DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA
Thursday, April 20, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
[Mr. Bacon is joined at today's DOD News Briefing by Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, Jr., Director of Military Support for the Department of Defense.]
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.
Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, the Director of Military Support, will be the primary briefer today. He'll give you a rundown of Defense Department assistance in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing. If you have any questions on other topics, I'll respond to them after General Scales completes his briefing.
Before he starts, I'd like to make just one point here. The 36 people who died in the bombing include an Army sergeant who worked in the recruiting station in the federal building and a child of a soldier. Two soldiers are in critical condition. Four Marines and one civilian were sent to the hospital. Thirteen DOD personnel remain unaccounted for.
We send our heartfelt sympathy out to the families of these and the other victims of the bombing and we, of course, join the President in condemning this murderous event.
Q: Have you anything on the suspect or report of suspects?
A: I just saw the report. The President addressed that question. We have nothing we can say about that. The investigation is going on vigorously, but I have nothing I can give you on that particular report that someone has been picked up from the UK and returned to the U.S.
Q: No requests for a U.S. military transport or...
A: I can't go beyond what I said. We have nothing more to say about that right now. When we have more information on the investigation -- which is being conducted by the FBI and not here -- the information will be forthcoming.
Q: So you're not confirming nor denying whether this suspect might be being returned on a military...
A: I'm telling you I'm not saying anything about the suspect or what's happening to the suspect.
General Scales: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Major General Bob Scales. I'm the Director of Military Support in DOD, and, as such, I'm the central point of contact for coordinating military support to civilian authorities.
First of all, I'd like to also express my condolences and the condolences of the DOD leadership for the victims of this terrible tragedy and their families. We in DOD are doing all we can to provide timely, immediate, and complete support to aid the victims of this terrible tragedy.
As many of you know, some DOD families are affected by this event. We had three offices in the building. We had soldiers, Marines, DOD civilians and family members in the building when the explosion occurred.
Briefly, what I'd like to do is talk about the immediate response to the event that occurred yesterday morning, and then I'd like to talk, briefly, about how our process works for providing DOD support from the Pentagon, and then conclude with what we in DOD have done so far.
Within minutes after the detonation occurred, the commanders at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Tinker Air Force Base -- which is situated a few miles east of Oklahoma City -- responded with immediate support. The commander at Fort Sill provided two Huey UH-1H med-evac helicopters. They provided explosive experts from the 61st Explosive Ordnance Detachment at Fort Sill, and they provided military police bomb detection dog teams. They were dispatched late in the morning, early in the afternoon.
The commander of Tinker Air Force Base immediately dispatched two ambulances with doctors and a 66-man rescue team, who moved immediately, to the site.
Shortly after the explosion occurred, we received a call from the Federal Emergency Management Agency telling us that our support would be needed, and more substantial aid from DOD... We started the process of providing more substantial aid from DOD immediately thereafter.
Briefly, let me just explain that the system for employing, or deploying, U.S. military forces on American soil is different than the process for deploying operational forces overseas. In both cases, of course, final approval comes within the Department from Dr. Perry -- the Secretary of Defense. But, in this case, his executive assistant, and his executive agent for deploying operational forces on American soil, is Mr. Togo West, the Secretary of the Army. So Mr. West exercises direct oversight and he coordinates directly with me for the dispatching and oversight of these forces.
My office, essentially, handles the tactical side of that, in that we coordinate the execution of that support.
Two points I'd like to make -- probably, both of which you already know. We in DOD are not the lead agency. We respond to direct requests. And in this case, the request has come for DOD support, primarily, from FEMA, but also from the FBI.
Even though the process I just described to you sounded lengthy, I must tell you that in this case -- particularly, when time is of the essence -- approval, and orders for dispatch, is measured in minutes rather than hours. And I think we lived up to that reputation yesterday and today.
A quick editorial comment. I think it's important to say that our hats -- in DOD -- are off to both FEMA and the FBI. We're all experienced operators, and I must tell you that both of these federal agencies demonstrated an exceptional degree of professionalism, and they've done a great job in responding to this terrible tragedy.
