DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing. It seems to be a very spirited crowd here today.
We've got many pick-me-ups here, like uranium bullets.
First I'd like to welcome Dr. Horvath from the Hungarian Embassy. He's the Deputy Chief of Mission here, and he's moving back to Hungary to become the Mike McCurry of Hungary, I believe -- the chief spokesman for the presidency in Hungary, so welcome.
There's also a delegation of French public affairs officials visiting us from the military and from the embassy. Welcome to you, as well.
Finally, there are 25 Air Force officers here as part of a special two-year tour in Washington, as part of the Air Force intern program. Welcome to our briefing.
Let me start with a few operational announcements.
The Air Force is helping to move about 1,200 members of an African peacekeeping force called the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOMOG, from Mali to Liberia beginning later this month. They will help to implement the cease-fire monitoring that has been agreed to by Liberia.
These forces will be moved by five C-130 aircraft assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein. It's called Operation ASSURED LIFT. The point is that they're moving the African peacekeeping forces in. This is not an American force that's going in, we're just providing the airlift, under the moniker of ASSURED LIFT. This should all be over by the end of February.
Finally, you may have seen a wire service report out of Kuwait announcing the latest INTRINSIC ACTION exercise, which is the newest iteration of American troops going to Kuwait to fall in on our prepositioned equipment there. A battalion will be going from Fort Hood, it's the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood. They will begin moving soon, and they'll be there about 120 days in Kuwait, exercising with Kuwaiti forces. As you know, this is a continuing program. The last deployment under INTRINSIC ACTION was from the 10th of August to the 15th of December last year.
With that, I'll take your questions on these or other topics.
Q: How many people will be going in terms of the battalion and support ...
A: There will be about 1,200 people going in all. The bulk of them will be from Fort Hood. There will be a small headquarters operation from Fort McPherson, Georgia.
Q: Is the SECDEF concerned about these series of encounters, incidents, close brushes between military and civilian planes? And, what is the SECDEF's office doing about it? And, when are they going to lift the stand-down, the training stand-down?
A: Well, everybody's concerned about these incidents. They have not been ... We do not believe they've been dangerous incidents, but they are all being investigated. The Air Force did announce a flight stand-down for a period of time. The SECDEF has followed it closely. He's been briefed by the Air Force. The investigation that the Air Force launched is still going on. When that's over, he'll be fully briefed on that as well. But, yes, he's been following it very closely.
In terms of the stand-down, that should be ending today for many, many units. The idea was that they would have time to review their operating procedures and to look at the arrangements for the control of military aircraft in certain warning areas; the way the military coordinates or cooperates with civilian aircraft. They were reviewing their procedures and having all their pilots review the procedures, and the procedural review was supposed to be over today.
Q: Can the flying public, civilians be assured that not only will these units go over the procedures, but that civilian and military controllers will be fully coordinated now.
A: Yes, absolutely. I think one of the reasons the Air Force ordered an investigation, right away, and certainly the reason the National Transportation Safety Board ordered an investigation, right away, was to make sure that one, the procedures are adequate; and two, that the procedures are being followed; and three, to initiate any changes that are necessary.
One of the changes that will come out of this on the part of the Air Force is to review what's called the TCAS system, which is the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System that's now on all civilian airliners. The Air Force realizes after this that they have to follow rules that will keep them farther away from civilian planes so they don't trigger this system. They're in the process of formalizing a special training program that deals with TCAS. They're adding a block of instruction to the advanced instrumentation school and instrument refresher courses to teach Air Force pilots the capabilities of TCAS on civilian airliners and how to deal with that. So, that's one of the changes that's already taking place as a result of these incidents.
Q: What's the minimum distance?
A: The distance varies. It varies according to whether they're flying on instruments or visual flight rules. It varies according to the way the air traffic controllers have their patterns set up, their routes set up. I don't think there is a firm distance that I can give you at this stage.
Q: Could you just provide, for the flying American public, would you regard these as minor incidences? And, the fact that the Air Force is making this change to stay farther apart, does that mean they've been making mistakes in the past? Give an overview for the flying public.
