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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
August 10, 2000 1:30 PM EDT

Bacon: Good afternoon. A few announcements, then I'll take your questions.

The deputy secretary of Defense, Rudy de Leon, will address the luncheon of the Tuskegee Airmen, the 29th National Convention of that august group, tomorrow at 12:30 Central Time, Central Daylight Time, in San Antonio. And that is open to the press, obviously.

The second is that two Chinese naval vessels will make port visits in the United States, at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and Naval Station Everett, Washington, as part of their goodwill cruise to the United States. As you know, a U.S. ship was recently in China. Chancellorsville was in China. The two ships will be at Pearl Harbor from September 5th to 8th, and at Naval Station Everett, which is north of Seattle, between September 14th and September 18th. And I think Commander Sutherland has more information on that if you want it, and we have a bluetop on that, as well.

Now I'm ready for questions. Bob?

Q: I wanted to ask you if you could update us in any way on the status of the Deployment Readiness Review, the secretary's deliberations or any aspect of it.

Bacon: I have nothing to add to the extensive briefing from Tuesday.

Q: In other words, it's not completed yet, is that right, or --

Bacon: That is correct. The process continues. There are no new decisions, nothing new to report.

Q: Does this include the choice of -- the final, formal choice of where the site would be, or is that another process? I mean the missile interceptor site.

Bacon: Well, as you know, there are two sites. There's basically a site in North Dakota and a site -- one of several sites in Alaska under consideration, first to make a choice between North Dakota and Alaska, and then, if Alaska is chosen, the sites within Alaska. And that, I would assume, will be part of the decision, yes.

Q: Has that part been made yet?

Bacon: No. No. No formal decisions have been made.

Yes?

Q: Ken, on the test itself, the NMD test, do you have any more details about specifically what this single-point failure was, whether it was a wiring problem, a sensing problem?

Bacon: No. I had at one point promised that we've have a briefer here today, but I felt that, in light of the fact that I spent so much on that on Tuesday and also because they have not yet completed their investigation, that we'll delay that. But it's somewhere in the data bus. Could be a circuit board. They're still looking into that.

Yes, Barbara?

Q: The fire situation. Could we have an update on active duty troop deployments? And given the fact that the situation seems to be just continuing in a fairly dire fashion and there is a contingency plan for more military troops, are you at all concerned that it could get to the point where the military commitment to the fires could impinge on readiness and more routine military business?

Bacon: No, actually, not, and let me tell you why. So far, we have committed about 1,000. There are 1,000 active duty troops from the Marines and the Army now fighting the fire. Another 500 are expected to go shortly. That's all we've been asked for from active duty forces. There are in the Army 471,000 people and we now have 1,000 devoted to fighting fires, so I don't think that's a huge number. It's certainly not going to affect the readiness of our Army to do its job.

The Marines have about 170,000 people and they have 500 devoted to fighting the fires, so that, again, is a very tiny percentage. We don't know how long these fires are going to last, but most people think that if the past holds, this will be a bad month; but moisture begins to fall in the fall and that should help dampen the fires.

In terms of do we have contingency plans to send more people, I know that a number has been floating around that we have 2,500 more people ready to go. We do not, as far as I know. We have identified some of the units to send. So far we've been acting in response to requests, and we have responded positively to every request we've gotten. In other words, if we get a request from the National Firefighting Center, we have granted that request.

They have a problem, which is that the military -- they have many problems in big fires, but they also aren't in a position to detail a lot of people to train military firefighters. Every person they detail to train a firefighter is taken away from fighting the fire itself. So there's a -- they have an absorption problem, I believe, in training up military people, but -- and that's why we have worked very closely with them, and I think we're putting military people into the firefighting force on an intelligent, well-structured basis. But they need to be trained before they can go in to fight fires, because it's dangerous.

As you know, most of our people are in the back lines, at least initially, while they learn the basics of firefighting. And before they move into the front lines, they have to gather some experience with fires. This is very dangerous business. Soldiers are trained to do a dangerous job, but not this dangerous job, other dangerous jobs. So they have to get trained up to do this.

