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DoD News Briefing - Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
July 27, 2000 2:45 PM EDT

Thursday, July 27, 2000 - 2:45 p.m. EDT

Bacon: Good afternoon.

Charlie, I apologize for being late. I had to talk to the secretary before I came down here, and he was at the White House at a luncheon with President Estrada of the Philippines.

As you know, President Estrada was here this morning, met with Secretary Cohen. Secretary Cohen had a chance to thank him for the good work he did in winning Filipino support for the Visiting Forces Agreement, which was passed last year.

And Secretary Cohen also announced that we were providing some additional excess defense articles to the Philippines, including a Point-class patrol cutter, which is an 82-foot law-enforcement boat used by the Coast Guard; eight UH-1H helicopters; and 100 two-and-a-half-ton trucks. This is on top other excess defense articles that the Philippines have received over the years.

In addition, they talked about environmental cooperation and cooperation in dealing with terrorists, including some possible training on hostage rescue capability.

Second, we have five reports on Gulf War -- from the Gulf War Illness Office, which are available. Maybe you've gotten them already. I won't go through them, but they're -- a couple of them are final reports, and others are case narratives or interim reports.

Finally, at the end of this briefing, I think at approximately 2:30, Lieutenant General Fred McCorkle of the Marine Corps will give what I assume will be the final briefing on the JAG manual investigation into the Osprey crash in Arizona on April 8th.

This is sort of the final investigation completed by the Marine Corps on this crash.

And finally, we have here a spokesman from Montenegro, if he waited long enough. Thank you for coming. I won't massacre your name. We're glad to have you here.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Yes?

Q: Ken, it's been three weeks since the NMD failure. Have there any preliminary decisions -- been any preliminary decisions? And are we going to get a briefing anytime soon on why it didn't separate from the booster?

Bacon: I'll talk to General Kadish about that. He, of course, has been working hard to complete his work on the Defense (sic) [Deployment] Readiness Review, and that should be done relatively soon. And I will see if there's anything that we can do to bring you up to date on the causes of the failure.

Q: Could you fill is in in any way on what the preliminary causes or and what --

Bacon: I can't. I can't beyond what he said the night it happened.

David?

Q: Ken, how does the Pentagon justify sending all of this equipment up to the Republican Convention over the weekend?

Bacon: Well, we received a bipartisan request from a Republican and Democratic member of Congress, and we decided to grant that request, making it very clear to them that this same request would be granted if we received a similar bipartisan request to provide equipment at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in several weeks.

So having made the decision -- and it's really a decision to respond to a request from Congressman Weldon and Congressman Brady -- to send up static displays or exhibitions of military equipment that will help educate congressmen about what the military is up to, the services are now deciding what to send. And it will be up there for three days -- Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It will be actually stationed on the former Philadelphia Naval Yard which, as you know, was closed under the Base Realignment and Closure process -- it's in the process of being closed. There are still some Navy buildings there. It turns out that about 100 members of Congress are staying in the barracks at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. So it's not on the site of the convention, it's near it. Congressman Weldon, in requesting this, said that this was separate from the convention, but it was a convenient opportunity for the military to show off some of its latest equipment.

Q: Didn't the secretary have to grant a waiver from DoD regulations that prohibit the use of military personnel and equipment in connection with political events?

Bacon: Well, Congressman Weldon made it very clear that this was separate from the convention, and it is geographically separate from the convention. It's obviously contemporaneous with the convention, but it is at a separate location.

Q: Why not set it up in Chicago then?

Bacon: Well, there aren't a lot of members of Congress in Chicago next week.

Q: But aren't they all there for the convention? Aren't they all there for a political convention?

Bacon: Yeah. It's a convenient time.

Q: Did he grant the waiver?

Bacon: I don't know whether a waiver was granted.

Q: Can you check that?

Bacon: I can check it.

Q: Ken, you know what the regulation says, right?

Bacon: I am aware of what the regulation says. I am not sure that a waiver was necessary, but I will definitely check that.

Q: And what about the cost --

Bacon: What?

Q: -- do you know what the cost of the --

Bacon: The cost -- it will have to be determined for each one of the services, when they decide exactly what they're sending and what it costs.