With that said, here's what we've done so far. We have provided six C-141 transport aircraft from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, Travis Air Force Base in California, Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, and the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia. These aircraft are moving FEMA's urban search and rescue teams from those locations to Tinker Air Force Base and from Tinker Air Force Base to Oklahoma City. Right now, two teams are on the scene; two teams are staging at Tinker; and two teams are being prepared to fly out, as we speak.
We provided a C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland -- just east of Washington, D.C. -- to transport the FBI's crime lab vans to Oklahoma City. The aircraft has landed and these crime lab vans are on the scene.
We deployed a Defense Coordinating Officer -- a DCO, a colonel from Fort Sill, Oklahoma -- to the scene, to act as our DOD point of contact. He is co-located at the disaster site with FEMA and started operating out of there yesterday afternoon.
Seven of our Army casualty affairs specialists, from Fort Sill, are assisting the Oklahoma City medical examiner's office.
The Oklahoma National Guardsmen are providing outstanding support in this operation. The 745th Military Police Company from McAlister, Oklahoma, is providing security around the site. And the Oklahoma National Guard has provided three UH-1H helicopters for local transport.
Right now, Tinker Air Force Base has been designated as our primary support installation. By that, I mean it's our central staging facility for dispatching further DOD support.
Let me just end by saying that we are... As I mentioned earlier, we in DOD have been touched by this tragedy. So far, we've confirmed that one of our soldiers is dead; one is very seriously injured; five Department of the Army civilians are still missing; and the Marine Corps has four Marines hospitalized, and two Marines are missing. Needless to say, we are, in DOD, terribly saddened by this event.
With that said, I'm prepared to answer your questions.
Q: When did the C-5 leave and arrive, and how many vans were on it?
A: I don't know the number of vans. The FBI could probably tell you that. I think they arrived -- if I'm not mistaken -- early in the morning at Tinker.
Q: The Secretary said this morning that DOD had offered Arabic- speakers?
Q: And he expected that they already had been accepted by Justice, or would be. Have they been, are they...
A: We received a request, late yesterday, to provide eight-to-ten Arabic- speakers. We passed that requirement on to Forces Command, and, usually, it doesn't take long to assemble those Arabic-speakers. They should be available, probably tomorrow, for dispatch.
Q: What about speakersof other languages?
A: Not to my knowledge. Arabic was the only...
Q: To be used where?
A: They would normally be used as interpreters.
Q: In Oklahoma City or...
A: Frankly, I don't know. I don't have that information. All we were told was to assemble the Arabic-speakers, and more to follow.
Q: So then they are true linguists. It's not a request for Middle East terrorist experts?
A: No, no. The Army has... As you know, the Army has foreign area specialists in our Military Intelligence Battalions, and these are young soldiers that are trained in the language. So these are truly interpreters in language.
Q: Presumably, they'd be used for interrogation?
A: No, no. They're interpreters. They'd just be used to translate.
Q: In Oklahoma City?
A: Again, I don't know where they'd be used.
Q: Can you release the identity of the Army sergeant...
A: No, not yet.
Q: Is that pending...
A: Yes, pending notification.
Q: Did you also deploy a criminal investigative team -- CID -- to work with the FBI?
A: We did not -- no -- from this location.
Q: Did you contemplate that? Were you asked to do that?
A: No, we weren't asked to do that. The FBI, again, is the lead investigative agency here. The only thing that's been requested from us, so far, has been transport.
Q: What are you preparing to respond to? Clearly, even though you haven't got an actual request, you must be, "prepared to respond to the following..."
A: That's a good question. I think what we're looking for, in the days ahead, would be heavy engineer equipment to help remove the rubble. As many of you know, our Corps of Engineers has rough terrain cranes and forklifts, and so forth, that might be more suitable than commercial cranes for getting into some of the narrow spaces and lifting some of the heavy objects -- the concrete, the steel beams. I think that's, principally, what we're looking to provide, immediately.
Q: Can you give us more information about the type of bomb?
A: We have not been asked, yet, in DOD, to join in the investigation with the FBI, and so, frankly, I just don't know.
Q: Why "Arabic" speakers? Were you told why?
A: No. The information I have from the FBI is that -- of the different groups that have claimed responsibility -- I think it's eight groups have claimed responsibility for this incident, and seven of them claimed to be from Middle Eastern countries, so it would just be logical to me that they would ask for Arabic- speaking translators.
