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DoD News Briefing

Presenters: Philip J. Crowley, PDASD/PA
September 21, 1999 1:30 PM EDT

Mr. Crowley: Good afternoon. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretaries of Defense for Public Affairs don't often brief here. I'm happy to be here, pressed into service primarily because Rear Admiral Craig Quigley underwent surgery yesterday, ankle surgery.

His story is that as a midshipman a few years ago he violated an age-old Air Force rule and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane and broke an ankle. So years of jogging, etc., has forced him to have surgery. I think when this happened it was destiny's way of saying he was destined to be a spokesman, and not a SEAL. But we look forward to having him back next week.

I have this vision of perhaps Barbara Starr and Craig doing an Irish jig up here or something with Jack McWethy, neck brace and all, playing the fiddle or something. I don't know. Anyway... So we look forward to having Craig back next week. In the meantime for today with Mr. Bacon up in Toronto you're stuck with me.

A couple of things to start off. The Department of Defense is assisting the Taiwan authorities with dealing with yesterday's earthquake. This morning at 10:30 a 72-member Fairfax County urban search and rescue team with four search and rescue dogs left on a C-5 destined for Taiwan. They've got 60,000 pounds of equipment and three vehicles. They should close on Taipei in the 17 hour window, so later today our time.

Then last night the advance party went off also with some officials from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance from the State Department.

So within a 24-hour period we've responded with some badly-needed personnel to try to help the Taiwanese cope with the earthquake there and we'll continue to do whatever we can to assist them.

Likewise, the Department of Defense continues to both itself cope with the consequences of Hurricane Floyd and also help the people along the East Coast deal with the devastation that Hurricane Floyd caused.

DoD continues to support federal, state and local efforts to help our citizens recover. Since Thursday more than 12,000 active duty military, National Guard and DoD civilians came to the aid of storm victims. More than 5,700 DoD personnel remain focused on storm-related duty in seven states.

About 980 residents of eastern North Carolina where the President was yesterday were rescued from flood waters by air or truck transport. All of the services including the Coast Guard performed around-the-clock missions to help protect and preserve life. We've sent some Meals Ready to Eat, water, and electrical generation equipment, those kinds of resources down there to try to help those people through this difficult period.

With that, I'll be happy to answer your questions.

Q: Can you give us an update on what we have in East Timor either staying overnight there or flying in for the day, and what equipment has been...

Mr. Crowley: As the Australian contingent has indicated, the International Force for East Timor, or INTERFET as it is called, I think PACOM also has its own name for this called OPERATION STABILIZE. It's off to a very smooth start. Roughly 3,000 Australian and other international troops are on the ground in East Timor. They're starting their day roughly now, their Wednesday. I expect about 500 more to flow in during the course of today.

From the United States standpoint we have roughly 140 personnel in Australia, primarily focused on Darwin. I would expect another 50 to be in Australia say over the next 24 hours. So we'll by the end of this day, today, tomorrow, depending on whether you're talking about Washington time or in the region, would expect to come close to our projected 200 level for this operation.

In East Timor itself we have currently two Americans there. One a liaison officer for General Castellaw. General Castellaw himself, plus I think a very small contingent made a quick site survey into East Timor yesterday, but he has left a liaison officer there and a public affairs officer who is assisting your colleagues who flowed in with the media response team yesterday to try to help with coverage issues.

Fourteen civil affairs personnel left Fort Bragg today and will close within the next two days in Australia. We have the ships MOBILE BAY and KILAUEA who continue in the region. They have roughly 527 people on board those two ships. The MOBILE BAY, for example, which is an Aegis cruiser has been helping with the control of the air bridge as it's moved from Darwin and Tindall into East Timor.

We've had four C-130 aircraft -- one belonging to the Marines, three belonging to the Air Force -- have been there in Darwin. I believe at least one KC-130, a Marine aircraft, has made at least one mission into East Timor.

Our 300,000 Humanitarian Daily Rations are now there in Darwin, and as this operation matures and we see some of the non-governmental organizations return to East Timor we'll be working closely with them to see how to most effectively distribute that food and material to those in the countryside who need it most.

Q: Is Connie Chun the PA in East Timor, do we know?

Mr. Crowley: It's a Marine captain, Chris Hughes. Conrad is doing great work in Darwin on your behalf.