Obviously, there will be some costs associated with moving the equipment, and there will be some costs associated with guarding the equipment, because it has to be guarded. And there will be some costs associated with the members of each service who have to go up there and explain what the equipment is and help educate members of Congress about it.

Q: Ken, how do you square this with -- you know, for months, if not years now, we have been hearing the services say that they are stretched too thin, that they are deployed in too many places and they are underfunded; yet here is another deployment that is going to require some number of servicemen, probably in the hundreds, to work through the weekend -- doesn't this just run counter to all the arguments that this building makes about being stretched too thin?

Bacon: We deploy troops, in the form of bands, color guards, for air shows, on weekends all across the country. And --

Q: But that -- (inaudible) -- jobs --

Bacon: -- we do it -- we do it for Armed Services Day, Armed Forces Day.

Q: Come on, Ken. That goes with the job; you know that. I mean, those guys --

Bacon: I am trying to put this into a context. And we do respond to requests from citizens and from members of Congress, from time to time, to display military equipment. And this, I think, fits into that pattern.

Q: Ken, has it ever happened at another convention that --

Bacon: I am not sure that it has. And as I say, the Democrats have an equal opportunity to request the same sort of exhibit.

Q: Have they?

Bacon: I don't believe they have yet. No.

Q: And what kind of equipment are you talking about, Ken?

Bacon: Well, I think you should check with the --

Q: (Inaudible) --

Bacon: -- well, I think the Marines hope to send up an Osprey, for instance, which would be one of their premier types of equipment and one that they are trying to show Congress and the rest of the country.

The Army is going to send up a helicopter, a tank, quite a list of equipment. The Air Force is going to -- well, the list I have is that they'll -- now see, part of this is being provided by the Pennsylvania National Guard. So it's pretty much in the region. But they're going to have an AH-1 Cobra helicopter and a CH-47 Chinook helicopter there.

Q: And the Navy?

Bacon: Rather than read this list, why don't you just get it from Bryan [Whitman] afterwards. The Navy is going to have some sort of helicopter and an in-shore warfare unit boat, and some construction equipment, as I understand it.

Yes?

Q: A couple of questions. Were the services, in fact, ordered to do this? Did they have the opportunity to decline and say no, it would stretch them to thin, or were they told to do it?

Bacon: Well, in his letter, Congressman Weldon -- he wrote one letter on his own and another letter he wrote with Congressman Brady, a Democrat. They stressed that they wanted -- that the services should keep costs in mind and they should not incur undue costs. The phrase he used here, "I've requested the hardware without undue cost and manpower to the military." So it was really up to the services to determine what constituted due cost and manpower or what constituted -- the difference between legitimate, bearable costs and costs that would be too high. And presumably, they made this decision within their boundaries of what they consider to be legitimate costs.

Q: But were they ordered to send something, and the something was left up to them?

Bacon: I think they were given a choice, and if they had decided not to participate, they could have not participated.

Q: And a couple of follow-up questions. Because this is such an unusual circumstance, what measures will you take to ensure that no political activities or partisan activities take place in front of these static displays?

Bacon: Well, we have sent a letter to the two requesting members of Congress, and I'll be glad to make copies of these letters available to you after the briefing, that basically lay out the ground rules for this display.

The letter says, in part -- the letter was sent by John Veroneau, who is the assistant secretary for legislative affairs -- it said, "It is important that this effort to educate members of Congress remain nonpartisan and separate from the Republican National Convention." It says, "As a matter of long standing policy, the department does not engage in activities that could be interpreted as associating the department with any partisan political causes, issues or candidates." And then there are a number of stipulations about what is proper and improper behavior around the equipment.

So, this is available.

Q: I have another follow-up question, if I might? You said at one point -- I think your exact words were that "if the Democrats," you said, came to you --

Bacon: Well, it would have to be a bipartisan request, but it would be a bipartisan request for a similar display at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

Q: Well, if he emphasizes that that has nothing to do with the convention, why not put this stuff out on the parade ground and just invite him across the river to see it when they are all here, instead of handling it at two different conventions?

Bacon: Well, that's a variation of the question I dealt with so deftly before about Chicago -- (laughter). But the --

Q: No, it wasn't. You got 435 people here, not just --

Bacon: The issue is, we got a specific request from a Democratic and a Republican member of Congress to help educate members of Congress who happen to be in Philadelphia at the time of the Republican National Convention, and the services are responding to the request.