Q: How many DOD people were working in the building? And, do you know if there were any DOD dependents who were in the child care center?
A: I don't have that information, the specific number. In fact, the numbers I gave you, frankly, are quite tentative. We haven't had a chance to sort through all the information. As you know, many of the DOD people were in and out of those offices, so there would be more in those offices than actually worked there. So it's a little premature to give you that information.
Q: What role in the investigation are the EOD people playing?
A: The EOD, really, perform two functions. Number one, they detect explosive devices, booby traps, unexpended ordnance. And they're trying to disable those devices. So they were called in, early-on -- when there was some question as to whether there was another device or another two devices -- to help in detecting and disabling the device.
Q: How do they do it, with what kind of equipment?
A: The EOD personnel? It depends on the type of device. They're usually trained [in] blowing devices in place; but they're also trained on how to disable devices -- crude devices.
Q: How do they detect it? What kind of equipment is used?
A: Usually, it's done -- and again, I'm not an EOD expert -- but, usually, it's done visually. You can use mine detectors, you can use probes, and things of that sort. Its relatively unsophisticated.
Q: EOD hasn't identified the type of the bomb?
A: No. That's really not their job. That's more for the forensic scientists to do rather than EOD.
Any other questions?
Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you.
Mr. Bacon: You asked a question about the number of DOD personnel who worked in the building. There were 53 assigned to that building in Oklahoma City. Of those, 22 were in the Defense Investigative Service.
Are there questions on anything else?
Q: Is there a breakdown on civilian and...
A: I'm afraid I don't have the breakdown. We may be able to get that for you.
Q: A breakdown on how many worked for each service, or...
A: We can get that for you. I don't happen to have it here, but I believe we have the information.
Q: Has Secretary Perry in any way changed his schedule because of this?
A: No, he has not.
Q: General Shalikashvili was scheduled to go on a trip today but he did not go.
A: He did not go for two reasons. One was this reason -- because of what happened in Oklahoma City -- and, two, because the Vice Chief [Chairman] is out of town.
Q: Has the President or anyone else asked the Defense Department to explore options or prepare for possible contingencies related to this?
A: Not that I know of. That would be very premature, because we don't even know who did this yet. We're still investigating what's going on.
Q: Why would he cancel the trip because of Oklahoma City? We know the role the Pentagon is playing in that. On a scale of military operations, that's pretty small. Why does he think Oklahoma City requires him to stay in town?
A: I wouldn't read too much into his canceling of the trip, but this is clearly a time when we're paying a lot of attention to what's going on there: it's a time of heightened alertness around the country -- not only on military installations but all federal installations. The Vice Chairman is out of town. All in all, it's a good time for the Chairman to be in command, and he is; but I wouldn't read anything in particular into it.
Q: Have there been any threats directed at any American military installations in this country or abroad?
A: I'm not aware that there have been, no.
Q: Has a Directive gone out to military installations, domestically or around the world, having to do with security?
A: We are constantly evaluating the security stature of our military installation, and we're always making adjustments in light of anything we hear that might change the threats or the situation they find themselves in. All federal installations, as you know, have been ordered to tighten security. That's happened here at the Pentagon. It's happened, appropriately, at military bases as well.
Q: Has the President consulted with Shalikashvili on this question?
A: Which question?
Q: The question of the bomb blast in Oklahoma?
A: I do not have the answer to that. I'll try to find out. I want to point out that this mainly an FBI issue at this stage. Our role has been, primarily, in the humanitarian rescue and transportation stage. Almost exclusively in that area.
Q: Are there also additional security steps being taken in child care centers? In military-related areas such as...
A: To the extent that child care centers are part of military installations, any heightened security would apply to them.
Q: Also the one outside here? It's not actually in the building.
A: It's certainly on the Pentagon reservation, as it's called.
Q: Has the Pentagon -- or DOD -- instructed attaches around the world, in embassies, to redouble efforts or to do anything above and beyond their normal job? For example, to check their contacts, their sources out in the various countries to see if they've heard anything regarding this incident?
A: I'm not aware that that's happened. But it's just human nature -- these people are very responsible -- that they would redouble their efforts to pick up anything they can in this regard. But I'm not aware of a specific tasking or order that's gone out to them.
