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by AlexD
Rated: E · Fiction · Thriller/Suspense · #1880511
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    The “Tank” is actually a rather ordinary conference room in the Pentagon but it was named after an earlier chamber that resembled a large fuel tank on its side.  The service chiefs had been meeting in it for years and the name stuck.  On this day, the Tank had only the Chairman and the four service chiefs.  Other generals and staff members were shut out, left to wonder what was going on in this most unusual meeting.  The staff officers were particularly incensed since it meant they were not hearing what their bosses heard.  This did not sit well because they did not like surprises, not at all.  But the chairman had been adamant. Service chiefs only.
         The chiefs were as curious as the others were.  Wolf sat at the head of the table with Carr and Green on his right and Re and Ostfeld on his left.  The sign behind him over the display screen said “Top Secret.” 
Re spoke up first.  “Well, Arnie, what’s up?  Why the secrecy?”
         Wolf cleared his throat.  “Gentlemen, I originally called this meeting to discuss the potential effects of the new EMA and I had intended to include our colleagues and the staffs but something else has come up.  Let me start by telling you that, at least for the time being, what I am about to tell you does not leave this room.”
         They took turns eyeballing at one another.  Each flag officer either nodded or said “Of course.”
         “Last night, the DNI, Ben Carter, came to my quarters and told me an incredible story.  It seems that President Ramsey had a report weeks ago that had the story on the Golovkin/Nosenko partnership.”
         General Ostfeld said “Where did it come from?”
         Wolf replied “It was from CIA and was coordinated with DIA, NSA, and the services.”
         Air Force General Green spoke up.  “Why didn’t we see it?”
         Wolf paused.  “The president, with the collusion of Secretary Skomroch, ordered it, in the words of Ben Carter, to be ‘buried.’”
         General Carr’s jaw dropped.  “What?”
         “You heard me, George.  He buried it.  He told Carter to rescind it on the grounds of `faulty analysis’ or some such.  Anyway, Generals Grayson and Reynolds and the other intel chiefs were ordered not to disseminate it further.”
         Ostfeld said “Hmmph.  You’d think one of them would have brought it to our attention.”
          “Are you kidding?” Re replied. “Nobody wants to bring a report that he thinks might be bogus to a four-star!”
         Wolf nodded.  “Right.  Probably, none of us would have done it under similar circumstances, not at least without some reason to smell a rat.”
         “And I smell a big one, maybe two,” said Green.  They all started talking at once. 
         Wolf held up his hand.  “Gentlemen, I think you see the sensitivity of what I told you about.  Other than Carter, and of course Ramsey and Skomroch, I don’t believe anybody besides us knows about this.  Now, what do we do about it, if anything?”
         Carr spoke up.  “What’s Carter going to do about it, besides tell you?  And does he know you’re telling us?”
         “He told me to keep it tight.  And he’s going to resign as DNI in a few days.”
         “Resign?  Then what?”
         “As far as he’s concerned, then nothing.  He’s going to come up with an excuse for quitting, a better offer from private industry or something.”
         Ostfeld chomped on his cigar.  “Damn.  I was hoping you’d say he was going to go public and plead his case.”
         “No way, Dick.  First of all, he doesn’t want to smear the Intelligence Community.  And secondly, with all due respect to the DNI, I don’t think he’s got the guts to do that.  Hell, Ramsey would probably deny it anyway.  Nothing seems to stick to this guy, you know that.”
         Admiral Re drummed his fingers on the table.  “Okay, so what do we do about this, Mister Chairman?”
         Wolf’s eyes met Admiral Re’s.  “Well, Mister Chief of Naval Operations, I wish I knew.  I just know ‘something is rotten in Denmark.’  And in Washington.”
         Carr ran his hand over his large head.  “So what do we have?  A president and a secretary of defense who are in the midst of ‘reforming’ the military, that is, downsizing and feminizing it, and along comes a report that says essentially that Russia is getting nasty again.  Now a report like that would be most inconvenient, wouldn’t it?”
         Ostfeld grunted.  “Of course.  So he orders it buried.  No kidding.  But how long did he think it would stay buried?” 
         “Long enough,” General Green said softly, his head down, “to gin up COMERGEN and pass EMA without too much opposition.”
         Wolf sat back in his chair.  “Exactly.”
         There was a prolonged silence as each man considered the gravity of the situation.  Finally, General Green lifted his head.  “Arnie, what are we going to do?”
         Wolf took a deep breath.  “General Green, I really don’t know.  I suppose this will get out in the not too distant future and perhaps some people on the Hill will demand an explanation.  In the meantime, the Russian thing will become public knowledge and the American people will know that our president is cutting our military budget while our old enemies plot and plan, well, whatever they’re plotting and planning.”
         Admiral Re said “Rumor has it there’s going to be an announcement from Moscow tomorrow.”
         Wolf nodded.  “And then we’ll see what’s what.”
         “General, do you really think that will change anything?” asked Carr.
         “No, General, I don’t.  At least not right away.  But we can hope.”
         Ostfeld grunted.  “Hope.  That and a buck will buy you a cup of coffee.”
         “Not at Starbucks.” Re grinned.
         Wolf regarded his fingernails.  “If any of you has any constructive suggestions, I’m open to them.”  They considered each other for a moment.  Wolf held one fist beneath his chin as he waited.  “Well?”
         Ostfeld finally broke the silence.  “Why don’t we wait until the Russian situation is made public and see what Ben Carter does.  Who knows, he may speak up after all.  In any case, the two intelligence committees on the Hill will probably have some questions about this business.  Besides, we’ve got to talk about this EMA crap.”
         Wold nodded.  “Seems like as good a plan as any.  Let’s reconvene this afternoon with the usual staff and we’ll take a look at the EMA bill.  I’ve had some Army JAG people examine it and they’ve come up with a version in ‘non-legalese.’”  He referred to the Judge Advocate General office of the Army.  Each service has one to take care of legal matters.  He stood and the others did the same.  “Gentlemen, before we leave, remember, keep that info about the report to yourselves for now.  And I mean to yourselves.  No OpsDeps, the vice chief, your staff, no one.”
         General Green was a bit surprised.  “Shouldn’t we bring the vice in on this?”
         Wolf thought for a moment.  The Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was an Air Force General named Harley McGraw.  For the last six months, he had been on special assignment for the Defense Acquisition Board overseeing reform of the Pentagon’s huge weapon acquisition system and was therefore “out of the loop.” 
         “Dan, let’s leave Harley ‘clean’ for now.  I’ll get a hold of him and fill him in later.”
         Green nodded and exited, wondering what Wolf meant by ‘clean,’ but he didn’t ask. 