A: The flying public, I believe, has nothing to worry about because the Air Force pilots are well trained to stay out of the way of civilian airliners. What happened here was, and we don't have the complete investigation, so I want to be very careful about characterizing what we're learning, but one of the things we're learning is that the so-called TCAS system is sensitive and can be triggered at ranges that may be larger than some pilots may have counted on, so the TCAS was triggered. That's what happened in the New Jersey incident. The collision avoidance system alarms went off and gave the pilot certain instructions on how to vary his flight path to avoid what the pilot could have thought was a possible collision. In fact, what the pilot was doing was a fairly normal identification procedure.
Now, there is some confusion still being sorted out over exactly what sort of information the pilots in the warning area 107 had, when they had it, and whether the instructions to the various planes in the area were adequate and were given on time. That's all being sorted out. When the Air Force and the National Transportation Safety Board complete their investigations, they'll give a full report on what happened, and their conclusions.
Q: Would you say these are minor, though? The question is, they may not have even been near misses.
A: First of all, in all cases the Air Force planes were very aware of where the civilian planes were. It wasn't a question of coming up unawares on another plane. In the last two incidents that were publicized yesterday involving planes in the Southwest -- Texas and New Mexico -- the planes were actually quite a distance away. The F-16s, I believe, were a minimum of 3.5 miles away from the civilian airliners. In the New Jersey case, the first one that came public, and the Maryland or Delaware case, off Ocean City, there also the planes were in full view. At least the Air Force planes had a clear view of what was going on with the civilian airliners, as I understand it. So, this was not a case of ... I think the term "near miss" is a misnomer, and this was a case where some combat planes on training missions in authorized warning areas, areas set aside for training ... I don't know whether you've ever seen flight maps. I know Brad has, but if you look at a flight map you'll see that there are areas set aside, boxed in, and they have W- 108, 107, whatever there, and then little legends giving instructions to pilots about how to fly through those areas. So, they were, these planes, in the first cases, off New Jersey and the East Coast were, in fact, flying in designated warning areas.
Q: You said the stand-down was going to end today for many of the units. Why not for all of them?
A: It depends on when they complete their procedural review. But, most units were expected to complete the procedural review today. There may be some Reserve or Guard units that haven't done it, but most of them were expected to complete it today.
Q: Do you have any indication of whether the aircraft in the Texas incident was active duty or Air National Guard? And, if there was a military operating area involved in that situation? Evidently that wasn't quite clear yesterday.
A: In the case in New Mexico, the incident that occurred 50 miles west of Clovis, New Mexico, on Friday, it was an F-16 assigned to the Air Force's 27th Fighter Wing at Cannon Air Force Base. This was 3.5 horizontal miles away from an American Airlines McDonnell Douglas plane. The second one that took place near Placios, Texas -- 70 miles southwest of Placios, Texas -- involved an Air National Guard F-16.
Q: Was that involving a military operating area? That was the one ...
A: The F-16 had been participating in a mini-wargame with four F-18 Hornets from Canada, and six F-16s from Kelly Air Force Base, along with an AWACS and tanker aircraft. The F-16 asked to leave that area and was directed to a specific altitude, and then turned over to a different controller. So, it was, in fact, operating in a designated training area, with a significant number of other military aircraft. When it moved out and shifted to a different controller, he was directed to a new altitude to avoid any airspace conflict. He came within 4.6 horizontal miles of a commercial aircraft. But, if you look on the plane that they were flying on, the vertical planes, he was 300 feet away, but he was 4.6 miles off to the side, as I understand it, so this was a significant difference. This was not called a "close encounter," as I understand it, in the record-keeping taxonomy that the air controllers use to log these incidents.
Q: Do you have any idea when the Air Force ... Do they have to complete a formal investigation of each and every one of these incidents? Or are they cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board ...
A: They're cooperating, obviously.
Q: They do one ...
A: As I understand it, they're doing separate investigations. The reason for that is that the Air Force and the National Transportation Safety Board have different procedures, different rules, and obviously different goals. And, therefore, they are doing separate investigations. They're working with each other, but they're both doing separate investigations in order to reach independent conclusions.
