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Media Availability with Secretary Cohen and Minister of Defense Dominguez, Argentine Republic

Presenters: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Minister of Defense Jorge Dominguez, Argentine Republic
July 22, 1998 11:15 AM EDT

Secretary Cohen: This is as quiet as you will hear the American press corps. [Laughter]

Let me officially welcome Minister Dominguez to the Pentagon again. This is his third visit to the Pentagon. I indicated we were about to put a name plate on the back of one of the chairs because he has traveled here so frequently. But I must say that we had a very good meeting in Argentina in May. We had a good meeting this morning and we will continue in those efforts throughout the day.

Our militaries work very well together. And the agreements that we have just signed are going to improve our cooperation. The mastery information exchange agreement is going to enable us to exchange research and development information. And under the framework of that agreement, we have also signed a joint statement of intent to cooperate on defense related environmental matters. And this is going to allow us to work together on such issues as pollution prevention, environmental clean up and managing natural resources on military lands. We're also working on some new agreements for the future and one that would allow us to exchange classified information. Another will authorize the mutual provision of supplies and services during peacekeeping operations. The United States and the Argentine militaries, we already work very closely together for stability in this hemisphere and throughout the world. And these new agreements are going to strengthen the cooperation between our two countries.

Mr. Minister, it's a pleasure to welcome you here again. I look forward to visiting you in Argentina again and enjoying the great hospitality that you extended to us. And if you care to make a comment.

Minister Dominguez: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Just a few words to express how deep we feel that the relations between the United States and Argentina is going right now. We feel that we are working together. We support the same values. And we are working in terms of keeping peace around the world. We have been working together in the Gulf operations and we are supporting the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations. And we are going to continue working in the future as we did in the last few years. The strong relations between our two presidents, our two governments and our -- the Congress of Argentina and the Congress of the United States is a good sign of the future.

Thank you very much for your kind attention during the period we worked this morning.

(Speaking in Spanish)

Q: Mr. Minister, your president's worked very hard to resolve the Malvinas issue. He's no longer running for a third term. What will happen to this issue? Will it be placed on a back burner? What will happen now?

Minister Dominguez: This is a national issue. And there is no difference among different parties. The position about Malvinas is similar, maybe there are some change in methodology, but any government in the future will continue what the present government is doing.

Q: (Question is Spanish)

A: (Answer in Spanish)

Q: Mr. Secretary, this morning, Navy Secretary John Dalton said that he thinks it's time for a review of pay and benefits for the military, that the military has fallen behind in the economic boom that the United States has enjoyed. Do you have any sense from your visits to the fleet or other military forces that recruiting and retention is dropping because pay is a problem, benefits are a problem?

Secretary Cohen: We're looking at that across the board at all the services. One of the things that we have discovered, of course, is that we have a booming economy and that we are having some challenge, to say the least, in attracting people into the service; given that kind of competitive environment, that we have to draw the same people from that we want into the military, are going into the private sector as well at much higher rates of compensation.

Secondly, as far as retention is concerned, once again, the opportunity to leave the military for much higher paying jobs is creating some real challenges in the field of retention. So we are looking across the board at ways in which we can try to maintain the very high standards that we have, to not only achieve our recruiting goals, but achieve our retention goals as well. That will be a factor involved.

Q: Mr. Secretary, do you still intend to make a recommendation by the end of this week on changing the adultery statutes?

Secretary Cohen: The answer is I intend to, I hope to make a recommendation dealing with the adultery issue. I've tried to make clear, contrary to reports, there has been no report presented to me for approval or rejection at this point. There has been an examination and a series of attempts to come up with some formulation of ways in which we can deal with the issue. But I want to say very clearly for the record there will be no change in the code. I have never proposed a change in the UCMJ. And there will be no lowering of the standards. I have made this clear from the day I took office, that we will maintain very high standards in the military. I made that point in an address to the Air Force Academy. I made the same statement in the address I gave to the West Point cadets. We're going to maintain high standards. I hope to bring some greater uniformity in the approaches of solving these particular cases or dealing with them and to lay out a clarification of the code, what it means and ways in which it can be handled so we can achieve a greater degree of fairness and equity in how they're disposed of. But that's my intent and I hope to complete that by Friday. As you know, I'll be traveling to Australia and to Indonesia and the Philippines next week, so I would like to have it ready for presentation by Friday.

Q: Would you be able to give us the benefit of your thinking on that on Friday then?

Secretary Cohen: Yes. No, I hope to at least make a statement and present this to you by Friday.

Q: What is your goal on your trip to the southwest Pacific?

Secretary Cohen: Well, with respect to the Philippines, we have made some real progress in terms of our relationship with Philippines. We've had an agreement in terms of our visiting of forces agreement with the Philippines. We're building upon that. I also want to go to Indonesia to continue my relationship with my counterpart in Indonesia to help and see ways in which we can be helpful in stabilizing the situation and ways in which we can cooperate. We think it's important that Indonesia achieve a period of stability and rebuilding and to the extent that I can be helpful in any way, I want to explore that. So that's the purpose. Gen. Ralston was recently in Indonesia. I will be going there and I assume there will be follow up activities on the part of other agencies. To the extent that we can be helpful, we want to do that.

Press: Thank you very much.

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