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DoD News Briefing - Rear Admiral Craig R. Quigley, USN, DASD PA

Presenters: Rear Admiral Craig R. Quigley, USN, DASD PA
June 08, 2000 1:30 PM EDT

Thursday, June 8, 2000 - 1:30 p.m. EDT

Rear Adm. Quigley: I know the first comment that all of you are going to make is that I have now spoiled my record and I've started late. I tried to start on time. I apologize.

Good afternoon, one and all. I have a couple of announcements today, and then I'll be glad to take your questions.

First, today in Brussels Secretary Cohen attended the NATO defense ministerial meetings along with his counterparts from the various nations. This morning he attended the Defense Planning Committee ministerial and Nuclear Planning Group ministerial with continued meetings in the afternoon. On Friday he'll attend the Euro- Atlantic Partnership Council and meet with the Russian Minister of Defense Marshal Sergeyev as part of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. He is also scheduled to meet with the Ukrainian minister of defense as part of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. From Brussels he will go to Sweden for bilateral discussions, and then from Sweden to go Russia, and then home the first part of next week.

Second, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard will celebrate its bicentennial from June 10th through the 12th. Among the principal guests will be Senators Olympia Snowe of Maine and Bob Smith of New Hampshire, Representative John Sununu of New Hampshire, Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, Admiral Skip Bowman, and Vice Admiral Pete Nanos. Media opportunities will occur throughout the weekend for principal guests. Media tour opportunities will be available on board the USS Maine -- that's a ballistic missile submarine -- tomorrow beginning at 2:30 in the afternoon. And there's a bluetop available in DDI with more information and a point of contact as well.

Next, following today's briefing there will be a description of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Korean War commemoration activities. The gentlemen to my left will provide that to you. The commemoration will begin with an opening ceremony on Sunday, June 25th at the Korean War Veterans Memorial here on the mall in Washington and will officially close on November 11th of 2003. Following the completion of the regular press brief we'll take a 10-minute break so that the folks can set up and we can rearrange the room slightly.

Finally, I'd like to welcome 26 political science students and two staff members from Wheaton College in Illinois. These students are political science majors studying media and politics here in Washington D.C. Welcome to you all. Good to have you with us.

And with that, I will take your questions. Bob.

Q: I'd like to ask you about the letter that Secretary Cohen has received from 30 members of the House regarding Lieutenant -- I mean Major General Clark. Is his move into the Joint Staff job dependent on or in any way connected to the outcome of the Army IG's investigation?

Rear Adm. Quigley: Well, let me break it into two parts. We have the letter. It was received here in the building yesterday, although Secretary Cohen has not yet had a chance to see it. So I -- we may try to get it to him overseas. But he's been in one meeting after another after -- as I described earlier.

And the specific point that the drafters of the letter, the signers of the letter, made on General Clark, they -- they're -- you don't assign officers in whom you have no confidence to positions of responsibility, like deputy director for Operations on the Joint Staff.

After having said that, the review of the Army inspector general is still a work in progress. So I wouldn't like to presuppose Secretary Cohen's judgment in responding to the letter, but I would just make that observation.

Q: So in other words, will he not respond he knows what the outcome of the IG investigation is?

Rear Adm. Quigley: No, I suspect he will respond prior to that.

Q: Will Clark move into this job before the IG's investigation is complete?

Rear Adm. Quigley: I believe his change in command is tomorrow, down at Fort Campbell, and moving up here, and then a pretty quick turnover into that job.

Q: Do you know when he'll take over that job?

Rear Adm. Quigley: No, I don't. It can't be more than a couple of weeks from now, but I'm not sure.

Now the Army IG's work is expected to be done in, I believe, the first part of July, certainly sometime in the month of July.

Bill?

Q: You announced the meeting of Mr. Cohen with Mr. Sergeyev.

Rear Adm. Quigley: Yes, sir. Tomorrow.

Q: Tomorrow.

Rear Adm. Quigley: Mm-hmm [yes].

Q: Is there any word that's come down as to whether they will be taking up the subject of the national ballistic missile defense system? Is that on the agenda, or do you have any idea?

Rear Adm. Quigley: Well, I'm -- the topics they will discuss will be many, but that will certainly be one of the major ones that they will discuss. Yes.

