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

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
December 19, 2000 1:30 PM EDT

(Also participating: Maj. Gen. Jim Jackson, chairman, Armed Forces Inaugural Committee)

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. We have a guest today, Major General Jim Jackson, who is the commander of the Military District of Washington and the chairman of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee. He is here to bring you up to date on the latest dealings between the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and where the plans stand for the Inauguration, since we now have a president-elect we didn't have the last time we discussed this. So I'll bring up General Jackson. He'll make some opening remarks and then take your questions, and then we'll have the normal briefing afterwards.

General Jackson?

Gen. Jackson: Thank you, sir. I'd like to make a couple of quick comments and then I'll field some questions for you. First of all, it's great to be here. Good afternoon to everybody. It's also great to have the Presidential Inaugural Committee on board. We had an opportunity to meet them yesterday and spend some time with them.

All of the service members of the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee look forward to making this a grand event, and they've been on board now for quite some time, doing some planning, coordinating and rehearsing to help facilitate the event. Our mission is to plan, coordinate and execute all the approved military support to the Congressional Inaugural Committee, the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) and any other local agencies that we might be asked to support.

We have had one meeting with the PIC so far, and they are currently occupying their building space just above us on four, five and six, over on Eisenhower Avenue, and they're hard at work. Currently, we think they've got a great attitude. They understand the daunting task that's facing them, and they're prepared to move out swiftly, and we expect to have a great working relationship.

We've also been coordinating with other local agencies and organizations so that our efforts don't adversely impact on any of the other inaugural events that will take place. And as you know, or may know, that the military's participation in the inaugural event is a historical one. We go back as far as the 1780s in support of George Washington during his inaugural.

We also look forward to honoring our new commander-in-chief, the recognition of civilian control of our military, and our support for democracy.

With that, I'll be happy to answer some questions. Yes, sir?

Q: General, I assume you advise them on such issues as the historical role that you all have played in swearing-in the new president. Having said that, I assume that a lot of decisions are in their hands. Have they made any quirky, unusual or -- you know, requests of the military, any changes from the norm?

Gen. Jackson: No, sir, not at this time. Like I said, we've had one meeting with them so far. Some of the staffs have broken down to make face to face with their counterparts and are actively involved in doing things such as identifying parade membership and who we're going to ask to participate in that. So far, no quirky requirements. And as far as the specifics on what events will take place, I'd like to defer to the PIC because it will be their decision as to which events will occur and which will not occur.

Q: I didn't mean that in a pejorative way, "quirky." (Laughter.)

Q: It's (a pejorative?) word, Chuck. (Laughter.)

Q: What are the kinds of decisions that they have to make as far as the military is concerned?

Gen. Jackson: Well, real quick, they need to identify are we going to have a parade. They did that yesterday.

Q: We are going to have a parade?

Gen. Jackson: Pardon me?

Q: We are going to have a parade?

Gen. Jackson: We will have a parade. They have also identified that there will be balls. It's just now a question of how many, where they're going to be and what scale they'll be at. As far as anything beyond that, I'll defer to them. But there's also some issues of letting out contracts that will be needed to support the events. And that means dropping some money so that we can get the support that we need to be able to make these things occur.

Q: How much does this normally cost the military, on average?

Gen. Jackson: Sir, my budget is $4.1 million spread out over two fiscal years.

As of today, we've not spent that, obviously. We've spent something -- about half of that, a little bit short of half of that.

Most of the money that we spend goes towards purchasing equipment that is needed by this organization, and then once the inaugural is over, that equipment is then redistributed out throughout the military here in the national capital region. So it's not just a sunk cost; we take that equipment and upgrade other things that we might need throughout the capital region.

Yeah?

Q: What kinds of things does the military do to support it? And why the military?

Gen. Jackson: Well --

Q: It's not just military-specific stuff, like marching and -- (off mike)?

Gen. Jackson: The majority of the things that we're going to provide will be military-related. There are specific DOD guidelines that govern this. They come out of Mr. Bacon's office, and they're pretty strict and -- tells us what we can or can't do.

Q: Can you just give examples?

