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DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, August 17, 1999 - 1:40 p.m.

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
August 17, 1999 1:40 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Let me bring you up to date on military support to the people of Turkey in their moment of need.

A C-5 is standing by at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware ready to take a rescue team -- about 70 people, five dogs, 56,000 pounds of search and rescue equipment, and three vehicles -- that will be deployed to Turkey to help with the search and recovery operations there. Our latest reports are more than 1,000 people have been killed in this tragic earthquake and more than 5,000 injured.

As you know, General Shelton was in Turkey today and he personally offered U.S. military assistance. So far the Turkish government has not requested anything from the military in Turkey, so our participation at this stage is transportation from Dover to Turkey.

I believe the C-5 will be leaving very early tomorrow morning, once it loads up and gets ready to go.

Q: Who is this 70-man team?

Mr. Bacon: I believe this is the team that is coming from Arlington County (sic). There are two teams. One from Arlington County, Virginia, and another is coming from Dade County, Florida, I believe. This current team is the local team from Arlington County and they are being deployed by the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance which is part of USAID.

Q: The three vehicles, Ken, are those diggers? What are they?

Mr. Bacon: I'm afraid I don't know what the vehicles are, we'll try to find out. The military isn't providing these vehicles, they're coming with the team. So this is the team that's going under the Office of Disaster Assistance.

Q: A civilian operation other than the aircraft then.

Mr. Bacon: That's right. Sorry it's Fairfax County, not Arlington County. I was trying to give Dick Bridges credit here when it wasn't due, but it's Fairfax County as I understand it.

Let me just say that we have no reports of any injury to U.S. military personnel in Turkey. They weren't around the epicenter of the earthquake. Of course most of our personnel are in Incirlik. There are approximately 1,400 U.S. Air Force people there with 2,000 family members. There are also 670 U.S. and Turkish civilian employees there, and about 900 Turkish maintenance contractors, and 1,700 people supporting Northern Watch in Incirlik. No damage there. The electricity went out for awhile, but it didn't interfere with operations today. Also, there are approximately 200 people in Ismir, Turkey, but both of these are relatively far away from the epicenter of the earthquake.

While we're dealing with natural disasters let me mention another one that's looming, which is Hurricane Dora in the Pacific. We have evacuated Johnson Atoll where there's a chemical disposal facility. There are about 1,100 Americans on the island who have been taken off. I think the last will go in about 20 minutes, on their way to Hawaii. We anticipate right now that the hurricane will strike at about 2:00 a.m. tomorrow, our time. After the hurricane has passed, they will come back.

All of the chemicals--as you know, this is a chemical demilitarization facility where they basically dismantle ordnance, artillery shells primarily, containing chemicals and burn them. The incinerator actually has been shut down for transitional maintenance. They finished a big batch of mustard gas and they're about to move to nerve gas, so the incinerator has not been working for awhile and does not have chemicals in its pipes.

The chemicals that are stored there are stored in very secure underground bunkers. They have survived worse hurricanes than they anticipate from Hurricane Dora. They anticipate winds of 80 to 100 miles an hour.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Charlie?

Q: Ken, why did General Shelton refuse to send THAAD radar to Japan who officially made the request? And was the SecDef consulted on it?

Mr. Bacon: First of all, let me put this into perspective. We are in the process of deploying significant assets to the Pacific to monitor a test should one occur by the North Koreans. We don't know whether one's going to occur or not at this stage.

General Shelton felt that the collection assets we either have or will have on scene are perfectly adequate to meet our needs. And THAAD had not been integrated into the collection plan. So he felt that the assets we will have on the scene are perfectly adequate to meet the needs.

Second, there would have been a cost to deploying the THAAD radar that he didn't think was worth spending, given the collection assets we were already planning to have on the scene.

Third, it would have interfered with other plans for the THAAD radar.

When he added those three factors together, he decided that it did not make sense to send the THAAD radar.