We'll be -- we'd like to get a little bit more definition of President Putin's proposal here from a few days ago, as what specifically -- I mean, Secretary Cohen addressed this today in Brussels, I believe -- yesterday -- I'm sorry -- in Brussels. And I mean, his thoughts are exactly the same. Let's hear some more detail as to what the Russians' proposal is, in more specifics, more technical details, and heck, let's take a listen to what they have in mind.

I think that most folks here view that as a complement to, rather than a substitute for, the national missile defense system that we have in mind for the United States. But let's listen to what they have to say and see what additional details they can provide.

But their discussions will be broader than that. I mean, they'll be -- cover a broad range of topics.

Dale --

Q: That will be a main point of discussions -- will be --

Rear Adm. Quigley: Certainly it will be a major topic. Yes.

Dale?

Q: Senator Snowe this morning made a speech on the Senate floor and complained again about the building's slow response to the congressional order last year for a 30-year shipbuilding plan. Can you update us at all on where that stands and whether that letter is going to be forthcoming any time soon?

Rear Adm. Quigley: No, I don't have that with me. I'll take that question and see if we can provide a status before the day is out.

Jamie?

Q: As long as we're talking about irate members of Congress making demands of the Pentagon, can you tell us what response there's been to the request that the Pentagon do more in the case of the pilot -- Gulf War pilot Speicher?

Rear Adm. Quigley: Speicher, Lieutenant Commander Speicher.

Q: Right. What's the status of his case? Has it been suspended? Is it being reopened? Has everything possible been done? Is there more to do? And what's your response to the congressional request?

Rear Adm. Quigley: We have never the closed the case of Lieutenant Commander Speicher. This has been an ongoing effort since he was lost over Iraq in the opening hours of the Gulf War. It has -- we have followed up, as best we could, the various leads that have come in over time. We have kept the Hill briefed, mostly -- or often, at least, in the classified level, as to what we have learned and what we have not learned from those leads that have been followed up over the years.

His status is "killed in action, body not recovered." That remains in force. But this is very much an issue that we have not closed out. We remain hopeful that that lead will come in that will allow us to know with more certainty what happened to Lieutenant Commander Speicher. We asked for Saddam Hussein's help in this. If he has any knowledge or any of his people has any knowledge of the ultimate fate of Lieutenant Commander Speicher, please let us know that. And this remains very much an open issue, and will, until we can close the books on that with knowledge and conviction that we have learned everything that we can learn.

Q: Why do you carry him as KIA instead of MIA if you don't?

Rear Adm. Quigley: It's a service decision -- the Navy Department, in this case -- to make that determination of the status. But based on the preponderance of evidence, they felt that that was the appropriate determination to make.

Jim?

Q: The Parliament in London was hearing complaints or comments that the pace of bombing in Iraq has gone up substantially. Is that correct, for the U.S. side?

Rear Adm. Quigley: No. I think here recently if anything it's perhaps gone down a little bit. It's remained at a relatively steady pace, but in the last two weeks, three weeks, something like that, I think there's been fewer instances of U.S. aircraft responding to the Iraqi attacks.

Tony, did you have -- yeah, go ahead.

Q: Joint Strike Fighter question?

Rear Adm. Quigley: Sure. Yes.

Q: What is the status right now of the final review? I'm hearing that it's at the Secretary Cohen's level for decision. Can you give us any insight?

Rear Adm. Quigley: I'm not going to give you a "whose in-box is it in today" sort of description. There's no point served by doing that. But I will tell you it's a work in progress, and we will indeed make that announcement very publicly when the decision is made.

Q: Do you have any timetable? This has been lingering for quite a while.

Rear Adm. Quigley: Well, it's a very complex issue, and we want to make sure that we do it right the first time. I don't have an estimate for you as to how many days or weeks it might be. No, I don't.

Q: You're aware that the Senate Appropriations Committee has language saying that the Pentagon cannot change the strategy, basically. That legislation is going to be taken up by the full Senate next week and likely approved. To what extent has that complicated the Pentagon's review of the Joint Strike Fighter program in the last two or three weeks?

