Tuesday, July 18, 2000 - 1:38 p.m.EDT
Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to the briefing.
I'd like to start first by expressing my condolences and the condolences of the department to the family and friends of David Butler. He is the Stars and Stripes editor who apparently was killed as the result of a criminal assault coming home from work on early Saturday morning. As you know, Stars and Stripes is published for men and women who serve overseas, and its central editorial offices are here in Washington for both Pacific Stars and Stripes and European Stars and Stripes. And Mr. Butler worked in the central office, but he worked on the Pacific Stars and Stripes. So our condolences to his family and his friends.
Second, I'd like to welcome four visitors from the Slovak Republic who are at the briefing today. Where are you? There you are. Welcome, Slovaks. They are visiting here as guests of the State Department.
Finally, I'd like to welcome 30-odd -- not odd -- (laughter) -- 30 regular spouses of newly minted one-star generals and admirals going through the Capstone course, which is the course that trains people to be generals and admirals. And we're very glad that their spouses have been able to come. And I guess you're going through a mini-Capstone course of your own; is that right? Well, it's a great idea, and I'm glad you're here. And if you want to ask any questions, feel free to ask questions.
With that, Charlie, I'll give you the first question.
Q: Ken, how would you characterize the Pentagon's decision to yank back an industrial security award it had presented to Loral yesterday? Was it an oversight, a mistake, or what? And does it raise any concern, anxiety, anger upstairs in the secretary's office?
Bacon: I'd describe it as an embarrassment and something that was unfortunate. And I think it's seen upstairs as an embarrassment, and it was quickly corrected.
Q: Could you tell me why it happened? I mean, doesn't -- it seems to me that the Defense Security Service is responsible for security in this building. Wouldn't bells and whistles go off when a firm like Loral, which is under investigation by a federal grand jury, requests an award? Isn't there something in the computer system that would raise alarm?
Bacon: Well, apparently there wasn't, and that's one of the things that was embarrassing about it. I don't consider this a major event. I consider it, as I said, an awkward event.
As soon as it was learned that Loral was under investigation, the award was withdrawn. And I don't have a good explanation for this. But I suspect that the award -- I know that the award was for a national industrial security program, which involves steps that companies take to deal with the way classified information is handled within their facilities. And the people who made this award were probably unaware of the fact that Loral was under investigation for another matter, which is an alleged violation of export-control policies. It's not necessarily the case that somebody who deals with the security of documents within facilities would know about an export-control violation that was under investigation that may or -- an alleged export control violation. So it was just a question of somebody not being omniscient enough to have a complete picture of Loral's dealings across the board.
Q: Could I ask, did this -- (inaudible) -- go through the SecDef's Office?
Bacon: I am not aware that it did go through the SecDef's Office. It was reported that it was cleared by somebody in the Office of Secretary of Defense, but there are over 2,000 people in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. And they include people who work for assistant secretaries and deputy assistant secretaries and assistants to deputy assistant secretaries, et cetera. So it's a big tent.
Q: CBS reported on the findings of the Army IG in its look at the command climate at Fort Campbell and said that no commanders were found to be at fault for anti-gay behavior down there.
Is that accurate, and can you elaborate at all on the findings of the report?
Bacon: I cannot. I know it will disappoint you to know that I'm not going to comment on the Army's report until the report's actually released. And I anticipate it will be released relatively soon, but I can't give you a precise date. But when the report's out, obviously the Army, and I suspect top officials of the Army, will be willing to comment on it in some detail. But it would be premature to do that now.
Q: Will this coincide with the release -- or comment on the report by the group that the secretary appointed to look into the findings last spring?
Bacon: If we were smart, we would combine them because they both deal with don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue. So I hope we'll be smart and be able to combine them and release them at the same time. This is the review group that was headed by the under secretary of the Air Force, Carol DiBattiste.
Q: Has it been completed?
Bacon: I think if it's not completed, it's close to being completed. It could be in the review -- final stages --
Q: You had planned to release both at the same time?
Bacon: I'm hoping we will be able to release both at the same time, yes. I don't believe the secretary, who as you know has just returned from China and Australia, has had a chance to review the findings of the DiBattiste study yet.