Q: What are the significant assets we're sending, other than the two ships that have been deployed?

Mr. Bacon: There are ships. Japan has Aegis cruisers that certainly were valuable collectors the last time around and would participate in any collection activities this time as well. I announced last week some ships that were going. So there are a variety of collection assets that we'll have at sea and in the air. And General Shelton felt those were adequate and that the THAAD radar was not going to be necessary.

Q: Was anyone else consulted in the civilian hierarchy, or was this strictly a military decision based on money?

Mr. Bacon: This was discussed in the policy area, and in the military area, but it was finally General Shelton's decision. The reason he made the decision was the request had been made by the Commander in Chief of the Space Command, General Myers.

Q: Any additional or new indications of whether missile preparation has advanced or not?

Mr. Bacon: We do not have anything to suggest that North Korea is closer to a test today than it was last week.

Q: Why would General Myers make the request to use this radar if other plans were being made for the THAAD radar?

Mr. Bacon: I think you should ask SPACECOM that. But it's the Chairman's job to evaluate these requests and to allocate resources sensibly, and this is the decision that he made.

Q: Can I ask what other plans were being made for the THAAD radar?

Mr. Bacon: You can ask but I'm not going to answer. There are a number of things set up for it.

Q: Considering that they plus up the budget for missile defense by a billion dollars, I understand the costs were somewhere between $3 and $5 million. What were the real cost problems with deploying this radar?

Mr. Bacon: We don't have mountains of money sitting around. The question was who was going to pay for this? No one really stepped up to want to pay the bill to move it from their own budgets.

Secondly, it would have interfered--it would have taken some time to send it there, set it up, and then move it back. It would have interfered with other plans that are in line for the THAAD radar. The Chairman, when he evaluated these three factors, decided that it wasn't a decision worth making.

I might add, Bill, that I thought that was a very unfair remark made or quoted in your story about the Chairman, anonymously. It was a low blow, I felt.

Q: Were arms control considerations a factor in this.decision?

Mr. Bacon: Arms control considerations were not a factor. I've given you what the factors were. I don't think arms control considerations were going to be a big issue in this case. But in fact the decision was made on the three factors that I gave you.

Q: Was there any consideration that this radar's not ready to be integrated with missiles over there that it's never operated with? It's specifically for the THAAD unit, it's not a telemetry radar which you'd want for the Taepo Dong. Were there any technical issues raised that this thing's not ready to do what Myers thinks it might be able to do?

Mr. Bacon: The decision was based on the feeling that it wasn't going to add a significant amount of information to the package we will already have there. That was the basis of the decision. There were other considerations which were the cost and the competing schedule for the THAAD radar, but the primary consideration was the fact that it wasn't going to--the benefits of what we would get weren't worth the costs both in terms of money and in terms of disruption to other needs for the THAAD radar.

Q: This may be more of a question for the Space Command, but is it your understanding that it was wanted more to test the THAAD radar or to add capability to gathering intelligence? Do you see my point?

Mr. Bacon: I think it was a little bit of both. Usually these things are not just one dimensional, there are several dimensions to them. I think it would have both tested the radar and there was a thought it might provide some additional information. But when the Chairman evaluated it, he didn't think it was going to be a significant amount of new information.

Barbara?

Q: What was General Tilelli's opinion about THAAD? Had he also requested it for his theater?

Mr. Bacon: I'm not aware that he had requested it. I think the request came from General Myers.

Q: My other question is, to go back to Charlie's point. Can you just expand a little bit more on what you meant by the significant resources? We do have the two Navy ships which you've previously announced; and you've told us here today the Japanese Aegis cruisers will participate in monitoring a test if it should occur. But what else makes up the significant resources that you mentioned?

Mr. Bacon: We've been monitoring missile launches for a long time. We have a force that is trained, highly technologically advanced, and experienced at doing this type thing. The fact that there may be a test is hardly a secret. I can just tell you that we'll have a combination of sea-borne and airborne assets to help us monitor this. Without getting into details, we think this will be adequate.

