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Transcript : DoD News Briefing : Tuesday, February 13, 1996 - 2:30 p.m.

Presenters: Mr. Timothy G. Connolly, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations
February 14, 1996 2:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, February 13, 1996 - 2:30 p.m.

[NOTE: Also participating in this briefing was Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD (PA)]

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

We're going to start the briefing today with Timothy Connolly who is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations. He's going to talk to you about part of our continuing effort to alert our forces in Bosnia to the dangers of mines. What he's going to describe is an information package that's being sent over there which is just one more tool in a kit that they've been building really since they started training to go to Bosnia last fall.

With that, Tim Connolly.

Mr. Connolly: Thank you. As Ken said, I'm with Special Operations. In addition to our primary function, we also are responsible for the Humanitarian De-Mining Technologies Project which is a project being run out of Fort Belvoir that has been working now for over a year and a half on developing better technologies for use by humanitarian de-miners, as opposed necessarily to counter-mine operations in a military context.

One of the things that we developed about 9 to 12 months ago was something called MineFacts, which is a CD-based information folder that contains information on over 650 land mines -- both anti-tank and anti-personnel. They're land mines going back to World War II. They are every land mine that the intelligence community could identify as having ever been put in the ground anywhere in the world in any kind of conflict. And, the purpose of it was to provide a compendium that humanitarian de-miners could use to look through, and as they went and found mines, to help identify them. The MineFacts contains characteristics, it contains pictures, diagrams, information about country of origin, and essentially is, as I said, a compendium of things that you as a humanitarian de-miner might want to have.

As we began to look at the former Yugoslavia mission and the IFOR mission, as well as the humanitarian organizations that were going to be operating there, we realized that a CD while useful in a sort of garrison or administrative environment, is not particularly useful if you're in a combat zone or if you're in an area in which there are limited resources and limited access to the kinds of computers it takes.

So what we did right before Christmas is we looked at extracting from Mine- Facts those mines that we had reason to believe were in Yugoslavia, in the former Yugoslavia. I'm happy to announce today, we have yet another contribution to the information data that they are using over in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and it is the BosniaFile. BosniaFile is three high density diskettes. It is Windows-based. It is very low in memory needs. And it is designed to provide down to, in some cases, the platoon level on the IFOR side, and down to the individual headquarters and feeding stations and operational stations within the humanitarian community. Down to that level, to give individuals information about land mines.

Let me give you just a quick preview. This is an example of one of the pages within the BosniaFile database. As you see, there are 36 mines represented in the database. Roughly 17 of them are anti-personnel, and the remainder are anti-tank. Seventy percent of them are of former Yugoslavian manufacture.

If you'll see, in the upper left you get a picture of the mine; you get a description of the mine; you get information on the manufacturing country; and you also get information on where within the world these mines have been found. In addition, there are additional pictures, schematics, there are pictures regarding the fusing mechanisms in some cases, and then a different profile. In addition, there are various pages that contain other general information -- the shape of the mine, the height, the diameter, what the weight is, what kind of metal content. Very important.

In the case of this particular mine, the PMA-3, the metal content is found only in the fusing mechanism. This is an extremely difficult mine to find with conventional mine clearing technology. It requires amazing patience and concentration on the part of the operator, and it is one of those mines that we have been finding in former Yugoslavia, and one that we are concerned about.

In addition, you'll get information on the components of the mine, which is of use to those who are in the engineering units. Then we go into the fusing mechanism. Again, the fusing mechanism will tell you whether there is an anti-handling device, is there an arming device. This information is of use to the EOD types.

You can search any of the mines you wish. If you'd like to look at the PMA-2, you simply Go To, and you get a picture of the PMA-2. As you see, you can walk back through the same information to the general description of the mine.

