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DoD News Briefing: Deputy Secretary of Defense John M. Deutch

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense John M. Deutch
April 03, 1995 1:45 PM EDT

Friday, March 31, 1995 - 1:45 p.m.

Dr. Deutch: President Clinton has sent a letter to the leadership of the House and the Senate urging prompt action on the defense supplemental. What I'd like to do is to read one paragraph in this letter, then make a couple of comments. The paragraph I want to read is as follows:

"Both the House and the Senate have passed defense supplemental appropriations to pay for ongoing contingency operations. I applaud those actions and agree with the Senate's decision to meet our full commitment to Jordan, in furtherance of the Middle East peace process, in this legislation. Unfortunately, these matters seem tied up in the Conference, and a deadline is looming that requires immediate congressional action to recognize the emergency nature of this supplemental bill and minimize offsetting reductions."

That's a quote from the President's letter to the leadership of Congress.


Simply put, it says that if Congress does not act on this defense supplemental before it goes on recess here next week, military readiness will suffer. It's the message that we have said over and over again -- General Shalikashvili, Bill Perry have made to the Congress. The congressional leadership has recognized that. We must have action or we are going to have reductions which will influence adversely the readiness of our military forces.

We have asked the services to indicate the reductions that will have to take place beginning April 7th. There will be reductions in the Army of exercises; in the Navy of ship steaming hours; in the Air Force in flying hours -- $127 million for the Army; $73 million for the Navy; $116 million for the Air Force; $7 million for the Marine Corps; $10 million for our special forces; in operations and maintenance activities which will impair their readiness.

Bill Perry and General Shalikashvili have frequently said that if we do not have action by the 31st of this month, these actions will be necessary. The President's letter reinforces and encourages Congress to come to grips with this problem.

Very importantly, I want to add that the Department has had excellent cooperation from leadership on both sides of the aisle in Congress in dealing with this problem. We've had excellent help from Senator Stevens, Senator Inouye, from Congressman Young, from Congressman Murtha, Congressman Livingston, the leadership, everybody has been very helpful on both sides of the aisle, but the problem is not solved. This problem has to be solved or military preparedness and readiness in this country is going to suffer beginning next week, and we don't want to see that happen.

Let me stop there and I will take any questions you all may have. Thank you.

Q: Just how difficult will this make things for the military?

A: If it happens?

Q: Yes.

A: This is the first month, I mentioned to you, and every month this will continue until we have recaptured from lost operations, lost readiness, until we've recaptured the funds that we're seeking now, roughly a billion-and-a-half dollars. It will significantly impair the readiness of our Army, Special Forces, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy. It is a major reduction in our readiness that we have predicted would be the case if Congress didn't act. You will recall the outcry in the country, in Congress last year, when we had a very minor reduction in readiness because of three Army divisions.

We regard this as a very serious matter at a time when we have many obligations around the world to maintain our readiness. It's our highest priority, it's Congress' highest priority, as I've emphasized. This is not a partisan matter, not a difference in the executive branch and Congress, it's just a problem that has not been solved and it must be solved for the sake of our military forces.

Q: I was wondering if you could elaborate on why the money is being taken out of readiness. Why you can't take it out of developmental programs or something like that?

A: Further reductions in modernization programs are not contemplated at such a late time in the fiscal year. We have to match outlays rather than budget authority. Secondly, we have already reduced our modernization program to such a level... Bill Perry has made it clear that, because readiness is our highest priority, we've already had modernization be the bill payer to an extent that any further reductions in modernization would be very serious indeed.

Q: Where will we first see the effect of not having the money?

A: Army units with plans to go to maneuvers, into training at the National Training Center, will not go. There will be 25 percent reduction in Air Force flying hours. Ships that were scheduled for overhaul will not enter an overhaul. Ships that were scheduled to be available to the fleet throughout the world, such as the INDEPENDENCE and SALT LAKE CITY, will not be available. There will be a reduction in the operations of Special Operations forces and SOCOM as well. Every month that we don't get this money there will be additional such reductions, and I mentioned to you the roughly $250 million magnitude that we will absorb in the first month.

Q: How many Army units, how many ships? Are we talking two ships, 20 ships?

