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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA
May 11, 1995 1:30 PM EDT

Thursday, May 11, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Welcome to the group of students from Harvard. Are you with the Kennedy School? Welcome to the briefing. We go through this wonderful act of public affairs and information disbursal twice a week -- at least.

I have no statement. I'll take your questions.

Q: I'd like to ask you about the story out of Chicago about a study that's been run -- being published -- in the Archives of Family Medicine, the American Medical Association. A study showing that about 90 percent of the women in the military say they've been sexually harassed, and about one-third say they've been sexually assaulted or raped.

A: I have not seen that study, we have not seen it in the Department, but we have seen a Reuters report. I want to start by saying that the Department is steadfastly opposed to sexual harassment of any type in the military or in the civilian ranks. It's strictly prohibited. We take seriously all reports of sexual harassment in the military, and we look into them carefully.

Secretary Perry issued a memorandum to all civilian and military leaders dated August 22, 1994, in which he said that sexual harassment is strictly prohibited in the armed forces and the civilian workforce, and went into a rather lengthy description of what constitutes sexual harassment and the procedures for reporting sexual harassment and for dealing with sexual harassment. There is a page and a half of sexual harassment program guidelines, and I'd be glad to make this available to you after the briefing. You can get them from Denny Klauer in DDI.

Q: Having not seen the study but seeing the report and the figures, do you have any reason to question the size of those figures?

A: The reports of the study I've seen and the study of the summary I've seen -- which is only a page and a half long -- report a level of sexual harassment that is far higher than our internal studies show. These numbers appear to be completely out of line with what our studies have shown. Now as I say, I'm just basing this on the Reuters report.

The Reuters report quotes a paragraph from the study that contains a glaring inaccuracy about women in the military, and I have no idea whether this characterizes the study or not because I haven't seen the study. But the authors write that there are 77,000 women on active duty in the military, and there are in fact about 190,000 women on active duty in the military.

I've not seen this report. I want to stress again that we take seriously any allegation of sexual harassment in the military. However, this report appears to be based on a survey of a relatively small number of women -- all of whom were undergoing treatment in hospitals, or had recently completed treatment. They were in either in the hospital or they were outpatients.

The numbers that are reported by these women, as I say, are completely out of line with our own reporting. However, our last report was 1988. We are in the process now of doing a new survey which has been started this year. I do not know when it will be finished, but we have launched a new survey of sexual harassment in the military.

Q: What are the numbers that you're referring to when you say totally out of line with what you studied seven years ago?

A: I don't want to, in reading these figures here, I don't want to give you the impression that I'm minimizing the impact of any report on sexual harassment because I'm not. But the 1988 survey that we did reported that 64 percent of the women in the military had reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment. The breakdown of what they experienced were things like sexual teasing and jokes, seven percent; attempts at touching or cornering, 25 percent. I do not have a complete breakdown, but those are two of the categories there. There were eight categories all together.

One of the assertions made in the survey, in the article that has just come out and about which you asked, I believe was an assertion that a very large number of women here had reported being assaulted or raped. Do you have that figure?

Q: Roughly 30 percent. Thirty-one percent by younger veterans; 29 percent by those over 50.

A: Our survey showed in 1988 that five percent of the females reported actual or attempted rape or sexual assault. That is an unacceptably high number, but it is not as unacceptably high as the 29 to 30 percent.

I point out the differences in figures. We will get the survey. We will read it very closely and study it, and certainly respond to it in any way we can. But in the meantime, our policy is clear. We are very much against sexual harassment and are working very hard to eliminate it from the military workplace and the civilian workplace.

Q: Do you know whether or not the people who conducted this survey contacted the Department?

A: I don't know that. All I know is that I talked to Ed Dorn just before I came here, that's one of the reasons I was late. He had not seen the survey.

Q: Will you take that question?

A: We will attempt to find that out. The Department's a big place. They may have tried to talk to somebody in the Department other than Under Secretary Dorn, but I will certainly ask if they tried to contact Ed Dorn.

Q: How many women were involved in the 1988 study?

A: That is a good question and one that I cannot answer, but we will attempt to find that out. Hold it...

The sample of the 1988 survey... There were a number of forms sent out, and it appears that, all together, forms were sent to approximately 85,000 people.

Q: How many responded?

A: I don't have that, sorry. As I said, I attempted to grab everything I could on this topic just before coming in here. This is all I have. We'll try to find out how many, what percentage of the respondents answered, of the people surveyed responded.

Q: Just to clarify, the 1988 survey was active duty military as opposed to this study, which appears to be prior active duty...

A: Yes, this is all active duty military from the four services and the Coast Guard, actually, as well.

