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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA
September 26, 1995 1:45 PM EDT

Tuesday, September 26, 1995 - 1:45 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing. I apologize for being late.

First, I'd like to recognize Defense Secretary Pierre Steyn of the Republic of South Africa who is visiting the Defense Department for a week to study civilian control of the military. Welcome to the briefing. This is a good place to start.

Secondly, I'd like to point out that Secretary Perry's going to New York tomorrow to hold a joint meeting with Secretary Christopher and their Japanese counterparts, and then they will sign a new agreement providing support for U.S. forces in Japan from the Japanese government. It's a special measure agreement that commits Japan to continue host nation support for five more years, and it will provide approximately $1.72 billion a year to fund Japanese labor and utility costs in support of U.S. Forces. There are about 47,000 U.S. Forces in Japan -- more than any other country but Germany. That is open to the press tomorrow. It will be at the Waldorf Astoria. You can get details from DDI later.

Q: What's the time again?

A: The time is around noon. I think it's a quarter of 12:00 tomorrow, but we can give you exact details after this briefing.

With that, I'll take your questions on this or other topics.

Q: Do you have any details on this Serb airstrike today in Bosnia? Any NATO response to it?

A: I'm afraid I do not, but we'll work on getting you some response.

Q: What about the question of Russian participation in the prospective peacekeeping mission in terms of command and control? The proposal by the Russians, as I understand it, is to alternate between Russia and NATO. Is that acceptable?

A: I've only read a press account of some remarks that Russian Defense Minister Grachev made about a proposal that President Yeltsin plans to announce next week. So I can't comment on it in any detail because we don't know the details.

In general, we've always assumed that non-NATO forces would participate in a multilateral peacekeeping force, peace implementation force in Bosnia, and we would welcome Russian participation in that force under adequate command and control standards, but we haven't worked those out yet. Those will have to be discussed with the UN and with non-NATO forces that want to come in.

As you know, the U.S. will participate in the NATO force and we will be under NATO command and NATO rules of engagement.

I think it's important to note here that while we do welcome non-NATO countries, no one has been asked yet to participate in this force. NATO is still in the process of drafting its plans, and it's probably several weeks away from having a firm plan for a peace implementation force. At that stage, once NATO figures out how many people need to be committed to this force and takes an inventory of offers to participate in that force, it will decide who the participants will be and how much they'll contribute.

Q: Are you saying, then, that you stand by the constant insistence by this Administration that U.S. troops only go in under NATO command and control at all times, but that you might be willing to let some other country like Russia...

A: No, I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that we will only go in under NATO command and control, not UN command and control. That's been clear from the very beginning. I'm not saying under what circumstances troops from other nations would come in, because those details have not been worked out yet. They remain to be worked out.

As I said, we only got wind of this Russian proposal yesterday, and all we have is a news account of what they're planning to propose when President Yeltsin comes next week. So we'll have to await his presentation to find out exactly what they have in mind.

Q: I believe Mr. Grachev, and maybe other Russian officials, have suggested that the enforcement, the military enforcement of cessation of hostilities be across the board, applied to all of the combatants, all elements of the former Yugoslavia to bring about this cessation. There was a complaint by the Bosnian Serb leaders that it was not fair. With the implementation of the NATO bombing, it tilted the balance, and what had happened since was not fair, especially the offensives of the Croats and the Bosnians and the gaining of ground.

So what is the reaction of the United States government to these complaints, suggestions, etc.?

A: On the first point, a cessation of hostilities, to be effective, would have to be universal. It would have to cover all participants in the conflict. We're working now at the UN to try to achieve, to try to move towards a cessation of hostilities as soon as possible. That's always been our goal, to stop the fighting and to settle this through negotiations, through a peace agreement.

On your second point, the goal of the bombing was extremely limited. It was to break the siege of Sarajevo. It was to force the Serbs to pull their weapons back. I think you should focus on why we had to do that. We had to do that because at one point, the Serbs were shelling Sarajevo with a thousand shells a day. The Serbs were killing innocent civilians in Sarajevo in violation of the exclusion zone. So the airstrikes were begun to stop that and to force the Serbs to pull back their heavy weapons. It succeeded.

Q: I take it then that the United States would not favor the use of NATO air power or UN ground forces to impose a ceasefire as the Russians, I think, were suggesting across the board -- a standstill militarily across the board, could not be enforced by NATO?

A: We believe that all parties should recognize now that there's a window of opportunity to reach a ceasefire agreement and to move toward a peace agreement. This is a benefit to all participants in the fighting. We think that when a ceasefire is agreed to, that all parties will find reasons to support that ceasefire.

Q: To what extent would U.S. troops as part of this NATO peace implementation force be attempting to disarm the warring parties in Bosnia, or take control of heavy weapons, or put them under lock and key, that kind of thing?

A: I think it's too early to discuss that, because we have to cross two bridges before we can answer questions like that. The first is what will be the conditions of a peace agreement. Remember, we will only participate in a peace implementation force if there's a peace to implement. We're not going in to create peace. We're going in the wake of a diplomatically reached peace agreement. So we need to know the conditions of a peace agreement; and secondly, we have to know what the NATO plans are, the NATO decisions for setting up this force and deciding how it will operate.

Q: You said NATO is still several weeks away from having a final plan. Does that mean that for all intents and purposes UNPROFOR, as it stands now, is going to be there through another winter which a lot of the troop-donating countries said they wanted to avoid?