Rear Adm. Quigley: I think -- we're very much aware of the legislation and aware of its progress and the fact that conference has to happen, and you know all that as well. But that was not the focus of our asking ourselves the objective question: What is the right way to do this? And we still think it's important that we come up with the answer to that very important question. So the effort is going to continue. We'll let the facts drive us where they will. And then we'll deal with the legislation separately. If it passes, becomes law, of course we'll comply with the law, but in the meantime, our effort is continuing.

Jamie?

Q: I have a question about Tuesday's test of the tactical high-energy laser.

Rear Adm. Quigley: Yes?

Q: The test was successful in shooting down this Katyusha rocket. And it raises the question about why doesn't the United States have any plans to deploy this system to protect its troops if, in fact, it turns out to be an effective defense against short-range missiles and rockets like the Katyusha?

Rear Adm. Quigley: Well, are you talking about like a national missile defense system?

Q: No, I'm just talking about it as a -- the United States currently doesn't have any battlefield defenses that are equivalent to this, or any laser weapons.

Rear Adm. Quigley: Okay.

Q: This looks like it held some promise. Why wouldn't it be something that you would want to protect U.S. troops in the field, for instance, from these kind of rockets?

Rear Adm. Quigley: Right. Like I say, just to clarify for everyone's benefit, this is a relatively short-range system that was successfully tested, I think, two days ago -- right? -- a Katyusha rocket -- it was shot down at a testing range. Testing is still in the very early stages. I don't think we're ever in a position, or we certainly aren't now, to rule anything in or out. But at this point, I would say that we don't have a plan to procure that for our own use. We are pursuing other technologies that we would envision to be more appropriate for U.S. forces use, and something of a more mobile system that could be moved to various trouble spots around the world where you might find U.S. troops or other allied troops deployed. But nothing is ruled in or out at this point. All I can say is there are no current plans to procure that system for our use.

Tom?

Q: Any update on oil smuggling in the Gulf? Are you seeing more smuggling, ships coming through?

Rear Adm. Quigley: Well, there are two boardings going on as we speak, as a matter of fact, both of Honduran-flagged vessels in the Northern Arabian Gulf area. I don't have their exact latitude and longitude, but in international waters in the Northern Arabian Gulf. They don't have a status yet as to the completion of the inspections during the boarding, but those are ongoing as we speak.

Nothing, other than that, that's fundamentally different from what we discussed a couple of days ago. We had seen a recent increase -- the past four or five days -- an increase in the numbers of ships transiting within Iranian territorial waters, and we're just hopeful that that won't continue. The Iranian officials say they have a very large coastline, a relatively small navy and small law enforcement capacity to interdict the smuggling, and it's not something that they support. We're hopeful that that is in fact the case and they would not facilitate any greater level of smuggling.

Q: Whereabouts were these picked up?

Rear Adm. Quigley: The Northern Arabian Gulf, in international waters. But I don't have an exact position.

Q: Isn't it a curious area that they would be picked up --

Rear Adm. Quigley: "Picked up" is not the right word --

Q: Well, diverted.

Rear Adm. Quigley: Yes. They're not diverted either. They've been -- we need to be clear, they haven't been diverted either. Both vessels have been boarded. The inspection of their cargoes is ongoing.

Q: But isn't it a curious area that they would be boarded? Isn't it generally in the southern part of the Gulf that they --

Rear Adm. Quigley: Well, no. You have both, the northern Arabian Gulf and the southern; where you don't see them is the central. And they will either come all the way down in Iranian territorial waters, if they choose to take that route and Iran allows to happen, and then pop out in the south or in the north. In this particular case, both of these vessels were in the north.

Q: Is there any evidence that they were pushed out of Iranian waters?

Rear Adm. Quigley: I don't have that detail. I am sorry.

Dale?

Q: I just want to get back to something you said a minute ago, in response to a question about U.S. responses and bombing, when you said in the last two or three weeks, there had been fewer U.S. responses. Just to clarify, is that because there have been fewer Iraqi provocations?

Rear Adm. Quigley: Yes.

Q: Or is there some change in policy that we are --

Rear Adm. Quigley: No.

