DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.
I'd like to announce that General Shelton will give his first major speech this evening as Chairman. He's speaking at Harvard, at the Kennedy School before something called the ARCO Forum. It's open to coverage. Sometimes these speeches are carried on C-SPAN so you might want to check with C-SPAN about it. He'll talk primarily about the advantages of NATO expansion. I know that Charlie, in particular, wishes he were there to cover the speech.
I am ready to take your questions on NATO expansion or any other topic.
Q: Can you talk about the greenhouse agreement, what impact that's had on the military...
A: I'm sorry. What did you say?
Q: The Kyoto Conference on greenhouse gases. Apparently some exemptions for U.S. military training overseas were negotiated away or something like that?
A: Well, first of all I have not seen the text of the agreement, and I don't believe we've seen them in the Pentagon yet, so I'd like to withhold specific comment until we do. My understanding is that it, in fact, did not cover military training, but it covered certain military operations -- specifically multilateral operations.
The military has made very impressive progress in reducing emissions. Since 1990 we've reduced emissions by 22 percent. Obviously some of that reflects a decline in the size of the military. So to put it in a different way that normalizes it, the average facility energy use is down by 15 percent since 1985. Our goal is to reduce average energy use by 30 percent between 1985 and 2005. So we're about halfway there.
Q: Can you say whether or not readiness will be impacted at all by this agreement?
A: As I say, we have not reviewed the agreement, but what I can tell you is that President Clinton has been very clear in his statements, that we will not... That we will reduce emissions but we will do it in a way that does not harm our national security.
Q: You said it affected multilateral operations. How does it affect them? Do we cut them back somewhat?
A: It exempts multilateral operations from the reduction goals.
Q: Why is that? Why is the multilateral operations? Is that because it's considered...?
A: It's a multilateral conference and I guess they were thinking multilaterally. But the fact of the matter is it exempts multilateral operations carried out under UN mandates. So many of our operations in the last several years -- Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Bosnia, Haiti -- would be exempt from the limits of this treaty under the terms of the treaty as I understand it. But I want to repeat again what I said at the very beginning. I certainly have not reviewed this treaty, and it has not been reviewed by people in the building yet. It was just signed literally hours ago. I know that Vice President Gore has given a briefing on it, and I believe there's another briefing going on within the next hour or so at the White House including Gene Spurling and Jim Steinberg. It might be wise for you to bolt out of here and rush over there and get answers to these questions.
Q: When did Secretary Cohen learn that he might need a new wing for the F-18E?
A: This has been an area of continuing concern for him. I can't tell you exactly where the review process stands now. He has spoken to Jaques Ganzler, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions Technology about this several times. He's also, I believe, either received or will receive briefings from the Navy on where this stands, but that's all I can tell you at this moment.
Q: Does he feel victimized that he wasn't informed earlier? (inaudible)
A: The Secretary of Defense I don't believe feels victimized by this. He is concerned by the reports and he wants to find out one, how accurate the reports are; two, if there's a problem what has to be done to fix the problem; three, how much it's going to cost; and four, how long it's going to take; and five, how it's going to affect the Navy's ability to perform its mission.
Q: Did he learn that through news accounts? When did he learn it?
A: I can't tell you exactly when he learned it, but he's certainly been aware of it for some time.
Q: How long?
A: I don't know how long he's been aware of it.
Q: If you could let us know... There's a big question on whether the Navy and McDonnell Douglas and Boeing have covered this up deliberately so they can get the money for, the production money for 50 of these planes. If in fact that's the case, is there a possibility we might halt purchasing of this plane until they fix the wing?
A: I think we have to wait for a full exposition of the facts in this case before we can leap to any conclusions about what might happen. The Secretary's in the middle of finding that out now.
Q: So he's just initiated questions about it?
A: As I said, he's been discussing it with Mr. Ganzler for the last couple of weeks. He has been receiving briefings on it. I don't know exactly where he stands in the briefing process. He's aware of the problem, he's concerned about the problem, he wants to find out how serious the problem is, and he wants to find out what can be done to fix it. In the course of that I'm sure he'll find out if the Navy learned about this long before he learned about it.