We are ready to accommodate requests that we get. We have accommodated every request, and I believe we will continue to do that.

Yes?

Q: There are some remarks that were made at The Hague by the U.N.'s chief prosecutor, who says that NATO is still not doing enough to arrest the indicted war criminals in the former Yugoslavia. And she also made a point of saying that Secretary Cohen and Sandy Berger have been avoiding having a meeting with her. How do you respond to that?

Bacon: Well, I saw a story about this a couple of days ago. Is that the story you're referring to?

Q: I don't know. Probably --

Bacon: It didn't seem to take the world by storm, and let me tell you why. First of all, we have been very cooperative with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and I think the numbers show that. Ninety-four people have been publicly indicted for war crimes, charged with war crimes, in Bosnia, and of those, 68 have been either arrested or processed in that they've been acquitted or the charges have been dropped, or they've died.

So that's over 70 percent. It's about 72 percent of the 94 people publicly indicted have been accounted for, and most of those are in the justice system now awaiting trial.

So I think that NATO forces have done a good job of arresting war criminals. Obviously, we haven't arrested every single one, and we will continue to try to do that. The two people that -- the two figures that received the most attention are Ratko Mladic, the former general of the Serb forces. He is now in Belgrade -- not a place that NATO forces can get to very easily these days. And the other is Radovan Karadzic, who was the president of the Republik of Srpska, the Serb Republic, and he has basically living the life of a fugitive. He has lost the influence that he had. He no longer runs a government, obviously. He spends his time surrounded by heavy layers of security. But he is hidden and devoid of influence, and we hope that sometime he will be arrested, but he hasn't been arrested yet.

So I think the cooperation between NATO and the ICTY has been good. I think it will continue. And we share the same interest in arresting every single indicted war criminal so they can be tried in The Hague.

In terms of the comments by Carla Del Ponte about not having had meetings with Secretary Cohen or Sandy Berger, I don't know why she's saying that. There was a period of time when the ICTY was reviewing some ludicrous charges by some Canadian academics that NATO had committed war crimes during Operation Allied Force. During that period, while the ICTY was looking at those charges, the leaders of NATO made a decision that the appropriate person to deal with her and the ICTY was Lord Robertson, the secretary-general of NATO; that he would be the single point of contact for dealing with the ICTY on this issue.

A month or so ago, the ICTY appropriately concluded that there was no use pursuing these charges and dropped the issue, and I'm sure that since that issue has been resolved, that if Carla Del Ponte wants to meet with people in the U.S. government, the appropriate people will meet with her.

Yes?

Q: I have a question. There have been some news reports about the National Intelligence Estimate, which struck me as interesting, and maybe you can tell me what Cohen thought of this. One of the big stories that bubbled out of this is that China would build more missiles if we built a national missile defense system. Could you confirm that is, in fact, what it said? And also, could you talk about how -- does this come as surprise to anyone? It's something that they have said out loud. Why do you need an intelligence estimate to tell you that?

Bacon: Well, I'm not going to comment on the intelligence estimate, although you made a very intelligent comment about it yourself. It is a classified estimate and it was done by the intelligence community.

You are right that China has been in the process of modernizing its strategic forces for some time, and long before national missile defense has become a front-burner issue. We would anticipate that whether or not the United States decides to deploy a national missile defense system which, of course, is purely defensive -- it doesn't threaten anybody who doesn't attack us. But whether or not the United States decides to deploy such a system, I assume that China will continue with its strategic modernization along the pace that makes sense to China.

Yes?

Q: A question about the Chinese ship visit.

Bacon: Right.

Q: Well, actually, if I could follow up on that line for a moment?

Q: Sure.

Q: Is there any reason to believe that Mr. Putin is working hand in glove with the Chinese on opposing national missile defense, and raising issues like increasing strategic nuclear forces, in an effort to increase public opposition, international opposition, to NMD?

