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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
September 07, 2000 2:10 PM EDT

Bacon: Welcome. It's a pleasure to be here before such a boisterous group. Let me start with a couple of announcements.

First, Secretary Cohen is in Maine today and he will -- the main event up there will be to accept an award, the Bowdoin Prize, from his alma mater, Bowdoin College, later today. He'll give a brief press conference up there at about 4:30. Tomorrow he'll be in Miami for the SouthCom -- Southern Command, change of command ceremony -- with General Wilhelm retiring.

Tomorrow at 1:00, we'll have a backgrounder by a senior defense official on the secretary's upcoming trip to Asia. He leaves next week to visit a number of countries.

And finally, I'd like to welcome 21 Department of State employees here. Will you raise your hand? Welcome. They're assigned to various embassies, and they deal with the foreign media, so we thought we'd bring them over to the Pentagon.

Okay, with that, Charlie, I'll take your questions.

Q: Ken, since you've told us the secretary is going to Asia, could you just tell us what countries he's going to? People might wonder.

Bacon: Well, this will all be announced tomorrow, but I believe he's going to Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Japan and Korea.

Q: Thank you. Also, is he going to hold a -- just gatekeeping -- is he going to hold a press conference when he's in Miami tomorrow or availability?

Bacon: I don't believe he will. He's arriving late. The ceremony is in the evening tomorrow; I believe it starts at 6:00, 18:00. And I don't believe he plans to hold a press conference at this time.

Q: Just one more, if I may, while I've got you. P.J. told reporters that Berger told Ivanov has shared -- the United States has shared the information that it gleaned from the Kursk sinking with the Russians. I wonder if you could share that with us in a bit of detail, including what the Chief of Naval Operations might have -- what conclusions we've come to on that.

Bacon: Well, from my review of the media last night and this morning, I think we shared it pretty widely with members of the press yesterday. But I'd be glad to run through what the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Vern Clark, wrote to his counterpart. He sent him a letter, about a page and a quarter long, in which he laid out the outlines of what we know.

And I think the crucial points are this: that we picked up evidence of two explosions, a minor explosion and a major explosion, that came very close together; that the -- that there was no collision with an American or allied submarine or other vessel. Those are the two crucial facts.

The explosion was -- the second explosion, as I said, was major. We don't know exactly how large, but it ranged in size from the equivalent of one ton of TNT to the equivalent of five tons of TNT. It basically led to almost immediate flooding of the ship, the first two-thirds of the submarine, through the control room, not into the engineering spaces. That's basically what the CNO wrote in his letter, in summarizing our findings to the Russians.

Q: Is there -- is the United States aware of any data that would support the theory that there might have been a problem with some of the new liquid fuel-propelled torpedoes that Russia is reportedly getting ready to deploy, any evidence that those type of torpedoes were on the ship or that there might have been a problem with those?

Bacon: Well, there -- I think there's still a lot of question about what happened, and I gather from listening to a radio broadcast yesterday involving a fairly lengthy interview with a Russian writer, Pavel Felgenauer, that there's still many questions within Russia, within the Russian public, as to what happened and what was on board the ship. So if we had more information from the Russians, we could perhaps know more than we now know or speculate more accurately than we have. There is some speculation within the American naval community that there may have been a new experimental weapon on board the ship, but we don't have any confirmation of that. And right now we're dealing with fragmentary information, so it's difficult to know for sure what happened or what sort of weapon or explosive power might have been on board the ship -- explosive device.

Q: Could you just tell us when did this letter or report --

Bacon: I believe it was August 31st.

Q: Thank you.

Bacon: The end of last week.


Q: Can I change the subject?

Bacon: Sure.

Q: On the National Missile Defense decision by the president, does that decision change in any way the immediate prospects for moving ahead in terms of giving the Pentagon more time to prepare for this next test -- for example, in any way slacken the time schedule?

Bacon: Well, you know, we've been a little squishy about the timing of the next test. It was initially scheduled for December; we've announced that it's likely to slip. Don't know when -- sometime early next year. Obviously the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization wants to complete its analysis of exactly what happened with Integrated Flight Test 5, and then make sure that it understands how to make the fixes, if necessary, so the same problem doesn't happen again. And then they'll get as well set up as possible. Secretary Cohen in a statement he issued last week vowed to continue to work as aggressively as possible on the development of a workable national missile defense system.