Q: It sounds like an extension of the A-12.
A: Pat, I think we have to wait for the facts to come out here. He's determined to find out what the facts are. He's in the process of doing that.
Q: Is he going to report to us when he finds that out?
A: I assume that given the way this building operates, that all his decisions will become known and probably all his findings will become known quickly.
Q: It's budget time right now.
A: We're in the final process of putting together the budget, that's right.
Q: Will you hold up on further purchases depending on the outcome of his investigation?
A: I think we ought to just let the facts sort themselves out and then we'll figure out what to do.
Q: Does the Secretary feel that he was informed of this in a timely fashion?
A: I have not asked the Secretary what his feelings are about this. The Secretary knows he's got a problem, and he knows that the Navy has a problem, and he's trying to find out one, the depth of the problem and two, how to solve the problem, what the best way to deal with the problem is.
This is actually a process that happens every day in the Pentagon. It's a lifetime of dealing with problems. This is just the latest of a number of problems the Secretary has to deal with and he will deal with it with dispatch and I'm sure come to a solution as soon as possible.
Q: Is there any sense at all that he would stop the program from proceeding?
A: Susanne, I just think we have to wait and find out what the facts are. Then we'll see what happens.
Q: You said several times wait for the facts. It seems to me that the facts are known. The Navy invited a whole bunch of reporters down to Patuxent River Naval Air Station last week to brief us on the status of it. What other facts need to be found out? I guess that's what I don't understand by...
A: Look. I've tried to tell you, I don't know exactly where he stands in the review process. He's in the process of reviewing the facts. When he finishes that review process you will know the conclusion -- whether it's in the budget or in some other forum. But he certainly is going to be asked about this on Capitol Hill. I can't imagine that this issue won't go unquestioned in Congress and elsewhere. But I will try to determine exactly where he is in the review process.
Q: Does his review include whether the Department ought to take charge of approving future LRIPs for the program, or the Navy will continue to make that decision?
A: I don't know the answer to that question.
Q: I mentioned before that I've heard that the Secretary recently directed that Secretary Dalton and Admiral Johnson personally brief him on this. Can you confirm that, that he's asked them to do that?
A: You asked me that question 15 minutes ago, and I do not yet have an answer to the question. When I have an answer, I'll give it to you. The Secretary is not in the building. When he comes back I will find out the answer.
Q: Can you give us a sense of where he is in the budget process? You said you're towards the final process.
A: That's where he is. We've got a deadline, we're going to meet the deadline. I think it's in the next couple of weeks we should be through with this, maybe sooner.
Q: Recently there was a lot of discussion about the test of the MIRACL laser against a satellite. I read a published account recently which suggested that there was, in fact, another test of a different laser. Can you sort that out for me and tell us, was there a separate test of a different laser? Is this part of the same test?
A: It's part of the same test. There were two lasers, a lower power laser and the MIRACL, which was higher power. As I understand it, this is... It was always planned that these two lasers would be involved and that the lower power laser, which was called the low power chemical laser, was used in the early stages and it was supposed to be used for tracking or something, and then the MIRACL was supposed to kick in. In fact the lower power laser I think was used for longer than anticipated because of some technical problems with the MIRACL. But I'd be glad to get you a fuller explanation of this.
Q: In fact did this lower power laser, which the published accounts said was 30 watts, in fact blind the satellite?
A: I'd like to check the facts and get back to you on it. I've seen the account as well, but I just don't have the answer to that.
Q: The dissident who was released by the PRC, Mr. Hue, was at the White House earlier this week, and he warned President Clinton not to trust the PRC leadership, not to trust the PLA. He also said, I believe, that it's anyone's belief that the Chinese wouldn't fight over Taiwan if Taiwan took an independent route, they would be very badly mistaken. That the Chinese would.
I asked Mr. Campbell today, Kirk Campbell in a conference today, what he thought about trusting the Chinese. He said "Trust the old cold war expression regarding the Russians, trust, but with verification." What's the Pentagon's policy with regard to trusting or not trusting the PRC?
A: We have a policy of engagement with China. We are working very hard on China to resolve a number of disagreements we have with them on topics ranging from proliferation to human rights, and we will continue to try to resolve those differences in the most expeditious and effective way.
