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DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, September 29, 1998

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD PA
September 29, 1998 1:30 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Welcome to the briefing. I have some announcements and introductions to make and then I'll take your questions. The first is that - if you bring the dogs up here so the media can see them. I want to introduce two of the four newest members of the Defense Protective Service, Johnny and Woodan with their handlers also, William Lagasse and Officer Lynne Mueller. Officer Muller and Johnny received top honors in their class which graduated on September 18th.

This is a first for the Pentagon, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to make sure all of you were aware of this. Up until now when we've needed bomb sniffing dogs we've gotten them from the services. The new canine corps reported here to the Pentagon yesterday after 11 weeks of training at the Police Dog Training Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. The Defense Protective Service Canine Unit is under the direct supervision of Sergeant Vance Dunlap who previously served as a canine handler in the Marine Corps. Sergeant Dunlap and Chief John Jester are here today to answer any specific questions you may have on this program. Then after the briefing today, at the Mall Entrance, outside the Mall Entrance we'll have a photo op for any of you that want more specifics on the dogs or the program, and anybody who wants to take any pictures.

Does anybody have any questions for either the dog handlers or Chief Jester on this?

Q: To boil this down, you all have always had bomb sniffing dogs, you've just gotten them from other branches of the military. Now they have their own canine corps... A: (Doubleday): That's exactly right. We've gotten them not only from other branches, from the military bases in the area, but they've had to be called in for specific occasions. What this adds to our overall security of the building is an in-house capability that we can use on a continuing basis.

My reason for bringing them into the briefing today was to make sure that those of you who are in the media who see the dogs don't incorrectly think that there is something going on which is not intended. These dogs will be around the Pentagon from here on out.

Q: Are they going to patrol the halls? And how often before have you had to call them in?

A: (Doubleday): Let me call up one of our experts here, and he can give you a little rundown.

A: (Sergeant Dunlap): Our new receiving area we're having on the (inaudible). We'll be positioned there from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. We'll have two handlers on each shift. If we have a suspicious package we can respond to it in ten minutes. The other handler will be going around to the child care center, whatever entrance, yes, and patrolling the building.

Q: How often before this have you had to call the dogs in? Once a week, once a month? A: (Dunlap): It varies, ma'am. We've been getting support from Fort Myer. That's where our dogs are right now, staying there. We get support from the airport handlers over there.

The problem is there are so many commitments of bomb threats in the area, with our dogs being here we can support the Pentagon a lot more.

Q: Has this been sparked by the recent events in Afghanistan and the bin Laden thing, or has this plan been underway for some time?

A: (Chief Jester): It's been underway, sir.

A: (Doubleday): This has been underway, but it fits into the overall program that we have of force protection and additional attention to security of government facilities.

A: (Jester): I can speak to that.

A: (Doubleday): Sure, Chief Jester.

Q: Would you give your name please?

A: (Jester): John Jester. This is part of our overall program to improve security in the Pentagon. This has been ongoing. We didn't start this a few weeks ago. This has taken quite awhile to get to this point.

We're doing many things, as you may have noticed, here in the Pentagon to improve security. One of the key things we're doing now is that we want to be able to check trucks and vehicles that come in. This on-site canine unit will allow us to do that without having to request support from other organizations. That's the main reason. We need to have our own resources on site.

A: (Doubleday): Any other questions? As I say, the dogs and their handles will be outside at the Mall Entrance after the brief, so if anybody would like to go out there and learn more, they will be on hand. Thank you both for coming.

Q: How many dogs total?

A: (Doubleday): A total of four.

Q: On duty at any one time?

A: (Doubleday): Four in the total unit. They can utilize as many of those as are required.

Q: But two on duty...

A: (Doubleday): Right now we've got two here, but I think they're going to have all four outside.

Q: What are their ranks? (Laughter)

A: (Dunlap): Privates right now, ma'am.

Q: What I mean is you'll have four dogs in the unit, but you'll have two on duty daily?

A: (Dunlap): Our mission right now, sir, is 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. We'll have two handlers on from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., so we'll have an overlap. The same problem, if Fort Myer needs our support we can go over there, and vice versa.