A: I wouldn't expect that to happen if we can reach a peace agreement. But everything has to be predicated on reaching a peace agreement. We haven't done that yet. I hope there will be some progress toward that very soon. And we have made very significant progress. If you had asked two months ago, would we be contemplating the details of a peace agreement, and if you would be here asking me what sort of a peace implementation force would be going to Bosnia, I probably would have said and you would have said this is very unlikely to be happening at the end of September. But in fact it is happening. We've made enormous progress. Ambassador Holbrooke and Secretary Christopher have done a magnificent job in pushing this agreement forward. But we're not there yet. We hope to be there but we're not there yet. Until we are there, it's hard to talk about some of these details.

Q: The last time you talked about the budget, you had quite a few administration concerns about it. Quite a few things have shaken out since then. What's the Pentagon's position on the way the budget has shaped up?

A: Let me just talk about the appropriations bill, because that's the only one... Well, the military construction bill and the appropriations bill are the two pieces that have made it through conference.

There have been significant improvements made in the appropriations bill by the conferees. First of all, they've removed language that would have restricted contingency operations and tied the President's hands in mounting contingency operations. Secondly, they've provided over $640 million to fund contingency operations such as PROVIDE COMFORT and SOUTHERN WATCH. That's not what we asked for. That's about half of what we asked for, but it does provide funding for the major contingency operations we're involved in now, so that's also a plus.

They restored the funding for Nunn/Lugar, which is a crucially important program helping to make Ukraine and Kazakhstan and Belarus nuclear-free states, removing them from the lists of major nuclear powers which they would have been without this program. And it's also helping Russia dismantle some 2,000 nuclear warheads a year and supporting other measures to improve the safety and security of nuclear weapon stockpiles in the former Soviet Union. So it's very important that funding for that was restored.

It provided some funding, less than half of what we'd requested, for an important but little commented upon program called the Technology Reinvestment Program, which funds the creation of dual-use technologies. It's an important step in creating a more vibrant military industrial base in the United States.

Finally, most of the additional money that was put in by Congress merely accelerates the purchase of weapons that were already in the five-year plan. So they don't force us to buy weapons we didn't contemplate buying or we don't see a need for. They merely have us buy weapons earlier that we were going to buy over a five-year period.

There is one, of course, very notable exception, and this is one of the primary objections to the bill, and that is funding for the B-2 bomber. As you've heard from this podium many times, we do not believe we need 20 new B-2s. We think the current force of 20 B-2s is adequate. We think the billions of dollars that this would cost could be better spent on buying more precision-guided munitions of the type that were so effective in Bosnia, in our campaign against the Bosnian Serbs.

The other troubling fact about the $500-odd million for the B-2s is that it's a wedge. They clearly, Congress hopes to spend more in future years. There is not now money in the defense budget to proceed with the B-2 program. So if that in fact happens, we'll have to take that money from other programs or Congress will have to take it from non-defense programs to fund the defense programs.

Finally, the total amount is $6.3 billion more than the Administration requested, and more than Secretary Perry and the Chiefs thought was adequate to run the defense establishment, and the Administration is now looking at the defense appropriation bill in the context of the budget as a whole.

Q: You mentioned contingency operations. Can you give us anything more specific than the very unsatisfactory answer we got last time we asked this question, about what the operation, the NATO operation's costing the United States, and whether that money has to be taken out of any other funds? And also, what this peace force would cost and...

A: Who gave that unsatisfactory answer? I'm shocked to hear it described as unsatisfactory. [Laughter]

Q: I think you took the question and then we got a written response that said there were no figures available to answer the question.

A: Well, I don't have the figures now, and we'll take the question again and see if we can do better the second time out.

Q: You said they were looking at the budget in the context of the entire budget, the appropriations bill, so no decision has been made whether that appropriations bill is still veto bait.

A: I didn't say that. I said they're looking at it in the context of the overall budget.

Q: Does Dr. Perry see anything in here that would make him recommend that this be vetoed?

A: Dr. Perry is very pleased with the progress that's been made on the bill. There are still some concerns. He will make his recommendation to the President, and not to the press through me.

Q: Dr. Perry seemed exceedingly pleased at the photo op with the progress on the Bosnian accords. I was wondering if you could enlighten us further about his reasons for optimism. I think he said he would never have believed it could be in this good a shape.

Also, anything more you can tell us about what he'll be doing in New York tomorrow?

A: I've told you what he's going to be doing in New York tomorrow. He's going up specifically for this meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Minister Eto, and Secretary Christopher will be there with his counterpart, Minister Kono. This is an extremely important security relationship and it will be the first, I think the first so-called two-plus-two meeting that we've held with Japan, with the Defense and Foreign Ministers meeting with their counterparts. That's what he's doing. Of course, Secretary Christopher is there working on a number of issues, but the primary one is trying to find peace in Bosnia.

Q: So Secretary Perry will not be engaging in the peace in Bosnia effort?

A: Secretary Perry is very interested in the progress, but this is a State Department portfolio and they're handling it very adequately.

Q: What time is that Japan meeting?

A: I said earlier I believe it's quarter of 12:00, but we'll get the exact details.

Col Kennett: It begins around 10:00. The photo op and everything...

A: The meeting begins... I think he arrives in New York at 8:30 or 9:00. The meeting begins at 10:00 or 10:30, and then there's a photo opportunity at the beginning, and then there's a signing ceremony and some remarks afterwards at about quarter of 12:00, I think. But we can give you a complete schedule, minute by minute.

Q: How does this $1.72 billion a year under the new Japanese five-year plan, how does that compare to current Japanese support of U.S. forces?

A: It's an increase, but I don't know how large an increase it is.

Q: Can you take that?

A: Yeah.

Press: Thank you.