MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. How are you? Let me start off by making a couple of announcements.
Obviously, you've seen the news reports this morning that a flight data recorder has been found and brought to the surface by the USS Grapple. The Department of Defense continues to support the National Transportation Safety Board in search and recovery efforts in the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990. Several naval vessels and about 800 personnel and sailors are operating in the search area to include the Grapple, the USNS Mohawk, the amphibious transport dock ship USS Austin, the coastal mine hunter USS Oriole, and the submarine support vessel MV Carolyn Chouest. We also have three MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters that are being used to help carry people and supplies to the operating area. You've had some briefings on the Grapple. It's the newest of the Navy's rescue and salvage ships and carries 30 experienced divers and a lift capability for up to 300 tons.
It was the Mohawk that pinpointed the location of the pingers of Flight 990's black boxes. This is an ocean-going tug under the command of a civilian master with civilian crews, all Navy employees, and have been fully engaged in this operation. Obviously weather has hampered us up to this point, but we are currently experiencing favorable conditions. I understand there may be some weather coming in in the next 12 hours, so we're working as rapidly as we can to see if we can't locate and recover the second black box.
The Austin serves as a command and control ship for the Navy's search and recovery mission. The Oriole is equipped with sophisticated sonar devices to assist the Mohawk in marking the debris field on the ocean floor.
Our focus right now, from a Navy standpoint, is primarily, you know, given that we have had and have located these pingers, you know, throughout the last few days, and trying to make sure, first and foremost, we can get these black boxes up so that the NTSB can have access to the valuable information that we hope will be on that black boxes. As we do encounter debris from the crash scene, we are obviously taking it -- bringing it back to the surface, as well. Well over a thousand pounds of debris have been brought to the surface thus far.
Before I answer your questions, let me also mention that today Secretary of Defense Cohen met with Chilean Minister of National Defense Edmundo Perez Yoma. It is Ambassador Perez Yoma's first visit to the U.S. since assuming his position as minister of defense in June.
They had about a 45-minute meeting, discussed regional security issues of mutual concern to the U.S. and Chile. Obviously, Chile is one of the locations that the secretary will visit coming up later this week. And when I conclude my briefing, there will be a background briefing here with -- providing you further trip details.
I would also like to welcome a delegation of Ukrainian military officers. I had the pleasure of having dinner with them last night, led by Lieutenant General Anatoli Kalashnikov and Major General Aleksander Shalugin. We welcome them. They are here this week working primarily with Cliff Bernath and our folks at the American Forces Information Services. They'll be visiting our Defense Information School and also going down to the U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk to learn more about how to build a public-affairs program that benefits both their people and also their military personnel.
And finally, also extend a warm welcome to the Kuwait Ministry of Defense spokesperson and director of Moral Guidance and Public Relations, Colonel Ahmed Mahmood Al-Rahamani. Colonel Al-Rahamani is visiting the Pentagon today with Captain Mike Todd, who is the Central Command's public affairs officer. He is basically Ken Bacon's equivalent.
With that, Charlie, your questions?
QP.J., did the secretary discuss a proposed sale of F-16s to Chile, with the defense minister? And has any progress been made on that?
MR. CROWLEY: You know, we have been engaged with the Chilean government on their prospective purchase of fighter aircraft, going back a number of years. They did touch on that issue today. And as far as I know, the Chilean government continues to work through their analysis of that prospective purchase.
I am not aware the Chilean government has reached a decision at this point. So as far as I know, that is still an item that is being worked within their government.
QDo you expect any agreement might be reached while the secretary is in Chile?
MR. CROWLEY: I'm sure that will be an issue that will be discussed during the course of the secretary's visit to Chile. I would not necessarily forecast that that is something that would be announced during the course of the secretary's trip.
QSenators Smith and Inhofe have asked for documents from the Pentagon connected to Admiral Prueher regarding his nomination to be ambassador to China. What's the status of those documents and what do they pertain to? And what's the position of the Pentagon?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have received a letter from the senators regarding the nomination of Admiral Prueher. We believe that as he was reported out by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he is an excellent candidate to be an ambassador. I think the president looks forward to having him confirmed by the Senate and at his post as quickly as possible. The senators have sent over a letter requesting some further information, and we are in the process of responding. I expect that response to go back to the senators today.
QWhat kind of information is that?
MR. CROWLEY: I don't have the letter in front of me, Bob, so I can't really be specific, but they requested information. We are in the process of learning first and foremost that this is information that goes back a number of years in terms of issues that came up during Admiral Prueher's tenure as CINCPAC. And to the extent that that information can be found, we will respond fully to the senators within the information that's available to us, address -- try to address their issues, and so that we can clear the way for Admiral Prueher to be voted on by the full Senate.
