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DoD News Briefing - SecArmy White and Gen. Shinseki

Presenter: Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White
September 16, 2001

Friday, September 14, 2001 - 3:31 p.m. EDT

(Briefing on unaccounted for Army personnel following attack on the Pentagon. Also participating: Chief of Staff of the Army General Eric K. Shinseki.)

White: Good afternoon. Thanks for coming. General Shinseki and I appreciate this opportunity to talk about the situation.

We both extend our condolences to the families of those missing, injured, or still missing, unaccounted for -- those killed, injured, still missing, unaccounted for. The entire Army family, indeed, the entire nation grieves with all of us in this dark hour. Yet America's Army remains fully operational. We're accounting for our people. We're assisting our families. We're supporting the recovery efforts here and in New York City. We're reconstituting our Pentagon operations while we remain vigilant and always ready.

Tuesday, September the 11th, has already been described in various newspapers and publications as the darkest day in American history. I would only say to our adversaries that I would warn to watch carefully, for you are about to see our finest hour in the future.

God bless the Army and our great nation.

Let me turn it over to the chief of staff for some remarks, and then we'll get into details.

Shinseki: Thanks, Mr. Secretary.

First, let me join the secretary and for all of our family and friends of loved ones and colleagues who are still missing here in Washington, but also in New York and Pennsylvania, the Army offers its strongest support and prayers during this incredibly difficult time of uncertainty and grief.

This horrifying attack the secretary refers to was against our people, our property, and our sovereignty, and in effect, it was an attack against all who embrace the principles of peace, freedom and democracy. I'd like to assure all of you that the Army is ready. Any attack against our people -- or against the country and our people, wherever they may serve, may stun temporarily, but the nation will prevail; it will absorb these blows. We have already emerged stronger from this attack and with greater resolve. Our non-negotiable contract with the American people remains the cause of peace and the alleviation of suffering. But when called, we will fight, we will win, and we will battle our nation's wars. The Army is strong, it's ready, and we will keep faith with our fallen comrades and their loved ones. We will fulfill our contract.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we'll be happy to take your questions.

White: Let me also say that we'll pass out information at the end of the briefing with the details of who is unaccounted for and the total counts. [ News release ]

To give you that in summary form, we have, as of right now, 74 people unaccounted for. And that is 74 as a subset of the 196 number I think that the Department of Defense has already published.

The split out of those are -- 46 are civilians, 22 are military, six were contractors, for a grand total of 74.

In addition to that, we have 17 people in local area hospitals -- Arlington, Washington, and Walter Reed.

We have gone through our normal notification of next of kin. That has been completed. We have our full family support operation in full operation to support our families of these unaccounted-for people. Then you've been briefed, I do believe, on what's going on outside in the recovery operation and at the portion of the building that's damaged.

So with that as background, what are your questions, please? Yes, ma'am?

Q: Mr. Secretary, which parts of the Army's operations were damaged? I understand DCSOPS and DCSPER --

White: The principal three areas -- some DCSOPS [Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations], the bulk in two organizations, DCSPER [Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel], the personnel portion of the Army staff, and also the administrative organization that supports not only the Army headquarters but also some functions for DoD-wide. So those -- and really it's the last two, principally, that the bulk of the unaccounted-for come from.

Q: What effect of losing General Maude -- what effect is that going to have on that, on Personnel, and how would you describe the magnitude of that loss?

Shinseki: General Maude is one of the names carried on our list of unaccounted, and that full list will be provided to you here later.

We are reestablishing the Personnel operations. We've had to relocate some people. But as you know, historically, the Army always has an assistant DCSPER, and those duties right now are being performed by General LaCoste (sp).

Q: General, in the days to come, there will be increasing talk of retaliation and the role of the Army, Air Force, working together with the Navy.

Two years ago there was somewhat of an embarrassment with the Task Force Hawk deployment issue. Not all the Army's fault, but the perception is there was a problem. In the two years since then, how has the Army improved its coordination with the Air Force in terms of command and control and being able to move a task force like that more quickly?

Shinseki: Well, I won't go into any specifics about operational matters. You know that's a matter of policy for us. I will tell you, though, in the last two years great effort has been made. And if you've looked at our investments in aviation readiness this year, I think you'd see efforts to bolster some of the shortcomings we discovered over the past two years. But that work continues.

Day to day, the Army remains ready. As you know, we have forces at the highest readiness levels, and for the most part, the Army at large maintains a very high readiness requirement, respond to our national command authorities.