Q: Another subject?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Q: Can you give us anything in the way of an update on the Chinook helicopter grounding? In some parts of the country those helicopters are used by local Guard units and so forth...

Mr. Bacon: I'm not up to date on where it stands. They were grounded. They're checking the gear box. That was the problem. They were grounded after some problems with some British Chinooks, as I recall. But if you ask over here, Mr. Whitman in DDI, he'll be able to get you the latest from the Marines (sic) [Army] on that. The last I checked was last week, and I don't know where they stand in terms of releasing blocks of them, if they have released any yet.

Q: Do you know if originally there was a time table with a guesstimate as to when they would be back in service?

Mr. Bacon: There may have been but I don't know it, but the Marines (sic) [Army] will have all that information. I just don't know the latest on it.

Q: Another subject?

Mr. Bacon: Sure.

Q: What is the reaction of the Defense Department to India's announcement they're going to weaponize with atomic devices and deploy their atomic weapons to deter threats from Pakistan and especially, I would expect, from China?

Mr. Bacon: What I've seen is a statement that they are able to build a neutron bomb. Did they make an announcement today?

Q: They made an announcement that they were going to deploy a nuclear deterrent, I think that's what I heard.

Mr. Bacon: I'll have to see exactly what they said.

Obviously, we have urged both sides to show restraint. We feel that this is an area where a nuclear war is possible if people don't show restraint. It's an area where the damage would be extraordinary because of the large populations of these two countries. We have urged both Pakistan and India not to take irrevocable steps and not to take steps that further provoke the tensions between the two countries.

Q: So the Defense Department doesn't feel there's any justification for India to have a deterrent that is nuclear, is that correct?

Mr. Bacon: We believe that both countries would be better off if they took steps to reduce tensions, not increase tensions. I haven't seen the statement you referred to so I don't want to comment on it directly until I see it, but that's our belief.

Q: On Iraq. The Arabic newspaper London Al Hayat is reporting and quoting a military official in Incirlik that Iraq has been firing a new type of surface-to-air missile and there were suggestions that it may have come from France.

What's the status of the Iraqi air defense? Are they firing new missiles? And since we've been bombing on and off for a number of months now, how are they managing to keep this air defense network going?

Q: Those are all good questions, but let me deal with the first ones first.

We are not aware that they are purchasing any missiles from France. They do have some very old Roland missiles that are sort of held together with bandaids and bandannas, but nothing, we're not aware that anything new has been purchased, and frankly, we would be very surprised because there is an embargo and France is a member of the UN Security Council and honors the embargo. So it would be very surprising if that happened, and we have absolutely no indication that there have been any sales by France or other countries at this stage to Iraq.

In terms of Iraq's general air defense system, I've said before that there's an ebb and flow to movements of its air defense system, but on average, we believe that the air defense system is probably 40 to 50 percent less, or 40 to 50 percent weaker today than it was prior to Desert Fox in December. I think there are three reasons for that.

The first is...and that means basically there are 40 to 50 percent fewer missiles on station in the north or south no-fly zone on any given day today than prior to Desert Fox in December, and I think there are three reasons for that.

One is the number of missiles destroyed, missile batteries destroyed during Desert Fox. Two, the number of missile batteries destroyed since Desert Fox. And three, their reluctance to put their missiles at risk in either the north or the southern no-fly zone.

By contrast, there has been very little reduction in the missiles deployed around Baghdad or around Tikrit [ph] which is Saddam Hussein's home area. So they seem to be husbanding their air defense assets around Baghdad and Tikrit, and as a result they have far fewer air defense assets in the northern and southern no-fly zones.

So I would say that's probably the most dramatic response to the patrols over the no-fly zones since Desert Fox.

Q: On China...

Q: Can I follow up? The preponderance of these firings at aircraft in recent months have been anti-aircraft guns and not missiles, is that not right?