In the course of doing that, as we do whenever we deal with a country that has differences, we are hopeful that we can resolve these problems, and wary of believing that everything will be resolved quickly and that we'll agree on everything. During that period we are, I think not skeptical, but certainly realistic about our ability to deal with other countries across the board.
I think we're making significant progress with China. Right now the Deputy Chief of Staff is here, Lieutenant General Xiong, for the first Defense Consultative Talks. This will be an annual series of talks that will take place between high Chinese military officials and American military officials. These talks are designed to increase understanding, to increase transparency. They're based on the very simple premise that the world's most powerful nation and the world's most populous nation have to be able to deal with each other in an adult, mature way -- both in areas where they agree and areas where they disagree. That's what these talks are designed to do.
Q: Have the talks begun? Did they start this morning?
A: Yes, they will last for two days -- today and tomorrow. There are basically three major topics that will be discussed in the course of these talks. The first are various global and regional defense issues; the second will be work to finalize the 1998 schedule of military contacts; and the third will be an exchange of briefings between the Defense Department and the People's Liberation Army on humanitarian relief operations, search and rescue, that type of thing.
Q: Will the rules of the road and the sea then await the SecDef...
A: My understanding is that agreement, which was discussed by President Clinton and President Jiang, will be initialed in the course of these meetings, but it will be formally signed when Secretary Cohen goes to China in January. That's the current plan, as I understand it.
Q: I wonder if when these talks are over tomorrow you could give us a briefing on how they went, and perhaps concrete subjects discussed, regional and national issues, if you could?
A: I can tell you right now what subjects will be discussed, and I'd be glad to give you a readout after they're over, and you can find out whether my prediction of what will be discussed turned out to be true.
Q: A couple of quick questions on Iraq. Has the situation changed at all? Does it still remain stable?
A: In Iraq?
Q: In Iraq, the whole region.
A: The situation is this. First of all, Iraq continues to say that it will not grant full access to sensitive sites in Iraq. That is, it will not allow UN inspectors to go in and look in places like presidential palaces or certain military installations. Without that access, these inspectors will not be able to do their job of finding out whether Iraq is complying with UN mandates to stop its work on deadly chemical and biological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. That's the first point.
As you know, Richard Butler, the person who heads the UN Special Commission known as UNSCOM is on his way to Iraq. I think he's supposed to arrive tomorrow. He will meet with them. First he'll meet with his team of inspectors on Saturday, and then he'll meet with Iraqi officials on Sunday and Monday and try to see if he can convince Iraq that it's important for them to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions.
Second, on the military side, Iraq is continuing to move surface-to-air missiles around in a way that makes it difficult for us to know where they are, and in a way that can be seen as either a defensive measure to prevent them from being targeted, or as an offensive measure, to give them a greater element of surprise.
Second, its ground troops. Republican Guard units primarily are still widely disbursed from their barracks and bases. That means that the troops themselves and their equipment are spread out in an arrangement that is defensive, primarily. We believe. That does tend to reduce their military effectiveness because they can't operate together as units when they and their equipment are spread out.
On our side, we maintain a very robust military force. More than 29,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines in the area. We have over 300 military aircraft there, more than 200 of them are combat aircraft, the other are support aircraft. And of course we have a large armada of ships led by two aircraft carriers -- the NIMITZ and the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON.
Q: What's it going to take to have those other assets pull back?
A: Right now we are there waiting to see what happens with Iraq in terms of compliance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.
I should add one other point, which is that the U-2s have been flying in support of UNSCOM on a fairly regular basis, and they've been flying largely without challenge. The latest U-2 flight spent about four and a half hours above the 33rd Parallel surveying Iraqi installations in support of the UN inspectors.
Q: What do you mean, largely unchallenged?
Q: Do you still consider the Iraqis' threat to shoot down the U-2 viable, or have they pulled back?
A: Their rhetoric about the U-2 has been less menacing over the last couple of weeks than it was in early November, late October. But the fact that they are continuing to move around their SAMs, including SA-2s which are the only missiles they have that can reach the altitude of the U-2 is worrisome because, as I say, there is an offensive side to this type of movement.