Q: The other question is that over the weekend the implication was that the first U.S. forces arrived in Darwin consisting of 13 Marines, whereas in fact we're told that on the 10th some planners, or a week before, ten military planners from Pearl arrived in Darwin along with two Navy public affairs officers. I just wonder if this is a new phase in our strategic effort where flacks get on the ground before combatants.

Mr. Crowley: Which is always, I think, your preference.

We have had 15 PACOM planners in Australia for some time. I think in the flow that is either there now or enroute the communicators, the intelligence personnel, cargo handlers, those who will lead us in our kind of strategic lift, logistics planning and civil affairs kinds of support that we have pledged to this operation.

The surveillance aircraft is there on station and I think has already begun flying its operations.

But the flow for our forces from Darwin into East Timor will pretty much at this point be whenever General Cosgrove, the Australian Commander of this operation, calls for them. We've been trying to put our people on the ground in Darwin consistent with the flow of forces, and material into the region and we're set to go whenever the commander feels those capabilities are needed.

Q: Can we switch to Taiwan?

Mr. Crowley: Any more questions...

Q: Would U.S. forces, the small U.S. group that will eventually get into East Timor, they will be under the Australian commander then?

Mr. Crowley: General Castellaw will be the U.S. contingent commander for the operation and will oversee the support that we'll be providing to INTERFET.

Q: Can I ask one question again about Timor? On the border there and into western Timor, West Timor, there fled many, many thousands of East Timorese. Is there any policy as to what to do with those people? Is there any involvement in the U.S. in looking after those people?

Mr. Crowley: Our estimates are about 350,000 East Timorese people have been forced from their homes; some 170,000 of these displaced people have moved or been forced into West Timor. They're living in camps, minimal facilities. I think once we have the security in Dili squared away you'll see this force as it builds up start to move out into the countryside. I think as you see the situation stabilize we'll see more of the non-governmental organizations that are clearly responsible primarily for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. So it is something we're very much focused on together with the U.N. and the NGOs and I think we'll see how we can best flow humanitarian assistance to these people as we go forward.

Q: Anything, any confrontations, quasi-confrontations at all from the militia or anybody else?

Mr. Crowley: No interference that I've been informed of. I've seen a couple of press reports of maybe a couple of people being detained for homemade weapons, possession of homemade weapons, but so far so good.

Q: What about force protection? Are the Aussies still tasked with providing force protection for...

Mr. Crowley: I think the Aussies, their primary task right now is securing the airport, getting themselves established, force protection for both, I'm sure, their contingent and ours is a paramount concern and will be dealt with appropriately. I think the Australians have clearly said they don't expect any interference. By the same token if any materializes they'll deal with it very straight-away.

Q: To Taiwan?

Q: Has the U.S. received any other requests for assistance from Taiwan? And is the military preparing to provide assistance in anticipation of requests?

Mr. Crowley: I think the Fairfax County search and rescue team that did noble work in Turkey, as well, is the first area that we have offered assistance and it's been accepted. I've heard some reports that we may provide some assistance along the lines of body bags, that kind of thing. But I think so far the Taiwanese are dealing with the tragedy on their own. But we obviously will stand by for whatever they need. But we've had no specific requests that I'm aware of besides the search and rescue team.

Q: On the subject of Taiwan and in the tradition of the disaster in Turkey, relations with the Greeks have been greatly improved, Greece and Turkey. Do you think with the offer of the PRC to help the Taiwanese there might come out of this disaster in Taiwan some closing of the gaps as far as their relations are concerned?

Mr. Crowley: It would be something that I think we would welcome, but this is a matter for Taiwan and China to work with. But that will be something that the two governments themselves will work through.

Q: There's a suggestion out here today, P.J., that the U.S. is either withholding or slow-rolling offers for aid because of the political sensitivities between China and Taiwan. Is that the case? Are we taking a step back to allow that situation to develop?

Mr. Crowley: I hardly think so. Again, the fact that within hours after offering assistance, receiving a request for this search and rescue team, to put these folks in the air not even 24 hours after the earthquake itself took place clearly indicates our willingness to provide whatever support we can.

Q: And during these considerations or negotiations or discussions within the U.S. government about providing aid, nobody's suggested that well, maybe we shouldn't do that right now, let's see what China, how they react?

Mr. Crowley: I don't think that we ever play politics with situations such as this and we'll do whatever we can to support the people of Taiwan.

