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DoD NewsBriefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD(PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD(PA)
August 10, 1995 2:40 PM EDT

Thursday, August 10, 1995 - 2:40 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome.

I have a number of announcements to start with.

The first is that, tomorrow, Secretary Perry will talk to the Non-CommissionedOfficers Association in New Orleans and it will be piped back to the Pentagonat 9:30 a.m. He'll talk about the role of U.S. military forces; the importanceof keeping them ready; and the role that quality of life improvements play inmaintaining the readiness of our forces; and he'll talk specifically inopposition to the change in retirement pay that's been proposed by theCongressional budget committees.

There has been a misleading report that the Secretary does not care about thisissue. He cares passionately about it. He's very opposed to a change inretirement pay that would basically renege on retirement planning promises thathave been made to the military, and he is supported by President Clinton in hisopposition to this change. That will be broadcast back here at 9:30 tomorrowmorning.

Q: Is that Eastern Time?

A: Eastern Time. It's actually 8:30 a.m. New Orleans time.

Q: Will there be Q&A?

A: There will not. It's actually just down and back, at least, that's notplanned now. I suppose it's conceivable that if there's extra time there willbe questions, but I don't anticipate that.

Next week on Monday, Deputy Secretary White will leave for a visit to KellyAir Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. As you know, this is one of the basesthat's being privatized after the BRAC decision to close it down. And therewill be opportunities for media coverage on that trip. You can talk to--Iguess the best point of contact is at Kelly Air Force Base--Ann Johnson, (916)643-1341.

I also want to announce that next week the Presidential Committee on Gulf WarVeterans Illnesses will hold its first meeting here in Washington at theCapital Hilton. It will actually meet for two days -- Monday and Tuesday --and the First Lady, Mrs. Clinton, along with John White, the Deputy Secretary,and the Secretary of HHS, Donna Shelala, and the Veterans Secretary, JesseBrown, will address the opening session of this panel which was set up by thePresident a couple of months ago to collect information and advise him on theGulf War illness issue.

I also want to announce that Secretary Perry will attend the V-J Day, end ofWorld War II commemoration in Honolulu, September 1st through the 3rd, alongwith President Clinton. And I think probably all the Service Secretaries willbe there as well. Certainly several of them will be there for the ceremonymarking the end of World War II. You can get information about this from thePacific Command at (808) 477-1351.

Q: Is he going to take some holiday while he's out there?

A: He's going to take some vacation in Hawaii prior to the end of World War IIcommemoration.

Q: Can you give us the dates--how long he's going to be there?

A: I'm afraid I don't have the dates right now, but we'll get the dates foryou, Charlie.

Q: Does his press secretary have to go?

A: These are very sensitive issues, that I don't think can be discussed inpublic. [Laughter]

Finally, I just want to give you an update on OPERATION QUICK LIFT, which isthe transportation of people and equipment into Bosnia by the U.S. on behalf ofthe Rapid Reaction Force. It's nearly complete, and the U.S. has moved morethan 4,300 British and Dutch troops, as well as 1,450 vehicles, 829 trailers --by ship obviously. The last of the cargo ships, the CAPE RACE, will finishunloading at the Croatian city of Split in the next day or so. All thepersonnel that we deployed there to assist the transportation of the RapidReaction Force are beginning to come back. They started coming back on August6th.

The Rapid Reaction Force, which the President mentioned in his pressconference today, is one of the elements that's changed the dynamics of thesituation in Bosnia, [and] has contributed to a major increase in the flow ofhumanitarian aid to Sarajevo. The Rapid Reaction Force was set up--the ideafor it--came from an idea in Paris on June 2nd. Some of you were there. Iknow Eric was there, Ed was there. In the two-week period, June 1st to June15th, there were ten attempted convoys to Sarajevo -- only one successfully gotthrough, and it delivered 100 metric tons of supplies.

By contrast, between July 25th and the present, there have been 25 attemptedconvoys--nine successes--and these convoys have delivered a total of 1,396metric tons of food and materiel to Sarajevo. So that's an increase of nearly1,400 percent from the two-week period at the beginning of June.

The presence of the Rapid Reaction Force has certainly contributed to this,although I will point out before you ask, that not all of this went over theMt. Igman Road. Most of it doesn't go over the Mt. Igman Road. But the factthat the force has been there and has been ready to escort convoys, we believe,has contributed to the increase in humanitarian aid.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Colonel Kennett, ever astute, has pointed out to me -- for which I'm thankful-- that I've made an error. Deputy Secretary White is going to Kelly Air ForceBase and McClellan Air Force Base -- these are the two bases that are beingprivatized following the BRAC decisions. We'll get the numbers of the contactsat both Kelly and at McClellan from DDI. But the number I gave you was thenumber at McClellan, not at Kelly.