Gen. Jackson: We will provide marching units. We'll provide -- those are ceremonial outfits. We'll be providing bands. We'll be providing some medical support to support the Capitol itself and the members of the Capitol. We'll be doing some logistics work in support of all operations, to include providing drivers and -- for some of the GSA-leased vehicles for selected members -- specifically, the first and second family members, and the Cabinet designees.

And most of that, though -- most of that stuff that is provided to these agencies or specifically to the PIC will be reimbursable to the government.

Q: How about communications, General?

Gen. Jackson: The communications that we provide is pretty much to ourselves. In other words, we build our own communications links, so we can coordinate amongst ourselves and tie into the agencies or organizations that we need to tie into.

Q: On the grimmer side, are you going to be providing chemical or biological teams or things like that to support --

Gen. Jackson: Not out of my organization. No, ma'am.

Q: On that point, is there anything you have to do this Inauguration that is different from the previous Inauguration because of the increased terrorist threat, or is it same-same? More bulletproof limousines? More security? Anything different?

Gen. Jackson: The security aspect of the entire inaugural lays with the U.S. Secret Service. They have the lead. The relationships we've developed with the local authorities, specifically the police and the -- within the capital region -- has been a good one, and we've been talking to them. So the locals will have that, along with the Secret Service.

To my knowledge, there's been no major change to what we would normally do from a standpoint of good common sense and allowing the police to do the work that they have to do, and I've got to tell you, the -- my impression, having talked to the police force, all of them, they've got a pretty good handle on this, and they know what the requirements are, and they'll be well-prepared.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about how the standards of conduct have evolved since the Reagan inaugural? I remember back then you got -- William Proxmire gave the Army a Golden Fleece for all the limousine -- excessive use of armed forces people to take Hollywood stars around and stuff. And it's evolved over the years. I know when I covered it in '92 and '96, it tightened, and you became more sensitive to who you can and cannot drive around. Could you talk a little bit about how this evolved, and are there any tightenings for this time around?

Gen. Jackson: Yes, sir. The items that we are allowed to provide support, or the specific things we can provide support to specific organizations for, is somewhat reduced since the last one, and that's all part of the DOD guidelines that came out of Mr. Bacon's office.

There are also specific guidelines as to when we do provide some support as to what is reimbursable back to the government. So the PIC itself is responsible for reimbursing us, to include providing us $100,000 surety bond to help defray those costs up front.

Q: How many service members do you think will ultimately be participating in this?

Gen. Jackson: The overall number will exceed just slightly above 5,000. That includes all the members that will be coming in to march in the parade and support it, also.

The headquarters that I have will actually grow to a size of 696 between now and Inaugural Day. A majority of those folks come in from outlying locations. They come in temporary duty and then they'll disappear very quickly, also. We've got a core number of about 200 that have been here for some time who have been doing the groundwork, the ability to set up the headquarters, get all the infrastructure in place, review plans from previous years, so we hit the ground running and, in all honesty, it's been fortuitous that we've done this, because the PIC has lost some significant time.

Q: General, you say they're coming in from all outlying areas. About how far away is the farthest unit or soldier coming from?

Gen. Jackson: I don't have those specifics.

The bulk of the people come from the National Command region, right around Washington. The way we do that is there are a lot of people who are either getting ready to move from this assignment on to another one or they're inbound and they'll come in early. So we defray costs in that way. There are reservists who are volunteers, who have been their hands up said, "We'd love to work this," plus I've got active-duty people who have done the same thing.

This is a significant event, once every four years, and our people are looking forward to supporting this. And so far, they're done an absolutely superb job. They're quality people, worked hard and look forward to participating.

Q: Do you know if the Marine CBIRF [Chemical Biological Incident Response Force] team, down the road in Indian Head, will they be deployed?

Gen. Jackson: That won't come out under my control. That's going to come out of something else. And I'll defer that as part of future operations, which we really don't want to talk about.

Q: Is that -- I mean, whose decision is that? Is it the Secret Service or another branch of the military?

Gen. Jackson: The decisions will -- that decision will probably be made here someplace at DOD as to whether to place them in any capacity whatsoever. But I'll defer that, again, to the people who actually deal with that. That's somewhat out of my bailiwick.

Q: Who pays -- do you pay for putting up the musicians in hotels while they're here?

Gen. Jackson: Well, most of the -- the military musicians? Most of those come right out of the National Command region, and they live here full time.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: How long have these core 200 people been doing this, at least planning it, and how long -- (off mike)?

