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DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry with Press

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William J. Perry with Press
December 22, 1995

Wednesday, December 20, 1995

(Note: SecDef year end interview)

Secretary Perry: The last comment, we talked about the deployment pace. I have asked both General Joulwan and General Nash not to do anything rash or anything risky in trying to accelerate the pace of deployment. I don't want them landing airplanes in low visibility conditions in order to make some sort of an arbitrary schedule. This pace is moving along just fine, and it's not a matter of concern to me. It is not a matter of concern to General Joulwan.

Q: You started your remarks by talking about how much the security [had] changed since the Cold War. My question to you is, isn't the Administration getting out way, way ahead of public opinion on this whole issue? What people are calling the Vietnam-era syndrome. Congress was incredibly reluctant to give even the support it did to the Bosnian deployment, and in NATO, you're pushing ahead with plans for rapid expansion of NATO, and there isn't a shred of evidence that Congress will actually agree to (inaudible) guarantees as contained in the North Atlantic Treaty for any of the new nations that want to join NATO.

Aren't you pushing much further and faster than American public opinion is ready for?

A: It seems to me like all during 1994 the Administration was hearing the charge that the President was not providing any leadership on foreign policy. In 1995, the charge is he's providing too much leadership on foreign policy.

I think what the President is doing in Bosnia is what he thinks is right. He's making the case directly to the people and making the case to Congress. I think there has been some substantial movement, both in public and in congressional opinion, in the direction of support. We've seen a fairly significant shift in the public opinion polls in the last two months. And I'll tell you, having testified to Congress last October and again in December, I saw a very substantial improvement -- not as far as I would like to have seen it gone in December, but there was a very substantial improvement from October to December on this issue.

So I think that's what leadership is all about. It's doing what you believe is right for the American public and for American security, and sometimes that does involve being out in front. But if you're right and if you make the case well, people in Congress will come, and I think there's some evidence that that is happening.

Q: On the subject of Congress, you talked a little bit about the budget and the authorization bill that the President said he would veto. In looking ahead against next year, are we going to go through all over again with the Congress appropriating and driving more money for the Pentagon in support of certain weapon systems, including the B-2, that you all feel is not necessary? What do you expect in working with the Hill next year?

A: Frame that question a little more precisely, Eric.

Q: Looking at what you all went through this year in terms of the budget process, the budget bill, and raising objections about the amount of money that Congress appropriated (inaudible), do you expect to go through that again? If so, what kind of problems does that create for you in terms of funding, weapon systems you may not need, funding involved in priorities?

A: The immediate problem we will face is, the President having signed the appropriations bill, the immediate problem is getting Congress to agree to a reprogramming action, and possibly a supplemental to deal with the expenses of the Bosnia operation. That's going to be done out of the existing funds in the '96 budget, and therefore, it's going to require identifying sources of funds for a couple of billion dollars expenditures. You can imagine, that's going to be a controversial issue in the Congress because they things they added were things they thought really needed to be done.

Of the things they added, they fall roughly into two categories -- those that we did not have in the President's budget, and therefore, of course, would be first on our list of items to be taken out. Those are the minority, by the way of the roughly $6-plus billion of add-ons. The other category of those which were in the President's, in our program, that were not for this coming year. They were for '98 or '99 and the out years. So generally in those programs we tend to favor them, we'd like to do them, and now it's just a question of whether we start them this year or start them some later year.

In reprogramming, we'll have to deal with both of those categories. In some cases, asking that a program that Congress wanted to do be dropped. In others it would be saying here's something that you and we both agree ought to be done, but we want to defer it until next year.

Somehow we'll have to work out a couple of billion dollars worth of programs like that and get agreement between the Executive Branch and Congress in order to fund that reprogramming.

However that comes out, we will then have the '97 budget which we're putting together right now, and I'll be presenting that and discussing, debating that with the Congress in the spring of this year.

Q: Will the reprogrammed '96 budget become the baseline then?

A: It's hard to know how to make it a baseline until we know how the reprogramming comes out. Ideally, we will get the reprogramming issue settled before we begin the '97 budget, but life often is not ideal. We may end up doing those two in parallel. That's the most difficult way to put your '97 budget together when you don't know for sure what programs are going to remain in the '96 budget. That's a problem we're going to be faced with, because it's exceedingly unlikely we will get a convergence on this '96 budget until February or March of next year. In the mean time, we have to put the '97 budget together. We'll probably have this settled on the '96 budget before we begin the major debate on the '97 budget in Congress, but not before we have to put it together and present it to the Congress.

Q: Can I as a followup question on the '97 budget? Last year or this year, rather, the President took defense off the table for any sort of cuts. Do you expect that he would do the same in 1997?

A: I expect that, yes, but there's been such turbulence on the budget discussions that it would be an awfully rash person who would try to forecast what's actually going to happen on the budget. But we have not, I've received no indications at all that the '97 top line defense budget is in any danger.