Bacon: Sure. I think both Russia and China have made it clear that they're opposed to deployment of a national missile defense system, a system that we have not yet -- that President Clinton has not yet decided to move forward on, but they both made it clear that they oppose it.

We have made it clear that this system, if it were to be deployed, would not be aimed at them. It's designed for a smaller threat, a smaller type of attack than we would -- we don't anticipate any attack from Russia or China, but this is being designed for rogue nations, formerly known as "rogue nations," who might want to intimidate or attack the United States.

We are in the process of continuing our discussions with both China and Russia. Secretary Cohen has been to Beijing, and he's been to Moscow, to meet with the top leaders of China and Russia, to discuss national missile defense. And he's met with Jiang Zemin, and he's met with Mr. Putin. And he'll continue those discussions.

We want to operate within the parameters of the ABM Treaty, which would have to be amended if we were to go ahead with a system. But we believe that it makes sense to amend the ABM Treaty if we choose to go ahead with a national missile defense system.

But I think it's very clear that both Russia and China are opposed to it, and they are talking with other nations about their fears of a U.S. national missile defense system.

Q: Do you believe that North Korea's apparent backing off from their ballistic missile program has anything to do with their relationship with Moscow and Putin, and whether this is part of an international effort to beat back NMD?

Bacon: Well, probably, but we don't know exactly what North Korea has said to Russia. We have tried to get details on that conversation and haven't done it. There was a report recently of a letter. As far as I know, we have not seen such a letter from North Korea to Russia. I assume that if North Korea had made a dramatic promise or a change in policy to Russia that North Korea and Russia both believe would mitigate the chances that we would need to deploy a national missile defense system, that they would make that letter available to us and to the rest of the world to consider. But as far as I know, we have not seen that letter.

So we'll continue our discussions with North Korea; we are having them on the topic missiles with Russia and with China to try to explain to them what we're doing.

Q: Do you have any sense of what China's -- what sort of expansion of the nuclear arsenal and ballistic missile arsenal that China may be looking at? They have a fairly comparatively limited ballistic missile nuclear capability at this point. Some numbers have been thrown about in talking about putting -- you know, MIRV-ing warheads and increasing the number of ICBMs. Do you have any sense of what their target numbers are? Is that something that's in their NIE?

Bacon: Well, without getting -- I don't want to talk about the NIE or any numbers that may or may not be in it. But just let me say that looking at China's current force, there are basically four directions they could take to modernize the force. First of all, they could make it larger. Second, they could move from liquid fuel to solid-fueled missiles. Third, they could move from stationary to mobile missiles. And fourth, they could move from single warhead to multiple, independently targeted warheads.

And that's not disclosing any secrets about China; those are basically the four ways available for China, or any country that had a force similar to China's, to modernize. And I think you can be certain that they're looking at all four of those ways to modernize their force.

Q: And given all of those things that are taking place, at least to some extent surrounding the NMD debate, are these factors that Secretary Cohen will be seriously considering in his recommendation to the president; that the Russians are also talking about backing out of certain components of START II and MIRV-ing more warheads or not un-MIRV-ing warheads; the Chinese talking about build-ups; and Moscow, apparently, at least, pulling some strings with North Korea -- are these all elements that are being considered by the secretary before he makes his recommendation to the president?

Bacon: Well, the president set four criteria, and those criteria are threat, technical capability, cost, and broader national security issues that would consider -- that would include arms control and the response of allies as well as the response of others with nuclear forces.

So the secretary clearly will include those as well in any recommendation he makes to the president. I would anticipate that the secretary will focus largely on the issues of technical capability and cost, but he'll also look at the other two issues and deal with those as well.

Q: Is there potentially a point of diminishing returns when it comes to fielding NMD if it leads to what it may be leading to at this point, which is a renewed arms race?

Bacon: Well, I think that right now you have to separate the rhetoric from the facts. And a lot of people are criticizing a system that has not been deployed for doing things that it's not designed to do. And we have come back and tried to talk to them about the type of system we're considering, which is quite a small system designed to deal with a very limited threat or attack, certainly far smaller than anything Russia's able to do. And we're trying to carry on a dialogue and explain to them what the threat is.