Q: The Greek under secretary of Defense, Dmitris Apostolakos, is arriving today in Washington D.C. for talks here at the Pentagon this coming Thursday and Friday. Do you have anything on that?
Bacon: I don't, except he is coming. These are regular consultations that take place at high level. I think this is the ninth annual consultative group meeting. And it's part of our ongoing relationship with the Greek Defense Ministry.
Q: The other day President Clinton signed a presidential determination for a nuclear cooperation between the United States of America and the Republic of Turkey. Do you know what this is all about, since the president stated it has also to do with the common defense and security?
Bacon: Well, that agreement had to do with peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and it falls under the ambit of the Energy Department, not our department. So I think you should talk to the Energy Department or the State Department about that. But it's not a Defense Department program.
Q: But the president mentioned it has to do also with the common defense, with security. So I was wondering if the Department of Defense is involved in this crucial issue?
Bacon: The answer is no.
Q: Over the weekend, while you were on the trip, the Iranians successfully tested, apparently, a Shahab-3 missile. I just wanted to get your reaction to what this says about the state of their program, and any information about what countries you think are assisting Iran in their missile program.
Bacon: Well, we're very concerned about help they've been getting on a variety of programs, some from Russia, some, we believe, from China as well. And we've voiced our concern both to the governments of Russia and China about this, and we will continue to voice our concern about efforts that aid the proliferation of missiles.
This is a missile with a range of 800 or 900 miles, as I understand it. And it puts Iran in a position to strike concentrations of our troops in the Middle East, and also to strike other countries in the Middle East. It depends, of course, where the missile is launched from. Iran is a rather large country. It could also put Iran in a position to strike parts of Russia, depending on where the missile would be based.
We have tried to argue with the Russians, and many other countries, that this type of proliferation is dangerous not just to us, but possibly to other countries as well, and we will continue to make that point.
This test was successful, as best we can tell, and therefore, it was unlike a previous test that failed. I don't know what their testing program is, how many tests they need to have confidence in their system. But clearly, for them it's a success and it moves them closer to the day when they may feel they can deploy the Shahab-3 missile.
But we're worried about more than just this missile, we're worried about longer-range missiles that they apparently have on their drawing books right now; that would be the Shahab-4 and Shahab-5 missile. And the Shahab-5 missile could have an intercontinental range and that, of course, would be worrisome.
There isn't any conceivable reason why Iran needs a missile of intercontinental range if it's worried about regional security issues. It already has, in the Shahab-3, a missile that should allow it to deter or intimidate, if that's its goal, its neighbors. So it's a little puzzling why they would want missiles of longer range, but apparently they are working on those. But we consider that -- the longer-range missile programs, of course, to be farther down the road than this one.
Q: I'm sorry, you consider -- did I understand that? You consider the longer-range missile programs --
Bacon: Less developed. Farther away. Farther from completion.
Q: Oh, I thought you meant farther down in the process.
Bacon: No, I meant farther away.
Q: Right. I misunderstood, I'm sorry.
Bacon: Farther away in terms of time.
Q: So those are -- do you see those still strictly in the R&D stage or just on paper or do you see anything really happening with their longer range?
Bacon: Well, obviously, as they succeed with shorter-range missiles, it helps them in addressing programs to develop longer-range missiles as well. I don't want to get into details of where they stand on the other programs, but any successful test adds to a cumulative body of knowledge that helps them with their missile program generally.
Q: Can I just ask on sort of the same area? Now that Iraq is back testing an allowable shorter-range missile, the Al-Samoud program, do you think that that lends any concern about Iraq also going down the road of longer-range missiles?
Bacon: Certainly General Zinni, when he was the commander in chief of the Central Command, voiced concern that it positioned them to move quickly to longer-range missiles, if they chose to do so.
You're right, the missile they have been working on is allowed. Longer-range missiles would not be allowed.
Q: Has the recent test of the Iranian missile reinforced DoD's commitment to fast, deployable theater missile defenses, such as the Patriot, PAC-3 or the THAAD, to getting those things out there as soon as possible?