Q: You say you're in the process of doing a new survey. Did Mr. Perry in his '94 statement request that? Is it under Mr. Dorn's office? Is there any kind of preliminary report from that?

A: There is no preliminary result so far. The first survey in 1988 was conducted by the Defense Manpower Data Center. In 1994 it was asked to update that survey and it's starting to do that now. As I say, I don't know at this time when it's supposed to be completed.

Q: Congress has nagged you all for a number of years to get some central reporting system of sexual harassment, sexual assault cases. They've been complaining that they do not have statistics and you don't have statistics to verify your reports of progress on this subject. Are you collecting, at any central location, that kind of information from the four services?

A: My belief is that it's done on a service-to-service basis now, but I will try to find that out. Some of these questions may be answered tomorrow because we're releasing the findings and recommendations of the task force on discrimination and sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is one form of discrimination, obviously. The central goal of this report, which will come out... I think Sheila Widnall, Secretary of the Air Force, and Edwin Dorn, the Under Secretary for Personnel, will announce this tomorrow at noon here.

The central recommendation here is a series of improvements in the way services handle discrimination and harassment complaints and prevention programs. This will recommend the establishment of department-wide standards for discrimination complaints processing. That will lead to a central database. But I don't know how long it will take to set that up, but this report is trying to address that complaint from Congress.

Q: What's the latest on the F-117?

A: The pilot has been found and is dead, I'm sorry to report. An Air Force Accident Investigation Board team will look into the causes of the crash. Obviously we have no indication of what caused the plane to crash now. It just crashed last night. That's about all I can tell you at this stage.

Q: Do we know if he tried to eject?

A: I do not know that, no.

Q: Did the plane go down... There's a report that it went down on Indian reservation land.

A: The land is in a sacred Indian burial ground, somewhat eerie.

Q: Do you know who it belonged to?

A: No, I'm afraid I don't know which tribe or nation. No, I don't. [NOTE: The F-117 crashed on the Zuni Indian Reservation which is inhabited by the Zuni Pueblo Tribe.]

Q: Back to some of the improvements that they want to talk about tomorrow. Is that because it was found that the services themselves aren't handling this, or they want to take it out of the realm of the services? When you say department-wide, what does that mean?

A: It means we want to have uniform standards that apply to all the services. All services have been working hard to combat sexual discrimination and harassment, as I believe all society has been working hard in this. One act or report of harassment is too many. But it exists, and it's something we're trying to educate on and defend against; and provide adequate reporting and counseling; and other types of procedures for dealing with it... And disciplinary procedures.

Q: What I meant was, when you're putting up a reporting network, it wouldn't be that that would be taken out of the hands of the services in order to set up this database? The services would still have their hotlines or whatever?

A: I have not read the report. Abolishing hotlines would be a step backwards. We're trying to move forward.

Q: A quick reaction to what the two congressional budget committees have done closing on the DoD budget. The House apparently offered a little more money, but the Senate actually reduced the amount over the next five years. Any initial reaction to those two proposals?

A: As I understand the Senate plan, it basically takes the CBO numbers and the CBO takes our proposal for both budget authority and outlays, and then tweaks this to fit whatever different assumptions they have on spend-out rates or inflation rates or programs, workout rates, etc. We were pleased to see that both Houses of Congress accept and want to support -- plan to support -- our primary goals: which are to maintain a highly ready force that is well trained, well taken care of in terms of quality of life initiatives, and well equipped. The central point to make about both budget proposals is that they protect those goals, and they protect them because those are goals we share with Congress.

Q: U.S. officials have warned that there could be dire consequences if Serb rockets hit perhaps a U.S. MASH hospital or the U.S. Embassy in Croatia Zagreb. I'm wondering if that means that U.S. aircraft might strike Serbian positions without a request from the UN or without NATO participation.

A: I cannot go beyond what we have said on that. We will take action that... We hope there will be no reason to act on our warning to the Serbs. If there is a problem, we will take appropriate action in response to what's done, but I can't go beyond that.

Q: You can't say whether it's a unilateral action?

Q: You're not ruling out unilateral...

A: I'm not. Right now all I will tell you is that we will act appropriately. We will respond appropriately to... Our hope is that there is no need for a response. That was the reason for issuing the warning in the first place. I might also tell you that we have asked the Croatians to be careful not to do anything that would provoke a Serb attack on the area that contains the concentration of Americans in Zagreb around the hospital.

Q: Just so we're very, very clear here, because I haven't heard in the past... You have always stuck to a multilateral framework here, and you are very purposely not ruling out unilateral action. I understand you hope nothing is going to happen and all of that, but you are not ruling out unilateral...

A: First of all, we have not always stuck to a multilateral framework. We have always made it clear that if our planes, for instance, are fired upon, that they have the right to defend themselves.