A: Three ships for the first month, and we can give you a complete layout of the specific actions happening in each service. This is not general categories. We will give you a detailed breakout and, indeed, I wrote a letter to the Chairman; to Senator Stevens, to Congressman Young; in the minority, Senator Inouye and [Representative] Murtha, enclosing for them the specific actions that will be taken beginning April 7th. These are actions that have been worked out with the Joint Staff in deciding how we would absorb the shortfall in dollars that are not available because of absence of action on the supplemental.

Q: Is there any executive power the President may have to find money elsewhere in the federal budget?

A: To find money elsewhere in the federal budget leads to an issue which is one of the problems which Congress is hassling with, which is how you would offset these reductions. The President, of course, in his budget proposed a certain allocation for the Defense Department, requested $2.5 billion of new budget authority, and offset the $700 million for that. But within the Defense Department we have one remaining possibility, and that is a civil war statute called Food and Forage. It is certainly an option that we have, but it delays the moment of reckoning here beyond today, beyond the end of March 31st. While some consideration can be given to that, it does not avoid the problem. The problem is, without an affirmative vote on this supplemental, readiness is going to suffer sooner rather than later.

Q: Does this stretch the force? And do you believe that lack of congressional action has an effect on morale?

A: No question it stretches the force, and that lack of congressional action is difficult for morale because it leads to uncertainty in every operating unit of the force, who are in a cycle this year of what their plans will be for deployments, what their plans will be for exercises and training, and what we have here is a significant uncertainty at this stage of the fiscal year in the remaining activities for the year. So, yes, it does add major uncertainty for our fighting men and women.

Q: I believe one of the units that was supposed to be going out to the NTC was the 4th ID. That was one of the divisions that was declared to be below readiness levels last fall. The reason they've been declared that was because they haven't had the chance to go out to the NTC before. So it seems like there's sort of a cascading problem here if it doesn't get solved.

A: If it doesn't get repaired, the C-2 status of that division or the C-3 status of units in that division will maintain until the funds are there to give them their rotation cycle in their training opportunities, including at the National Training Center.

Q: You've made these predictions of what this will do to the force before, to Congress many times. What does it tell you? They know the ramifications of not passing the supplemental, and they're here still stuck passing.

A: There's a very big difference this time than what happened last year. Last year these were general remarks that were made, that were made very close to when the events took place. In this case, we have been informing Congress that it is our required actions, actions required of us, not something we have discretion to do. It is going to happen. We have said that it would happen if we didn't get the funds before March 31st, and we are now identifying precisely those units that are going to be affected, and precisely when and what magnitude, and the amounts of money that will have to be captured.

Q: That's what I'm saying. You have informed them in the past, in the last couple of weeks, at least, precisely what will happen. Obviously, that hasn't moved them. Why do you think it hasn't? Why are they still at an impasse if they know the ramifications of...

A: I want to stress that these individuals are making a valiant effort to solve the many complicated problems that they have to solve at a time when they have a very full agenda. Let me say to you that I've found, every time we've met, that Bill Perry and I have met with the leadership or any of the committee chairmen or subcommittee chairmen, they are aware of this problem. They are extremely sympathetic to it. They understand the consequences that will happen if there isn't any action. It's just that the system hasn't yet come to a solution. The main purpose of the President's letter is to continue to urge absolute attention that this problem has to be solved before they leave.

Q: So the Congress goes off on recess and comes back and, in a month, passes this bill, then everything's okay?

A: No, these actions will have been taken if they come back a month from now and...

Q: The impact will have already happened. They'll come back from Easter vacation, they will have already wrecked part of the training cycle in some of these units...

A: That's correct. To the magnitude, to the impact that I have specifically indicated to you. We'll give you a detailed list. If there is an action in May, then by May 1st we will be up here again with the actions we'll be required to take in May, and so forth, through the remainder of the fiscal year, until we have cut back our readiness operations, until we've cut back our readiness activities to capture the amount of money that we are seeking in the supplemental.

Q: Have the delays started encroaching on FY96 activities?

A: It will have a tail effect into FY96, and we will not be able to assess that until we get closer to the beginning of FY96 and know what Congress plans for that budget request as well.

Q: Can you elaborate on that by saying what sort of a tone that sets for the discussions you expect to have on the '96 budget with Congress? Does it make you concerned that there are going to be similar problems trying to get the '96 budget...