So we'd like to get this test done, successfully, as soon as possible. I think if you had to choose between success and speed, we'd choose success. So the BMDO will work as hard as it can to make sure that it can perform the test successfully, and then it will do that.

So this is a long way of saying I don't know when the next test is going to be. My guess is it'll be sometime early next year. We are not going to sit on our hands. On the other hand, we've always wanted to take the time necessary to assure as much success as possible.


Q: Today Governor Bush delivered another broadside on the issue of the nation's defense and the military. And if I can just read you a sentence, I am curious -- and this is a fact-check on your part. I certainly wouldn't want you to be involved in political activity.

He says, "Recruitment goals are not being met, we are short of equipment, and we've got people on food stamps." Can you help us address in a factual way those three points?

Bacon: Yeah.

Let me just say at the beginning that we're spending close to $300 billion a year on defense. It's more than all our European NATO allies combined are spending. And we're spending several times more than China and Russia combined on defense. Secretary Cohen has said we can always spend more, and enterprising generals and admirals will always find ways, very good ways, to spend more money. We can never be 100 percent ready, just as we can never be 100 percent certain that we have absolute, perfect force protection. So there are always ways to make improvements.

But having said that, the military and the civilian leadership have worked very hard in the last several years to meet the needs of the military. We've increased the top line by about $150 billion over the last several budget cycles; that is, the amount of money we're spending on defense. We have brought procurement spending up 40 percent, from $43 billion in fiscal '98, to $60 billion in fiscal year 2001. We have increased military pay fairly dramatically, a 4.8 percent pay increase, supplemented by a pay table reform that goes up to give some people an additional increase of 5.5 percent, 3.7 percent pay increase this year. So there's been a dramatic increase in military pay.

We've improved the pension system. During the Reagan administration, the pension system was changed so that after 20 years, people could retire with 40 percent of their base pay at the end of 20 years. We moved that back to 50 percent. That has had an impact already on encouraging people to stay in longer. And the number of people who are staying in longer than 10 years, for instance, is increasing now.

And just to finish on this, yesterday Secretary Cohen met with the service chiefs and the commanders in chiefs of the various areas -- the commander in chief of our European forces, the Pacific Command, the Southern Command, the Special Operations Command -- and acknowledging that this is a tricky political time, said to them that he expected them to play straight on the readiness issue, to give the facts, not to beat the drum with a tin cup in hand to try to generate more pressure for defense spending, but, on the other hand, to talk honestly about the pressures they face from the operations their forces are undergoing.

At the end of the day, I think you'd judge the quality of the force by the way they perform in their operations, and I think that any American who looks at the way we performed in Operation Allied Force; the way we're performing in Kosovo, in a peacekeeping operation in Bosnia; our ships at sea, forward-deployed; Marines and amphibious ready groups, would have to say that our troops are performing extremely well. They're well equipped, they're well trained, and they're well led.

Looking at the specific issues that Governor Bush raised, on recruiting, it's -- the services are within a month of completing their current fiscal year. It looks as if three of the four services -- and I can't speak for the fifth, the Coast Guard, which isn't under our control -- but it looks as if three of the four services will meet their recruiting goals for the year. And it may be that the fourth, the Air Force, will also meet its recruiting goals for the year.

Recruiting is on an upswing. In the last couple of months the services have exceeded their recruiting goals. This seems to reflect a combination of several things: one, more recruiters on the streets; two, better advertising; three, the cumulative impact of higher pay and better benefits. I mentioned the pension reforms. We've also increased the basic allowance for housing, and that will increase further.

So I think the message is getting across -- pay is going up, benefits are going up, recruiting enterprise is going up.

We don't know, but the services are quite confident that they will meet their recruiting goals this year, with the possible exception of the Air Force. But they could meet their recruiting goals, the way things are going now. So all the services could meet their recruiting goals by the end of the year.

Food stamps. Yes, unfortunately, there are members of the armed services on food stamps. The good news is that the percentage of force on food stamps is far less today than it was when President Bush was president and Secretary Cheney was the secretary of Defense. In 1991, nine-tenths of one percent of the force was on food stamps. In 1995, that had fallen to eight-tenths of one percent of the force. Today we estimate that four-tenths of one percent of the force is on food stamps. We're making progress.

This administration has taken the view that we should not -- we should lift the tide for everybody -- lift military pay, improve benefits, to deal with the food stamp issue -- not pay people -- junior-ranking people with large families more than we pay junior- ranking people with small families.