We have found that this kind of an approach is one which our soldiers and the humanitarian community find very, very useful because of the fact that it is easy to deal with, it is in a medium that is familiar to them, it allows you to print out anything you see here, to include pictures of the mines and the basic data on them. Basically, we feel that it contributes to both the mission of IFOR as well as the mission of the humanitarian community -- in particular, their efforts over the long haul to bring peace and stability to the region.

I'll take any questions you may have.

Q: How many diskettes are you going to be distributing over there?

A: The initial run on this was 500 sets. That was the going in. We are now in the process of identifying the units that they'll go to as well as the organizations within the humanitarian community that will be distributing them. Then we have the ability on very, very short notice to continue to produce as many as demand may drive.

Q: Are any being produced in other languages?

A: They are not, no.

Q: How many mines does it cover?

A: It covers 36 mines. Seventeen of them anti-personnel, and 19 of them anti-tank. As I said, roughly 70 percent of the mines represented are of former Yugoslavian manufacture, which makes sense given Yugoslavia was a country that was very heavy into mine manufacturing and export. The remainder are essentially Eastern Bloc, former Eastern Bloc manufacture.

Q: One of the pictures showed a hand apparently unscrewing the mine. Does this information provide details on how to disarm them?

A: It does not. In both the humanitarian as well as military mine clearing, this notion of defusing the mine is something you find in Hollywood. The standard procedure for mine clearing when one identifies a mine is to clear enough of the debris away from it to put a charge against it. Put the charge against it, step back and blow the mine. We do not get in the business of going in and dismantling the fusing mechanism. The picture that you saw was designed to be able to show what the fusing mechanism looked like because, particularly in the MineFacts database, there is a menu that you can go through to help you identify the mine if all you can see in the ground is the fusing mechanism. That's the reason for that particular shot.

Q: Do you have any breakdown on how many mine accidents there have been involving IFOR?

A: I do not. My office would not track that. I'm sure the Joint Staff or Public Affairs could probably provide that for you.

Q: Was this something the CINCs requested, EUCOM or one of the commands asked for, or is it something you volunteered and they thought it was a good idea?

A: It was something, as I said, we have had a responsibility now for a couple of years on the humanitarian de-mining area. We designed the MineFacts database in a CD format. Then as we looked at what are we going to be able to do to contribute to the IFOR mission, we looked at providing training, which we did; we sent humanitarian de-mining experts to both Fort Bragg and Fort Campbell to train the engineering units there. We also looked at how we could leverage existing technologies we designed in our technologies, humanitarian de-mining technologies project. A lot of the technology you see on the ground over in the former Yugoslavia being used by IFOR is technologies developed by our office. Thirdly, we looked at MineFacts and said, well, this is good but we're not likely to find a CD ROM reader... I don't have one in my office. We're not likely to find one sitting down in a platoon tactical operations center somewhere in the IFOR sector. So we went and extracted the mines out that we thought were most likely to be found, we put them in the stupidest format, meaning the dummy-down, most likely to be used by the most likely computer in the theater, and then we produced them. We're going to be sending them over there.

Q: How prevalent are computers at platoon level?

A: The short answer is that computers are very prevalent. When I was in DESERT STORM in a civil affairs unit up in Iraq, we had computers down to the individual support teams, because a lot of what you do now in terms of reporting and in terms of your data collection, particularly in the civil affairs arena, which is where we think these will be most heavily used, is all done in databases and relational databases and word processing. So it's not quite everybody has a "think pad" in their rucksack, but it is down to levels where it wasn't even down to in '91.

Q: What sort of a machine do you need to run these?

A: It only requires 4 megabytes on the hard drive and 4 megabytes of Ram. It operates in a Windows environment, but any of the Windows that have come out since Windows was launched, it will work under that format. It will also print on almost any printer that you may be able to connect to your system.

Q: Are you releasing this here?

A: Releasing in what sense?

Q: To reporters. The three disks.

A: Actually, yes. We are. Someone was supposed to come around and drop some off. If you haven't gotten any, we have some for you, and you are welcome to them.