Q: Just to follow that for a second, as I recall the United States had ships steaming toward Turkey before the Turks even asked for that kind of aid. Is there any kind of movement like that...

Mr. Crowley: We maintain a presence in the Mediterranean which is why we had forces nearby that were able to assist, although as you will recall, that request for assistance came several days after the tragedy itself. Many of our forces in the region actually right now are down in Australia participating in an exercise CROCODILE '99. But again, if there are specific requests that the Taiwan government asks of the United States we will obviously give them very fair consideration, just as we have with this initial support that we are providing.

Q: There were airstrikes in southern Iraq today. A Swedish journalist said that he was injured by debris from an airstrike about two kilometers from Ur, the archeological site, the birthplace of Abraham where the Pope's going to be visiting. Were there airstrikes in that...

Mr. Crowley: I can tell you that roughly at 4:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time today four British Royal Air Force GR-1 Tornadoes and two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets enforcing the southern no-fly zone used precision-guided munitions to strike military radar sites in southern Iraq near the towns of Talil and Ash-Shu'aybah. This came in response to Iraqi fighter aircraft, I think a flight of two MiG-23s had violated the no-fly zone earlier today.

Q: Were those strikes near the Ur archeological site?

Mr. Crowley: All I have is near Talil and Ash-Shu'aybah.

Q: Two MiG-23s?

Mr. Crowley: Two MiG-23s is my understanding.

Q:...be off limits for attacks? Archaeological sites.

Mr. Crowley: Clearly as we have seen in repeated episodes since DESERT FOX we will do whatever we have to do to reduce the threat to our air crews that are flying the enforcement missions in the north and south. We respond at a time and place of our choosing, and our response is directed at the air defense system of the Iraqis that is threatening our pilots.

So I can't speak to any blast damage that may have occurred to sites near Iraqi air defense systems or air defense sites, but our response was directed at the air defense system that continues to periodically threaten our ability to conduct these missions.

Q: This is the first attack on the southern no-fly zone in awhile. On that press release you're reading from it mentions that there have been 12 incidences I think over the last how many ever days that may have been darting in and out of the no-fly zone. I'm wondering about the policy.

It seems a bit specious now to be connecting attacks on radar sites with these ingresses into the airspace, because if they're not responded to immediately then it's almost a non-response. Why even continue this? I'm really going on my soapbox here. Why even continue this charade of it's a response to provocation when it's just kind of... They keep doing it and we bomb a radar site. Why don't we just keep bombing the radar sites and pretend, you know, be done with pretending that it's a response to their...

Mr. Crowley: First and foremost we are interested in containing Saddam Hussein. The basis of the missions in both north and south is to prevent him from using aircraft and his air defense system to threaten our pilots and also to threaten other countries in the region. So first and foremost these regions, OPERATION NORTHERN WATCH and SOUTHERN WATCH are very successful in terms of preventing him from using his air forces in any militarily significant way.

He continues this pattern, this rope-a-dope that he has done for several months, probably to lure our aircraft into SAM traps because he's looking for an opportunity for a trophy and has offered rewards for his crews to shoot down a coalition aircraft.

So the reason why we conduct these responses to his violations is expressly to do so on our terms, at a time and place of our choosing. But it's directed at the air defense system that continues to inhibit our ability to enforce the no-fly zones.

Q: In the past Saddam Hussein has timed these little darting in and outs with the sort of a changing of the guard of the coalition aircraft. Have we done anything to remove those little loopholes? And secondly, have there been any attempts to engage the MiGs?

Mr. Crowley: Our aircraft have had the opportunity to engage the MiGs. We have done so in the past. We have shot down his aircraft in the past. I can't tell you when the last episode was, but back to DESERT FOX clearly he had at some point put his aircraft up and was sorry he did.

We vary the nature of our operations both north and south expressly so that he can't predict what we're going to do. That's primarily a force protection measure from our standpoint, but we are up there enforcing the no-fly zones on a daily basis, north and south. And we will continue to conduct these operations.

So from Saddam's standpoint if he wants this point/counterpoint to stop all he has to do is stop violating the no-fly zones. He's understood that back to December of last year.

Q: You said the aircraft used precision-guided munitions. Did any of them launch HARMs or any radiation missiles which don't tend to be particularly precise when they don't have an active radar to hone in on?