A: (Doubleday) Any other questions on this one?

Q: Are these merely bomb sniffing, or do they sniff anything else.

A: (Doubleday): Only explosives.

I have some more announcements. Thank you both for coming.

In addition to announcements, let me start by welcoming three different groups that we have with us today. First there are three public affairs officials from the Russian Ministry of Defense. This delegation is in the United States at the invitation of Defense Secretary William Cohen. Their purpose here is to examine how the U.S. military handles public affairs in its broadest sense. They have been talking to members of our organization here in the Pentagon as well as some of our satellite organizations that handle the internal communications programs for the Department.

Tomorrow they are going to go down to Norfolk, Virginia to meet with the U.S. Atlantic Command to learn more about how things are done at that organization.

In addition to that group of three, there is also a visiting group of eight Russian press spokespersons visiting Washington this week. This group is sponsored by the United States Information Agency's International Visitors Program. They're also here to learn about the relationship between government and the press, and they are going to be meeting with people in our organization following the briefing today.

In addition to the two groups of Russian journalists, we have a group of 13 journalists from 13 different countries in the Asia Pacific region. They're here as part of the Center for War, Peace, and the News Media Program that is funded by the U.S. Information Agency. This is a two week program that promotes an in-depth understanding of U.S. regional defense and security policies through briefings, round table discussions, and seminars.

I also would like to make sure that everybody is aware that the new Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which we call DTRA, is going to stand up on Thursday, the 1st of October. The event is going to start with a press conference which will be here in the studio at 10:00 o'clock in the morning. That will be followed by the actual ceremonial inauguration of the organization which will be attended by Secretary Cohen at Dulles Airport.

If you need transportation to get out there please check with Colonel Queenie Byars and she can fill you in on more information and also on the transportation arrangements.

Let me give you a little rundown on Hurricane Georges. The Department of Defense is helping residents of the Caribbean and the Gulf coasts as they recover from the hurricane. On the Atlantic, the Air Force has flown more than 50 relief missions and that number continues to rise on a daily basis. The U.S. [Army] Corps of Engineers has provided personnel and generators to a hospital, two disaster staging areas at the mobilization center at Roosevelt Roads. They have also delivered 1.4 million pounds of ice and a million gallons of water for distribution in Puerto Rico. The Corps is also providing emergency debris clearance and tanker trucks for these water deliveries.

A naval mobile construction battalion, a SEABEE unit, is providing support for the road clearing and minor repairs to municipal buildings in Puerto Rico. The composite squadron down there, which is called Fleet Composite Squadron 8, is providing helicopter flights for damage assessments and has also delivered satellite communications equipment to Culebra, which is one of the islands of Puerto Rico.

On the Gulf coast, the U.S. [Army] Corps of Engineers has procured 1.25 million sand bags for the flood fighting effort. The Air Mobility Command flew five medical teams to the Gulf coast over the past two days. More than 3,800 National Guard forces in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are called up for state active duty to perform numerous public service operations or public safety operations including sand bagging, power and safety operations, evacuation, security, transportation, flood and traffic control and debris removal and cleanup operations.

If you would like to get more detail on this, the folks back in DDI have quite a bit.

Finally, one last announcement, I'd like to make sure all of you are aware that the Defense Intelligence Agency today honored Staff Sergeant Kenneth Ray Hobson II in a solemn ceremony held at the Defense Intelligence Analyst Center at Bolling Air Force Base. Staff Sergeant Hobson, a member of the defense attache's office in Nairobi, Kenya, was killed during the bombing of the embassy there. Staff Sergeant Hobson's name was added to the Patriots Memorial which honors those DIA employees killed in the line of duty in service to the nation. His name will be the 13th on the organization's memorial wall.

With that, I'll try and answer some of your questions.

Q: Mike, would you bring us up to date on the latest plans for Kosovo, including U.S. military contingency planning for whatever part it might take, whether or not ground forces in this country have been put on alert, and attack planes in Aviano have been put on alert for possible use.