Q: When does he go?

A: He's leaving on the 14th, and he's going to visit... Leaving for Kelly onthe 14th, and then...

Doubleday: Going to Kelly on the 14th, and then he visits McClellan later inthe week on Thursday.

Bacon: He's going out there specifically to survey the privatizationpossibilities and to start this process rolling.

Q: On Bosnia. Can you give us any more details than the President did in hispress conference on some of the ideas that Tony Lake might carry overseas, whatplan the United States might be putting forward for the Bosnia peace plan?

And number two, NATO jets fired anti-missile missiles last Friday, I believe,at radar sites near Knin. Have any been fired since then?

A: On the second question, we will check to see if any have been fired. I'mnot aware that there have been, but we'll check.

Q: Can you also check and see if there is any damage assessment from thatfiring on Friday?

A: Yes. The Friday firing. We'll check on the damage assessment, and we'llalso check to see if there have been any other ones. I'm not aware that therehave been any other ones.

The President described in broad terms the peace initiative that Tony Lake ispursuing in Europe with our allies, and I don't think it's worthwhile for me togo beyond that at this stage. He gave, I thought, a pretty completedescription of what the goals are.

Q: The reports have suggested that it would no longer be a 51/49 split interms of the Bosnian government retaining 49 percent of Bosnia, but that nowthey would be more in terms of splitting the country up between a Bosnian Serbcoalition and Serbia.

A: Any peace package will have a number of components to it, and certainly oneof the components could be a different map than the one we've been discussingso far. I don't think it makes sense to go into what the new map will looklike at this stage. That's one of the topics we were discussing with ourallies. But certainly we're willing to entertain the possibility of adifferent map.

Q: So you're not suggesting that Sarajevo might become just a small state likeLiechtenstein?

A: I'm not suggesting that, no. I'm suggesting that we're going to look atthe possibility of different maps, but I don't want to get specific on whatthese maps will involve.

Q: Can you talk about Iraq?

A: Sure.

Q: What are you seeing on the ground in Iraq in the wake of these defections?What role is the U.S. Government playing--or have they played--in helping tomake this come about, or in debriefing the defectors?

A: The defections of the two daughters of Saddam Hussein and their husbands,both of whom played crucial roles in the military and security structure ofIraq, is something we're watching very closely. And we're watching, obviously,the response to it in Iraq and the rest of the area.

We have seen some preparations by Iraqi units in their garrisons. These donot seem to be threatening at this time. We always watch very closely what'shappening in Iraq. As we showed last October, we're willing to respond veryquickly to any threat we perceive Iraq to be making toward any of itsneighbors.

What we're seeing now is really preparatory moves, moving artillery or tanksout of sheds or other things in garrisons. They haven't gone anywhere.

There are basically three theories for why this may be happening, and thetheories could not cover why they really are happening. But the three theoriesare that they could be responding to problems in the north with the Kurds; theycould be preparing to maintain stability within Iraq, particularly around thecapital of Baghdad, at a time when obviously, the regime of Saddam Hussein isunder some pressure and facing mounting doubts as to the adequacy of the regimeor the safety of the people in Iraq; and the third could be that they'rethinking about some movement toward Jordan. But there's nothing to supportthat theory at this stage.

Q: Are these the best units?

A: They are Republican Guard units, yes.

Q: Near Baghdad?

A: Yeah, it's relatively close to Baghdad. It's far away from Jordan. As Isay, this could well just be a precautionary measure to protect the leadershipin Baghdad. As you know, we've spoken from the platform--I and other briefershave spoken from this platform before--about suspected mutinies, attemptedmutinies, within the Iraqi army, attempted coup attempts. There have been anumber of signs of instability recently. This is just the latest, and reallythe most dramatic, the defections.

Q: Does the United States Government have knowledge--either directly from theIraqi defectors or through the Jordanians--as to why they left Baghdad, andwhat may, in fact, be happening? Are we plugged in to that?

A: I've seen reports that have quoted some of the defectors themselves. I sawa report that Lieutenant General Hasan, one of the defectors, said, "PresidentSaddam Hussein's government had lost all credibility." That seemed to be apretty clear statement on his part about why he defected. So I think I'd liketo leave their explanation of their defections in their own words.

Q: Is the government of Jordan sharing with us what they are learning from thedefectors? Or, as you say, is it just coming directly from the defectors?

A: This was a statement that I saw in a news report. I think, as I said, theyshould speak for themselves on this.