QWas the Naval Academy incident part of the request?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge. My understanding is the focus was primarily on issues regarding his tenure as CINCPAC and how he viewed, you know, certain developments that occurred during his tenure.
QWell, at least one of those senators claimed that he's soft on China. Would the Pentagon deny that?
MR. CROWLEY: I think Admiral Prueher, given his vast experience in the region, has an excellent perspective on China. We obviously want to remain deeply engaged with China. We think it's very important. He has a clear-eyed view both of the opportunities that we have for, for example, further, you know, military to military dialogue. It's a very important relationship. As we approach the next century, the new millennium, China will be a force to be reckoned with, obviously a major economic power, a major regional power. It's very appropriate for the United States to have a healthy, working relationship with them. And we believe that Admiral Prueher has the capabilities to serve in an outstanding way as ambassador.
QP.J., a published report in yesterday's Washington Post quoted senior Defense officials as saying that there was no cyber attack launched against Yugoslavia during the recent conflict because of a lack of a clear policy on how such an attack would take place. Can you confirm for the record whether or not there was any attempt to attack Yugoslavia's computer network? And if not, was it because of any lack of policy?
MR. CROWLEY: Okay, let me respond in a very general way. You know, this is an area that has been asked of Secretary Cohen and General Shelton; it's an area that I think we have to be very careful about in terms of what specifics we can talk about from -- the operational details we can talk about from the podium.
Clearly, the conflict in Kosovo represents a -- you know, has a growing information operations dimension to it. I think the chairman has indicated that there were information operations conducted during the course of the Kosovo operation. I don't think it's appropriate for me to talk about that publicly from the podium. Clearly, this is an element that exists today and will develop further in terms of it being a part of modern warfare. It's important for us to have a capability to deal with information operations and prospective cyber attacks. As you saw last month with the unified command plan that was updated, we have given this mission to the United States Space Command. As you might imagine, we are developing both operational plans for this capability.
We also have to develop the rules, regulations and doctrine that go with it. So, I think that was the focal point of the piece yesterday.
QJust so I can understand what you're saying, can you just define what you mean when you say "information operations" --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, information operations is something that we've conducted, you know, on a broader scale for some time. Information operations includes psychological operations, it -- now, in the narrower view of cyberattack and a capability that clearly we are interested in developing -- I'm not going to go into specifics about what we might or might not have done during the course of the Kosovo campaign. Needless to say, it is a capability that we are developing and it's a mission that will be developed further by the United States Space Command.
QP.J., can you give us an update on the situation off Nantucket, please?
MR. CROWLEY: Did that at the start of the briefing; can go back over, if you've got any specific questions. What in particular do you want to know?
QThe situation, the condition, of the newer of the two probes. I understand that the umbilical was cut by a piece of wreckage or so. Is that true? And when will the new probe be back in the water again?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure. Well, we have two ROVs on scene right now. One is on board the Grapple, one is on board the Carolyn Chouest. I believe the Carolyn Chouest had a problem with its ROV and a cord that was cut during the course of operations this morning. That, I think, has already been repaired and they should either be back in the water or prepared to do so shortly. But it was the ROV aboard the Grapple that was able to locate and retrieve the flight data recorder that was done about 5:40 this morning.
Obviously, the Grapple was able to return to the scene yesterday, when we had a window of opportunity as the weather broke. They worked through the night, were able to locate this first flight data recorder. We have some bad weather that's moving in. One of the advantages of having the Carolyn Chouest on scene is that it does have the ability to stay stable in the water, even during rougher seas. So I would expect that in some fashion we should be able to continue these recovery efforts even though the weather might be moving against us.
QHas there been any conversation because of all this, because of the danger to divers and the stated position of Jim Hall not to put divers in because it's too dangerous, has there been any thought, once the black boxes are aboard, to stop the salvage operation?
MR. CROWLEY: I think you got a very detailed briefing last week from the Navy supervisor of diving.
This is a very risky operation. We will employ the capabilities that we have on board the ships on scene in support of the NTSB basically, and calculate on a day-to-day basis what's the best way to work through the requirements that we have.
We were fortunate today to be able to recover the first black box using the ROV. If we see that there are requirements that force us to put divers in the water, we'll do so only under appropriately safe conditions. But that's a decision that is done in consultation with the NTSB on a day-to-day basis.
QThat doesn't really answer the question. I mean, are they going to try and bring up the wreckage and piece the plane back together or just leave the wreckage where it is?
MR. CROWLEY: Well that's really a matter for the NTSB. I mean, I think the point that we made last week is this is a very difficult operation when you're talking about the depths that you have to deal with. We are now in a time of year, unlike, say, TWA 800, where the conditions are not going to be favorable. I think this is a long-term recovery operation. We will do what we need to do in support of the NTSB. But in terms of how the investigation will proceed, how we'll be able to work through these challenging conditions, how much of the debris we'll be able to bring up along what time line, this is really a matter where we are in support of the National Transportation Safety Board and we will support them as we can. So that really is a question to ask Jim Hall. And we will continue in support for as long as it takes.