Q: Have you received a guarantee, less than that, but assurances from the White House that if a top line is faced, as far as they're concerned, and obviously they can't control the Congress, but...

A: I'm pretty confident of that point, Dana. The issues on the defense budget do not have to do with the '97 budget, they have to do with the far out years in the budget. That's what the discussion has been -- not on the '97 or even the '98 budget.

Q: To what extent do you see the seasonal outbreak of hostilities in Bosnia as posing a threat to the forces in spring, even if it's only from rogue elements?

A: I don't understand your question.

Q: It is traditional in Bosnia for the winter season to be a quiet season, and for the fighting forces to come out of their caves or wherever in spring. To what extent is that a danger to the forces in your mind next spring? Is that a particular period of danger?

A: I don't expect either the Bosnian Federation Army or the Bosnian Serb Army to be coming out and fighting anybody next spring. I am persuaded that both of those governments and both of those armies really want peace and really are committed to trying to make this work.

I do expect that there are individuals and gangs within Bosnia who will not agree with the judgment of their leaders, and will, therefore, try to undermine the peace agreement in various ways. One way of undermining it is by harassing or attacking the peace implementation force. That's what we're prepared for. We don't expect, as has happened in previous springs, the two armies to come out and start fighting each other. I don't expect that to happen. None of our military leaders are looking for that to happen.

We have a force over there that's large enough and powerful enough that it would provide a powerful incentive for that not to happen, but we really don't expect that...

Q: But do you think those rogue elements are more likely to be active in the spring than immediately?

A: Not necessarily. I'm not looking for a spring phenomenon here. If you were trying to put together an organized army for a campaign, you could argue why you'd have to wait to the spring to do it instead of trying to fight in a Bosnian winter. But if you were planning a sniping or a car bombing or planting mines and so on, that can be done in the winter as well as the summer. So we will have to be vigilant for harassing type operations from the very beginning, from the first day.

Q: The authorization bill, the provision relating to national missile defense policy, (inaudible) expertise in dealing with the Duma because the debate on that, Senator Nunn, Levin and others argued that while the problems with the language on NMD as it came out is it would be a disincentive to the Russians to proceed with START II, and perhaps even START I. [The comment] was that there are all sorts of reasons why START II has been heading south in the Duma for a long time, and the fundamental dynamics driving it, that this is really peripheral. What's your sense of this?

A: I think START II will be a hard sell in the Duma, but I think it will go. I expect the debate in the Duma on START II to take place in the first couple of months of next year, and I think there's a reasonable probability that it will be approved.

My concern on the language that's in the authorization bill right now is not just that it threatens START II, but it even threatens START I. Thereby, it seems to me needlessly, increases the threat to the United States, increases the missiles that are going to be targeted to the United States. I say needlessly, because I think we can have effective and significant BMD programs without that language.

I have testified to Congress several times that if I thought it were necessary to provide an appropriate ballistic missile defense -- either theater or national defense -- if it were necessary to abrogate the ABM Treaty, then I would recommend we go in and renegotiate that treaty. But I don't see that as being necessary. Certainly none of the programs we're planning now require any more than an interpretation of that treaty.

So I think the point made by Nunn and Levin is not only a correct point, I think it's a very important point. Not just that we're increasing the threat to the United States, but we're needlessly increasing the threat to the United States by putting that kind of language in the authorization bill. That's why I've so strongly opposed it.

I would also point out that the language which was in the Senate version of the bill before, I think dealt adequately with that problem. It wasn't the language we would have chosen, but it was language I was comfortable with.

Q: The final language (inaudible) require a violation. It does not say multiple sites, and there are papers floating around inside this building that say there's a single site to deal with a 50 state requirement.

A: The final language is an improvement over the House language, but I still have concerns with it, partly because I have technical concerns with being able to testify that a single site can deal adequately with all 50 states.

Q: You recommended that the President veto that bill?

A: I did recommend that the President veto the bill in its present form. I also very much hope that after that, assuming the President accepts that recommendation, I very much hope that we can get together quickly again with the authorizing committees and come up with an improved form of the bill. I don't think we're that far off. We're off on many issues, but I think it's something that compromising on both sides could arrive at a workable bill.

I very much would like to have an authorization bill. There are many features of that authorization bill which I very much want. There's the pay raise feature in it, the BAQ feature, the acquisition reform language in it, the quality of life initiatives. There are many aspects of that bill that are very important to me. Not only that, on a more qualitative basis, it's important to me to have good working relationships with those two committees. Therefore, it's a very painful act for a Secretary of Defense to take to recommend a veto on a bill that comes out of our two committees which we have worked so closely with through the years.

Q: Is the B-2 going to be on the rescission list?

A: You wouldn't want me to tell you that ahead of time, would you? (Laughter)

Press: Thank you.

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