         President Ramsey sat in the Oval Office, leaning back in his chair.  Seated in front of his desk were Secretary Skomroch, the first lady, Robert Colchester, his national security advisor, and his chief of staff, Marty Groves.  Imbedded in one wall was a 50” television that was tuned to CNN.  The scene was from Moscow.

“At the inauguration of President Nosenko were, among others, the heads of state of China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam.  Also in attendance were delegations from Iran, Cuba, Serbia, and Libya.  Ironically Vice President Eastwood was seated only a few seats away from some former and recent adversaries of the United States.  During his speech, the new Russian President stated that, although he will increase Russia’s defense budget, the United States has nothing to fear:
         (Nosenko’s face appeared on the screen and a women’s voice spoke in English over Nosenko’s words in Russian.)  “I can assure our friends in America and in NATO that there will be no new Cold War.” 
         The CNN announcer returned.  “In spite of Nosenko’s assurances, the very fact that Vladimir Golovkin, who is rumored to be desirous of a return of at least some form of communism, has been appointed Minister of Defense has some western leaders worried about the possibility of a renewal of the arms race.”
         Ramsey pressed the “mute” button and turned to Colchester.  “What do you think, Bob?”
         Colchester ran well-manicured fingers through his coal-black hair.  “Well, the cat’s out of that bag.  I’m sure some people in the opposition will be calling for an increase in the defense budget.  Don’t you think so Konrad?”
         Skomroch shook his head.  “Not the secretary, that’s for sure.”
         Colchester smiled.  “You’re the first SecDef I’ve ever heard say that!”
         Ramsey said “But what if the Russians really start to rearm?”
         “Mister President, it takes years to develop weaponry.  Unless there has been intelligence I don’t know about, not too much is in their acquisition pipeline lately.”
         The chief of staff cleared his throat.  “Bob, they certainly have enough current stuff to raise havoc if they want.”
         “Oh sure, Marty.  And they have a few hundred nukes too.  But they’re a long way from where they were before the USSR dissolved.  Hell, they can’t even pay half their troops.”
         Ramsey turned to Skomroch.  “What do you think, Konrad?”
         “I’ve seen nothing either from CIA or the National Security Council that indicates Bob is wrong.  They might rattle a few sabres but that’s about all.”
         Groves was unconvinced.  “Just the same, I’d recommend you go on TV and reassure the American people that everything’s okay, Mister President.”
         Ramsey sat up.  “I intend to do just that, Marty.  Thank you all for your opinions and advice.  Uh, I need to talk to Konrad privately for a few minutes, okay?”  Everyone stood except Skomroch.  “Honey, you can stay.”
         Merilee Ramsey sat back down.  As they exited Colchester turned to Groves and said “That’s odd, isn’t it?”  Groves merely shrugged.
         When the door was closed, Ramsey smiled at Merilee.  “Honey, thank you again for the job you did on the COMERGEN business.  Wasn’t she marvelous Konrad?”
         “Absolutely.  She did a wonderful job.”
         Merilee smiled.  “Flatterers.  So what happens now?”
         “Well,” her husband responded, “we will begin to see the fruits, so to speak, of our labors.  Konrad heah now has the wherewithal to begin cleaning out the Pentagon of the old school, don’t you Konrad?”
         Before he could answer Merilee broke in.  “How?  Just because we have a new law helping women and minorities in the military?”
         Skomroch smiled.  “Mrs. Ramsey, some of the ‘old school’ as the president calls them are going to be very disturbed by many of the changes which will be made.  I’m sure you will see some of the more conservative types putting in their papers for early retirement.”
         Her eyes sparkled.  “I see.”

Available as an ebook here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008190NSQ
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