QI was puzzled by Secretary Hamre's complaints about the stock market beating up on Lockheed Martin's price. Is he reflecting concern of bankruptcy by this corporation, this defense contractor? Or does he want investors to ignore these series of disasters that have been going on there?
MR. CROWLEY: I think he was reflecting the fact that the long-term health and welfare of the defense industry is very important to the country. It's important in terms of our economic health and it's important in terms of our national security. These are fundamentally strong companies. These are companies that have been in business for a long time; they're going to be in business for a long time. They make products which are very important to us, and we have a priority interest in making sure that we have a vibrant, competitive industrial base in place.
I think he was reflecting perhaps a frustration with the market that, for companies that may not yield the stratospheric kind of returns that the market has seen at time to time with companies that have yet to turn a profit, that he was just cautioning that the market shouldn't overlook these very solid companies that are very important to our long-term health and welfare.
QBut Lockheed almost went bankrupt during the Nixon administration. The Pentagon had to bail them out with, I think, a $200 million loan. Are you considering that again?
MR. CROWLEY: I just think he was reflecting on market trends and the fact that there is a concern that if these companies continue to get battered in terms of their fair valuations in the marketplace, they could be the subject of takeovers or corporate raiders, and that's something that's incompatible with our desire to maintain a very vibrant competitive industrial base.
QBut they seem to be mismanaged. All their top officials are being fired and --
MR. CROWLEY: They're going through a very historic, you know, transformation. They're going through a very historic, unprecedented consolidation. It is probably true that defense leaders of these corporations may have underestimated the degree of difficulty in doing this. By the same token, they are moving steadfastly through this. And I think his bottom line is these companies are healthier than the market gives them credit for.
QWhat about requiring them to divest certain operations? And are you reconsidering the approval of the mergers between Lockheed and Martin Marietta?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that, you know, on a stateside level, we have made clear that we think the consolidation has proceeded as far as it probably logically can. I think if you look at things like the lessons learned from Kosovo and the defense cooperation initiative that's underway with NATO, we are also focused on a global supplier base. And that may well be the next step in this process, to be sure that you have a vibrant international industrial base to make sure that allies such as exist within NATO have common capabilities, interoperability, because we will be fighting as coalitions in the future. I don't think he's forecasting anything particular regarding any corporation.
I think he was looking at the Defense sector and basically saying that these companies are healthier than the market gives them credit for.
QThe Washington Post had a story today talking about the problem, criticizing not only the administration but also the Congress for keeping away the money for the Colombian peace process. And now I wonder how much it will hurt the military aid and the help that Colombia's trying to get from the military side in the -- ?
MR. CROWLEY: We are very supportive of the government of Colombia's efforts to deal with both their drug problem, and we understand that they can only effectively deal with their drug problem when they are able to work to try to curb the violence that's existing within their borders. And we are very supportive of that. I probably would defer the question to the briefer that will follow me. He is an expert on that area and may be better equipped to get into particular dollar issues. But obviously the government of the United States fully supports the government of Colombia in its efforts both in terms of trying to bring rebel elements to the peace table for a meaningful dialogue, but also to continue to work to provide the resources necessary for them in support of their, you know, drug eradication efforts because obviously what happens in Colombia is of importance to what happens here on Main Street in the United States.
QBut if there is no budget, there isn't money just to Colombia like going over now --
MR. CROWLEY: Let's take the question, and perhaps pose it to the following briefer.
QP.J., during Undersecretary Mr. Thomas Pickering's visit to China, U.S. and China military to military relationship question came up, and now they are looking both what -- what kind of military to military relations are they talking about. And also, in the past China never stood by its pledges made by China to the U.S., like transferring technology and missiles and other -- so what is the future now?
MR. CROWLEY: We have a long-term interest in helping bring and incorporate China into international agreements. I think we've found historically that China's track record is that when they are brought formally into international organizations, that they do, in fact, meet their obligations.
On your first question, we obviously -- it's important to reestablish military to military contacts that, you know, we've had prior to the unfortunate incident in Belgrade. You know, they have indicated that they want to reestablish these contacts, and I think that there have been discussions between our governments, and we look forward to resuming these relations in the very near future.
QWhat is the view of the Pentagon on China's increasing emphasis on projecting its military -- a blue water navy, a longer-range air force, a much more capable strategic rocket force? Concerns at what they appear to be saying to the world?
MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, we're watching what China is doing very carefully. By the same token, many years ago they announced a series of modernizations. Military modernization is the last to really evolve. We fully expected and have worked into our thinking and planning for the region that China would in fact modernize, and when they modernized that would involve improvements and increased capabilities. We are watching it closely. But the fact that China is modernizing is something that we have fully expected. And that's all the more reason why having someone like Admiral Prueher, who both understands that and can engage the Chinese in a meaningful dialogue about their future plans, is one of the reasons why we think he'll make a fine ambassador.
QFully expected. But are you concerned about the direction that that modernization appears to be going?
MR. CROWLEY: China itself has always indicated that their military capability is defensive in nature. Historically, I think that that has been borne out primarily by the capabilities that they have developed up to this point. There is no question that China will be an economic power in the future. There's no question that China will be a regional power in the future. I think the fact that we want to engage with China and help direct that development of a military capability as well into something that can add to stability as opposed to add to instability is a hallmark of our engagement strategy with China.
QWell, wait a minute. The blue water navy is not necessarily defensive in nature, nor is a strategic missile force that has a 5,000-mile capability. That's not defensive, that's offensive.
MR. CROWLEY: China has had a strategic missile force capable of reaching the United States for many years. That does not mean that we are on the verge of a nuclear exchange with China. I think that one of the reasons why we want to engage with China is on this very question. What kind of a relationship will we have in the future? What kind of relationship will they have with the rest of the region in the future?
You can make a case that they will be -- you know, if we want to have a self-fulfilling prophecy with respect to China and have them develop into an adversary, you know, certainly the conditions can exist for that to happen.
We don't want that to happen. We want to have a meaningful relationship with them, a productive relationship, that lends itself to long-term stability. We have had long-term stability in Asia. That has meant that China has prospered, our allies in the region have prospered, we have prospered. And that's what we want to see.
So in and of itself, the fact that they are modernizing their military is not in and of itself a concern to us. But it is something that we are watching very closely. It's something that we did expect.
QBut, P.J., do you think any country in the region, including India or Taiwan, should worry about China's military strength in the future because they are building up and building up?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, on the subject of Taiwan; obviously, you know, we have to work towards a situation where China and Taiwan can have a meaningful dialogue and work through their differences and issues in a peaceful way. We don't think that there should be any kind of a military resolution to the disagreements that they currently have.
That said, you know, a sovereign state has the right to develop a capability that it thinks it needs for its defense. And at this point, the fact that China is modernizing is something that we have long anticipated.
MR. CROWLEY: What about India?
QShould India worry?
MR. CROWLEY: I think I would defer to the government of India to talk about how they view events within China. Obviously we, China, India, you know, have a joint and mutual interest in stability in the subcontinent, and we have worked constructively together over the past couple of years.
QP.J., what is the effect on U.S. military readiness when the Army's entire fleet of Apache helicopters has to be grounded? And it appears that more than half the fleet will be out of commission for up to 10 months.
MR. CROWLEY: As you know, last Friday the Army issued a Safety of Flight message requesting that all the Apaches -- and this would include roughly 743 Apaches, 660 "A" models, 83 "D" models, the Longbow -- they should be inspected before their next flight related to a hanger bearing assembly problem that was identified in connection with an Apache accident back in January.
As I understand it, at this point virtually all of the Apache aircraft have been inspected, but they are not quite through with the inspection process.
But something in the area of 400 aircraft will need to have this hanger bearing assembly replaced. The hanger bearing assemblies fore and aft house the drive train, which passes turbine engine power to the tail rotor. A failure in the flange area will result in loss of tail rotor thrust, and such a failure could be catastrophic. But there are two on each aircraft. At this point, it could be that one or both of these assemblies might need to be replaced.
The Army is working the issue hard. They, obviously, were the ones who identified the problem in conjunction with this accident in January at Fort Walker. It's going to take, as you say, approximately eight to 10 months to both repair the aircraft with parts that they have on hand, to accelerate new production of these bearing assemblies. We expect that could take up to 90 days to do. So this is about an eight-(month) to 10-month process. It will probably cost in the vicinity of $13.5 million to correct.
That said, at this point the Army -- its first priority is the safety of its crews. We will have substantial numbers of these helicopters that will not fly for the next three months or so as they accelerate the production of these replacement bearing assemblies.
I think at this point the Army will work as hard as it can first and foremost to make sure that Apache helicopters that are currently engaged in major contingencies or at the tip of the spear, for example, in Bosnia, Kosovo, Southwest Asia, Korea, they have parts on hand to be able to repair these helicopters as a priority. So that we don't expect any major impact on the key operations that the Army is currently involved in. Clearly, there will be impacts here back in the States in terms of their operational tempo, their training. I think the Army is in the process of assessing that now.
QWho is going to pay the $13 million?
MR. CROWLEY: It's a good question to ask the Army. I don't know what the responsibility is.