Mr. Crowley: I'm sure they launched munitions that were appropriate. There were no HARMs fired on this particular operation. We don't discuss the exact type of ordnance used, but HARMs were not a factor. We used whatever munitions were appropriate to these strikes.

Q: A different subject. My name is Sabatur Bordichas [ph], Middle Eastern Tasking [ph] Center.

There have been some reports that Maxin Deluly [ph], former Defense Minister in Lebanon, has accused the super power of the United States of bugging his telephone and the telephones of Presidents, Ministers, and leadership in Lebanon and passing the information to Israel. Is the United States passing any information that it is, through the cooperation between the U.S. and Lebanon to Israel?

Mr. Crowley: I have no information to support those accusations, but I don't think that the Pentagon is the appropriate place to find the answer to those questions.

Q: Can you shed a little bit more light, can I switch to Kosovo? All right. Kosovo. On the agreement that was signed. I followed the press conference this morning and I understand that there's two dozen weapons instead of the 200 number that had been bandied about but I'm unclear as to how much control the former KLA will have over these weapons. Will they control the arsenal? Will they be issued the guns to carry with them? Will they be armed 24 hours a day, or will they turn in their guns at the end of the day?

A: NATO and the Kosovar Albanians have reached agreement on what will be called the Kosovo Protection Corps. The total force will be a maximum of 5,000 members including up to 3,000 active, regular or full time members and then 2,000 reserve members.

Two thousand weapons will be held in trust for the Kosovo Protection Corps. Only 200 will be used at any one time. The remainder will be held in a secure weapons facility that is jointly controlled by the Kosovo Protection Corps and KFOR. They'll have a chance to maintain these weapons, check out 200 at any one time, and replace these weapons as they go along.

So we think that this basically completes the demilitarization of the KLA. The Kosovo Protection Corps will be primarily involved in disaster response, search and rescue, humanitarian assistance, demining, and helping Kosovo rebuild its infrastructure and its communities.

Q: Can you give us an update on the work of the Rush Panel on Vieques and particularly on the report this morning that the Secretary's been briefed on that group's recommendation?

Mr. Crowley: The Rush Panel is continuing its work on its report and we expect that report to be forwarded to Secretary Cohen very soon. It's a very complex issue. The panel is working very hard to present recommendations that will balance our national security issues and the concerns of the people of Puerto Rico.

Secretary Cohen was given an in-progress review last week on the panel report. I think you also can expect on the Hill tomorrow before both the HASC and the SASC the Navy and Marine Corps will have representatives up on the Hill to describe firsthand how important the training that we have is at Vieques.

Q: Just to follow that, will the committees get any kind of briefing on the panel's findings?

Mr. Crowley: Since the report is not yet done, I expect that we will wait until the end of the report to report on the report itself. But obviously we are maintaining very close contact with representatives on the Hill as we go through this review.

Q: Do you have a rough estimate how long it will be before that report is finished? Weeks? Days?

Mr. Crowley: My sense is... Well, at some point days turns into weeks, but soon, but I would not say it's imminent.

Q: Regarding the F-22, a couple of months ago a lot of people in the Air Force and in the Secretary of Defense's office suggested that if the Pentagon got less than the full $1.8 billion or so for the first six airplanes, that the program would likely be canceled. Is that still the Pentagon viewpoint today? And if not, can you just describe what the view is?

Mr. Crowley: Obviously as a military we have gotten used to the concept of air dominance. We like it, we want to keep it. The F-22 is an essential ingredient for us to maintain air dominance in the 21st Century. This is a matter that is currently before the conferees up on the Hill and we continue to work with them and make our case for the F-22.

Q: But my question specifically deals with the amount of money and the amount of planes you may get.

Mr. Crowley: Since this is an issue that's still in play it's really hard for me to describe the what if's of what if it's this and not this. I just...

Q:...two months ago dealt with the...

Mr. Crowley: We want to be sure that we maintain a viable program, a cost-effective program. We're concerned about any disruptions to our acquisition of the F-22 and we continue to state our case and make our case to the folks on the Hill.

Q: I don't want to be a pain here, but are you no longer saying that if you get less than six planes you're going to cancel the program?

Mr. Crowley: I'm saying that we are making our concerns and our view of the importance of the F-22 program to the conferees on the Hill and we continue that dialogue with Congress.

Q: And if you don't get...

Mr. Crowley: I'm not going to play a what if game on the F-22.