Q: Are you comfortable that if a similar joint -- a task force cobbled together with MLRS [Multiple Launch Rocket System] and Apache helicopters, they would be able to move with some more efficiency than two years ago?

Shinseki: Yes. If you're referring specifically to Tirana, Albania, you'll have to go back and take a look at the conditions. The movements there were not driven by responsiveness on the part of Task Force Hawk. I mean, if you remember what Tirana was like, it was tough getting into. I don't think any other army in the world could have gotten in there. So, given the same conditions, it would still be a challenge. But to specifically answer your question, yes, we'll move, and we'll move with all due haste. We'll get there.

Q: General Shinseki, you, sir, are a -- you've seen combat. You've been there. Could we ask you your very personal feelings about all of this? Your people took the biggest hit in this. And -- you know? For you, is this a new front line?

Shinseki: Well, I think those of us who have lived overseas for most of the last 10 years have been living and wrestling with these conditions, where actors like this are very much a part of the landscape. So with that respect, we've always regarded them with great seriousness -- their capabilities, their determination. But the fact that incidents like this don't happen overseas will tell you that our commanders and our soldiers do a very good job of dealing in this sort of murky environment.

I've spent, as the secretary has, and as Army leadership have, spent the last couple of days visiting our people in the various hospitals. I would tell you that remarkable stories come out of this incident. Great heroism practiced by the youngest of our soldiers and by our civilians in helping one another out of this terrible tragedy when none of us, you know, expected something like this would be visited here in Washington. You'd be thrilled to know that the quality of our workforce continues to bolster this Army. And that's the secret to our magnificence: great people who responded in time of crisis, taking care of one another.

Q: As I say though, you've sort of -- I think, because of your own military record, people are probably pretty interested in knowing your thoughts about this kind of thing. Not to sound trite or anything, but, I mean, do you -- does this feel like -- a lot of people have referred to this as a "new war."

Shinseki: I think the president said it best. This is a war -- first war of the 21st century. As I indicated, some of us have been dealing with it for the last 10 years overseas. It was a war then; it is a war now.

Q: General, you spoke about the Army -- oh.

Q: Do you have some words of wisdom, sir, for the soldiers out there who may be feeling stressed by this prolonged heightened readiness or may be concerned about what's to come?

Shinseki: Well, listen, those young soldiers -- and I have just come from a variety of locations where they live and serve -- this is the Army, and they have all understood that on our toughest days the nation will count on them to do their duty. And I can assure you, having walked around and talked to them, these youngsters are far, far more focused and serious after this incident. They always understood their missions before. This has just put things into perspective. All of us understand what we expect warfare might be, but the visit of this kind of tragedy on innocents back here in our homeland has struck a nerve. We're in pain. We're also angry.

Q: General, two things. First of all, you spoke about the Army emerging stronger from this incident. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?

And secondly, the secretary referred to the 74 as a subset of a 196 number you said had been put out by DoD.

White: Right.

Q: I'm hoping you'll clarify this 196 number --

White: Sure.

Q: -- because it doesn't match --

White: It includes the people that rode in on the airplane -- the 196 figure.

Q: Right. We were up to 190 only, as far as DOD had reported.

Clarke: Sir, the number we've got right now is 190, the total number we've got.

White: Okay. Well, than that's the more recent number.

Q: That's the number?

White: That's the number. Go with that, please.

Q: Okay. Thank you.

White: But our specific subset of that is 74.

Q: General, I was asking you about the -- about in what way the Army was emerging stronger.

Shinseki: Well, anytime an attack like this occurs, all of us who are here where the incident occurs understand what we're up against. But let me tell you that I have heard from commanders in Korea and Kosovo and Kuwait; they understand that just what the president described as an act of war was visited on the American homeland. And so far greater focus across the Army. Our soldiers are out there doing what our mission essential requirements say, and that is they're out there training hard. There's new purpose to what they're doing.

Q: Mr. Secretary, a homeland defense question. You're the executive agent for this 10 certified weapons of mass destruction response teams. You know which ones I'm talking about?

White: Yes.

Q: General Vaughn told us yesterday nine of 10 have been certified as ready to go. As part of the homeland defense emergency we're in now, are those on a clearly hair-trigger alert to deploy? Can you give a little --

White: The one in New York is being used.

Q: I know that.

White: And we have increased the alert status over -- but we have not specifically split them out as a separate category. The one in New York has been fully operational under the command of the New York National Guard since the crisis began.