A: Bill Perry and I have been of the view that those people who hoped or expected to get significant additions to the President's budget, to the President's defense budget, this it seems to us is evidence that those windfalls will not be forthcoming.

Q: In the last week there have been a lot of press reports about them taking... I'm moving on to Guatemala.

A: Yes.

Q: There have been reports in the press about possible involvement of U.S. Special Forces Army in Guatemala during a certain period of time. I know that you're looking into that matter. Can you tell us whether or not there were Special Forces from the Army in Guatemala during the time period 1998 to 1990 when...

A: Thank you very much for the question. Bill Perry, as you know, is off in Russia. Just before he left late yesterday afternoon, we discussed this matter, and decided upon a course of action here. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to tell you what we have done about this.

We have formed a Guatemala Review Panel. It is co-chaired by Judy Miller, our General Counsel, and Eleanor Hill, our new Inspector General. It has a variety of other people from all parts of the Department who have some knowledge or background in matters where the Department of Defense has dealt with Guatemala, ranging from the Inspector General of the Army, the Inspector General of the National Security Agency, experts in the Joint Staff who deal in Western Hemisphere matters, our Deputy to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Lin Wells, a variety of people, Walter Jajko, our Assistant to the Secretary for Intelligence Oversight. This group, this Guatemala Review Panel, has been charged today to find out every bit of information that we have on all Department of Defense activities with respect to Guatemala from 1988 to the present. All elements of all our activities in Guatemala. That will include intelligence activities, it will include operations, it will include Department of Defense counter drug activities, it will include elements which we have done when we have supported other departments or the Guatemalan government in one way or the other. The Secretary wants to be informed on every aspect of our activities in Guatemala, so there will be a complete picture, and a way of informing the President, who is intensely interested in this matter; the Congress; and the public about the conduct of Department of Defense personnel in Guatemala.

We will not speak on this matter determinatively until we have completed that review and that inquiry and gathering of all information.


The one matter I want to state to you is that the Secretary of Defense will hold people accountable for their conduct, but will not act until there has been a thorough review of the facts and all the information is gathered. This is a very important matter for us, and we are going to look at every nook and cranny. We have already... Immediately upon hearing abut this allegation, we have secured all areas that we know where there is material available that bears on the subject in the Army and NSA and elsewhere. Judy Miller, our General Counsel; Eleanor Hill, our Inspector General, have been charged today by me to carry out this inquiry which will give us all information on our activities in Guatemala, at which point we will be able to speak in a knowledgeable way about different allegations that are raised.

At present, we do not have any concrete information that would resolve any of the many allegations which have been made here.

Q: Is it possible to say whether there was any... You may not have the full picture, but if there were no Army special ops operating in Guatemala, you could tell us that now, or if you believe that there were. Yes, there were, but you don't know the extent or what they did...

A: We do not have an inventory at present of all of our activities which the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary can look at, of all of our activities in Guatemala. We are going to go through the process of finding all that out. We've asked our two most experienced and capable investigators, Judy Miller and Eleanor Hill, to lead a group to do this for us. It is only when we have that information that we can make a responsible and informed answer to these questions.

Q: Why have you included the DoD counter drug activities as part of...

A: I thought I said counter drug.

Q: Why have you?

A: Because there are activities where the Department has been involved in counter drug activities in Central America, and it is a candidate which may have had, there may have been activities in Guatemala, so that will be one of the areas that is reviewed. I'm not saying there is anything the matter here. I'm not saying there is any specific counter drug activity. I'm saying we're going to look everywhere. That's why I went through intelligence, operations, counter drug, and support to assure, to give you the impression that this is a complete review of all of our activities.

Q: At present have you found any evidence of any destruction of any documents or records?

A: No.

Q: Do you have any reason to question the veracity of the letter that started this whole matter? There was a report today that the man named Daniel D. Day, who was accused of shredding documents at the NSA, does not even work in the area of Guatemala, where he would have access to these documents. Do you have any reason to question the anonymous letter...

A: I have no reason at this time, and there is no information available to us in the Office of the Secretary of Defense to support or refute any of these allegations. That's why this review, this Guatemala Review Group, has been formed.

Thank you all very much.

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