Q: But you said that you got a letter from Congressman Weldon. Did that one come before the letter from the two of them?

Bacon: I don't believe so, because the letter from Congressman Weldon refers to the earlier joint letter from Congressman Brady and Congressman Weldon. But -- so, the Weldon letter came on July 7th and the joint letter came on June 27th.

Q: Will people without credentials to the Republican National Convention be allowed to enter this area and visit the display?

Bacon: We have recommended -- Secretary Veroneau has recommended in his letter that this be open to the public, but whether it is or not will depend on the security arrangements.

Q: And who is responsible for that?

Bacon: Well, a combination of the Philadelphia police, the military and the Secret Service, who are securing the convention areas, including where 110 members of Congress are living at the Naval Yard.

Q: So this could be open maybe only to people credentialed to the convention.

Bacon: Well, I think that remains to be seen. The recommendation is it be open to the public if possible.

Q: Could we get a copy of the regulation that --

Q: And the letter?

Q: Yeah. You're going to give us the letters, right? The --

Bacon: Sure.

Q: The one back --

Bacon: Right.

Q: And then the regulation --

Bacon: I'll give you all the letters. I'll give you the letters from --

Q: But plus that regulation on what you -- that states that you can't use military equipment or personnel in association with political uses.

Q: I think you said you didn't know whether there was a waiver. Would you let us know, take the question and let us know whether there was a waiver from the secretary?

Bacon: If a waiver was necessary, sure.

Q: And also, Ken, just to double -- to repeat; as far as you know, there has never been a request like this at -- simultaneous to a political convention --

Bacon: As far as I know. I mean, I'm not an historian of congressional requests to the Pentagon. So I couldn't tell you what might have happened in 1952. But as far as I know, this is a first time, and the question is will it be the last time or the first of a new type of relationship between the military and members of Congress.

Q: Just so I understand it, the Democrat was urging that this display be sent to the Republican convention.

Bacon: It was a bipartisan request made because both Congressman Weldon and Congressman Brady saw it as an opportunity for the military to educate members of Congress, to inform them, to show them some of their latest equipment and also to introduce them to the people who work this equipment. And it was made very much in mind with the idea that should there be a request to do the same thing at the Democratic National Convention, they assumed that we would do it there just as we did it contemporaneous with the Republican National Convention.

Q: I know that we've been around on this, but it is puzzling that Congress sits here most of the time and is available, should you set this up on the mall, both parties in a non-partisan would find the display right there. And why it would go to partisan events to educate them, why do you need to educate them there?

Bacon: Well, as you know, we do have displays here from time to time. We've had displays on military medicine. We had an Osprey land on the parade field at one time, and members of Congress recently related -- or, invited to these events or take the opportunity to come down and look at the equipment. So we have done this in our area; I don't know whether we've ever done it up in the Capitol grounds or not. But it's something worth exploring. Maybe the Congress will ask us to do this.

Q: Have you ever done it with all four services participating?

Bacon: I can't answer that question.

Q: Can you -- just one quick -- Ken, I know you'll give us the list of the equipment that they'll be sending --

Bacon: Oh, as best I have it, yeah.

Q: Aside from the Osprey, which is not in operation yet, are there any other new or still-in-development type of weapons they're going to -- (inaudible)?

Bacon: You'll be able to determine that when you read the list.

Yes?

Q: Just to follow up on that, do you know if they specifically requested certain types of weapons systems?

Bacon: No. I don't believe they did. But the requests basically have been worked between Congressman Weldon's office and the services. So the services have decided what they want to provide and where they could get it. And of course they looked at a variety of factors in making this decision. As I pointed out, the Pennsylvania National Guard is providing some of it, so that's a fairly short trip.

Q: To be clear, no matter what the cost, the individual services will have to absorb that?

Bacon: They will. They will. But as I pointed out, Congressman Weldon in his letter said that this should be done without undue cost. So the definition of "undue cost" is left to the services.

Yes?

Q: On a somewhat related matter, what can you bring us up to date on or tell us about, during the period of Secretary Cheney's tenure here, whether or not there were Republican fundraising events held in this building?