Food stamps typically reflect two things: the combination of family size and length of time in the service. In other words, the low grades of junior enlisted people. It also reflects a peculiarity in the way the poverty level is defined by the Department of Agriculture, so that for members of the service who live on base, their housing allowance is not included in their total income. For members of services who live off base and receive a housing allowance, their housing allowance is included in their total income. Therefore, everything else being equal, it's easier for a low-ranking enlisted person living on base to receive food stamps than the same-ranking enlisted person living off base.

Give you an example. An E-5 with, say, six years of experience, six years in the service, with three children, living on base would qualify for food stamps. That same person living off base would not qualify for food stamps.

We're proposing a change that would equalize that by treating people who live off base the same way that people live on base, and by giving them debit cards that will allow them to receive assistance more efficiently and more quickly than they currently do under the food stamp system.

The third issue was equipment, I believe. I think that I spoke to that, in that the procurement budget is increased by 40 percent from approximately $53 billion to $60 billion. It'll go up higher; it's scheduled to go up, in the current five-year plan, to $70 billion dollars.

But just as important, it seems to me, is what we're spending on readiness. And probably the best way to measure spending on readiness is what we spend on operations and maintenance, sort of the annual spending on spare parts, on training. The amount of money spent per troop, per active-duty soldier, sailor, airman and Marine, has increased by 20 percent in real terms in the last decade. It's gone from a little more than $50,000 per troop in fiscal year 1992 to over $60,000 per troop, active duty, in fiscal year 2001.

And --

Q: In constant dollars?

Bacon: Yes, in constant 2001 dollars. So these are comparing apples and apples. And there are 20 percent more apples -- or dollars -- being expended today on operations and maintenance per active duty soldier, sailor, airman and Marine than a decade ago.

This, I think, shows our commitment to trying to maintain a ready force. And I think that the performance of forces around the world today show that they are, as I said earlier, well trained, well led, and well equipped.

Q: Not to pick away at this, but you've said that you had increased by $150 billion over the last few years. How many years, number one? And do you have any idea how much of that increase is actually stuff that was forced upon the administration by a Congress that said, "You are not putting up nearly enough"?

Bacon: Well, that's a good question. The vast majority of it -- one, I cannot give you a firm breakdown. The vast majority of it was money that was requested by the administration. Let me give you an example.

Two years ago we requested a $112 billion increase in the future year defense plan. That's over six years, adding $112 billion over six years to what we had previously planned. Congress has increased that by some amount, but not a huge percentage compared to what we asked. Much of the $150 billion has come in the form in supplementals; that is, when we have carried out military operations, whether over Kosovo in Operation Allied Force last year, whether it's an unforeseen peacekeeping operation, or Desert Fox and increased operations dealing with Iraq, we have come back to Congress and asked for more money in the form of supplementals to cover unfunded contingency operations. So we haven't had to take that out of operations and maintenance funding which, of course, hits readiness directly. So we've made a real effort to maintain readiness, maintain and increase readiness spending, in part by receiving supplementals to cover unanticipated contingencies.

Q: If I can do just one more, and then I promise I'll -- this is another quote: "Our military for the future must be easier to move, harder to find, more lethal, must be able to strike long distances in short times, must use new communications of the 21st century in order to keep the peace." Is there anything in that that you would argue with?

Bacon: We're doing all that. We think it's good that Governor Bush wants to continue these programs. Let me give you some examples.

One -- well, no, I mean, I think it's important that people understand what's already underway.

First of all, we created a year ago the Joint Forces Command down in Norfolk, Virginia, which has had a huge impact on improving operational doctrines for joint operations of the type that we carried out in Operation Allied Force last year. It has a very extensive battle lab down there to test new concepts in war fighting.

The Army has begun a transformation project to make itself lighter, more mobile, and at the same time more lethal -- a major transformation in the Army. That began almost exactly a year ago. I think it was announced in early October 1999.

The Air Force has embraced to a much greater extent than before unmanned aerial vehicles -- UAVs. This is important because it reduces pilot risk, because it increases the range of our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, and because it makes it easier to channel real-time intelligence into the cockpit of the fighters and bombers on their missions.

All the services have worked very hard to bring intelligence directly to the warfighter in real time. This started -- it was one of Secretary Perry's major goals, and he worked very hard on it. We made enormous progress in this, and also in the development of, the improvement of precision-guided munitions in the last decade.