QP.J., on the question of making sure the Army troops are protected during their operations, there's been a series of safety problems with Army trucks, but some of those restrictions have been lifted.
But last Friday a five-ton truck rolled over at Fort Drum, killed the driver, broke the neck of another trooper and put 18 people in the hospital. Are you going to reconsider safety restrictions for these trucks until these --
MR. CROWLEY: Pat, I'm not familiar with that particular incident. You know, safety is always a watchword for all, you know, commanders at all levels in all the services. But --
QThis has been going on for years.
MR. CROWLEY: I understand the issue. I don't have any particulars on that particular incident. I really defer to the Army on that.
QA couple of weeks ago, General Shelton told the Senate Armed Services Committee that there was another Kosovo supplemental appropriation that was being put together. Do you know the schedule on that, when it's going out to Congress and approximately how much it's --
MR. CROWLEY: I don't have a particular schedule that I'm aware of. I think, obviously, first and foremost, issues regarding Kosovo supplemental have been wrapped up in the congressional dealings on defense authorization, on defense appropriations. We're not out of the woods yet. We have, as we've said, major concerns about this proposal for an across-the-board cut across the government that would have some serious consequences for the Department of Defense.
So I think we have to get through the concluding 2000 budget cycle that's still ongoing and then we'll have a clearer vision as to what we need to put forward in the way of a Kosovo supplemental.
QSo there isn't one being -- because --
MR. CROWLEY: There is one. I --
QThere's one being worked on. He says --
MR. CROWLEY: We have one in mind. Some aspects of the Kosovo supplemental were affected by congressional action on the appropriations side and the authorization side, so I think we have to wait and see where we are at the conclusion of the 2000 budget process. Then we'll know what we need to put forward in the way of a Kosovo supplemental.
QJust real quick, when you say it was affected by the action-- that means it could be larger than what you had imagined because of that?
MR. CROWLEY: That would only be speculation on my part.
QSecretary Cohen and Governor Rosello have both now expressed interest in a face-to-face meeting on Vieques. Has there been a meeting scheduled? Is there one in the works? What's the state of play?
MR. CROWLEY: We obviously have been fully engaged on Vieques, you know, going back to the unfortunate accident there on the training range some months ago. Last week Rudy de Leon, our undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness and Bob Tyrer, Secretary Cohen's chief of staff, met with the governor's representative.
We have indicated very clearly -- the president's indicated, the secretary has indicated -- that we have a desire for a meaningful dialogue to see if we can resolve this issue both that meets our readiness needs and also respects the legitimate interests of the people of Puerto Rico. We have no meeting that is scheduled at this point, but we obviously are very anxious to see if we can't resolve this issue very quickly.
QHas there been contact to try and set up a meeting? Or is it --
MR. CROWLEY: We had the meeting last week. We don't have a meeting scheduled at this point. But we continue to be in contact with the Puerto Rican Governor's Office, and we continue to have discussions both with the White House and with the Hill over how we can work towards a satisfactory resolution.
QIt appears that the Iraqis are intensifying their efforts against U.S. aircraft. Do you have a trend line on that? We have been dropping more bombs on them lately than had been the pattern in the past.
MR. CROWLEY: I would say that -- I wouldn't necessarily see a major difference.
As you know, since Desert Fox, they have been using all elements of their air defense system to threaten our aircraft, as we continue to enforce the no-fly zones, both north and south. And you know, given the way that they have employed their air defense system repeatedly to threaten our pilots, we have chosen to take appropriate action at a time and place of our choosing.
So you know, there was an incident today where Iraqi forces fired anti-aircraft artillery on a Northern Watch aircraft near Bashiqah. And it was during one of these routine no-fly-zone patrols. And we took an appropriate response in dealing with that threat.
QAre the Iraqis getting closer to our aircraft?
MR. CROWLEY: Now -- I mean -- not withstanding we have been at this for some time -- our aircraft do remain under fire. There is no question that Saddam Hussein has set as a goal, shooting down one of our aircraft. There is always going to be risk associated with these operations. I think it's a testament to the skill of our pilots that, notwithstanding that our aircraft have been threatened, on literally hundreds of occasions, that we have successful enforced these no-fly zones without losing an aircraft.
I am not aware of any significant increase in Iraqi capabilities. Their AAA fire, for example, you know going back to Desert Storm, has usually been ready, fire, aim; just trying to put as much flak up in the sky in the hopes of a one-in-a-million shot.
So I'm not aware of any particular new capabilities that they've demonstrated, but you know, you have to look at the odds here, that any time we put our aircraft and pilots in harm's way, there's a risk to them. That's why we have dealt forcefully with the Iraqis every time that they have threatened our aircraft.
QSo you have not seen an increase in close calls in the last --
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I think our pilots have come back in recent days and reported that there have been a couple of close calls. But we think that's just dumb luck. We don't think that that represents any kind of change in their capability or tactics.
