches: weapons acquisition, personnel and readiness, the office of the Pentagon comptroller and an office of national security policy.

The weapons acquisition branch is to be headed by John M. Deutch, a former under secretary at the Energy Department, and a former provost and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Personnel and Readiness will oversee the military reserves, health affairs and the military readiness of the forces. The Pentagon comptroller will serve as the chief financial officer. These appointments have not been disclosed yet.

The policy branch is to be headed by Frank G. Wisner, a former ambassador to Egypt and top State Department official. He will assume the post of under secretary of defense for policy.

It is the policy branch that is being reshaped to deal with the new set of issues. One new post is that of assistant defense secretary for democracy and human rights.

It will address military assistance to foreign governments, the training of foreign military forces, American policy on peacekeeping and humanitarian operations undertaken by the military.

Another new post is that of assistant defense secretary for nuclear security and counter proliferation. The post would in charge of arms control.

That position is to be filled by Ashton B. Carter, director for the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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