We realized after Operation Allied Force that we have farther to go. Although we're much better at this than any of our allies with whom we fought in Operation Allied Force, we can do better. And so one of the lessons learned from Operation Allied Force was that we have to devote more resources to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. And we're doing that.

The Navy has launched new projects to connect all its ships better. It's launched the new DD-21 program to find ways to have more modern, more lethal ships with fewer -- with smaller crews.

So we are working on a variety of projects. This takes time. It requires a lot of investment. And I think we're making these investments, but we won't see the results instantly. It will take the Army a number of years, for instance, to complete its transformation program.


Q: Speaking of investments, can you clarify a little bit about OMB's instructions to the Pentagon in terms of what they can spend between now and '07 in the current POM cycle? There were a number of stories in the last two or three weeks with --

Bacon: I can't clarify that, just because I don't -- I have not talked to the comptroller about it. I'll take the question, but I can't --

Q: Because it's relevant to this whole adding of dollars to the top line.

Bacon: Well, I mean we're not going to be spending this year money in 2007. But I'll get back to you on that.

Q: Also, one quick follow-up on the food stamps issue. I'm not very good with math, unlike probably a lot of people. Can you break down in people from the eight-tenths of one percent?

Bacon: Yeah. The reason I stuck with the percentages is because, of course, the force has been declining. But in 1991, according to the figures I have, there were 19,000 -- approximately 19,400 people on food stamps. That equaled nine-tenths of one percent of the force. Today we estimate that there are 5,100 people on food stamps, and that is approximately four-tenths of one percent of the force.

Q: Is that the household heads or the entire family that would --

Bacon: Well, what I'm talking about is members of the force, not their family members, but it's just the members of the force on food stamps.

Q: Food stamps -- a follow-up?

Bacon: Sure.

Q: So the rule hasn't been changed yet -- is that right? -- the Department of Agriculture rule that would allow more military families to go on food stamps?

Bacon: No, I think you may be a little confused. The Department of Agriculture has not changed anything. We have proposed --

Q: Right.

Bacon: -- we have proposed our own plan called -- it has -- it requires congressional acceptance. It has not been cleared by Congress. The plan we have proposed, I believe is the most generous plan out there in terms of -- because it would actually increase the number of people getting assistance by approximately 2,500 to 2,800, probably. And it would do this by treating equally the people who live off base and the people who live on base.

Q: But it would replace Department of Agriculture food stamps with Department of Defense food stamps?

Bacon: Right. Right. It would basically -- we would take over the payment of this money, and we would take over the eligibility rules so we would have our own rules. And we would take over the distribution and do it, we believe, in a more efficient way that would help them buy more food for their dollars than they currently can.

Q: One more check -- one more question about Governor Bush's statements. In his recent statements, including one earlier this morning, he likes to sprinkle anecdotal examples that he says illustrate the lack of readiness of the military.

This morning in his speech he mentioned, for instance, that the Navy ship the USS Decatur had to return early to port because it was low on fuel, couldn't complete its exercises. Can you tell me -- does the Navy have ships that have to return early from exercises because they don't have enough fuel to do the training?

Bacon: My understanding of that, the way the Navy has explained it to me, is that the ship basically completed its training mission and came back. It was able to come back early, achieving two goals, two subsidiary goals. The first goal, of course, was to complete its training. It did that. By coming back early, it was able to reduce stress on the crew -- in other words, get them back with their families earlier. And two, it was able to cut down on fuel use. But it didn't come back early in order to cut down on fuel use; it came back early because it had completed its training.

Q: How early did it --

Q: Is that not fair, then, to cite that as an example of a readiness problem?

Bacon: Well, I don't think completing your training qualifies in most people's minds as a readiness problem.

Q: And if I could just ask you about one other readiness issue, CNN did a piece last night on the 66th Rescue Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base --

Bacon: Right, right.

Q: -- that was also cited an op-ed piece by Senator Kit Bond as an example of what happens if a unit is overdeployed and overstressed. Would you, A, agree that it is an example, a legitimate example, of a readiness problem? And if so, how widespread is that kind of a situation where units are overburdened or were overburdened with the deployments, and it affects their ability to perform?

Bacon: Well, obviously, that was a tragic loss of 12 well-trained people. The Air Force has completed a very lengthy, detailed report on it. I thought CNN summarized the report very well.