Q: -- that the U.S. is not responding --

Rear Adm. Quigley: Yes. It's fewer Iraqi -- both in Northern and Southern Watch -- fewer Iraqi firings of AAA or surface-to-air missiles.

Q: Can I follow up on the -- (inaudible) -- briefly on the interdictions?

Rear Adm. Quigley: Certainly.

Q: Well, do you know which ships carried them out, American ships?

Rear Adm. Quigley: No, I don't.

Q: Was it American ships?

Rear Adm. Quigley: Well, in the interdiction force right now we have seven American and one U.K., but I don't know which ship it was. We may have that. The news desk is hearing this. And if they can get the name while we are still going on here, I'll provide that. If not, we'll see if we can get it before the end of the day and post it.

Q: Was it one ship that did the two, or we don't know that?

Rear Adm. Quigley: I am not sure of that either. I am sorry. This is information I just got before we came in here.

Tony?

Q: Could I have an anthrax vaccine question? This has come up in the last couple months. But in July, the Pentagon says they are going to run out of usable vaccine unless the FDA certifies lots that have not been certified to this day. Can you take for the record, because I don't expect you to know this off the top of your head now, when in July are you anticipating vaccines actually will run out? And when do you really need some movement from FDA before you reach a crisis point?

Rear Adm. Quigley: We have several lots that are in one stage or another of the testing process with the FDA. And there is no exact answer to your question because it depends on a couple of different things.

What we envision doing is not simply proceeding on with the program, as we are today, and then coming to a screeching halt. It's still very important that the troops that are most at risk from exposure to weaponized anthrax, be protected from that threat. And the best protection from that is, not only their training and their chemical and biological gear, but also the six-shot anthrax series.

So you would do some sort of a necking-down process for a smaller number of people that would be in the high threat areas -- Korean peninsula, Southwest Asia -- for an extended period of time. That planning is not complete, but conceptually that's where we're going.

First and foremost, we're hopeful that the testing of the additional lots of vaccine would be successful and meet with the FDA's approval so that we can continue on with the program as it exists today. And then hopeful that the plant which continues to make progress will be up and running with the production of new vaccine by late this year.

Q: Late this year.

Rear Adm. Quigley: Mm-hmm [yes].

Q: I had a follow-up to Jamie's question. What can you tell us, Admiral, about this laser system? Is this something that has been developed here in the United States and will be sold to Israel or we will give Israel this technology, or -- or how's it going to work? That's the only place we have application for it presently, right?

Rear Adm. Quigley: I'm not sanguine on the technical details, but the program details are that this is a joint development program with Israel. It's just the U.S. and Israel. And it's about two-thirds of the cost is borne by the United States, one-third by Israel. And the testing has been done here. Some of the subcomponents and the elemental physics and the design have been done in both nations. But the testing program has been done here because of our range facilities. But I don't know the technical details of how the system actually operates, I'm sorry. I'm sure that we can get that for you, Bill, from the program office if that's of interest to you.

Q: Well, it would be of interest. I just wondered if this was similar to the Arrow program in that it --

Rear Adm. Quigley: Oh, no. Very different. Very different.

Q: Right. No, very different.

Rear Adm. Quigley: The Arrow's a missile; this is a laser.

Q: No, I mean as far as sharing of the development expense and then the deployment.

Rear Adm. Quigley: Well, typically when we enter into joint development programs with another nation or nations there is every -- there is some sharing of cost, level of effort, location of where the research and the construction and the testing are all done, but they tend to be unique in the set of circumstances that are presented to you. One nation will have this particular strength in its R&D community; another partner nation will have another strength there. So each and every one is very different from all the others. But each and every time there is some sharing of effort, of technology, of money, of use of facilities and people and things of that sort.

Q: All right, thank you.

Rear Adm. Quigley: Yes, ma'am.

Q: At which ranges are you testing this laser technology?

Rear Adm. Quigley: It's in the western part of the United States. And I don't --

Q: White Sands.

Rear Adm. Quigley: White Sands. White Sands. Which is in New Mexico. Very large facility, do a lot of testing out there.

Q: Thank you.

Rear Adm. Quigley: Okay. Thank you. And again, we'll take about a 10-minute break here, ladies and gentlemen, to reconfigure the room.

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