Q: Have any Defense intelligence agencies been involved in, or interacted with, foreign governments regarding tracking movements of people who have left the country?
A: I don't believe so.
Q: The U.S. and North Korea broke off talks today on the nuclear agreement. Have you anything to say about that? What it portends or...
A: First of all, I want to point out that April 21st was never a deadline. It was a target date for the completion of the phase of the talks that dealt with the provision of a light water reactor for North Korea. We are prepared to continue talking until we reach an acceptable agreement on this question.
Q: Meanwhile, are you going ahead and providing the heavy oil to North Korea, or is there a chance that will be cut off unless North Korea agrees...
A: Right now... As I said, April 21st was a target date. The date of April 21st was tied to the date when the agreement was signed -- which was October 21st. It was said that we would hope to have some plan negotiated on the provision of the light water reactor by April 21st.
Right now, the agreement remains in effect, and I don't believe there's a new shipment of heavy oil due for some time, and I'm not sure that the next shipment comes from us anyway. But as long as the agreement remains in effect, we'll honor our portion of the agreement.
Q: Do you have any indication that the North Koreans are taking steps -- are preparing -- to restart either one of the reactors?
A: There have been reports in the press that they have moved maintenance teams in. This would be a very, very serious step in that regard in our view. Any effort to restart the reactor would abrogate the framework agreement and would send us back to where we were last summer, which is an international effort to impose sanctions through the United Nations on North Korea. It would completely derail this agreement, and there should be no doubt that our response will be firm if this agreement ends.
Q: [Inaudible] that preliminary step has been taken in this direction by the North Koreans?
A: As I've said, there have been reports of maintenance teams going in to one of the reactors.
Q: Can you confirm them?
A: We can confirm that there have been maintenance teams going in. I think this has been reported by the IAEA, as a matter of fact.
Q: If the framework agreement breaks down, is that an automatic step-up to where you were last summer with the deployments of additional troops from the U.S. or aircraft into the theater?
A: We'll have to look at the situation as it develops. But the mere fact that no agreement has been reached on the provision of the details of providing the reactor to North Korea does not constitute a breakdown in the agreement. As I said, April 21st -- tomorrow -- was never a deadline. It was a target date. We're prepared to continue talking on this issue.
So the fact that we have not achieved an agreement by April 21st does not constitute a breakdown. What would constitute an abrogation of the framework agreement -- a breach of the agreement -- would be efforts to restart their reactor.
Q: What specifically do you mean by efforts? What would they have to do, literally?
A: It would be essentially refueling the reactor, is what they would start doing. This isn't something... I understand this is not something they can do immediately. We're talking about the five megawatt reactor, which is the only reactor that was operating in North Korea.
As you know, under the agreement they shut down that reactor. That was one of the great achievements of that agreement -- that they shut down the reactor. The reactor has been dormant for some time, so before they can do anything they have to go in and do various maintenance events. That's what they have been talking about sending a team to do that. It would take them some time actually to refuel the reactor. But at the point of refueling the reactor, or the point of taking an irrevocable step to refuel the reactor, we would consider that a breach of the agreement.
Q: Are there IAEA representatives there that are monitoring this now?
A: I can't tell you if they're there right now, but there have been representatives there. I don't know when they were last there.
Q: You said that because the reactor's been dormant it would require a certain period of time before they could begin to refuel it. Do you have an estimate of how long that period is?
A: I do not know how long it would take to refuel the reactor. It would take, though, even after they reloaded the reactor and started it up again, I believe it would take about a year for them to produce any more plutonium from that reactor.
Q: But you're not saying...
A: No, we're not seeing definite efforts to refuel at this stage.
Q: You're saying that if they reload the reactor...
A: Reloading the reactor would be a breach of the agreement. We would see that as a breach of the agreement. At that point, we would consult with our allies and return the matter to the Security Council.
Q: Do you have a feel for how long it would be until we would see them begin to reload? How long this maintenance would take?
A: Didn't you just ask me that question? I don't know. We'll try to find out. A lot of it depends on how quickly they move -- if they are to move. We're still hoping that they sign this agreement because it's a valuable agreement to them. And we're still hoping that we can complete negotiations on this portion of the agreement which is the provision -- the terms for providing a light water reactor.