The combat search and rescue teams are as well trained as any in the military, and I think their training showed when they were able to rescue two downed pilots over Yugoslavia last year in what were really flawless and heroic exercises -- operations. They were able to do that because of the training, the long training that they'd done.

In this particular case, the combat search and rescue units are what we call low-density, high-demand units. We have others in the Air Force, the people who fly the AWACS, and the people who fly some of the other intelligence planes. And the Air Force has been working very hard to try to reduce the stress, the amount of time deployed for these particular groups, the low-density, high-demand groups. One of the findings of the Air Force review after the Nellis HH-60 accident was that we weren't doing a good enough job.

And the Air Force had actually started in late 1997, early 1998, to reform its operations in order to reduce pressure on this type of group, the low-density, high-demand. They had identified 45 deficiencies in the combat search and rescue training and operations, and some of these had to do with stress levels higher than they should have been. Unfortunately, this accident took place in 1998, before all the fixes were in place.

Even if all the fixes had been in place, it wouldn't guarantee that there wouldn't be accidents. One of the reasons we have accidents in military training is because the training is very difficult. General Joulwan once said the scrimmage should be tougher than the game. And the training is designed to make the scrimmages very difficult precisely so that when our groups get into the game, such as an actual combat search and rescue operation, they can perform as well as they have.

There were problems. We're trying to fix those problems. And I think we have made considerable progress in this area.

Q: What would you say to critics like Senator Bond, who say that this is an example of what's happening throughout the military, of units being overdeployed and overworked and run ragged?

Bacon: I think that the number of -- we have a military of 1.4 million people; 100,000 forward deployed in Asia, 100,000 forward deployed, approximately, in Europe. The operations tempo has increased over the last couple of years. We're trying to deal with that administratively by such changes as the Aerospace Expeditionary Force that give people more predictability about their deployments, more blocks of time at home.

I think there is a realization that our troops have been worked hard over the last couple of years. They have been, I think, carrying out the job of the world's sole superpower in trying to provide as much peace, protection and prosperity around the world as possible. We are trying to adjust to that. I think we've made changes. I think we've made important changes, but the fact is we still face many demands and that requires troops to be deployed and, frequently, deployed for long periods of time away from home.

The question of overdeployment is a subjective one, but I do think that all of the commanders, whether they're service chiefs or the regional CINCs, are aware of these stresses and they're working to reduce them. I will say that the fact that retention is going up, the fact that retention is exceeding the goals in every service, I think, but the Air Force right now, is an indication that we're beginning to make improvements; that people understand that we're addressing these problems, whether it's the pay and quality of life problems on the one hand or the overdeployment problems on the other. I think they understand that we're addressing them and making progress, and they're responding by choosing to stay in the service longer.

Yes, Dale?

Q: Ken, you said a few minutes ago, if I understood it correctly, that the secretary had told the CINCs and the chiefs to "play it straight," I think, was the phrase you used, in answering questions about readiness. Is he at all concerned that there may be some who'd have underplayed the real problems in order to make themselves look good, to say that things are more ready than perhaps they are? Or, conversely, that people have exaggerated their problems so that in the campaign season they might extract promises of more money?

Bacon: I think he wants to make sure that people are up front and honest about the situation, and he just said, "That's what I want you to do." I don't think he has particular concerns one way or another. Obviously, this is a hot political issue. It's, I think, an issue that has to be put in context of what we're spending and how the spending trajectory has increased over the last couple of years. I think you have to look at how well our troops perform and you have to look at the fact that we have made a number of -- taken a number of steps to meet problems.

On the other hand, you have to be very honest about this and say, "We are never going to meet every single need of every single admiral and general, as hard as we try." What we have to do is meet the highest priority needs, and I think we're doing that, and I think the number of needs we're meeting has been increasing and that, I think, is illustrated by the performance of the troops, by the increase in retention, by the improvement in recruiting, and by other signs that morale is good.

Q: When was that meeting, Ken?

Bacon: Yesterday.

Q: So does the secretary want the services and the CINCs to talk about, factually, their current state of readiness? Would he rather they not talk about it at all? Does he put any restrictions on any of these people about talking about their current state of readiness?

Bacon: It's not his job to restrict people; it's his job to make sure they speak accurately about their situation.