Bacon: I read a report of that. I have no idea whether it was accurate. I'm in the process of checking the records, and I have nothing to say. I just don't know the answer to that.

Q: But you are taking that question?

Bacon: I assume that Secretary Cheney followed the rules, but I can't answer that question specifically as you put it to me.

Q: But you are developing an answer on that, and you said you're looking --

Bacon: Well, I have no reason to believe that Republican fundraisers were held in the Pentagon. And I don't think there have been reports that say that. But we are looking into recent reports that I've seen about Republicans coming to the Pentagon. I think Republicans come to the Pentagon all the time, as do Democrats.

Q: We're talking, though, about not necessarily legislators but political supporters, contributors.

Bacon: I understand that.

Q: Yeah. So you're saying that --

Bacon: What I'm trying to say is I don't have any information on it.

Q: Right.

Bacon: I think I've been pretty explicit. I don't know the answer to the question.

Q: But during the Clinton administration, I assume that Democratic contributors get briefings from the military on the state of military affairs, international affairs. Is that the case, or --

Bacon: Well, certainly all administrations take the opportunity to brief citizens, generally citizens involved in international relations or military affairs, on military events, particularly at times when troops are deployed and when we're about to engage in conflict.

This administration has done it, and I'm sure every previous administration has done it. We have active campaigns of trying to keep people informed about what we're doing through briefings, through phone calls, and through meetings that people have with the secretary or other people, sometimes with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. And this is a standard part of our commitment to informing various groups in the country, opinion leaders in this case. And I assume that happened when Secretary Cheney was here.

Q: Do you know if the Democratic National Committee ever advertised Pentagon briefings, access to military installations, to their contributors, as they did access to certain administration officials or the Lincoln Bedroom, say?

Bacon: Well, the Lincoln Bedroom isn't in the Pentagon.

Q: Well --

Bacon: I'm not aware -- I'm not aware that any national committee has made such advertisements.

Q: So you're saying that during the Clinton administration, you don't know that the Democratic National Committee ever offered briefings as a quid pro quo to political contributions?

Bacon: I have no information that that's happened during this administration or other administrations.

Q: Ken, to get back to Philadelphia for a minute, will members of Congress or delegations to the convention be offered rides in the Osprey or in the helicopter that the Army is bringing, or tank rides, if that kind of equipment is going to be present?

Bacon: No, I'm not aware that people will be getting rides in this equipment -- although it's an interesting idea! (Laughter) But I don't think that that's what the services plan.

Q: You said that delegates will be allowed to see this equipment, they will be allowed onto the Navy Yard if they have credentials?

Bacon: I didn't say that because I don't know. What I said is that we have recommended that the -- "we" in the form of John Veroneau, the assistant secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, have recommended that this be open to the public, if possible. Now, I don't know whether that's going to be possible or not.

Q: Well, can I just follow up on that? If for some reason it is not open to the public and it is only open to people accredited to the convention, does it not then become a strictly partisan event?

How can you say it's bipartisan?

Bacon: We are offering this in response to a bipartisan request. We are offering it in response to a request to provide educational equipment. And we are offering it with the understanding that if we receive a similar request, a bipartisan request, for similar displays at the Democratic Convention, we will provide it. I don't know how I can be plainer about it than that. It is something that's contemporaneous with the Republican National Convention. It's not adjacent -- it's not right on the grounds where the convention is being held. It's nearby, but not on the ground. And it is in a place where a number of members of Congress are staying in barracks.

Q: But Ken, it's where Republican members of Congress are staying. And my question is, will you withdraw this if it is not open on a bipartisan basis? I would think that it would violate your regulations to have military equipment available only to people who are registered Republicans.

Bacon: No, that's not the case. I mean, I think this is what you're asking me: If a group of -- if John Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, wanted to go look at the Osprey at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, would he be allowed to? Of course.

Q: So is this only for members of Congress, or is this for delegates to the convention, or is it only for the 100 members of Congress? Who gets to see this stuff?

Bacon: It is at a place where members of Congress are living. And we have recommended that it be made open to the public. If they can do that, I'm sure they will try to do it. Other members -- right now, it is in a secure area. So they would have to find a way to open that area up to members of the public. That's what we recommended. That's, presumably, what they're looking at. I don't know whether they'll work that out.