Q: Do you know anything about mass executions in Iraq that have been reported over the last several days?
A: I'm afraid I don't.
Q: Has access been barred to the UN up to this point, from any place they've asked to go?
A: My understanding is that since UNSCOM got back in they have been able to go wherever they've applied to go. They have not yet applied to go to any of the so-called sensitive sites. Iraqi officials, including the Oil Minister and others, have said that we will not be allowed, that UNSCOM officials will not be allowed to go to sensitive sites.
One of the things that Ambassador Butler is going to try to sort out when he gets there is exactly what the facts are, and he's going to make it very clear, I saw him on television just before I came in here, he's going to make it very clear to Iraq that he expects full compliance with the UN Security Council Resolutions.
Q: Bosnia. In the decisionmaking process the Foreign Ministers, I guess, meet on the 18th. The SecDef made reference to that earlier.
Q: Do you expect that these different options will have been drawn up by the 18th, and that he will have some recommendation to the President by then? In terms of American participation.
A: The type of guidance that will be worked out, the political guidance, deals with things like rules of engagement and things like that for continuing, if a mission is to continue. It's fairly general, but there's political guidance for every NATO decision where governments state what their positions are and that's what will be worked out by the... I think the deadline is actually the 16th for that, to have that guidance there to the NATO perm reps. Then the Foreign Ministers will meet after that on the 18th.
Q: Will they have the options by then, or...
A: No, no. The options then, once they get the political guidance, the military authorities will then come up with a list of options for what to do after June of 1998.
Q: How about the SecDef and the President? The SecDef said he wanted to be around for next week to discuss this.
A: This will be a continuing set of discussions. It's an iterative process. We've sent over cables to our representatives, giving them some guidance. They will have to come up with a uniform set of guidance to give to the military authorities -- that is the NATO permanent representatives and then the Foreign Ministers -- and they will give that to the military authorities. Then the military authorities will, using that guidance, come back with a series of force options for what to do after June of 1998.
As the Secretary said, these options could range from having no troops, no NATO mission in Bosnia after June of 1998, to continuing a mission of the current size. And several choices in between.
Q: On December 3rd the (inaudible) government of Greece and the (inaudible) government of Turkey agreed for joint control of the airspace over the Aegean for the sake of NATO. Based on this agreement, Mr. Bacon, will DoD require to inform from now on Greece and Turkey, or both countries, of any U.S. unilateral flight into the Athens FIR in case of a U.S. naval or air exercise?
A: My understanding is that the so-called flight information regions...
Q: Of course.
A: That's what they're called, flight information regions -- FIRs are flight information regions -- are set up to control civil aircraft movements, not military aircraft units. We do not generally file flight plans for military aircraft entering the Athens flight information region. I don't believe we intend to change that policy.
Q: There is some disagreement with Greece and Turkey set clear guidelines being studied by the DoD to clarify between Turkish NATO that later admitted the flights and its unilateral flights when the U.S. Naval and their forces are in the Aegean Sea.
A: I'm not sure I understand the question, but when NATO exercises take place and Turkish and U.S. planes are flying together, or U.S. and Greek planes are flying together, or planes from the three countries are flying in exercises, we do follow standard NATO operational procedures for notifying air control authorities.
Q: That's from the NATO (inaudible)
Q: (inaudible) which are made (inaudible) Turkish planes and which are unilateral ones?
A: I can't answer that question. It seems to me that's a question for Turkey to answer.
Q: Yesterday Turkish fighters coordinated by a base (inaudible) in Constantinople violated in the (inaudible) Greek airspace and Athens FIR close to the city of Thesolonika. And today, finally, for the first time the State Department asked Ankara to stop them on the basis of NATO data.
In order to understand the mechanism of communication, could you please clarify for us if the DoD was involved technically between Department of State and NATO for the identification of those Turkish violations and (inaudible) .
A: I don't know the answer to that question. I'll try to find out.
Q: Do you have anything new to report on the Larry Lawrence case? Including, has there been a date set yet for the removal of Mr. Lawrence's body from Arlington? And if so, will that be announced publicly?