Q: There have been some accusations that the pilots have been doing this for years, and that they practice intercepts with each other, but also with commercial airliners and they just have not been aware, as you said, of the sensitivity of some of the alarm systems. And, now, they're being caught doing this type of tailgating, so to speak. What kind of response do you have to those kinds of charges?
A: I wouldn't accept the term, "tailgating." I think that that may cheapen the type of operation they were doing here. I think they were carrying out normal operations; and as I said earlier, the collision avoidance system is more sensitive than some of the pilots were trained to deal with. What the Air Force is doing is retraining the pilots to be more alert to the capabilities of the anti-collision system.
Q: Just to clarify, if the stand-down is ending today, does that mean some training flights might start today, or will they start tomorrow?
A: I assume they could start either today or tomorrow, but you should check with the Air Force on that.
Q: Is it true or untrue what the London Telegraph said yesterday, sent over to the Washington Times, and was published, is the U.S., Britain, and France joining together in forming a commando team that will soon be able to operate to capture war criminals in Bosnia? Is this article accurate?
A: The U.S., Britain and France have no plan to use troops to capture indicted war criminals in Bosnia.
Q: You said, "troops." You mean indigenous troops with IFOR?
A: I said they have no plans to use troops to capture war criminals in Bosnia. We've talked about this in the past. We've had discussions, we are having discussions with our allies over ways to bring indicted war criminals to justice. This is a police function and SFOR is not a police force -- as laid out in the Dayton Accords. That's all I can say about it.
I think that article was overblown in its statement about where the planning stands now.
Q: So, the United States Government is not committing any kinds of troops to any other force, or any force on its own, to be used for the war criminal capture?
A: That is true.
Q: That is correct?
Q: You keep coming back and using the word, "SFOR." When you say the U.S., Britain and France have no plans to use troops to capture war criminals in Bosnia, you mean any troops.
A: The President has said, Secretary Cohen has said that, first of all, it is the obligation of the former warring factions to bring war criminals to justice, under the Dayton Accords. This is a police function and it's not a military function. That's our policy.
Q: So, when you say that, "the U.S. has no plans to use troops," you're talking about any troops.
A: We have no plans to use troops ...
Q: Or any police ...
A: It is a police function. When war criminals are brought to justice it will be the function of police to bring them to justice.
Q: Any secret plans to use troops?
A: If there were secret plans I would not talk about them, and I know you would be well enough mannered not to ask about them. [Laughter]
Q: How seriously has the Department of Defense taken into consideration the report prepared by the National Defense University just released under the title, Strategic Assessment 1997?
A: How seriously do I take the report?
A: I'm afraid ... I haven't read the report, yet, so I can't comment on it. It's a very thick report, and I'm looking forward to reading it but I haven't gotten to it yet.
Q: More specifically, I would like to bring to your attention that there is a map on page 38, which reflects totally the Turks position in the Aegean issue, but more specifically, the map does not include the borderline between Greece and Turkey, it does not include the continents surrounding the Greek Islands. It challenges even the present (inaudible). Additionally, the map presents Cyprus, with borders still, as you know, under Turkish invasion and occupation.
A: You've called the public's attention to that map. I haven't looked at it yet, but you can be sure I'll go look at it some time after this briefing.
Q: According to the same report, Greece is facing a real threat in its northern borders in case of a Balkan war. I would like, then, to know if you can guaranteeing the security of Greece's northern borders, on a bilateral basis.
A: You're referring to our Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement between Greece and the United States? First of all, we believe that the disputes in Bulgaria and other countries -- Albania -- are internal disputes, and we do not believe that they pose any threat to Greece. We believe these disputes, as I say, are internal to those countries -- Albania and Bulgaria.
The Military Cooperation Agreement is not a treaty, so I don't believe that commits us to defense. However, under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, should Greece's borders become threatened by aggression of a non-NATO member, we would be, Greece would be covered under the collective defense ...
Q: What about in the case of (inaudible) from Skopja all the way to Greece in case of war?
A: Well, refugees are much different from a military incursion.