Now, the Russians have admitted that there is an evolving threat from smaller states. They've admitted that in a joint statement that President Putin issued with President Clinton when he was in Moscow. There have been stories in the Russian press talking about five to eight countries that could be developing threatening arsenals that could be used against Russia as well as other countries. So we believe that there's a shared threat.

Obviously, one way to deal with this threat is through very aggressive and successful counterproliferation policies. And if Russia is prepared to launch and carry out such policies, we would applaud that. It would be a change of policy, but we would applaud that.

It would certainly help reduce the threat that we and the Russians and other nations may face over time.

This is the type of discussion we have had with Russia. We have also said that we would like to sit down and talk with them about ideas they have for deploying missile defenses that they claim will not violate the ABM Treaty. We're very interested in discussing that with them but, so far, aside from the general statement that they believe there are ways to deploy missile defenses without violating the ABM Treaty, we have no details, and we have specifically asked them for details.

We sent a team to Russia and met with some Russian experts. We put forth what we knew about a system called a boost-phase system, which is different from the one we're developing, and we didn't get much of a response from them. We are prepared to hold this dialogue.

Yes?

Q: I have two questions. I'll begin with, perhaps, the easier one, the less impertinent one. The National Intelligence Estimate: Without going into the details of it, could you say if Secretary Cohen found it edifying? Did he find anything surprising about it or eye- opening, or was it merely a sort of a recitation of pretty much what you guys have come to expect over the last year?

Bacon: I don't think I should characterize his response.

Q: (Off mike) -- it would make writing the story a lot easier.

Bacon: I'm sure that he was interested, but he's a man of vast curiosity and he's interested in many things he reads.

Q: All right. Now, it's time for the impertinence. You guys are -- I'm having a little trouble getting my hand around the threat. When I write about this, you know, I think there's a fear of a rogue state having a missile that could be launched. But you have said today and Secretary Cohen has said, and it seems there's been a little shift -- that it's not really -- you don't think that anyone would actually launch, but rather just threaten that they would launch. Am I hearing you correctly?

Bacon: Well, first, on the threat. Last year the CIA did -- or, the intelligence community -- did a National Intelligence Estimate on the threat. That was declassified or, at least, a version of it was declassified, and that is on the CIA website. So you can go back and look at what they said in 1999 about the threat.

This NIE went beyond just the threat, and it talked about -- it talked about international reaction to a U.S. decision to deploy National Missile Defense, the system that a decision has not been made by President Clinton.

In terms of how we describe the threat, I think there are two ways we've discussed it; one is outright attack, and the second is intimidation through the threat of an attack.

And a National Missile Defense system, we'd be prepared to deal with either one of those challenges from a so-called rogue state, one with a small missile force, intercontinental ballistic missile force, that might be inclined to use it against the United States.

Let me explain what Secretary Cohen has said, reiterate what he has said about intimidation. Go back 10 years when Iraq invaded Kuwait. We made it clear we were going to not let that stand; throw Iraq out of Kuwait; and assembled a large multinational force to do so. If Iraq had had intercontinental ballistic missiles at the time, it might have been tempted to say, "If you attack me or invade me, I will lob one of my missiles against one of your cities" -- whether it's London or Paris or Washington or New York -- a coalition city. Ten years ago, we would have been powerless to defend, and today we'd be powerless to defend against that. We would say, as President Bush said at the time, "If you use weapons of mass destruction against allied forces, we will respond with the strongest possible force." And a renegade leader or a leader of a rogue state might decide to call our bluff. We wouldn't want to be in the position of having our bluff called in a situation like that, and national missile defense would make it much harder for a leader to call our bluff in a situation like that. That's how it could be used against intimidation.

Yes?

Q: Ken, the key date of 2005, does the intelligence community/the Pentagon still feel that the first so-called rogue state to have an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. mainland is North Korea?

And secondly, since the problem of slippage both with the booster program and the testing, is the Pentagon now ready to admit categorically that it can in no way make the 2005 deadline for an NMD?