Gen. Jackson: We started coming in almost a year ago, early January, and then ramped up slowly. And I think the 200 actually were on board by the summertime. The purpose here was to resurrect the plans from four years ago, dust them off. They had to read all those plans, put them together, and then start figuring out where we're going to go, you know, next. So it's a daunting task. Plus they have to build their own infrastructure, communication links, set up office space and all the rest of that for these other people coming in. So it's a significant task.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the process that you've used in the past, where you've had, like, a lawyer look at all the incoming requests from the, maybe Bush or Clinton administrations, comes in military support. It was like a sniff test in terms of is this appropriate or not. Can you talk a little about the process of vetoing or approving?

Gen. Jackson: Again, the guidelines give me the capability of approving requests as long as they fit within those guidelines. If they're outside those guidelines, I have a specific process of forwarding them up with a recommendation. Army general counsel will look at them.

We have Army triple audit, the AAA, that is embedded in our organization. And the final decision-maker is Mr. Bacon.

Q: He won't be here, though, will he?

Q: (Laughs.)

Gen. Jackson: I don't know. You'll have to defer that to him.

Q: (Off mike.) (Laughs.)

Q: Till noontime -- (laughs) --

Q: Well, I assume these guidelines -- do these guidelines clearly spell out the do's and don'ts? That is, we have to watch --

Gen. Jackson: Yes, sir.

Q: Could we get a copy of the guidelines ?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Q: Thank you, General.

Q: All right. Thank you.

Q: Thank you.

Gen. Jackson: Yes, sir. Thank you very much.

Mr. Bacon: Thank you very much. Come back any time. Okay. I have a couple of brief announcements and then I'll take your questions.

First, the secretary is finishing up his holiday visit with troops. He's in Tuzla today, and the final event will be an appearance on the Letterman Show tonight, which will be shot with the soldiers in Tuzla. So all of you who are up at 2330 can watch that tonight.

Q: Will he do the Top 10 list or anything that you know about?

Mr. Bacon: They're going to have -- they're going to start with the top 10 reasons why the military likes to stay close to the press. (Laughter.) And then they're going to go on to the top 10 reasons why the Army is doing a great job in Bosnia. And maybe Mr. Letterman will have other Top 10s of his own.

Second, there are two reports from the Gulf War Illnesses Office available today. One is an updated environmental exposure report dealing with depleted uranium in the Gulf. This is a continuation of early work. And it says that, based on scientific evidence so far, analysts conclude that it is unlikely that depleted uranium exposure is a cause of illness experienced by Gulf War veterans. This confirms the earlier conclusion reached by the Presidential Commission on Gulf War Illness.

And the second report details vaccine use during the Gulf War. And it looks at some of the issues raised by the use of vaccines during the war.

Again, the Presidential Commission concluded that it was not possible to tie Gulf War Illnesses to the specific vaccines.

And with that, I'll take your questions.

Yes.

Q: Colin Powell, I think said again yesterday that he was going to be -- he was going to call for a review of where all U.S. troops are deployed. And, from the Pentagon's perspective, is there anywhere that U.S. troops are deployed right now that they could be pulled back without harming the mission?

Mr. Bacon: No. We have looked -- well, first of all, given our current policies, we obviously look at the need to deploy troops, and we look at the number of troops deployed. And we think that the deployments support our current policies. Now, a new administration may have different policies. And I think that that's one of the things the new administration will have to sort out.

Yes, Bob.

Q: Has there been any contact between the Bush group and the transition people?

Mr. Bacon: Yes, we have reviewed a preliminary call from a Pentagon transition team for the new administration. They have not sent anybody over here yet. We have just received one phone call saying that they expect to have people here relatively soon.

Q: Who's heading that up?

Mr. Bacon: I do not even know who made the call. And I think we'll wait until they name their own transition team. It's up to them to name their transition team, not us to name their transition team.

Q: Is Dan Coats part of the team?

Mr. Bacon: Pardon?

Q: I said, is Dan Coats part of the team?

Mr. Bacon: Well, that's very interesting question. And that's another question that the incoming administration should answer.

Q: Is Rudy de Leon going to be the point man for your transition?