A: I believe that the disinternment has taken place already.
Q: When did it take place?
A: It has already taken place.
Q: The question is when?
A: Early today.
Q: Has the body been shipped to San Diego?
A: That's something that will be handled privately by the Lawrence family's funeral home.
Q: Could you just review for us how the removal of mines is going around the Guantanamo Naval Base, and could you just state again what the rationale is for removing those mines?
A: First of all, the removal is going carefully but well. There were, at one point, 14,000 mines on the U.S. side of the border between the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station and Cuba. I believe that 11,000 of those mines have been removed from the U.S. side, leaving 3,000 more to remove.
The goal is to have them out by 1999, and I believe that we will exceed that goal and get them out sometime in the second half of 1998, calendar year 1998. This is being done pursuant to a Presidential directive which I believe was issued in 1996. While the anti-personnel landmines are being picked up, there will remain in the minefield anti-tank landmines to protect the naval base from untoward action by the Cubans.
I also want to point out that there are actually two abutting minefields -- one American and one Cuban -- on opposite sides of the fence. The Cuban minefield is still there, and I don't believe they're taking any action to remove their mines.
Our minefield on the American side has been fenced in and clearly designated a minefield in both English and Spanish.
Q: The 14,000 mines, does that include the anti-tank mines, or is that an additional...
A: That's a good question. I'm looking here at my notes frantically for some indication as to... My guess is that they're APLs, but I don't know that. We'll try to find out the distinction between the anti-personnel landmines, which are being taken up, and the anti-tank mines which will remain in place.
Q: Presumably this minefield had a purpose, either to protect the base or prevent it from being overrun by refugees or something. How is that mission being accomplished now in the absence of mines?
A: We're going to substitute other types of monitoring equipment for the mines that were there. First of all, as I pointed out, there is a minefield on the Cuban side. That is designed to keep Cubans from getting into Guantanamo Bay, not to keep Americans from getting into Cuba. So that minefield remains and it remains a danger to any Cubans who might want to either leave Guantanamo Bay for Cuba, or more likely come from Cuba into Guantanamo Bay. But there are other monitoring techniques, and of course there are fences.
I think there's about a 17.5 mile border between Cuba and the naval station there.
Q: An account of this mine removal operation in USA Today contained an interesting fact I'm wondering if you can either confirm or check for us. They claim that the mission of removing the mines is so dangerous that troops that were involved in this were having identifying numbers tattooed in their armpits. Do you know if this is true?
A: First, any mine removal activity has an element of danger to it. We are the primary trainers in the world of mine removal teams, and we always stress the danger and difficulty of removing mines safely. We've trained people, of course, in Cambodia, Angola, Namibia, Bosnia, all over the world in mine removal techniques.
Two, there is absolutely no requirement by the Marines, the Navy, or any other service, that people be tattooed in any way or any place.
Three, it is, in fact, a common practice by submarines to be tattooed with their social security numbers, but this doesn't just apply to people who remove mines. It's sort of a Marine thing, as I understand it. The Marine culture is strong and deep and successful.
Q: Back on China. There was a report today that the Chinese had informed the White House that they are no longer assisting other nations in building or developing nuclear weapons. Is that an issue in the talks currently going on...
A: It was a primary issue in the talks between President Jiang and President Clinton. As you know, much of the commentary afterwards in their press conference and elsewhere dealt with that topic. I'm not aware of this latest statement, and I guess you should appropriately ask the White House that statement.
Non-proliferation is one of the topics that will be discussed by Lieutenant General Xiong and the Americans with whom he's meeting. That is one of the primary issues that we will bring up and discuss with the Chinese in the course of these talks.
Q: Another Cuba-related question. I apologize for prolonging the briefing, but my understanding is there have been funds allocated for the Department of Defense to build a radiation monitoring station in Florida in the event of a nuclear accident involving a nuclear power plant in Cuba that's apparently unfinished. I'm wondering if you can tell us if this monitoring station is, in fact, going to be built and how serious the threat is of any sort of nuclear accident in Cuba that the threat could send a radioactive cloud over the United States.