Q: Do you have direct authority to deploy those as you see fit? Or what's the chain of command for something like that?

White: Well, FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] is the executive agent, and they send requests to us for military support. It goes to the executive secretary of the department. And major activities that are requested are cycled to the Joint Staff. We handle the other types of support at our level. So one of these teams would be an example of what we would take care of as the executive agent for the secretary of Defense.

Q: General, you mentioned that you and a good portion of the Army has seen over the last 10 years this kind of problem and have an understanding that maybe the American people as a whole don't have about how difficult a problem it is. Given what you've seen of it and what you know about it, what kind of assurance can you offer us now, if any, that we won't see soon again in this country what we saw this week?

Shinseki: I don't want to get into intelligence matters. I will just tell you that my reference to the last 10 years, for those of us who have lived overseas where these threat conditions go up and down, we've had to deal with it.

And in some of the places we live -- for example, Germany -- over the years we have adopted a policy of living on the economy, and as these threat conditions change, these are major challenges for commanders to deal with. And we've learned how to deal with them. And that's been an ongoing process for about the last 10 years, most of the last 10 years.

Q: General Shinseki, could I just follow up on something you said a minute ago? You know, you said, "We're in pain, and we're also angry." And I guess there is a sense that the military and the Defense Department are in pain and are angry. What -- can you give us what -- your thoughts on why you say that?

Shinseki: Why those words? Well, pain is obvious, I think, Barbara. You can see the results of it as we do the recovery operations here and as we -- not just here, but look at what has happened in New York City. But it's also, I would say, anger on our part that this has happened to this great and wonderful country that has such high principles and would hold others to it. And so that's the aspect of anger, that -- it's our openness that's been taken advantage of, and I'd let it go at that.

Q: Now can you tell us a little bit about what effect we may see on planned deployments to places like Bosnia -- (inaudible) -- communications? Tenth Mountain was preparing to send some people there.

Shinseki: No change. Those deployments have been lined up now, as you know, for several years, to provide predictability to our units. So they know exactly when they're going to go. I don't anticipate a change. And if any, it would be an adjustment to the structure of the unit going. But those rotations, as far as we know, will continue.

White: Yes, ma'am? In the back.

Q: The Pentagon employees were ordered back to work on Thursday. Was that correct? And how have you dealt with finding office space for them, the ones where there has been damage by fire or water damage?

White: We've arranged for temporary office space outside of the building, either in other Army headquarters -- for example, the DCSLOG, the deputy chief's section for Logistics on the Army staff, has put a lot of people at Military Traffic Management Command headquarters here in the Washington area and also at AMC, Army Materiel Command.

So we've made arrangements to relocate, and we're working through the challenges of hooking everybody else up from an IT perspective. So we're fully operational as we stand here right now. It's just not all at this location.

Q: With DCSPER being damaged, is that going to have any effect on Army personnel actions? Moves, promotions, anything like that?

White: We will -- of course, the operating command that controls that is PERSCOM, which is not in the Pentagon. What we do here in personnel in the Pentagon is policy and overall manpower decisions, but not day-to-day moves. So that won't affect it. And it won't affect the other piece, either. As General Shinseki said, we will reconstitute and reestablish operations as we have and get on with it.

Yes?

Q: A question about then and now. Before the incident happened, your plans, General, were fairly clear about the path ahead for the kinds of technological changes that you wanted to make in the Army. In the wake of what Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz was saying yesterday about how, while not everything is changed, a great many things have changed in terms of the way we now, in a sense, look at our budget priorities, have you also revisited your priorities? Do you envision at least a near-term significant change in where you would like to see funding and technological programs go in the Army?

White: Well, as you know, those reviews are somewhat cyclical. I mean, we have done that over the course of the last two years, even though two years ago we declared fairly definitive direction. Secretary White and I have looked at that and we continue to do it, but frankly, no major adjustments as a result of DepSecDef's recent comments.

Staff: One more question.

Q: To what extent would the Interim Combat Brigade at Fort Lewis, the test-bed brigade, to what extent does that have a capability, if asked, to deploy in a combat situation over the next month or two?

White: Well, as you know, we're still in the process of fielding and standing it up. Equipment doesn't begin to flow to that brigade yet for a number of months. And we are -- and we have been trying to accelerate that process, which was delayed for a period of time. If you say the next month or two, that brigade would not be ready. But this is exactly the kind of brigade we would look for an early call to move. And this is part of the reason the Army moved in this direction.

Staff: Thank you very much.

Q: Thank you.

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