A: Charlie, right now I think you're aware that the last time we talked I mentioned that there was this Act Warn or Activation Warning which had gone out to, or which had been authorized to be sent to all of the NATO participating militaries. As a result of that, the militaries would be putting together a list of the units that could be devoted to any kind of operations that may be required.

We have -- I can't provide to you today any kind of a listing of what those units might look like, but in the coming days we will be finalizing that and at some point in time we'll provide you with a more detailed list.

The whole purpose of this, of course, is to be ready in the event that there is a decision by NATO to use some of the plans that they've been working on for the last weeks and months. At this point we are still hopeful that a diplomatic solution can be worked out for this humanitarian disaster which exists over there, but as a result of the meetings that took place last week in Portugal, I think it's clear that the NATO Defense Ministers are very firm in their resolve to send a clear signal to Milosevic and to the Serbs that they must end the actions that they've been taking which have caused this humanitarian disaster.

Q: It's also been made clear that the U.S. and NATO would use air power if these attacks continue on civilians, and that seems to be the case. American jets would certainly be among those used from Aviano. Have any contingency plans been made for targeting or putting these planes on alert in any way?

A: Charlie, I'm not going to get into the specifics of what units are going to be called upon to participate in air activities if that decision is ever made. But you know that we have been working on this for quite some time, and that we have a number of units in Europe and of course around the world that could be called upon if the National Command Authority makes that decision.

I'm not in a position today to make any kind of announcement on that, but clearly there are a wide variety of forces that could be utilized if called upon.

Q: What's the latest information on the ground? There seem to be conflicting reports about whether the Serb forces are indeed halting military action. I think some points they're pulling back and some other points there are new attacks. So what's the picture on the ground?

A: At this point I think we've got a lot of rhetoric and not much action. By that I mean there certainly have been statements made by Serb officials that their activities, their military actions are over and done with at this point, but that is not what we have seen on the ground.

You're aware that there is in place a diplomatic observer mission which has seen military activities take place after those statements were made. I think it's probably going to be a day or two before we can make a full assessment as to whether any of the statements had any meaning at all.

Q: What is it that remains to be done here? Today at the Senate Armed Services Committee the Chairman said that he had not been notified of any pending military action. Is that underway? What's left to do here in Washington? Has the White House just got to make a decision?

A: The process that needs to go through on this, this Act Warn is what I would term and others have termed as the final step in the planning process. But no decision has been made by NATO yet to actually use military force. Certainly, the planning that is required should that decision be made in the future, that planning has gone on for, as I say, weeks and months. But no decision has been made by the North Atlantic Council, which is the political arm of NATO, to actually use force in this case.

So what we have right now is still a desire, a hope that the diplomatic process will result in some concrete actions on the ground which will enable these internally displaced persons, the tens of thousands that exist in Kosovo, to return to their homes and get into a position where they can support themselves and feed themselves during the winter which is fast approaching.

Q: Has there been any notification to the Congress yet or not?

A: Certainly this is an issue that's been discussed with Congress but there has been no notification of Congress because there's been no decision yet. This is not a decision that would be taken independently by any one country. This is a decision that would be taken in the NATO context by the North Atlantic Council. We certainly are a very important member of NATO but we are not the only member and that decision has not yet been made.

Q: The General Accounting Office, as I'm sure you know, yesterday upheld the protest of the McClellan workload award to the Hill [Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah]/Boeing team because of the bundling issue, and recommended that the competition be reopened. Is that likely to occur?

A: The present situation on that is that one, we in the Department here do not agree with the decision of the General Accounting Office. We are discussing this matter with them; we are providing them with any additional information that they may need; but we believe that the approach that we took in this case was correct. As I say, we're going to continue to talk with the General Accounting Office, but we do not agree with their decision in this.

I would like to also point out that their decision in this is not binding on the approach that the Department will ultimately take.

Q: I have been told that recommendations are coming from high up in the Air Force to go ahead and finalize the award to Hill [Ogden Air Logistics Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah]/Boeing. Do you know if that's...

A: You might want to check with the Air Force. I can't tell you whether they will actually finalize. I think there are some discussions going on with the General Accounting Office.