A: This is my understanding. First, there is a provision in the fiscal 1998 Defense Appropriations Bill designating $3 million to be spent on a project to monitor hazards posed by nuclear reactors in Cuba. I understand that Cuba began building two nuclear reactors in the early 1980 -- 1982 or 1983 -- and that these reactors have not yet been finished. Indeed, very little work has been done on the sites since 1992.
We estimate that if they were to begin work again they could not finish the first reactor prior to December 2000. But of course they might not begin work, and they might never complete the reactors, or they could be completed well after that.
The purpose of the reactors, obviously, was to substitute for imported fuel on which Cuba is totally dependent. That's why they set out to build two 440 megawatt nuclear power reactors near the town of Cienfuegos, I believe, on the south central coast of Cuba which is about 180 miles from Key West.
It's also my understanding that there is no nuclear fuel in Cuba to run these reactors, and if my understanding is correct it probably reflects the fact that because the reactors are so far from being finished, there is no need to have the fuel there. It may also reflect Cuba's economic problems and the difficulty of paying for the completion of the reactors or the purchase of the fuel.
Q: Why spend $3 million to monitor...
A: This was an act of Congress. This was included in the appropriations bill. I've asked for the language of the House Report, 105.206, but I didn't get it before the briefing. I thought it might shed some light on why this provision was included, but it's certainly something you could find out by reading House Report 105.206.
Q: I guess my question was, is the monitoring project going to go forward or is it on hold for the moment or is it something you don't need to start right away anyway?
A: I think our goal is to follow the law, and we'll try to comply with the law in a way that makes sense. I don't know where we stand in this. It's one part of a fairly major appropriations bill and I don't know where we stand on getting to this particular requirement.
Q: I'm sorry to bring up this particular subject, but I would like some clarification on it. This has to do with the continuing Internet saga on Ron Brown.
Can you definitively knock down or clarify this controversy which is swirling on the Internet about the autopsies and the cause of death?
A: I believe I can, but that will be up to you. Let me tell you first of all, that the Department and the Air Force stand firmly behind the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology's findings that former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown died as the result of injuries suffered in the crash of an Air Force plane, T-43, in Croatia, on April 3, 1996. He died of injuries sustained during the mishap and not from a gunshot wound as suggested by some of these media reports.
I might also add that the reports are unfortunate in that they do, I think, bring unnecessary confusion and grief to the families, and today Whit Peters, the Under Secretary of the Air Force, who is actually the Acting Secretary of the Air Force, plans to talk with former Commerce Secretary Brown's son on this issue, and to explain to him what our findings are.
The Department and the Air Force, but the Air Force in particular, has released a fair amount of information on this quoting a doctor, Colonel William T. Gormley, who's the Assistant Armed Forces Medical Examiner, as saying, "Based on my personal examination and the forensic evidence, I am convinced that he," former Commerce Secretary Brown, "died of injuries sustained during the mishap."
He does admit, and this is again quoting Colonel Gormley, he also has said, "Due to the initial appearance of Brown's injuries, we carefully considered the possibility of a gunshot wound. However, scientific data, including X-rays, ruled out that possibility."
Now I can go into considerable detail on this, but it seems to me that this allegation fails the "why" test. The "why" test is finding understandable and appropriate answers to certain questions. One is, why would anyone shoot Ron Brown either before, during or after the T-43 crash or during its flight?
The second is why would a pathologist who did not even examine the body -- and I think it's very clear that you should know this -- the pathologist who is making the charges on which the articles are based did not personally examine Ron Brown's body. Dr. Gormley, Colonel Gormley did examine Ron Brown's body. So why would a pathologist who didn't even examine the body personally present himself as an expert on what happened to Ron Brown?
I think the third why question is why would skeptical reporters who were looking for facts and not fiction in this case persist in keeping this story going? Because it seems to me pretty clear based on the evidence I've been able to read, and I have read the stories and also the evidence that I've received from the Air Force, that this is perhaps a very strange coincidence, but there is no scientific evidence to back up the fact that he was shot in the head, right in the top of his head, actually, during this plane ride.