Mr. Bacon: That's true, although on Friday they did fire several missiles. They do fire missiles from time to time. Bill referred to a new missile. We have seen some indication that they have fired an SA-2 with enhanced range. In fact the range may be beyond the range of its radars. Most of the missiles they've been firing have been fired ballistically without radar guidance. The reason is that when they turn on their radars we are able to send radar-seeking missiles, HARMS, back down the radar beams to take out their radars.

One of the main targets during Desert Fox was a missile and radar repair facility at Tagi, T-A-G-I. We believe that the elimination of that facility has made it increasingly difficult for them to repair missiles or radars. So we're seeing much slower rehabilitation of their air defense systems than we used to see before Desert Fox. There is some rehabilitation, but it seems to be going much more slowly.

Q: How many missile batteries have been destroyed since Desert Fox?

Mr. Bacon: Well, I can't give you specific numbers, but depending on the types of missiles probably from 10 to 20 or 25 percent of their total missiles since Desert Fox.

Q: And how many were there total?

Mr. Bacon: I don't have the total number. I'd rather stick in--I'm talking about the missiles that are in the no-fly zones rather than their total. I should say the missiles deployed in the no-fly zones. The reason is they do move them back and forth, and they can move them away from Baghdad into the no-fly zones, but they've chosen not to do that. They do have a series of missiles that they tend to keep around the edges or the margins of the no-fly zones that they move in and out.

Q: You're talking about missile batteries or missiles?

Mr. Bacon: Missile batteries.

Q: What is the overall impact or degradation of his overall military force? If he continues to husband most of his resources around Baghdad and Tikrit after seven or eight months of air strikes in the north and south, what is the overall impact on his military capability?

Mr. Bacon: I think you have to disaggregate that question and answer it in several ways.

First of all, it has clearly reduced his air defense capability in both the no-fly zones. As I said, it's down 40 to 50 percent from what it was prior to Desert Fox.

Second, his command and control structure has been degraded to some degree. Because we are striking at the integrated air defense system which involves not only missile batteries but radar and command and control facilities as well, so we have degraded his ability to communicate, to cue his air defense systems, etc.

Clearly, we have scared him to the point where he doesn't want to turn on his radars, and missiles that aren't guided by radars aren't particularly threatening or dangerous. Obviously, any missile that's fired is more dangerous than the missile that's not fired. But they cannot be fired with any degree of accuracy unless the radars are turned on, and he isn't turning on the radars.

So we think that, basically, the responses to the attacks that he's making against our planes are slowly but measurably degrading his air defense system. They are draining resources that he might spend on other parts of his defenses or his military machine. And they are forcing him to keep his head down and to adopt what we can only describe as an extremely low risk opposition to the patrols over the no-fly zones.

He offered a bounty, I believe, of a million dinars to anybody who shot down an allied plane. He continues to try to shoot down allied planes, principally with anti-aircraft fire. But as I said last week, on Friday the 13th he did fire several surface-to-air missiles at coalition aircraft. So he does have the ability and the resolve to fire missiles from time to time, but they're generally not guided by radar.

Q: On this new SA-2, is this a new capability that they haven't had before, or is it a new capability that they've used? And if it's new to their inventory, where did they get it?

Mr. Bacon: Basically it's an extended range, slightly extended range SA-2 as I understand it. It has not been a significant capability in terms of increasing the threat to coalition aircraft.

Q: Did they have that or did they just acquire that?

Mr. Bacon: It seems to be something--I don't know how long they've had it. It's something that we've only seen used recently.

Q: Friday was it in...

Mr. Bacon: No. It's been used over the last couple of months.

Q: Can you modify the extended range, it's gone from what to what?

Mr. Bacon: I can't remember, but it's not huge.

Q: What varieties of SAMs were launched on Friday?

Mr. Bacon: It's generally SA-2s and SA-3s.

Q: But not the extended range one.

Mr. Bacon: No.