Bacon: Yes. I mean, our commitment is the same as it was before this test because we knew that Iran was working on such a missile, as are other countries. So this remains a top priority matter, particularly for the regional commanders, the CINCs -- CINCs in Europe and the Pacific Command, Southern -- not so much the Southern Command, because we don't face that threat there, but clearly in Europe, the Central Command and the Pacific Command, we're worried about missile developments.
Q: Housekeeping. Plans for SecDef and you, maybe, for holidays or vacation? Are you-all going to take some time off in August and be out of the building?
Bacon: Well, usually we don't brief the last two weeks of August, and I would anticipate that we'll follow the same rule this time. The secretary does plan to take some time off in August. I don't know exactly how much or when at this stage, but he does plan to take time off in August. And while he's gone, I'll probably be gone myself. And I would guess that both of us will be gone the last two weeks of August, and maybe more.
Q: Ken, we were told last week that the restructured anthrax program was about 85 percent complete. Have you finished that other 15 percent?
Bacon: I think we know pretty much where we stand on the anthrax program right now, and that is that we are going to slow it down somewhat by narrowing the number of people who will get the vaccinations. People going to the highest-threat areas will continue to be vaccinated, and those areas are Southwest Asia, the Gulf, basically, and Korea. We will limit the shots to those who will be on the ground for 30 days or more in those areas.
And as soon as we have a certified approved source of supply -- that is, certified and approved by the Food and Drug Administration -- we'll expand the program again to encompass everybody, active and reserve. But that may take some time because, one, we've got to get the plant certified, and then, two, it's got to ramp up a supply that allows us to continue.
Q: Has the secretary completed his series of shots?
Bacon: I believe the secretary has completed his series of shots. Under this new program he probably would not receive his annual booster because he's not in one of the high threat areas of Korea or Southwest Asia for 30 days at a time.
Q: What's the status of the secretary's decision on NMD?
Bacon: The status is pending.
Q: He's awaiting the report, I guess, on this --
Bacon: Well, it'll take some time for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization to complete its analysis of the last test. And then they will have to put together a more comprehensive report that looks not just at the last test, but at everything they've learned from all the tests they've done so far. And they'll present that to the secretary, the secretary will review it and reach a conclusion and then pass it on to the White House. He said that that will take -- well, he said at the time of the test it would take three or four weeks. One week has elapsed, more than a week has elapsed, so now we're down to two or three weeks. But this is approximate. Don't get your calendars out and check a date, because it could come a little sooner or a little later.
Q: The secretary said en route to China that this miss wouldn't necessarily be a killer for starting the program, from beginning the program next year. He does plan as of now, though, to make a definite recommendation and not to hold off on the recommendation.
Bacon: He does plan to make a recommendation, yes. Definitely.
Q: Can I go back to anthrax for just one second? There's a story in the Post this morning where a scientist was quoted who appears to be highly credentialed, at least, that the vaccine is not foolproof, and in fact soldiers would get sick, seriously ill for about two weeks if they came into exposure to anthrax. Your reaction to that? Does this scientist -- does this argument have any credence? Would soldiers become ill?
Bacon: Well, I thank you for asking that question because I found the article somewhat astounding.
The issue with anthrax vaccine is simple: it's whether the vaccine protects people from dying if they've been exposed to anthrax. The incident referred to in the Washington Post article is -- the Washington Post article quotes a scientist named Robertson, who is working with a lawyer who is opposing the anthrax vaccination program.
Apparently, in the course of discovery for a lawsuit, the lawyer has received large amounts of documents. Included in those documents were two pages of notes taken by a government scientist monitoring an experiment in 1991.
That experiment that took place in 1991 involved exposing monkeys to the anthrax vaccine. The results of the experiment were written up in a medical bulletin that came out in 1996, and you can get a copy of it. This is the medical bulletin; it's called the "Salisbury Medical Bulletin, Special Supplement Number 87." And the conclusion of this bulletin article is that the vaccine is highly efficacious against inhalation anthrax in rhesus monkeys. That's the first conclusion.