Q: Is the U.S. taking any military moves, for example, shifting any seaassets--naval assets around--in anticipation of an incursion into Jordan?

A: No, we are decidedly not doing that. We have very substantial assets inthe Gulf at all times. Right now we have approximately 20,000 military peoplein the Gulf who are basically Navy and Air Force people, and there is a verysubstantial air force operating in the Gulf area to police possible violationsof the no-fly zones that we have both in the north and the southern ends ofIraq.

There are 19 naval ships in the Arabian Gulf area now, including the ABRAHAMLINCOLN carrier group and the NEW ORLEANS Amphibious Ready Group. We have notincreased our assets there, nor is there any intention of increasing ourassets.

I probably should mention in passing, so there's no confusion about this, butthere is an exercise planned in the area that has long been planned, to starton Monday. It involves the 11th MEU -- Marine Expeditionary Unit -- which ison the NEW ORLEANS--in the NEW ORLEANS Amphibious Ready Group. That's to starta two-week exercise on August 14th, so it will run from the 14th to the 30th.

It's basically in connection with a country in the area, and... [Laughter]

Q: Are the Marines set to go ashore in Jordan?

A: We are exercising in connection with the Jordanian forces, yes. But thiswas pre-planned, and is going to go ahead as scheduled.

Q: Will the Marines actually go ashore?

A: I do not know. We'll find out. I don't know exactly what they're doing.

Q: ...be moving into Jordan?

A: There is no plan to change any assets in that area.

Q: But as part of the exercise, without changing anything?

A: We'll find out the exact description of the exercise for you.

Q: Has Jordan contacted...

A: I've told you everything I know about this exercise. You can get the restof the information from DDI. I'm not hiding anything, this is all I know rightnow. You can get the rest of the information.

Q: You mentioned three theories as to why the Iraqis may be moving around ingarrison...

A: They have not moved from their garrisons. This is sort of a type ofpreparations. We don't know what they're doing. They might just be preparingto repaint a couple of howitzers or something, I don't know. But there is somemovement.

Q: What's the assessment of the likelihood of a move against Jordan?

A: I think the assessment... I think people who assess Saddam Hussein's moveshave a better predictive capability than I do. But we do not have reason tobelieve right now that there is going to be any movement toward Jordan. I haveevery reason to believe that Saddam Hussein should take the President's warningvery, very seriously -- particularly in light of the troop movements we madelast October when they were moving toward Kuwait. We moved, in a short periodof time, 19,000 people into the Gulf, and we had planned to move another 44,000people, and we had put 135,000 people on alert. We had also sent 192 combataircraft to the Gulf, or augmented our force there to bring it up to 192 combataircraft -- all in about a week's time. So there should be no doubt as toeither our seriousness or our ability to move forces quickly in that area.

Q: What's the significance of this defection?

A: I think time will tell, but it's potentially extremely significant. Let mejust review it on several levels.

The first is that Saddam Hussein's inner family has always been, as long ashe's been the ruler of the leading power block. These are two people from thevery inner circle of the family. One of the son-in-laws was the IndustryMinister and head of the military industrialization organization. He also, notcoincidentally and not unimportantly, was the fellow in charge of sort ofhiding their weapons of mass destruction program. As you know, this has beenone of the fundamental issues between the United Nations and Iraq. What isIraq doing to eliminate its ability to manufacture biological weapons orchemical weapons, have they been forthright in revealing what they have? Thisis the fellow who ran that program--was responsible for the program. Sopresumably, this shows some lack of confidence in the leadership; or, in thisparticular program, the way they were dealing with the UN.

The second person to leave, the second son-in-law, was one of the leaders inSaddam Hussein's security forces. So it looks like two people in hisleadership very close to him have decided to go elsewhere -- along with theirwives, who are his daughters. It's clearly a vote of no confidence in SaddamHussein or in his ability to provide security to people who are very close tohim.

Q: Do you have any information on how the defectors came into Jordan? Whatarrangements were made? Did they come across in a caravan? Did they...

A: I have no information. You can keep asking me questions and suggestingthat I can answer them, but I have no information. [Laughter]

Q: Are you seeking access?

A: I think I should leave answers to those questions to other people, but ifyou guess that these are people we'd want to talk to, you guess correctly.

Q: Is there anybody from DoD...

A: Also, it's very important to note that these are people to whom UNrepresentative Rolf Ekeus will want to speak as well because of their knowledgeabout the Iraqi weapons programs.

Q: Has there been any suggestion from these people that they would want tocome to the United States?

A: I can't answer that question.

Q: You can't answer or you don't know?