Q: Governor Bush's comments, I think, address maybe the Pentagon's condition a year and a half ago, or two years ago. And you've given us a great deal of evidence that things are changing and they're changing for the better. But I think he could -- do you think he still has a leg to stand on with: "How did you get into this situation in the first place? Clinton was president; Clinton-Gore blah, blah, blah. You guys created these problems and now you're fixing them. Give me a chance."

Bacon: I think everybody in this room understands that the military started to draw down at the end of the Cold War. This started during President Bush's administration. We had 2.1 million people in the military at the end of the Cold War in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. We have 1.4 million people today. This reduction was not all made during the Clinton administration, nor was the decision to start the reduction.

To a large extent, the so-called "peace dividend" that we realized from the drawdown has funded the move from large budget deficits during the Reagan-Bush years to the large budget surpluses during the Clinton years. And I think there -- you have to look at the trend over the last 10 or 12 years in what's happened. I think there was a realization -- it began when Secretary Perry was here -- that we couldn't continue to shrink procurement spending forever, and at some point it would have to turn around and come up again. It has done that. There was a feeling that we couldn't shrink the force forever, that it would have to stabilize. It has done that; it did that several years ago. Now there's some talk within the military that the force might have to be increased slightly. That's something that will have to be debated over the next couple of years.

We've never stopped modernizing the force. But I think you have to realize that most of the fighter planes that flew over Kosovo and won last year were planes that started entering the force in the 1970's and 1980's. They've been upgraded, but it's basically old technology, the F-16, the F-15, the F-18. We're in the process of replacing that generation of airplanes with newer airplanes; the F-22, the Joint Strike Fighter, the enhanced F/A-18.

So this -- we have had -- we had a long post-Cold War holiday. That holiday ended several years ago. We began -- we switched from decreases in spending to increases in spending for procurement, and that will continue for some time. And I think that people who follow this, as you have, understand that.

So we're dealing with long-term trends. And it's important to go back and look over a 10-year period at defense spending and force size to get a clear appreciation of what's happened.


Q: Change the subject? I wanted to ask you --

Bacon: Are we through with this? Yeah.

Q: I don't think we'll ever be through with this, but -- (laughter).

Bacon: And it's an important issue. I mean, it's an issue that should be discussed. But I think it should be discussed with accurate information. You made the observation that some of the information being thrown around in a campaign is a year, a year and a half old.

We report readiness to Congress every quarter. The secretary testifies several times a year. All of the chiefs testify several times a year. So the accurate information is out there. You all write about this regularly. The accurate information is there for anybody to look at, and I encourage you to look at it.

Q: Could you just briefly tell us about what -- what's going on with this exercise? Apparently there's a planned exercise of U.S. troops in Croatia. And is it happening at the same time as the elections in Yugoslavia, and is there any connection between the two events?

Bacon: Well, first of all, there's no connection between the two events. What you're talking about is an exercise, a joint exercise involving U.S. Marines and Croatian forces that will take place later this month. In May, Croatia, which is making important strides towards democracy and military reform, joined the Partnership For Peace. And we are working with the Croatian military to modernize it and reform it. As part of that, we've had some exercises with them, and other NATO countries have as well.

We planned this exercise many months ago, long before the date of the Yugoslav elections had been set. I think that the Yugoslav elections were -- the date was set some time in July; those elections will take place on September 24th. This exercise was planned before that. And it involves a combination of a port visit and some amphibious exercising along the coast of Croatia.

So it was planned before the elections, it's not related to the election.

Q: And what day would it take place, the exercise?

Bacon: It takes place over a little more than a week, toward the end of the month.

Q: So it's not on the day of the election or anything?

Bacon: It starts before and ends afterwards.

Q: How many troops, how many U.S. Marines are involved?

Bacon: A small number, less than 300 will be -- I mean, more will be involved in the port visit than will be involved in the amphibious exercise. Less than 300 will be involved in the amphibious exercise.

Q: The port visit is in Dubrovnik, I take it?

Bacon: I believe so. I don't know exactly. I believe it is. That's certainly the nicest port to visit along there.

Q: I have another completely unrelated subject.

Bacon: Yeah, well let's switch to other people, unrelated people, and then we'll get back to your unrelated question.

Q: I'm not related to anyone! Unless I missed it, did you come up with an answer to the question last week as to how many incidents there have been on the security barriers in the parking lots?

Bacon: I don't have much more information about that, about "Gategate", as we call it -- (laughter) -- than I had last week -- or earlier this week. I think it was Tuesday, right? It seems like a whole week ago, but it was only Tuesday that we dealt with this.