A: Well, refugees have been moved ... This is why we felt it was so important for us to help secure a peace agreement in Bosnia and to enforce that peace agreement, to stop the flow of refugees. As you know, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of refugees have left Bosnia and moved to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, a number of countries in the area. I don't know how many came to Greece. But, that's the reason why we felt that the Dayton Peace Accord was so important; that's the reason why we felt it was important to send allied troops into Bosnia to enforce the Dayton Accord; and that's why we're still there today, to enforce the Dayton Accord and to help conditions of peace return to Bosnia so that refugees can one, return from surrounding countries; and also stop moving out of Bosnia into neighboring countries.
Q: So in case of threat in the northern border of Greece, you cannot guarantee our borders, on a bilateral level?
A: As I told you, the Mutual Cooperation Agreement is not a treaty that commits us, but there are other provisions and that's under the NATO umbrella that provides for collective defense of NATO members.
Q: Could you update us on developments on the Gulf War Syndrome? For instance, new reports in from the Fox vehicles, anything new on that front?
A: I expect that we'll have something new to say about that later this week. My hope is that we'll have the first of the narratives that Dr. Rostker has discussed with you. These are efforts that his office is leading to answer a number of outstanding questions about Gulf War Illness. The first narrative we hope to be able to produce is one on Khamisiyah: what happened at Khamisiyah; who was involved; why did it take us so long to learn what happened at Khamisiyah. My hope is that that will be ready by the end of this week and he can come down and brief you on that. There are other narratives on a variety of other topics. One has to do with the logs. We're still working on that. We'll have five or six of these things over time, but I hope the first one will be ready by the end of this week.
Q: Is the Secretary of Defense taking a position on the possible separation of sexes in the Army for training, or is he leaving it up to the Army to make the decision?
A: What he has said is that he'll look at this issue. He has not made up his mind one way or the other. As you know, now, the Marines operate differently from the three other services, and in basic training they separate men and women. They go through their own training programs. The other three services put men and women together. He will look at this.
His first domestic trip will be at the end of this month, and one of the places he'll go is to Lackland Air Force Base, which is the site of basic training for the Air Force. He'll review the training procedures there.
Q: To follow up, General Reimer said he was going to study whether or not to keep things the way they are or to separate the sexes. Do you know if the Army has arrived at that decision or is close to it? Has the Secretary been advised of any pending decision?
A: I believe that the view of the Army officials is that they prefer mixed training, mixed-gender training the way it's going now. Their mantra is that we train together and we fight together. We train as we fight.
General Reimer did say on the Hill that they would look at this down the road, but I don't believe the Army has any plans right now to change the way they train. Right now, the Army is working through a whole variety of issues, and these issues reflect the fact that what's happened in the Army -- the sexual harassment charges that have been leveled against trainers and others in the Army -- they reflect basically a breakdown of Army procedures. This is an issue of right and wrong. This is not an issue of how people are trained.
The sexual harassment is wrong, no matter where it occurs, whether it occurs in the course of mixed gender training or elsewhere in the Army. What the Army is concentrating on right now is finding ways to stop that. It has five or six programs underway, as you know, starting with the prosecution of people who have been charged with violating Army rules -- assault, fraternization, etc. -- to the Secretary of the Army's senior panel reviewing training operations -- TRADOC has reviewed its training as well, there's an IG investigation going on. So, there are a number of programs on track here. The question of whether overall training -- how training is done -- should be reviewed, will come, I think, after the Secretary of the Army gets the recommendations from the senior panel that he appointed.
Q: If you'll tell the Secretary, I took my basic training at Lackland in 1948, if he'd like a dump on how it used to be, I'll be happy to brief him.
A: Maybe you should come on this trip. I think this will be open to some reporters and you might be able to give an historical perspective that we might otherwise miss. [Laughter]
Q: Just on this point, though, many in the Army, including women and others, say that a return to segregated basic training would be a big step backwards for women. So, how seriously is Secretary Cohen looking at, relooking at this question or rethinking this question?
A: Secretary Cohen's first principle on this is that he wants to protect all the gains that women have made in the military and, in fact, opened the way for additional gains. One of the first ways to move forward is to get sexual harassment behind us. That's what the Army is working on. They brief Secretary Cohen on what they're doing from time to time. He's kept very up to date on what the Army is up to on this.