A: I can't answer and I don't know. [Laughter]

Q: Has there been indication that they are willing to cooperate with the UNor...

A: I don't want to get into any detailed discussions about what they're doingor with whom at this stage.

Q: Has U.S. contingency planning previously envisioned an Iraqi attack onJordan, or is this possibility--however remote--now requiring some new thinkinghere? Also, are there any plans to brief Congress on whatever U.S. militaryplans might exist to counter such an attack?

A: We are not making military plans... First of all, as I've said many times,we have plans for a huge number of things. We are not now moving forces intothat area. We have not changed our plans at this stage. We do not see anyreason to. The President issued a very clear warning; and, as I just said afew minutes ago, I think Saddam Hussein should take that warning seriously.And I assume he will and there will be no need to do anything, but we also havevery substantial forces that are highly ready and highly mobile in that area.He knows that. You know it. And we are reemphasizing that today.

Q: A serious question would be... We have no treaty...

A: I thought that was a very serious question. I don't accept thatcharacterization of Brad's question. [Laughter]

Q: I apologize. It was a very serious question. But another serious questionwould be what obligations or what commitments do we have to Jordan? We used tohave fairly close ties. We became estranged during the Gulf War. There hasnow been some rapprochement. But we have no treaty obligations to Jordan. Arewe extending verbally our defense commitment to Jordan, as we have to Kuwait?

A: The President did that today. He said he had informed King Hussein that wewould be ready to help them repel any Iraqi attacks. We have worked closelywith Jordan over the years. Jordan has made a number of courageous choices inthe last year or so. Its agreement with Israel and this being the latest one-- to accept defectors and grant them asylum. We're prepared to protect Jordanif the need arises. I do not think the need will arise. The point of thePresident's statement today was to increase the chances that the need will notarise.

Q: You mentioned that the defection itself would be a vote of no confidenceagainst Saddam or a reflection of inability to provide security. People closeto him...

A: Those are two possible conclusions from this.

Q: Do you have any evaluation as to which one this is?

A: No.

Q: Second, do you have an evaluation of what the internal security threats,the conditions that are facing Saddam from his opponents, are right now?

A: In answer to your first question, my comments about what it might show -- avote of no confidence or a lack of confidence in his ability to providesecurity for his family -- really stems from what one of the defectors said,which is that the government has lost all credibility. I would include both ofthose under the rubric of losing credibility in the Saddam Hussein regime. Ijust don't know what the internal security situation is. There have beenreports of coup attempts in the past, and I think that's a sign of a certainamount of restiveness and a certain amount of instability, but I can't tell youwhat's going on right now.

Q: Do you know of any recent coup attempts?

A: I do not.

Q: To Croatia. Akashi said today that the UN will begin withdrawing thebetter part of 10,000 combat troops from the Krajina enclaves within the nextcouple of days, and that they're looking for air and sealift to do it. Is theUnited States going to commit any resources to that withdrawal effort?

A: We will find out for you. I don't know. I'm aware of what Akashi said,but I don't know what role, if any, we'll play.

Q: Does this withdrawal trigger any portion of the 40104 plan to which we'vemade formal commitments to NATO?

A: No, because that plan applied to Bosnia.

Q: Not to the UN...

A: Right.

Q: China. China announced today that the PRA is going to conduct liveammunition and artillery exercises in the East China [Sea]. Do you have anycomments on that?

A: I have not seen that report. A live... What kind of missile?

Q: Live ammunition, last time when they had the exercise, they didn't use the[armed] missiles but this time they are going to use it.

A: We're in the process of trying to improve our security dialogue with China.This was started last fall when Secretary Perry visited Beijing and met withleading military and civilian officials. One of the decisions that came out ofthat meeting was a commitment on both our sides to begin an effort to talk moreopenly about our military plans; and, particularly, to get China to talk moreopenly about its military plans. Not for the sheer joy of talking freely aboutmilitary plans, but as a way to help develop a greater sense of confidence andstability in the area so this will reduce the chances of miscalculation byChina's neighbors.

China certainly has a right to exercise its military forces. And I assumethey will do this in a way that is for training purposes only, and not forintimidation, and not threatening to its neighbors.

Q: In view of the recent tensions between the two sides of the Taiwan Straitsand all of its difficulties in the relationship between China and the UnitedStates, what kind of impact do you see the new exercises will have?

A: As I said, you informed me of these exercises, and I don't know the detailsof the exercises, and I would rather not comment specifically on them until Iknow more about where, when, how long, and what.

Q: Between August the 15th and 25th.

A: Well, I don't want to make a response up here until I have a chance to lookat the details. I hope you appreciate that.

Press: Thank you.