Q: Since you have recognized the Athens FIR a few moments ago so-called something which has been granted to Greece via the (inaudible) Convention, I wonder, do you recognize the Athens FIR? And number two, what is the relation between DoD and (inaudible)?
A: By using the term so-called, I was using that to give its full name. The FIR is called the flight information region. I didn't mean to minimize its importance in any way. But our policy towards the FIR is unchanged. We recognize that as a commercial flight zone that does not apply to military flights. U.S. military flights I should say.
Q: My understanding that the flight data recorders have been recovered from the C-141 crash off the coast. Can you just confirm, tell us, were both black boxes found or just one? Which ones were found? Have they offered any clue yet for what happened in that accident?
A: It's too early. First of all, as I understand it, there were two flight data recorders on the C-141 -- a flight voice recorder and a flight data recorder. One has been recovered. I believe it's the flight data recorder that's been recovered for the C-141, the American plane.
That should arrive on the ground in Africa, I believe, in Namibia, tomorrow, then I assume it will be flown back here as quickly as possible and examined. We still are looking for the flight voice recorder.
Second, two of three black boxes from the German plane, which was initially, was an East German plane that had been built in Russia, a TU-154, have been recovered and shipped back to Germany. So there's still one more black box from the TU-154 and one more black box from the C-141 to be recovered.
Q: At this point can you say any more about the probable cause of the accident?
A: I cannot.
Q: The Air Force has suggested in the past that collision avoidance systems known as TCAS probably would not have been a factor in this accident because it was believed that the German military transport plane didn't have an operating transponder that would have triggered the TCAS system. Are you any... Since then there have been reports suggesting that in fact the plane did have a transponder that was working. Do you know any more about that situation?
A: No. My understanding is that the Air Force has not determined yet whether, if the C-141 had had a collision avoidance system, and it did not, if it had had a collision avoidance system, whether it would have recognized the TU-154's transponder beacon. That's something we ought to be able to figure out, but it has not been figured out yet.
Q: Has there been any change at all in the schedule for installing TCAS systems, or any greater... Have the types of planes that it will be installed in been expanded, or has there been any acceleration of the plans to install those in U.S. military planes?
A: First of all, the decision made last year was to install this traffic collision avoidance system in all planes run by the Air Mobility Command, and that's over 1400 planes. That has begun. But it's a long process, and I don't believe the entire process will be complete until 2006 under the current schedule. So far they obviously, all the planes that carry the President have the TCAS, traffic collision avoidance system in them, the two Air Force One's have that. A number of C-130s, a number of KC-135s and some C-20s have that system. I think so far only about 80 planes out of the more than 1400 who have been equipped with that, we hope to have another 270 planes completed by 2001. That will be the primary passenger fleet run by the Air Mobility Command. The rest of the planes, the cargo planes and the tanker planes will be done by 2006.
Q: ...the planes that carry them.
Q: ...the SecDef including the E-4s?
A: I can't answer that question but I will certainly get an answer. They will be included in this, but when is the question.
Q: The current schedule you just laid out, are there any plans to accelerate that?
A: I'm not aware that this schedule has been accelerated. I know that this is under review, and if there's a change, we'll let you know.
Q: Is the Administration eliminating funds for burial ceremonies for veterans at national cemeteries?
A: I don't know the answer to that question.
Q: Is it an issue being considered? You don't know anything about it.
A: I've read a report in a newspaper, but I don't know the answer to it.
Q: Can you check on that? It sounds like a budget thing. You're eliminating money for burials.
A: I don't know whether it's eliminating money for the burials themselves or for some of the ceremonial activities that sometimes accompany burials. But I guess to you, it's one and the same.
A: I will check on that.
Q: That's fairly significant for veterans in this country who look forward to it when they're buried.
A: I will certainly...
Q: It's a national program, or a national...
A: All I can do is check.
Q: The Secretary is due to report to Congress I guess by next Monday on his thoughts on this National Defense Panel. Can you just tell us whether he's done that yet, or whether he'll do it on time? Where is that in the process?
A: Certainly in the process because I've seen a draft. I don't know whether it has been done, and I will find out whether it's been done. I assume it will be done on time. The report was released on time, and I'm sure we'll get our response up on time.
Press: Thank you.