Q: Who named it? Did you?

Bacon: Pardon?

Q: Who named it?

Bacon: Gategate?

Q: Is that the part of the Pentagon that names military operations?

Bacon: This is not the name of a military exercise, obviously.

To the best we can tell -- I mean, the problem of this is one of definitions. There are people who hit the gates from time to time because they tailgate; they come in too close to a car that has gone through before them.

But to the best of my knowledge, we have had about four or five cases in the last couple of years, the last several years, that involve gates going up prematurely for some reason, or when they weren't supposed to. One of them, as I mentioned, involved Secretary Perry's car when he was coming back from the heliport in 1995. One involved the Japanese defense minister in 1998. One obviously involved German Defense Minister Scharping on Tuesday. There have been one or two other incidents, as far as I know. One involved a bicycle that was tailgating a car. But that was a tailgating incident.

And I don't -- I'm not confident enough of these statistics to be able to tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that there have only been five incidents in the last five years, but it's been a relatively small number.

Q: How many incidents have there been since the Scharping incident?

Bacon: Zero.

Q: How long did the biker live?

Bacon: I don't know what happened to the biker.

Q: Do you know with this one what happened at the gate?

Bacon: We don't have a full understanding yet of what happened, except the gate went up when it wasn't supposed to. That's the main thing that happened.

Q: Pilot error?

Bacon: Why, I don't think we fully understand yet.

Yes, Pam?

Q: Two Russian questions. Putin and Clinton apparently signed a deal to cooperate on a theater missile defense exercise. Could you comment on that, what you know about it? And also, Russia, I gather, today announced or let the information out that they'd be cutting their military by about 400,000 people. Have you guys had a chance to chew on that and come up with --

Bacon: I hadn't seen the report of the Russian military, but it doesn't surprise me because they have been sustaining a large military and they haven't been able to pay regularly many of the people they have on active duty, so it's not surprising that they would make that.

Many countries in the world, including the United States, France, many -- Germany, are in the process of cutting back the size of their militaries and trying to make the remaining military better trained and more efficient. So it's not surprising that Russia is doing the same thing.

Q: TMD exercise?

Bacon: I don't know. I'll have to find out more about that.


Q: Land mines -- just to clean things up, a group today released another report on land mines. They're calling again for the United States to sign that worldwide treaty banning land mines. Could you just restate what is the U.S. position on signing that treaty and if it's changed at all since --

Bacon: The -- first of all, the United States is a leader in de-mining training and technology in the world. We've done more, I believe, than any other country in the world to address the problem of embedded old land mines that can kill children and cattle, farmers, et cetera,

Two, those are not American mines. Our mines are self-destructing mines. They're different entirely.

Three, we have made a number of commitments to change, with one exception: we do have mines along the DMZ in Korea that are not all self-destructing. But the mines we deploy today for troop protection are self-destructing mines.

We have made commitments to clean up the mines in Korea and replace them with others, and we have made other commitments.

We don't -- we believe that the treaty would prevent us from defending our forces with even self-destructing land mines, and therefore I don't believe we're any closer to signing the treaty than we were before.

What we are doing, continuing to do, and will do in the future is to address the land mine problem both by not sowing the types of long-term killers that so many other countries have used and, two, by working aggressively to clean up places where mines have been sowed in the past.


Q: I have a national missile defense cost question. Throughout the defense --

Bacon: I hate these questions. You can never get them right. So go -- but with that introduction, go ahead and ask your question. Don't feel intimidated.

Q: The deployment readiness review took into account cost --

Bacon: Right.

Q: -- as part of its measure.

Bacon: Right.

Q: I've seen reports or internal materials showing that the cost could have gone up like -- it was estimated to go up something like 10 to 20 percent. My question is this. To what extent is the Pentagon concerned about cost growth in the program as you proceed forward now to a later deployment date?

Bacon: Well, first of all, there is not a firm deployment date at this stage, but obviously, every time a deployment of a complicated weapon gets delayed, the costs go up. So that is a matter of concern. We anticipate the cost of the national missile defense system to rise. I don't think we know by how much at this stage. It's still being considered by the missile and budget experts. And we'll try to come up with a good figure as soon as possible, but I don't think we have a clear figure yet. We don't have a clear figure yet.

Q: Thank you.

Bacon: Sure.


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