Mr. Bacon: No. Bob Tyrer, the secretary's chief of staff will be the point person. And he'll be working -- he has a team of two other people. One is Phebe Novakovik, who is basically the deputy secretary's chief of staff, and then Mary Gerwin who is Bob Tyrer's assistant, or the assistant chief of staff to the secretary. Those three will be dealing with the transition.

Now, the Joint Staff has it's own transition team that's being headed by Brigadier General Kimmons, an Army brigadier who was one of the National Military Command Centers watch-officers until a month or so ago and is now working full-time under the J-5 auspices to plan the military side of the transition.

In addition, the transition team from the new administration will be dealing with Doc Cooke on administrative aspects of support, but their office space has been designated and they will receive as much support as we can give them.

Q: I saw Doc Cooke in the building today. Is he already in the transition spaces, or what?

Mr. Bacon: Doc Cooke is in his old office. He's -- Doc Cooke is still in the D-Ring, where he has been for a long time, running the building.

Q: Will he run the transition real estate? Is that kind of his role?

Mr. Bacon: Yeah. He has made the transition real estate available, or will make it available, when they come here. It's being fitted out with furniture, telephones, computers, et cetera.

Q: (Off mike.)

Mr. Bacon: Just a sec. Are we through with this? There's one hand; we have Mr. Lambros Papantoniou.

Q: Could you please comment on European reports that you have a plan to remove your forces from the Balkans and Europe, despite opposite statement in the recent days by Secretary William Cohen?

Mr. Bacon: The incoming administration has said that it is going to review U.S. force commitments and obligations around the world. That's what General Powell said over the weekend when he was nominated to be secretary of State. They have also said that they are very clear about the need to honor their obligations to our allies under various treaties.

So I assume that they will be looking at our obligations around the world shortly after they take office, and will have their own announcements to make on that, but you really have to talk to the incoming team to sort that out.

What Secretary Cohen said was that he believes that the U.S. will remain engaged in the Balkans for some time, because of our, one, the importance of stability in the area; two, the progress we've made already; and three, in honoring our treaty obligations to our allies in Europe. But that's his personal view. I mean, he won't be part of the new administration that's making this analysis.

Q: One more question. I was told today that your ambassador to Greece, your friend Nicholas Burns, was here at the Pentagon today for a kind of consultation on the Greek-U.S. military affairs. Do you know what it's all about?

Mr. Bacon: No. I know that Ambassador Burns is in town.

I haven't seen him over here. It doesn't mean he's not here, but it wouldn't surprise me that he would come over here and discuss our situation with our good NATO ally Greece. He has sat in on a number of meetings over the years between the Greek defense minister, Tsokhatzopoulos, and Secretary Cohen. And he's played a very active role in maintaining good relations between the U.S. and Greece, and certainly military relations are important to that.

Yes?

Q: Ken, I've got an airplane question involving the F-22 Fighter. There's a new cost estimate saying it could cost $9.1 billion over the congressional cap that was set three years ago -- by Dan Coats, ironically. The Pentagon on January 3rd --

Mr. Bacon: Whoa, wait. Let's be clear. Dan Coats set the cost limit; he didn't come up with the new cost estimate. Isn't that correct?

Q: I -- correct.

Mr. Bacon: Wouldn't he -- he's a senator. Senator Coats played a role in setting the cost cap.

Q: Very good.

Mr. Bacon: Right.

Q: January 3rd the Pentagon is supposed to review whether to start this thing into full -- into low-rate production.

Here's my question: Given the cost estimate, how concerned is the Pentagon that this program really has not gotten -- has -- (inaudible) -- costs over the years and that you're giving the next administration, frankly, a tar baby of a problem?

Mr. Bacon: Well, first of all, the F-22, of course, is being built to replace the F-15, which will be -- is now about 25 years old, I think. And the F-15 has performed admirably and continues to perform admirably, but it's a fighter that really represents 1960s/1970s technology, whereas the F-22 was supposed to represent 21st century technology. And its primary difference between -- the primary difference between the F-22 and the F-15 is that the F-22 will be stealthy and therefore uses a whole new technology that wasn't even available when the F-15 was built.