Q: This is a magnitude away from a plane being fired at?

A: I've said really all I can say on this. You can read into the statement anything you want, but I can't go into detail at this time.

Q: On GTMO, do you have any information about the disturbance there?

A: I probably don't have a lot more than you do because I think the disturbance was quite fully reported. But it occurred in Camp 9, which is the camp for Haitian minors. Four tents were burned in two separate fires. We believe they were set by the Haitian migrants. Twenty males and three females were taken out of Camp 9 and moved to Camp 10, where they have been segregated from the rest of the minors, as I understand it. There were some injuries, but they don't appear to be serious injuries. Several soldiers and minors received abrasions and bruises.

Q: Do you know the ages of these minors?

A: I do not have the ages, no.

The U.S. security forces responded quickly and restored order and an environment of safety, and camp officials have met with the migrants to try to stress some of the reasons for the tension.

These minors are being... Their applications to... Many of them have applied to come to the U.S. and these applications are being processed by the INS. The issue is to find out whether they should come to the U.S. or go back to Haiti. This is a process that has been taking some time.

Q: Do you have any idea how many minors have been returned to Haiti so far? There was a piece in the New York Times yesterday which stated that some children have been returned to Haiti only to find that, even though they said their parents were dead -- that in fact their parents are dead -- but they've been abandoned when they get there. In fact, some children have parents in the United States that are being returned.

A: These are questions that you should address to the INS because it's an INS program, and they're keeping the statistics on it.

We may have... I do not have here reports on the number of minors that have been returned. Chuck Franklin may have that, but as I say, it's primarily an INS issue. We're basically the custodians of the camp, and our goal has been to empty these camps out as quickly as possible. We have been working hard to do that, but some of the work has to be completed by other agencies.

Q: Back to Bosnia for a minute. Earlier this week Mr. Akashi basically vetoed requests for air strikes, and various officials in the U.S. Government expressed dismay at his decision. Do you have a better understanding now of why air strikes were vetoed? Do you feel they are permanently vetoed on him or is it still on a case-by-case basis? Any further information on that?

A: There may be more information tomorrow. I understand that Boutros Boutros-Ghali is meeting in Paris with Mr. Akashi and with General Janvier the military commander -- and Mr. Stoltenberg to discuss the security situation in Bosnia. I don't think we have a clear idea now of why he rejected that.

Going back to Zagreb for just one minute, I'd like to point out that, in addition to warning the Krajina Serbs and the Croatians, we have taken a number of measures in the last week to protect our own personnel in Zagreb. We have moved people who are living in tents into buildings which, of course, are harder and more secure. And we have built sandbag revetments around the tents where some of them are still working during the day. These are among the measures we've taken to try to provide greater protection.

Q: How many people are in the MASH unit...

A: There are 300 Americans in Zagreb, and of those, 136 are Air Force medical personnel. I can give you a complete breakdown of the people there by service. There are approximately 300 military assigned to Joint Task Force PROVIDE PROMISE at Camp Pleso, Zagreb. There are 93 in the Army; 200 in the Air Force; four in the Navy; and two Marines. Which actually adds up, remarkably, to 299. 136 of the Air Force people are there in the 60th Medical Group and operate a hospital that provides medical support to the UN forces.

Q: When you say there are 300 Americans in Zagreb, what you mean is 300 uniformed service people?

A: Yes, 300 military people. There are a few more in Croatia. As you know, we recently sent in some communicators -- 20 American communicators -- as part of the NATO team.

Q: How about at the embassy?

A: I don't speak for the State Department, but my recollection is that in the briefing last week I said there were 15 people left in the embassy. We can check that. I said it in a briefing last week, but you can just call the State Department and get that information.

Q: On the 117, has the fact that it crashed on the land belonging to an Indian nation -- on a sacred burial ground -- complicated at all the Air Force search and rescue efforts? Do you have to have permission to go on that property?

A: We were properly sensitive to the traditions and of the group, but I do not know what sort of territory this fell in. It could have been very rough, mountainous territory that it was taking some time to get to anyway. I can't answer that question. We'll get you the answer. But I can tell you that we did not just tromp on there, we did deal with the authorities before going on there. I can't tell you whether that caused a delay in our response or not.

Q: Has there been any shelling that's occurred near the MASH unit at all that you're aware of?

A: Yes.

Q: Can you say how close it came, or if anyone was injured?

A: It was last week, and there were no Americans hurt. I don't know how close they came to the hospital.

Q: Do you have any idea how many patients are in there?

A: I'm afraid I don't. We'll try to find out. Chuck Franklin will find out for you. [NOTE: As of May 10, there were eight patients and 49 outpatients at the MASH unit in Camp Pleso.]


Press: Thank you.

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