But I want to stress that one, we do not agree that their decision is an appropriate one in this case, and we are not bound by their decision.

Q: Finally, do you have any sense of how long it might take to resolve this issue?

A: I don't. My guess is they'll want to do it quickly, though.

Q: What is it you don't agree with?

A: We don't agree with the fact that this bundling could not take place in this case.

Q: They argue that these are dissimilar items and...

A: I'm not in a position to get into the details. You might want to talk to the Air Force. But I can tell you in the overall context of this, we believe that our approach was appropriate and in the best interests of not only the government but also the taxpayers.

Q: Captain, did you respond to the Greek Ministry of Defense letter to the DSAA of your Department, August 19th for (unintelligible) regarding [the] sale of F-15s to Greece?

A: Let me just -- say again one more time your question.

Q: The question is that did you respond to the letter from the Greek Ministry of Defense to the DSAA of your Department regarding (unintelligible) for [the] sale of F-15s to Greece.

A: My understanding is that we strongly support Greece's efforts to provide for its own defense and to meet its NATO responsibilities. We believe that we have the best aircraft in the competition and hope that Greece will select a U.S. aircraft. We aren't going to comment at this time on discussions between close allies.

Q: Do you want Greece to obtain this specific equipment, the F-15s? This is my question.

A: I'm not going to get into the specifics, but I will say that we believe that we've got the best aircraft in the competition.

Q: Did you get similar requests from the Turkish government?

A: I don't think I should comment on the correspondence that we have with any government.

Q: It was reported that the joint military exercise of USA, Israel and Turkey is going to take place. Do you know where and for how long?

A: That exercise is in the very preliminary stages, to the point that there has not yet been a real planning conference and until the planning conference takes place they won't know the exact date, they won't know the location for where the exercise is going to take place.

Q: It was reported in [the] Washington Times, actually, that the previous one involved action against (inaudible) of S-300 missiles. Could you please comment on that?

A: That's absolutely incorrect. The reason I say that is the last exercise was a humanitarian rescue exercise. It didn't have anything at all to do with weapons of any kind.

Q: And the last one, did you propose to Turkey and Israel, as the U.S., that Greece should participate in the type of exercises for humanitarian purposes?

A: Well, as I say, the planning conference for this thing hasn't come up yet and I think Mr. Bacon indicated in a previous briefing here that the United States was looking to make participation as either observers or full participants as broad as possible. But, at this point, since there's not been any planning conference on this thing, I don't think anybody's in a position to say who is going to be involved in the exercise.

Q: A North Korea question. (Inaudible) and I know State is primarily in charge of this, but your Department has been involved with this issue, especially with (inaudible). What exactly are you looking for to get achieved in this round of talks?

A: As you point out, the State Department has the lead in that one and I really would defer to them on questions regarding those talks.

Q: (unintelligible) Department on these talks?

A: They have the lead and I think that's the best place to leave it.

Q: Is Secretary Cohen going to the Persian Gulf next week? And given the latest developments in Iraq and UNSCOM, can you give us any idea what he'll be talking with the various leaders there about?

A: I think certainly the issue of Iraq is going to be one of the issues. I think you're well aware that we believe that the Iraqis must get back to cooperation with UNSCOM before we can go into any kind of review that they have proposed. He'll also, during the course of his visit, be meeting with U.S. troops that are over there, and in addition to that, he will be discussing a number of bilateral issues that we have with all the countries that he's going to be visiting. But we will have a more comprehensive briefing on his trip either late this week or early next week before he departs.

Q: The subject of military readiness, and specifically the testimony of the Chairman of the Joint Chief Shelton, General Shelton today and the other Joint Chiefs, says that basically that military readiness to fight is deteriorating for this military, and that the biggest problem is the exodus of experienced, well trained troops. Mike, do you have any reaction to that?

A: Do I have anything to add to what each one of the Service Chiefs and the Chairman has said on this subject today? The answer is no. I think it's been covered very comprehensively by them.

I think readiness is certainly a subject that has been much discussed in this building. That testimony today was probably the most comprehensive words that exist on that subject and I really do think on this one you ought to refer to that testimony.

Press: Thank you.