Q: Ken, is this extended range model something that could be reached indigenously by just a better motor, better rocket motor that they could slap together?

Mr. Bacon: I think it's mainly fuel capacity. It's increasing the fuel capacity.

Q: There was a recent report which you may have commented on, I haven't been here for a few days, but that there was consideration at some level of the Administration of expanding the target range, the range of targets to be hit by pilots in the no-fly zones. Can you explain that or comment on it?

Mr. Bacon: All I can tell you is that we're always reviewing our targets to make sure that they're appropriate to the threat. This goes on all the time in every military operation. We have made no significant change in our current tactics.

Q: On China. The Xinhua, official Chinese news agency report in a piece denouncing the Taiwan independence, statements that Marines were training for an amphibious landing somewhere in the South China Sea. Is the Pentagon aware of anything? Are there any concerns about a Chinese amphibious assault on Taiwan?

Mr. Bacon: China has about 5,000 Marines, an extremely small force. It has a very small fleet of amphibious vehicles, amphibious craft. The Marines are based generally down in the south in a place called Zhanjiang and they have standard training. We're not aware that there's anything extraordinary going on with the marines, aside from their normal training.

Q: Ken, North Korea, I just want to take you back to the next missile test. Last Tuesday you said there's nothing imminent by way of potential...

Mr. Bacon: Right.

Q: Do you still stick by that?

Mr. Bacon: Nothing's changed.

Q: Imminent would be over the next two or three days or two weeks?

Mr. Bacon: Days to weeks.

Q: That hasn't changed.

Mr. Bacon: No. I can't see that there's been any change in that.

We continue to have discussions with the Koreans on a wide range of issues, and we expect to have more discussions at the end of the month.

Q: Is the SecDef on holiday?

Mr. Bacon: Today he is, yes. Yesterday he was here.

Q: He comes and goes.

Q: At the White House press briefing just before we came in they mentioned something about how Senator Mitchell had sent a letter to Bob Tyrer asking him to review NSA files on the death of Princess Diana perhaps? Could you please explain what that's all about?

Mr. Bacon: First of all, let me say that Mohammed Al Fayed, the father of Dodie Al Fayed who died in the automobile crash with Princess Diana, has asked that various documents be reviewed, or his lawyers have asked that various documents be reviewed.

We have found absolutely no connection between any documents in the Defense Department and any information that would shed light on the cause of the accident. There is nothing we have that sheds any light on the cause of this accident.

Q: What documents did he want?

Mr. Bacon: There are a variety of documents that have just been developed in ordinary operations. And so they wanted to look further into this matter and Mr. Tyrer volunteered to review all the documents--there are not many, there are several dozen documents--and to report back to Senator Mitchell on his findings. I do not anticipate that a re-review of the documents will reach a different conclusion than we've already reached, which is there's nothing in these documents that relates in any way to information explaining the circumstances of the death of Princess Diana.

Q: When was the first review, if this is a re-review?

Mr. Bacon: I think the first review was in May, perhaps.

Q: Does this include NSA intelligence documents?

Mr. Bacon: It includes a variety of documents.

Q: Can you tell us why Princess Diana's name would even be in DoD documents?

Mr. Bacon: We get reports from all over the world. Reports about travel. It's quite possible that when she was traveling with Prince Charles we would get reports from embassies about the response to their travels in those countries. It's that type of thing.

Q: Do any of these involve her activities in the area of landmines?

Mr. Bacon: I can't answer that question because I haven't seen the documents, but it could well involve information like that. But it would just be reports that we got from embassies or other sources.

Q: Was Princess Diana or Dodie Al Fayed the subject or target of any U.S. intelligence operations?

Mr. Bacon: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: Just to understand, this list of documents might have just been generated by doing a word search with Diana, Princess of, whatever...

Mr. Bacon: That is my impression, actually, of how it was generated.

Q: So the fact that there exist such documents does not in itself mean anything.

Mr. Bacon: Absolutely not. It means nothing.

Press: Thank you.