QAnd what does a "close call" mean to you?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I don't know. I also would not want to go into that specific detail, because it might get to, you know, how we approach these missions. We do change our tactics. We do change how we do the enforcement regime, so that we don't get into a pattern that makes us predictable to Iraqis. Jack, I don't know the specifics in terms of how close is a close call.
QHave any planes actually been hit?
MR. CROWLEY: No. Not -- well --
QAntiaircraft figure or anything?
MR. CROWLEY: Not recently. Not that I'm aware of.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, go back to Desert Fox. I think we did have, you know, some instances where aircraft have been hit. I'm not aware of any hits, but then again, I don't necessarily see that on a day-to-day basis.
QIt's been pretty quiet, as far as Kosovo is concerned, as far as the reporting on Kosovo. Could you bring up to date on progress in the American sector and generally speaking, about how's IFOR doing, how things are coming along throughout the country?
MR. CROWLEY: IFOR? Are you talking about Bosnia or Kosovo?
MR. CROWLEY: KFOR. Okay. I mean, we --
QI'm talking about Kosovo.
MR. CROWLEY: We continue to do what we need to do, and in support of this international effort to give the Kosovar Albanians the opportunity for to build the institutions associated with autonomy. I think we have largely met the military objectives that NATO has set out to meet. There have been a fairly dramatic drop-off in incidents in Kosovo in recent weeks, and I think now we're at the point where we look for, you know, building those kinds of civilian institutions that give greater autonomy to the Kosovar Albanians.
So no news, probably, in this particular case, Bill, is good news; that we have largely met the military objectives in terms of stabilizing the situation, helping Kosovo prepare for winter, and now it really now is a civilian reconstruction and development of government institutions, so that they can become a viable entity.
QIs Kosovo ready for winter?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that there are obviously going to be some hardships, but I believe they have made great progress on the ground.
QTo follow up Jack's colloquy, if the unfortunate happens and an air crew is shot down by Iraq, what is the administration's position as to their status? Are they considered prisoners of war and therefore Geneva conventions apply? Or since the war is over, does that not apply? What is the pilots' status?
MR. CROWLEY: Not being a lawyer, let me take the question. I mean, I'm sure -- obviously, anytime that we operate there are some Geneva convention implications to it. And I think that would apply, you know, in any kind of operation that we have underway. But let me take the question.
QP.J., the leader of Afghanistan's Taliban army has threatened the United States with some kind of unspecified unpleasant surprises if the U.N. sanctions go forward against Afghanistan for not turning over Osama bin Laden. How much concern does that cause you, and are there any steps that are taken in reaction to that?
MR. CROWLEY: We of the government have had repeated conversations with Taliban representatives about their international responsibilities. Clearly there is a U.N. Security Council resolution that has made clear that the Taliban need to expel Osama bin Laden to a country where he can be brought to justice for his responsibility in the attacks against the embassies in East Africa and perhaps other terrorist attacks around the world as well. The Taliban had told us that they desire a better relationship with the United States, they desire a better relationship with the international community. This is a perfect example of what they have to do if they want to meet their international responsibilities. We have long-term concerns about the Taliban with respect to their treatment of women, for example, other issues. But this is really an opportunity for the Taliban. If they want to be viewed as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, they have to take on their responsibilities. That includes expelling Osama bin Laden to a country that will be able to see justice done.
QBut do you see this warning as a threat?
MR. CROWLEY: I would see this as an opportunity, you know, for the Taliban to meet their obligations under Security Council resolutions. I mean, the Taliban themselves have their hands full dealing with the situation inside Afghanistan. By the same token, their association, their known association with Osama bin Laden and concerns that we have for their complicity with drug trade in Afghanistan, we have concerns about the Taliban. Do we think hat that is a particular threat? I don't necessarily see it that way.
QHas General Clark been authorized to begin planning for a defense of Montenegro in the event that the government there gets overthrown by Milosevic and Belgrade?
MR. CROWLEY: As you know, Jim, we have had our close and watchful eye on Montenegro going back to the Kosovo conflict earlier this year. We have specifically warned President Milosevic not to take any action that would undermine the Djukanovic government. That said, we at all times are both reviewing developments in the region; our CINCs are always developing and updating contingency plans. I'm not in a position to make any specific comment from the podium. But Montenegro is an area that we watch very closely. President Djukanovic was here last week. And we continue to support his regime within the rubric of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
QWas he given any assurances that the United States would come to his defense if the Yugoslavs or Belgrade --
MR. CROWLEY: We have specifically warned President Milosevic of the seriousness of taking any move that would undermine the Djukanovic government. I'll leave it there.