Q: With the breakdown of the talks, is there any sign of a heightened state of alert by their North Korean troops, or any movement by American Forces in the area?
A: No. First of all, the talks recessed today. They just recessed an hour or two ago. Things move very fast in this world sometimes, but nothing has moved that fast in this regard. Our hope is that we will go back to the conference table. It may take a day or two, but our hope is that we can go back and continue the discussion.
Q: Have the recent months continued the conventional buildup near the DMZ?
A: I do not believe there has been any unusual activity along the DMZ. The North Koreans -- as do we -- go through a regular cycle of exercises, and they have been going through, generally, that cycle of exercises. It turns out that the exercises, generally, are more intense in the winter than they are at other times of the year; but I don't believe there is anything unusual going on right now around the DMZ.
Q: But didn't they just recently move even more 220 millimeter and 170 millimeter artillery closer to the DMZ?
A: I'm not aware that they did. But if they did, I'd have to know whether that was a permanent movement or not. They're moving things around all the time. But we can check that for you.
Q: Has Dr. Perry received any kind of update on what happened with the C-21 crash?
A: Has he received any update since Tuesday?
A: In one respect he has. It's been reported that the Secretary of the Air Force told him that the Air Force was not going to ground the C-21 fleet in the Air Force. There are about 80 C-21s in the Air Force. And that the Air Force will brief all pilots, all C-21 pilots as information becomes available to the Air Force on the circumstances behind the crash.
Q: So it has been reported, but is it true?
A: Yes, it's true. Not only has it been reported, but it's true that he has been told that.
Q: If the reason for that is that the cause of this appears to be a one-time thing and not something that would be involved in all C-21s...
A: First of all, I think it's premature to say anything about the conclusions of the investigation. The crash was only several days ago and the investigation has a long way to run before it's over. The safety record of C-21s in the Air Force has been good. The last crash was in... The only other crash in the Air Force was in 1987, and that was during a training exercise of take-offs and landings or touch-and-go's. That crash was attributed to pilot error.
Q: Without drawing conclusions, how about preliminary indications? Did the pilot say something like, "I've hit a bird?" Preliminary.
A: I'm not even going to draw preliminary conclusions. There's an investigation underway and it would be premature to sort of break out little parts of it before the entire investigation is complete.
Q: Has the Secretary also received a briefing about the independent study on the B-2 matter that you're aware of?
A: Yes, the Secretary has received a briefing on that.
Q: The report about it stated that they thought the status quo of 20 aircraft was just fine. The essence of the report. Is there any way that you can confirm that?
A: No, I think that should wait until the entire study is over -- which it is not -- and wait until the conclusion's ready to be announced.
Q: He was only briefed on some preliminary findings?
A: He was briefed on the status of the study so far.
Q: When is it to be released?
A: I don't have the specifics, but it will be released, and it will be released relatively soon, but I don't have an exact date for you at this stage. And he was being briefed on the status of the study.
Q: When you do release it, will it be the results of the study, the recommendations to him, or conclusions that he has drawn, decisions that he's made...
A: The study was commissioned by Congress. It was ordered by Congress. So Congress has the last word on how we spend our money and what we buy. We will make our report to Congress. They will decide whether to accept or reject the report. The study we release we will release to the press, the public, and the Congress, and that will outline the conclusions of the Defense Department from the study. The issue is, "Should we buy 20 more B-2 bombers?" The issue really is should we take money away from other purposes in order to buy 20 more B-2 bombers. That's the issue that's being studied. When we get the answer to that, we'll report it to you and the Congress.
Q: Is it true the Army's been asked by DOD to reduce end strength in the out-years -- '97, '98 -- an additional 20,000 troops? And that the Army is really resisting this and is arguing with the DOD about this?
A: The look at the fiscal '97 budget has just begun. It's extremely fluid. I think it would be premature to talk about guidance at this stage.
Q: Has DOD asked the Army to cut an additional 20,000?
A: It would be premature to talk about what's going to happen in the FY97 budget. This is FY95. We have just sent -- several months ago -- the FY96 budget to Congress, and we're beginning the early stages of the planning for the FY97 budget. I don't want to talk about any of the earliest considerations that may be taking place on the FY97 budget.
Press: Thank you.