Q: The cost?

A: The cost of the original project, which included 500 of the CDs... We, by the way, made more of the CDs. Five hundred of the CDs and 500 of the diskette sets, was roughly $25,000. Any additional sets we get, now that we've amortized the development cost, will be roughly $7 a set, so $2 a disk. It's a three-disk set. We, at this point, believe that the initial 500 will satisfy all of the IFOR needs and many of the humanitarian needs. These are not copy protected so we anticipate there being a natural proliferation within the region by people just making copies on their own, and we encourage that. It is our goal to get this kind of information as far down in the hands of operators -- whether they be IFOR members, whether they be humanitarian organizations, whether they be economic rehabilitation people. Anyone who is going to be operating in this region for the next decade is going to benefit from knowing what it is that's out there, and this is one of the ways we can do that.

Q: What are promising technologies that you utilize to help detect mines in the future?

A: What are they? We have been looking at a number of areas. We look at ground-penetrating radar. We have been looking at more enhanced, traditional mine detection which is essentially a metal detecting capability.

What you have to keep in mind is, humanitarian de-mining requirements are different in many ways from the military de-mining requirements, which is one of the reasons why we got involved in helping train the IFOR. That is, humanitarian de-mining has a standard that says that this field is cleared to as close to 100 percent as is humanly possible. You will be able to allow refugees to come in and grow their crops, or have people come in and grow their crops.

A traditional military counter-mine or mine breeching requirement is roughly the 80 percent solution. I need to get my force that's behind me from here to there. There is a mine field in front of me. I am interested in pushing aside as many of those mines as I can, as I move to that objective. If in the process of moving I incur casualties, those are casualties that have been factored into the cost of my mission, and while I do not like them, I accept them as part of that mission.

The IFOR standard being used over in Bosnia is the humanitarian standard

-- for obvious reasons. The only mine clearing that American forces are involved in are those mine clearing operations that are required for them to do their tactical operation plan, which means for them to be able to put up a tent city at Tuzla Air Base, or for them to be able to put a TOC up somewhere out in their area of responsibility. That means they're going to have people walking around, not walking in discreet lanes but basically roaming through that area. Therefore, their clearing standard is the equivalent of what would be required in the humanitarian environment.

The other point I want to make is that one of the things, and I think one of the successes of the humanitarian de-mining program has been that we have been responsive to requirements by people who do this for a living. Meaning those humanitarian organizations for whom humanitarian de-mining is a way of life. We recognize that a key component of that is to give a country the ability to do this themselves. That means you can't give them a stealth bomber sensor suite as a solution to their mine problems. It means you have to give them a capability that you can leave behind with them, that they can maintain, that they can operate, that they can understand why it works the way it does, and that they can employ it properly long after we step back from that country and allow them to sustain their own program. So with that kind of a focus, we have been able to leverage some technologies developed in the counter-mine arena and make them a little better and a little different for use in host nation de-mining programs. We have been successful, and I think you're seeing some of that success in Bosnia in terms of the equipment that we've managed to provide out of our humanitarian projects.

Q: How confident are you in the competence of the belligerents to clear the mines?

A: It has been our experience... I think their competence is high. I think the situation is that we need, as we are doing, to encourage the former belligerents, as you put it, to begin to develop an organic or a national de-mining capability. This is a long-term problem for them. They recognize that. Their short term interests are in other areas besides dealing with this long term problem. What we are doing is encouraging them to establish, designate who within their government will have this as a responsibility, establish a program, and then begin to take those forces which traditionally do de-mining, which are engineering, for the most part, and begin to train them to go through and conduct a comprehensive survey of what the problems are and then develop a program accordingly.

Our experience in countries that had a significantly less trained and significantly less focused de-mining capability militarily has been that you can, with work and with dedication, stand up a very fine capability. That is our hope, and we h... [remainder of transcript lost]