QA John Deutch question. You know he lost his security classification after he left the building and went to the CIA, for mishandling classified information. There's some talk from Senator Shelby on the Select Intelligence Committee that he might also have mishandled classified information while at the Pentagon. Do you have anything on that?
MR. CROWLEY: I have no information to support that allegation.
QThe people at Peterson Air Force Base are putting on sort of a demonstration today of the U.S.-Russian Y2K confidence-building center, whatever the name of the center us.
MR. CROWLEY: Center for Y2K Strategic Stability, might that be what you are asking about?
QThat's the place.
As originally envisioned, there was also supposed to be an equivalent center in Russia that would be staffed by Russian officers and U.S. officers, where we would share early-warning information and, I believe, signals, as originally envisioned.
As it turns out, there is only one center. It's in the United States. There is no center in Russia.
How is this going to work under the new configuration if we don't have a center in Russia with U.S. officers observing? And will Peterson be taking in a signal or a live feed of Russian early-warning pictures?
MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, we want to be sure that the millennium passes without incident. And we have set up, very cooperatively with the Russians, a mechanism so that we will have total transparency in our early-warning systems, as we transition to the millennium. You know, this will involve continuous information and links back and forth between Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, and Moscow. The Russians will have personnel in the Springs; we will have personnel in Moscow.
And we will be sharing information derived from our ballistic early-warning systems, on launches of ballistic missiles. We'll also have the opportunity, in case there are any other incidents involving aircraft that might lose navigational aids -- for example, we don't expect that there will be a problem -- but we will have connectivity between Moscow and Colorado Springs so that we could have total transparency in the information that we both have available so that we both can have confidence that we can celebrate the New Year appropriately.
QBut it's my understanding that there is no center in Russia. Is that still correct?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we will have personnel in Russia. I think most of the information that will be used, and shared, will have actually come from our systems in Colorado Springs.
But we will have connectivity back to Russia, so if they have concerns they can relay those concerns to us in Colorado Springs. As we have information that might be of importance to them, we'll relay them back. But this will be a transparent operation with Russian and U.S. personnel sitting side-by-side to make sure that in the event that any incidents take place, they can be fully explained based on the information that we both have available.
Now, this is separate from the agreement that President Clinton and President Yeltsin signed a year ago in September where we would work towards a shared early warning center that we both would have. This is something that's set up for the Y2K. Our countries have worked very closely together, they have worked extensively to work through our mutual concerns and make sure that our systems, we think, are properly safeguarded for the new year.
But there will be personnel in Moscow -- you know, you want to call it a center -- I think there will be personnel there connected to our folks in Colorado Springs and that kind of connectivity, I think, will help us with whatever dialogue we need to be sure that anything that takes place can be shared with both sides.
QI don't necessarily want to call it a center. In fact, the last time I was told about this, I was told that there would be no center in Russia. Has that changed?
MR. CROWLEY: There will be personnel. Let me try --
QWell, there are personnel in Russia now.
MR. CROWLEY: There will be personnel in Russia.
QYeah, but just saying that there will be personnel in Russia doesn't mean anything.
MR. CROWLEY: They will have open lines to personnel in Colorado Springs.
QWhere will the U.S. personnel in Russia be?
MR. CROWLEY: I don't know.
QNot in the Russian strategic command center, I'm assuming?
MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, they will be near Russian authorities so that those who are monitoring what's going on around the world will be able to share information very quickly, but the information that will be shared will primarily be based on information that comes from our systems.
QNow, the people, the Russian officers at Peterson are going to be looking at the U.S. early warning picture?
MR. CROWLEY: We will be sharing information based on our early warning picture with them.
QSo they're not going to be sitting in front of the screens, is that what you're saying is the difference here?
MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, the particular mechanism -- that's why you're having a briefing out there for your personnel, to make sure they understand exactly how this is going to work. But we will take information from our various systems, share pertinent information with our Russian counterparts; they will, in fact, have connectivity with folks back in Moscow, so this will be a very transparent process as we make the transition to the next millennium.
QThere's still only the one center?
MR. CROWLEY: The Center for Y2K Strategic Stability will be in Colorado Springs.
QAnd are we going to look at pictures of Russian early warning systems --
MR. CROWLEY: The data that will be shared will be coming from our systems, not theirs.
QI apologize for prolonging this already lengthy briefing, but two quick matters I have to ask about. One is, can you provide us any update on the investigation of the alleged civilian massacres at Nokuen-Ri? Is there any time line at this point for the completion of this investigation? Where does it stand now? Then I have one other question.
