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DoD News Briefing: Captain Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD(PA)

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD(PA)
July 17, 1997 1:30 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.

Let me start the briefing today by welcoming a group of journalists who are visiting with the U.S. Information Agency and they're from Africa. We welcome you all.

Then I also want to remind you all that Dr. Rostker is with us today to give another update on the Department's investigation into Gulf War illnesses. He's here to talk about the Institute for Defense Analysis -- we call it IDA -- their report that we're releasing today that reviewed modeling considerations for Khamisiyah and to let you know where we stand in the overall analysis.

He is joined by Mr. Bob Walpole, the CIA's Gulf War Illness Task Force Head; and Dr. Susan Mather from the Department of Veterans Affairs Public Health and Environmental Hazards Office.

Before I turn it over for that briefing, I'd be happy to answer a few questions that you may have of me.

Q: Can you tell us whether the Khobar Towers report is going to come down next week? The SecDef indicated on the trip that he was going to try to get it done rather quickly.

A: At this point I can't give you a specific date, Charlie, but I have some inkling that it will not be next week, that it will probably be before the end of the month, but probably not next week.

Q: Can you tell us what the schedule is for confirmation hearings for General Shelton?

A: We don't have a schedule just yet. As soon as we get that, we'll pass it along to you. There, of course, will be a recess in August. At this point my guess is that the confirmation hearings will occur after that.

Q: Did General Shelton come back to the Pentagon with Secretary Cohen, or return to...

A: General Shelton has returned to MacDill Air Force Base where his headquarters is located. There was a very nice ceremony this morning at the White House that I'm sure you all have seen reports on. Then subsequently, I think you probably had an opportunity to hear from the Secretary with some of his own comments about General Shelton.

Q: Given that it's the fourth time, if he's selected, that an Army officer will be named Chairman, how much opposition came up among the other services, particularly the Air Force, in the recent discussions?

A: Let me just say that certainly the Chairman... and from my brief conversations with General Shelton... the office of Chairman, represents all of the armed services. General Shelton, in his present position, takes that same philosophy. He represents Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps personnel, and I think that if you were to ask him this question, he would say very quickly that he looks forward to continuing to represent all of the uniforms of the U.S. military.

Q: Does the Secretary have any travel plans? Is he going on vacation?

A: Let us check on that. I don't have... At this point I don't have a good indication of what is in store in terms of travel. There is a trip coming up early next week that will take him out to the West Coast and we'll have some more information on that. He's going to be making a speech out there that we'll try and pipe back here. He has a couple of other events on Monday of next week, but we'll give you more details later.

Q: The incidents and the explosions in the British sector and the incident in which a U.S. soldier was apparently attacked. Are those indications of any kind of retaliation against the NATO troops for the recent arrest of war crimes suspects?

A: I don't think at this point, Jamie, we can tell exactly what these incidents mean. Fortunately, the serviceman that was attacked suffered an injury [that] was easily treated, and he was returned to his post the following day.

The other incident which occurred last night is still being investigated. It does not appear that the explosives that were used in that were very large, although they have not yet determined exactly what the explosives were. In any event, no one in that incident was injured.

But all of this kind of activity is of concern and as a result of that, commanders at every level in SFOR are alert and are taking the appropriate steps to ensure that their people are adequately protected.

Q: Does that mean there's a heightened state of alert?

A: Actually, I don't want to characterize the state of alert other than to indicate that commanders are always very sensitive to the situation in their area of responsibility and they take steps appropriate to the kinds of activities that are going on that might threaten their troops.

Q: No additional steps have been taken?

A: I think that most of you have seen reports of the kinds of assessment that reporters over there have made. We have not given a very detailed readout of the kinds of steps that have been taken, and actually, the steps are ordered on a unit-by-unit basis. What I am trying to convey here is that because that is the way that this -- that force protection -- is most effective it varies, and it is always based on the situation in the environment in which the unit is operating.

Q: Has there been any split between the United States and France over operations to capture suspected war criminals in Bosnia?

A: I'm certainly not aware of any split. This was a matter that was addressed yesterday at the State Department. I believe that Nick Burns was very specific on this.

Q: Have there been any discussions between the United States and France at a military level to avoid any rupture in policy?

A: I think you're aware that U.S. and French military personnel as well as military personnel from more than 20 other nations are involved in the SFOR mission which is ongoing in Bosnia, and there are discussions at many levels of the command over there on a continuing basis. The overall goal of the operation is to create an environment in which the Bosnia Accord [Dayton Accord] can take root, and that the country can have an opportunity to get on its feet.

