The Army is drafting plans for a new "quick-strike" force of 110,000 troops to respond to crises in the Persian Gulf or other hot spots outside of NATO, Gen. Bernard W. Rogers said yesterday.
In a farewell news conference as Army chief of staff, Roger explained that the Unilateral Corps" would consist of the 82nd Airborne and other current units that are not committed to fighting a North Atlantic Treaty Organization war.
The Unilateral Corps is the Army's answer to President Carter's desire for a specialized force for conflicts in the Third World. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps would have units assigned to the Unilateral Corps, Rogers said.
Rogers, who is leaving his job to succeed Gen. Alexander M. Haig as NATO commander, said that the corps would be a "go-any-where" force rather than one specifically targeted on the Persian Gulf or any other area.
Despite Rogers' declaration that the force would not be specifically targeted on the Persian Gulf and Middle East, creation and use of the force are major topics on the agenda of a secret two-part White House review of U.S. policy in the Middle East that began yesterday, administration sources said.
The State Department, which chaired yesterday's opening session of the Cabinet-level Policy Review Committee, is reportedly opposed to any large increase in the U.S. military presence in or targeted on the Middle East.
After considering diplomatic and polticial options yesterday, the committee is due today to take up military options. Today's session is to be chaired by Defense Secretary Harold Brown.
"There has been no decision to deploy such a force," State Department spokesman Hodding Carter said. "We are aware of planning on a contingency basis." Defense Department spokesman Thomas Ross said that "the Army has made a decision to draft a plan," and it would be up to President Carter to decide if the plan would be put into effect.
Oil-producing countries in the Persian Gulf have reacted sharply to public discussion of U.S. capability to intervene in that region to keep oil flowing to the industrialized world.
Army leaders said the idea for the Unilateral Corps in to give the unified commanders, such as the commander in chief for the Pacific, a force they can call upon for help without going through the time-consuming process of identifying and rounding up available units.
The Army plan, still on paper, does not envision assembling the corps at one place. Instead, the combat troops and support units would stay where they are. They would be equipped to respond as a corps in a hurry, however.
The planning for the new corps has been headed by Gen. Edward C. Meyer in his role as Army chief for operations and plans. Carter has chosen Meyer to succeed Rogers as Army chief of staff.
Asked yesterday if the Unilateral Corps is a concept or a concrete decision, Rogers replied: "The Army intends to do this."
Part of the impetus for the corps came from the secret "consolidated guidance" that Pentagon civilian executives issued to the services last year. It suggested a Persian Gulf force consisting of two Amry divisions and one Marine amphibious force.
Rogers said yesterday that he could not predict when the organizational work on the Unilateral Corps would be finished nor how many troops, ships and planes from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps would be involved.
Military sources cautioned against portraying the corps as a new addition to U.S. military striking power.
They said the military, in constituting the corps, must make do with the troops it already has and work around current shortages of ships and transports to send units and weaponry to distant points.
In the secret draft of "consolidated guidance" Defense Secretary Harold Brown sent to the military services for the five-year fiscal 1980 through 1984 period, he said conflicts in the Persian Gulf "could soften the glue" of the NATO alliance "as surely" as Soviet superiority along the NATO front.
To fight "half-wars," Brown said a new outfit "should be structured, manned and equipped for contingencies that could precede a major war in Europe." CAPTION: Picture, Gen. Bernard Rogers on the new Unilateral Corps: "The Army intends to do this." UPI