Q: Ken, who is "they"? Who would make that decision?

Bacon: Well, the decision will be made, certainly, by the local security forces working with the people who are going to the convention.

Q: (inaudible) -- secure area?

Bacon: Well, it's in a naval yard, and there is some security provided there. I'm not sure the degree of security, but there are some government buildings at the naval yard and there is some security there, even though it's in the process of being turned over to a private operation.

Q: So when you say secure area, I mean, it is off-limits to the public right now?

Bacon: It is not -- as I understand it, it will not be open to the general public unless some provision is made.

Q: Ken, a similar subject. It's been reported that General Schwarzkopf will be speaking to the convention from the deck of the New Jersey, which is no longer, I know, department property; it's been donated for use as an exhibit. But my understanding is that the donation has certain conditions attached to it, in terms of preservation of the ship, et cetera. Is the department at all concerned that a battleship is going to be used for a partisan purpose so soon after it's been donated?

Bacon: Well, it's been a week, as I understand it. I am not sure what the rules are for using a ship. But you're absolutely right; it's been turned over to a private foundation, as I understand it. And there are ships like this in other ports around the country, and they are used for a variety of events. I don't know what the rules are in this case.

Q: Is the Defense Department paying for the barracks cleanup in preparation for the members of Congress, Republican members of Congress, to stay there?

Bacon: I don't know the answer to that question. I'll try to find it out. You're assuming they need cleaning. (Laughter.) I am not sure I would assume that.

Q: And you have not the slightest idea of what the cost estimate is going to be for this study?

Bacon: Well, I have notes here from the General Counsel's Office. This is about real-time advice. The General Counsel's Office has said that -- the decision was not viewed as a waiver but as a legitimate response to a request from members of Congress, to provide an opportunity to educate elected officials upon the military's capabilities and their equipment.

Q: And back to my question before your late-arriving notes, you have not concluded as to what this will cost the different services?

Bacon: I don't. I don't. You really have to go to the services on that. And I am not sure that they will know at this time, but they will certainly do their best to find out and inform you.

Q: These barracks, do they still belong to the Navy, or have they already been turned over to the private --

Bacon: This is a very -- a seemingly simple question that I can't answer because the yard is in the process of transitioning, and I don't know what parts of the yard have transitioned over and what parts haven't.

Q: And will they be staying there gratis, or will be they be paying for this --

Bacon: I think that question was asked. I don't know that.

Q: -- (inaudible)?

Bacon: I don't know that, either.

Q: Is Secretary Cohen going to either the Republican National Convention or this public display that's educating Congress?

Bacon: I don't believe he is going to either convention or either display. He is familiar with most of this equipment -- (laughter) -- and, therefore, doesn't have to be educated by the military about it.

Q: Perhaps he wanted to take the opportunity to educate some Republicans? (Chuckles.)

Bacon: Or the Democrats. (Laughter.)

Any other questions?

The Marine Corps briefing will take place in several minutes. I think it is supposed to begin at 2:30.

Q: Before that briefing takes place, can we very politely protest the ground rules for that briefing? Because I would personally like to know how the broadcast news media is supposed to cover something on the record where no cameras are allowed, and I would like that decision to be reconsidered by the Marine Corps imminently.

Bacon: That's a very appropriate point to bring up to the Marine Corps, but based on the flow of this briefing to date -- (laughter) -- I have the impression that most networks are focusing on a different story.

Q: Is the matter of --

Bacon: And I would hate to have you compete with the story that your senior correspondent is thinking of putting on the air with another --

Q: Yeah, Ken. Seriously --

Bacon: I am serious about this. I --

Q: They just won't stand up there on television and say it was pilot error. It's as simple as that, and that's --

Bacon: The Marine Corps has made a decision about this briefing. It will be on the record and, of course, it can be used as any on-the-record briefing would be.

Q: Would you ask them why it would not be for camera?

Bacon: I have had extensive discussions with the Marine Corps about this, and I would be --

Q: What did they say the reason was?

Bacon: -- and I would be glad to have them repeat the discussions we've had with you. (Laughter.) But I think it's time for me to clear off so the Marine Corps can invade the podium.

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