Q: If I can go back to the matter of the Khobar report that will be forthcoming, am I correct that this is the Air Force investigation? This does not include the FBI investigation, and this does not solve the case, is that correct?

A: Your assessment is essentially correct, but I don't want to say it's strictly an Air Force investigation. It's a combination of the investigations that have been conducted regarding the terrorist incident that occurred at Khobar Towers.

The criminal investigation, the one that the FBI is working with the Saudis on, to my knowledge, is ongoing. The Khobar Towers investigation that we're talking about is the assessment that was conducted within the Department of Defense on this terrorist activity.

Q: And it does not solve the case, correct?

A: You mean does it identify the culprits?

Q: Yes.

A: To my knowledge it will not identify the culprits, that's correct.

Q: President Clinton today seemed to make it pretty clear that he was leaving the door open to a continued presence of U.S. troops in Bosnia once the SFOR mission ends as scheduled in June of 1998, saying whatever role would be pursued by NATO after that had "simply not been decided yet". Secretary Cohen has been pretty emphatic in the past saying that, "U.S. troops are not going to be there, and that American people are not going to have their forces deployed in that region." Can you reconcile those two statements, and can you tell us whether Secretary Cohen is opposed to continued U.S. troop presence after the SFOR mission ends?

A: What the Secretary, what the President, what the Secretary of State, what numerous other officials have said over and over and over again is that the SFOR mission will end in June of 1998.

Q: Will U.S. troops remain?

A: And they have gone on to say that it will end because NATO's mission there ends in June of 1998. They have also stressed that in the months remaining, while SFOR is there creating this environment in which hopefully peace can take hold, there are numerous other activities which are absolutely essential in order to continue the positive trends that have been going on in Bosnia since SFOR undertook its mission and IFOR undertook its mission. What the Secretary and what others in the Administration have been stressing is that's where the focus needs to be.

Q: The Secretary has said repeatedly -- especially early on -- that U.S. troops will not be in Bosnia after the SFOR mission ends. The President is leaving open the possibility that U.S. troops might be there under some other venue. Are you saying there's no conflict here?

A: I am saying that what the President and everybody else has said is that the SFOR mission is going to end in June of 1998. There has been no change to that.

What the President talked about this morning does not change that in the least. It simply indicates exactly what the Secretary, what every other member of the Administration has said, and that is that anything beyond that has not been discussed or determined at this point.

Q: So that's not to say that U.S. troops will leave at the end of the SFOR mission?

A: I don't think I can add any more to what has been said at least 100 times. The SFOR mission is going to end in June of 1998.

Q: Is the door open for U.S. troops to stay on in some other form?

A: I am not going to speculate on what is going to happen after that, simply because, as has been indicated on numerous occasions, that matter has not been discussed.

Q: Did he say U.S. troops will be out of there in June of 1998?

A: I have said over and over again the SFOR mission will end in June of 1998. That is exactly where we have been for all these many months. And let me just say once again, we want to focus on the weeks, the days, the months ahead in the very valuable time that we have left to do the good work that needs to be done over there. The Secretary has talked about this too. He's made it very clear that that's where the focus needs to be in order to successfully complete this mission.

Q: Korea. The attack by the North Koreans across the DMZ yesterday. What does this Department have to say about that one? And secondly, is that something that may have been done to provoke the South to counter -- to draw some kind of attack from the South?

A: Let me just point out that the United Nations Command filed a protest yesterday based on the results of a United Nations Command Joint Observer Team/Special Investigation Team's review of this incident.

The review determined that the Korean People's Army had committed an armistice agreement violation. The KPA delegation at Panmunjom informed the UN delegation that it did not accept the protest. That is what has happened since. I want to go on, however, to say that any exchange of gunfire within the DMZ is a matter of serious concern due to the potential for the situation to spiral out of control.

Q: But they got past the DMZ, didn't they? Into South Korea?

A: But the issue was the exchange of gunfire. We are calling on the North Koreans to adhere to the procedures which guard the military armistice agreement. This incident emphasizes the importance of moving forward on the four-party talks to move from the armistice to a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Q: Is there any indication that this may have been for home consumption of Pyongyang, or that it may have been something that Mr. Hwang -- the defector Hwang -- has talked about: the South Koreans starting a war and making it look like they were attacked or provoked?

A: I can't characterize for you exactly what this is other than to say that there have been no further incidents since this one.

Q: Has there been any change in the disposition of forces on the Northern side?

A: I am not aware of any change in that regard.