Bacon: Well, I'm not going to answer the second question because our review is ongoing.

And the first question, I'll just say that if you go back and read the unclassified version of last year's threat analysis, the National Intelligence Estimate, it doesn't mention the year 2005. And in that regard, little has changed in the new analysis.

Yes?

Q: I have an Iraq question. There's been a rumor bouncing around the oil markets today that Iraqi troops were massing toward the Kuwaiti border. Have you looked into those reports, and can you give us a sense of if there is any unusual troop movement?

Bacon: I'm not aware that there are unusual troop movements. There have been -- there's been a lot of reporting in the Kuwaiti press, which you can read on the Internet or from FBIS, about some threatening comments that Saddam Hussein made recently and that one of his sons has made recently about Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and other countries.

As you know, they've recently gone through, one, the anniversary of -- the 10th anniversary of their invasion of Kuwait, their unsuccessful invasion of Kuwait, and for which they have suffered so much, from that and also for their refusal to comply with the U.N. Security Council mandates. But they've also just gone through the 12th anniversary of the end of their war with Iran, and that was an opportunity that Saddam Hussein took to make some threatening remarks about Gulf countries around Iraq as well as about the United States and Israel.

So there have been -- there's been a lot of hostile rhetoric coming out of Baghdad in the last couple of days, and people may have misread that as intentions. But I'm not aware that there's been any movement of forces.

Q: Can you refresh our memory of how much per year the United States has spent since the victory in 1991 on Southern Watch and Northern Watch patrols? Is it in the billion-dollar-a-year range?

Bacon: About a billion dollars a year.

Q: One billion?

Bacon: One billion.

Q: For both operations?

Bacon: Right. For both.

Q: I'm sorry, I have one more --

Bacon: Sure.

Q: -- NMD story. The 2005 date, if it didn't come out of the National Intelligence Estimate, where did it come from?

Bacon: The 2005 has been mentioned in two ways.

It's been mentioned most recently by Secretary Cohen as the earliest time by which we could deploy a national missile defense system. That's the comment that he made on the Hill in July.

In addition, there have been comments, by Secretary Cohen and others, saying that we would like to have a national missile defense system by 2005 because that's around the time when we might face a threat.

Q: So there's some wiggle room there?

Bacon: Well, you can't be precise about this. It's a prediction. And it depends a lot on level of effort, the international environment, et cetera. But I think if you go back and read last year's National Intelligence Estimate, you won't see a firm date in there.

Q: Because -- you could see this where this is all going with us -- if NMD is delayed technically, that would make some people's hair go on fire; there's going to be this threat that we won't be able to meet. But now it sounds like there's some softening on that deadline. I mean, you know, you never really said it was 2005; we're just heading there. So it seems like maybe there's a little maneuvering to make it look like you're not missing a deadline.

Bacon: I think, just for the sake of perspective, let me leave open the possibility that the fact that 2005 was not mentioned specifically means that there's a chance deployment could have before 2005 or after 2005.

Q: For lifting the NMD deployment or --

Bacon: No, the threat -- a threat could emerge before or after 2005.

Q: Well, it could be any time is what it says.

Bacon: That's right. And that's before 2005, right?

Q: Right.

Bacon: And given what the Rumsfeld --

Q: It's wrong.

Bacon: -- and given what the Rumsfeld report found, I think everybody is sensitive -- sensitized to the possibility of a breakout threat and a threat that could come faster than we anticipated. The combination of the Rumsfeld report and the Taepo Dong II missile test -- Taepo Dong missile test by North Korea, I think, sensitized everybody to the possibility that a threat could evolve much more quickly than we had anticipated several years ago.

Q: Thank you.

Bacon: Yeah?

Q: Apparently, Boeing had announced yesterday that the project manager for the booster had been removed from his job and placed somewhere else. Is there any comment from you at all regarding that?

Bacon: I don't have a comment on that. I mean, it's -- I think it's internal to Boeing.

Q: Thank you.