MR. CROWLEY: We have had a team in Korea to establish its initial links with our Korean counterparts. And I'm not aware -- they are back. We are fully underway with the information that we were able to glean from historical documents primarily, at this stage, on the Nokuen Ri incident. I expect probably, you know, sometime, you know, perhaps later this year, early next year you might see the next opportunity for our folks to travel back to Korea. We have, you know, some survivors from the Nokuen Ri incident who will be visiting the Pentagon on Friday you know, with the assistance of the National Council of Churches, and they'll be meeting with P.T. Henry, with Charlie Cragin, and with General Ackerman. Yeah. And so we'll have the opportunity to get some first-hand survivor accounts on Friday as part of this investigation.
QSo that is part of the investigation, it's not simply a courtesy --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, obviously, it's a -- you know, we look forward to meeting with them. I think that it is primarily probably more on the courtesy call aspect, but these are important contacts that could be important to us as we proceed with the investigation. So that could lead to, you know, follow-up interviews that either we will do or the Korean side will do.
QAnd my final question, on a different subject, did --
QCan I just briefly follow that up?
QHave you begun questioning veterans yet, from the --
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QDid -- would you take that? I'm sorry --
Did Senator --
QI have another follow. When you say "survivors", do you mean Koreans who were --
MR. CROWLEY: Five survivors from the Nokuen Ri will visit the Pentagon this Friday.
QSo they were at Nokuen Ri.
MR. CROWLEY: That would be my understanding, yes.
QAs opposed to surviving family members, these are actually --
QCan we go back to Afghanistan one second, please?
Since U.N. resolution has not worked yet and they are still -- Taliban are still threatening the U.S. and other civilians, and bin Laden is still there -- he was supposed to leave last week, that's what they said -- but also, many Afghanis have told me here in this area that Talibans are doing terrible things to the women there; so what the U.S. and what the Pentagon are doing --
MR. CROWLEY: We have had long-standing concerns about the Taliban in their treatment of women, both in terms of their access to educational opportunities, their access to health care. I think this is probably more of a State Department issue than it is a Defense Department issue. But in terms of our broad relationship with the Taliban, obviously we have major concerns about their harboring of Osama bin Laden. But there are other issues that will have to be resolved if the Taliban want an improved relationship with the United States. The sanctions that you mention as part of the U.N. Security Council resolution are set to go into effect on November 14th if Osama bin Laden is not turned over.
QDid Senator John McCain violate any rules when he shot part of a political ad in Arlington Cemetery? And will he get in any trouble for it?
MR. CROWLEY: I'm really not in a position to talk about the latter. He did, as far as we know, shoot a commercial at Arlington Cemetery. He did not ask for our permission. As you know, Arlington is an open installation, but it is an -- Army is the executive agent for Arlington Cemetery. We do have policies so that Department of Defense facilities will not be used, you know, in partisan political ways. And had the senator asked us for permission, based on our reading of the policy, we probably would have said no.
QIs there any sort of punitive measure available for people who use the facility without a permit?
MR. CROWLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QAnd if CNN went up and shot videotape in there without permission, is there any sort of --
QYou'd get 20 years.
MR. CROWLEY: We won't allow you to be buried there.
QAre you recommending he not use the commercial shot there because it was shot against your regulation?
MR. CROWLEY: We have not asked him not to use the video.
QWell, Arlington is open, but certainly a presidential candidate and a television crew would probably attract some attention. Is any investigation underway as to why nobody knew about this while it was going on?
MR. CROWLEY: I'm not aware of a formal investigation other than our people have been in touch with his people because we anticipated that you might ask this question. But I think, you know, we certainly understand the fact that Senator McCain would want to visit the grave of his father. We do not necessarily believe it appropriate that he bring a film crew along with him when he does that. But I'm not aware of any punitive action that we are contemplating.
QDid you at least tell him not to do it again?
MR. CROWLEY: Bill?
QWhere does the Department of Defense stand on the Republican budget plan to cut 1 percent from budgets across the board, especially --
MR. CROWLEY: We are against it. We have obviously worked very hard to build an appropriate defense program for the out years. The secretary has worked with the president and the administration to commit substantial resources to reverse the decline in defense spending. We have a long-term commitment to protect readiness, to protect modernization, and to meet our operational requirements. And we are against any effort to now, having put forward very sound legislation that meets our critical needs, now to, on the other hand, then contemplate taking some of those resources away. We think that kind of meat-cleaver approach to defense planning would have serious consequences in terms of our readiness.
QThank you very much. Thank you.
QJust one quick follow-up to the Apache issue. Do you know whether or not this standdown or these repairs would affect -- or could affect some of our allies that have the Apaches?
MR. CROWLEY: We have notified other countries that have Apaches of our finding in connection with this accident, and we have, I think, encouraged them to do the same kinds of inspections that we are undertaking.
QIs there any association with the accident in Kosovo or just the January Fort Rucker?
MR. CROWLEY: Just the January one. There's no indication that we have that the accidents in Albania early this year had this as a causal factor.
MR. CROWLEY: With that, thank you very much.
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