There are debates over what the program will cost. There have been debates for some time. As you correctly point out, their cost analysis improvement group has floated this figure that it could cost $9 billion more. The Air Force disagrees with that. So one of the things that the Defense Acquisition Board will have to sort out is which figure is correct, and has? the program reached a level of maturity and certainty that makes it possible to begin the low-rate initial production. That's the issue they're faced -- that they'll be facing in January. They're clearly not prepared to answer that question now, because they haven't gone through the analysis and the review that they will on January 3rd.

Q: It's fair to say at this point that Secretary Cohen cannot certify to Congress that the airplane program is going to meet the congressional caps.

Mr. Bacon: He has to wait for this review to take place. And as you pointed out in your story today, one of the issues is whether to -- is whether to change the production schedule in a way that will channel some money into a cost-lowering program, a productivity- enhancement program. If certain changes can be made now to make the production line more efficient, particularly over time, then it may pay to do that in the hopes of buying future cost reductions with investments today.

Q: Is that date firm that you mentioned, January 3rd?

Mr. Bacon: It was initially supposed to be this week, and it was delayed. I think it's pretty firm right now, but dates can always change. But, I mean, January 20th is -- the date of the inauguration can't change. That's enshrined in the Constitution, or in law, certainly. But I think this date is pretty firm right now.

Q: Why can't the production decision be pushed to the next administration and let them review the program? Why does the Pentagon have to sign the -- possibly sign the dotted line on it? Why can't you just leave it for --

Mr. Bacon: Well, first of all, our entire government is based on continuity. And if you delayed every decision for a new administration to take office, nothing would get done for the last year of any administration; in fact, maybe the last two years, since campaigns now go on for at least two years. So I just think that part of being in government is making decisions. And we have an obligation to the Air Force, to future military readiness, to make sure that programs move forward in a timely way.

If the new administration wants to review this program, either individually or as part of a broader study of tactical aviation costs and tactical aviation capability, they have the right to do that. In fact, they'll have the vehicle for doing it because one of the first things a new administration will deal with is the Quadrennial Defense Review. But I think one of the responsibilities that any administration faces is to make sure that programs move forward smoothly, and that involves making decisions when they should be made and when we have the best available information.

Q: Thank you.

Mr. Bacon: Dale?

Q: Ken, it appears that the agreement between the administration and the government of Puerto Rico for the use of the range in Vieques has now broken down.

Will Secretary Cohen be making any kind of recommendation to the new administration as to how it should proceed; whether the Navy should just resume training down there without an agreement, or if they should just throw up their hands and walk away? Does he have any thoughts about what the future should be as far as Vieques?

Mr. Bacon: First of all, Secretary Cohen strongly believes that we need an able gunfire and aviation training range in this hemisphere for the Atlantic fleet. And that's one of the reasons he and his staff have worked so hard, particularly including Secretary Danzig and Bob Tyrer, who's played a leading role in negotiating this. It's one of the reasons they've worked so hard to come to an agreement that would give the Navy the opportunity to continue using Vieques.

So, yes, this will be an issue that I'm sure he'll discuss with his successor, whoever that is. It's something that is being worked now by the secretary of the Navy, and we will do our best to make sure that the Navy has adequate training arrangements for as long as Secretary Cohen and Secretary Danzig are in office, and then do our best to assure that the Navy continues to maintain its readiness after they leave office. But after January 20th, that will be decisions for the new administration to make.

Yes.

Q: Ken, have any decisions been made for further tests in the new year of the ballistic missile defense system?

Mr. Bacon: I'm sure they have been made. The next test -- I'm saying this from memory so I don't have the specific date, but I think the next test is in late January or early February. I'm not certain of the date, we can check that, but it's around there [No specific date has set for the next integrated flight test; however, it is projected for sometime between January and June 2001].

And obviously, these test dates are subject to change because of weather; because of last-minute glitches in the preparations. But there's supposed to be a test early in the year. And there's actually supposed to be a number of tests in this coming year.

And one of the decisions that the president made when he decided not to go ahead with a specific deployment or pre-deployment decision was to continue a robust development program. And Secretary Cohen said at the time that he would assure that a robust development program continued. So, we'll get you the date of the -- the current date of the next test. In fact, we'll get you the date of all the -- dates of all the tests currently planned in the year 2001.

Okay, thank you. Thank you, Charlie. (Laughter.)

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