Bacon: Yeah?

Q: Oh, I forgot. Sorry.

Q: West Africa -- U.S. military to West Africa training troops.

Bacon: Right.

Q: There's talk about hundreds of U.S. soldiers going out there to train Nigerians and --

Bacon: Mm-hm. (Affirmative response.)

Q: Can you give us some details? There's a third country that wasn't mentioned here.

Bacon: Well, all I can tell you is that right now we have an assessment team or a survey team in Nigeria. Several members of that team went to Ghana, and they are reviewing the equipment and training needs of three battalions and one battalion in Ghana, and it's conceivable that we'll look at a third country as well. They have not completed their work yet, but I anticipate that by the end of the week, they will have completed their work, and they'll come back from Africa and make a report. And that report will -- the report is designed to help us set up a program for training peacekeepers that could go into Sierra Leone.

This is part of a commitment that President Clinton made, I think back in May, to devote $20 million to this, to ways of bolstering the peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, and this is part of that project.

So far, because they haven't completed their work, it's hard to talk about numbers of trainers specifically, but I think it's reasonable to assume that once they complete their work, it would require several hundred U.S. trainers and support personnel to train several battalions in Nigeria, Ghana and maybe another country. I think the three -- you know, it probably only takes a dozen -- around a dozen people to train a battalion, but by the time you put in support troops, it adds up. And if we have to train them in separate places, that would increase the infrastructure necessary. So although there's been no final decision made, the figure of a couple hundred probably will turn out to be about right.

Q: A couple hundred?

Bacon: Yeah, several hundred people going down as a training mission.

Q: Is it largely Special Forces troops?

Bacon: Largely Special Forces troops; probably not entirely, but --

Q: Will you also provide transportation for the peacekeepers when they're deployed?

Bacon: Well, that remains to be seen. Under another program that Secretary Cohen mentioned when he went to Nigeria several months ago, we are helping them rebuild their C-130 fleet, and it's conceivable they could transport themselves. We made offers to transport peacekeepers back in May, and we actually sent a small team into Sierra Leone to survey airports that we might use, but they came out after a small visit, a short visit, after they completed their survey. But I think those questions remain to be answered.

Q: I have a question that just occurred to me. Does the United States military bear any legal responsibility if the troops that it trains in, say, Colombia or to serve in Sierra Leone do anything like human rights violations?

Bacon: Well, that's a very good question. I'm glad you asked that. Before we actually train the troops, the troops have to be vetted by the local embassy and the State Department, in two respects. The first is to make sure they don't have -- the units don't contain child soldiers and, two, that they don't contain human rights abusers. So that vetting process will have to take place and be completed before the training actually begins.

Q: How do you actually make a determination like that? Check IDs and ask them if they ever raped anybody or -- (laughter)?

Bacon: We review CNN footage. (Laughter.)

Q: Our format!

Q: Thank you --

Q: But honestly, is there a way to determine --

Bacon: The State Department does that. It's a good question, and I recommend you ask my colleague, Richard Boucher, at the State Department. But they're skilled at doing this. It's mainly done through the embassy, and the embassy, through its various good offices, follows these types of things and they're in a position to make these determinations. They are right on the ground in dealing with the country, with the military leaders, on a day-to-day basis, so they can do this more quickly than we could.

Q: And this deals specifically with the units that we would talk about training, not the Nigerian military as a whole?

Bacon: Not the Nigerian military; just the units we train. We do the same vetting in Colombia, for human rights abuses, and that is done by the embassy in Bogota for soldiers going into the counternarcotics units that we're training. We're just -- as you know, we've trained one unit and we're in the process of starting training for a second battalion in Colombia. The same sort of vetting takes place there that will take place in Nigeria.

Q: This third country? I mean, why is there a delay in announcing which country it is? Well, Senegal has been mentioned.

Bacon: Well, I don't think it's fair to announce a country until the details have been worked out with the country. After all, it is a mutual agreement between us and the country, and I just think we ought to wait until the details are worked out before announcing it.

Thanks.

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