Q: Are you involved at all with the members of Congress who are sort of discussing it before it goes to the conference committee? Are you in these negotiations...

Mr. Crowley: In the division of labor here I get to talk to you all. Others get to talk to the folks on the Hill.

Q: I mean is the Pentagon involved.

Mr. Crowley: Of course. This is a very important program. It's a critically important program to the Air Force and I think that as you can envision since this issue popped up during the summer we've had many conversations with representatives in the House and the Senate. We've stated very clearly our view of the importance of the F-22 in terms of protecting future readiness of our forces. You've had a letter from the service chiefs highlighting the importance of the F-22 program across the services, and this is very much a process that is ongoing, and a conversation with the Hill that is ongoing.

Q: There's a report in a Sunday paper out of London claiming that the U.S. continued to train Indonesian special forces even after Congress put the kibosh on that training. Can you say when the last training exercise was with Indonesia?

Mr. Crowley: Do you have any more specifics in terms of what...

Q: There was allegedly Kaposas [ph] exercises, a program called Iron Balance training Indonesian special forces in the United States after Congress had stopped the funding.

Mr. Crowley: I think we have spoken before about the fact that various training programs were suspended last year. I think Kaposas was our last training exercise early this summer, as I recall. Why don't you come back to me separately? We obviously have not had a very robust training program. We suspended the JCET program last year, mid-year. The Kaposas program I think was a multilateral program with small representation from Indonesia but with other countries as well. Come in and I'll talk to you afterwards. I don't have that.

Q: Did you say earlier this summer was the last Kaposas? You're not sure?

Mr. Crowley: Summer of '98.

We did four, we completed four JCETs in 1998, in fiscal year 1998. Balance Iron, that completed in November '97. Balance Iron II, April '98. Balance Iron III, April '98. Balance Iron, another one completed in March '98. But I don't think we've had any JCET programs since last May.

Q: Back to East Timor. I believe (inaudible) that the United States and Australia were concerned a priori the elections in East Timor that there would be the violence that's followed. It's been four weeks since the election.

My question is basically why has it taken so long to get troops on the ground and to secure East Timor?

Mr. Crowley: Actually I think the international community has responded very quickly and very forcefully following the Security Council Resolution last week that authorized the multinational force. We also thought it was very important that the Indonesian government extend an invitation for the international force to come in. Indications are that they are cooperating fully in terms of the initial contacts that INTERFET officers have had with the Indonesian military.

I think we've had the eye on the ball. There are provisions and over time this international force will evolve into a U.N. peacekeeping force that will formally supervise the transition towards independence in East Timor. So all the ingredients are in place. I think the international community has responded first to make clear to Indonesia what its responsibility is. President Habibi responded to these international calls by extending the invitation for the force to come into East Timor. The U.N. Security Council took up the issue and passed a resolution very quickly. Now today you have forces on the ground that are helping to contribute to peace and stability and will over time help improve the humanitarian situation. As the Timorese independence process continues you will continue to have this stability on the ground as these Timorese plan for their future.

Q: Was the U.N. a source of delay in this process?

Mr. Crowley: I think the U.N. has acted very quickly and very decisively in response to Australia volunteering to lead this force. There are a number of countries that are now signed up to participate -- Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, United States, United Kingdom. So I think this operation is coming together very quickly and we will see hopefully very marked improvements in the situation on the ground as this force establishes itself in East Timor.

Q: What is the purpose of Secretary Cohen's meeting with General Wiranto next week?

Mr. Crowley: I haven't seen the schedule yet, Jim, so I just don't know all of the ins and outs. Obviously it's important to continue a dialogue with Indonesia. It's the fourth largest, fourth most populous country in the world. It's a key player in terms of future stability in the region. I think it's perfectly appropriate for us to continue to have a dialogue with Indonesia at high levels and to make clear how we are willing to work with them as they continue their transition towards democracy. Obviously the role the military will play in the future of Indonesia, its relationship with its civilian leadership will be a very important dimension of that.

Q: Does this mean that military ties are no longer suspended?

Mr. Crowley: Like I say, it's important to have a high level dialogue with the government of Indonesia. I don't have the specifics on what Secretary Cohen's activities will be at this point.

Q: So you don't know if he's taking...

Mr. Crowley: I don't know. I have not been briefed on the trip yet.

Press: Thank you.

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