The second conclusion of the article is that, based on their study, it may be possible to achieve protection from death by inhalation with a much lower dose than is currently called for in the Defense Department protocol. Now, the Defense Department protocol calls for six shots plus annual booster shots. And this article concludes that, based on the study's data, the human anthrax vaccine confers substantial protection against inhalation anthrax and the recommended immunization regimen may be able to be reduced with respect to the number of doses. That's the conclusion of the study. This wasn't exactly reflected in the Washington Post article which, as I said, was based on the comments of a scientist who is in league with a lawyer who is opposing the anthrax program.
In terms of monkeys getting sick, there is nothing in this medical journal article that refers to monkeys getting sick after being exposed to inhalation. But let me explain to you exactly what happened to these monkeys.
These monkeys were given -- they were vaccinated against anthrax, and then they were exposed to an enormous dose of anthrax spores, a dose that was from 250 to 760 times the expected dose that a soldier -- that would normally -- you know, adjusted for the fact that they're monkeys -- that would normally cause them death if they were unvaccinated.
So they were exposed to very large doses.
I think that the bottom line of this experiment was in the Washington Post article. It was in the ninth paragraph. And that is that these monkeys who had been vaccinated against anthrax survived a rather massive exposure to anthrax spores. And everything about this study confirms the effectiveness of the anthrax vaccine.
Now, the question that was raised earlier deals with the safety of our supplies of vaccines, and Secretary Cohen has always said that he wants to make sure that the vaccines we give are safe, sterile, pure, et cetera. And that's the reason that we've slowed down the program, because we want to make sure that we stick with vaccines that have been certified to be perfectly safe, pure, sterile, et cetera.
Q: Apologies for going on this, but I guess I'm still a little --
Bacon: Oh, I enjoy it. (Laughter.)
Q: I'm still a little bit confused. Would a soldier who has been inoculated, had the full series, but yet exposed to inhalation anthrax in the field, although he may not die, you say, would he become ill for some period of time? Would he experience -- or she -- experience symptoms?
Bacon: I think the correct answer to that is probably, in some cases, yes, depending on the amount of exposure that they were given. This study does not mention anything to do with sickness experienced by the monkeys who were exposed. I think, if you're talking about very large numbers of people being exposed to a deadly spore, even if they had been vaccinated, one or two may have a reaction to it.
But we believe that the vaccine will protect their lives, and generally that they will be -- that they will survive and should not get sick. But can I tell you beyond a matter of question that somebody wouldn't get sick? No. But I don't think that this is a problem that's been brought up. But as I say, the central element here is whether the vaccine protects people from death if they've been exposed to anthrax, and the study clearly shows that it does protect them.
Q: And isn't the normal protocol, if you were exposed to anthrax, to be administered antibiotics anyway? Right?
Bacon: Yes, well the protocol -- it is possible that if you had -- in some cases, if you had not been vaccinated and you were exposed and you knew you'd been exposed, that if you immediately started taking massive doses of certain types of antibiotics, that you could combat the anthrax and prevent death. The problem with anthrax is that it's odorless and colorless and that you may not know that you'd been exposed and, therefore, wouldn't be able to begin the massive doses of antibiotics.
Q: Kosovo Albanians today destroyed by explosion a very old big Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo in an area under U.S. military supervision. Anything on that?
Bacon: I'm afraid I hadn't heard that. I'll look into it.
Q: And one more question. Any comment on the recent departure from Albania of the Greek military unit, which with the U.S. military cooperation played an important role for the stabilization of this volatile area?
Bacon: In Albania?
Bacon: You're asking me to comment on how the Greeks are doing in stabilizing Albania?
Q: No, what I'm asking you is I understand that you are cooperating together for the stabilization of the area. And the other day they have been asked to leave from Albania. So I would like you to comment what is the position on this development.
Bacon: There are some Greek troops in the American sector, as I understand it, in Kosovo. In Kosovo. Not in Albania, but in Kosovo.
Q: In Kosovo, no. I'm talking about in Albania.
Bacon: Right. I'm afraid that this news didn't catch up with me in China, so I'll have to look into that as well.
Q: Thank you.
Bacon: You're welcome. Thank you.
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