The question of training is one that he will ask questions about and look at as he travels around the country to look at training operations. He does not go into this with his mind made up in any way at this stage. Right now, we have a situation, as I said earlier, that allows services to operate differently in the way they train. That system has worked very well for the Marines, who separate men and women in basic training, and it's worked very well for the other three services that combine them.
The Secretary is open to looking at ways to improve training across the board. If this is one of the issues that comes up, he'll look at it with an open mind.
Q: Can you give us a little background on what inspired him to take a new look at this? Is this just because he's taken this job recently, or was he inspired by what the members of the Senate have been saying or ...
A: Any time you have a problem, you want to look broadly at all possible solutions. Without saying that this is a solution or not, it's clearly something that people on the Hill have raised, and others have raised, as something that should be looked at. So, he doesn't have a closed mind. He is willing to look at any possible way to make training better. Will this make training better? We have no idea. The Army, the Navy, and the Air Force think not. It's just something that he will look at as he goes around and asks questions about training. He's said that he plans to devote his initial domestic trips to reviewing training. His first one will be in late- February to Lackland. So, this is one of the things he'll be looking at, but he does it completely with an open mind, and you should not take away from what he said at his press conference. He said, basically, this matter needs to be studied. He said he's open to considering whether this is the right course of action. That expresses his view. He's open to looking at all ways to improve training. Some people claim this is a way to improve training. Many people say it's not a way to improve training. He'll have to look at the facts.
Q: Will he consider cost also in his judgment on this issue? And, on a separate matter, could you define a little bit, there was a lot of discussion in terms of Sergeant Major McKinney's presence on the job versus the drill sergeants being removed from their jobs, about the policy of what happens when someone is standing under an accusation such as this? Is there a DoD policy, or is this a situation where it's left to the services to interpret on a case-by-case basis? Do you know?
A: On the first question about cost, the main, the Secretary's main goal in looking at training is to make the training as effective and as fair as possible; and, of course, to find ways to minimize the possibility of sexual harassment. Cost, obviously, is a factor, and indeed, it's one of the factors that has driven the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force to combine training. They find not only is it better training for the types of missions on which they dispatch their soldiers, sailors and airmen, but it also is more cost effective than separate training. He'll look at a broad spectrum of issues.
The question of Sergeant Major McKinney's suspension, and whether there's different treatment between Sergeant Major of the Army McKinney on the one hand and the drill sergeants at Aberdeen on the other hand, relates back to Army regulations. There is an Army Regulation 614-200 that says when a serious incident occurs that requires an investigation to clarify the issues, commanders will relieve the drill sergeant from assigned duties and temporarily suspend special duty assignment pay, pending completion of the investigation. So, that's laid out in an Army regulation that focuses specifically on the training environment.
Sergeant Major McKinney was not performing drill sergeant duties. He was Sergeant Major of the Army and had much broader duties than drill sergeant duties. So, that regulation did not apply to him.
Q: Then was he suspended because of the additional accusations that have been made against him?
A: No. He was suspended for precisely the reason the Chief of Staff of the Army said he was suspended. The continuing and increasing public attention given to the allegations against him made it increasingly difficult for him to perform his duties. He has denied these allegations. He's said that he's innocent and he believes that he'll be proven innocent, and the suspension will give him more time to work on his defense. Remember, these are only charges. Nothing's been proven, yet. These are accusations, not proof. I think it's important to remember that and to treat Sergeant Major of the Army McKinney fairly while the investigation is continuing on these allegations.
Q: Have these scandals affected recruiting at all? Have you seen any ...
A: My latest information from the Army is that they don't have signs that recruiting's been affected, but I have not spoken to the Army recruiting people about this recently. We should double check and get back to you. In fact, you should ask the Army that, because I just don't have the latest information.
Q: What is the Department's reaction to charges leveled by the O'Brien family of Pennsylvania, this morning on the Hill, that the Navy mishandled the investigation of the hazing incident of their son, who subsequently committed suicide?
A: The Navy has devoted a considerable amount of time to this, and I'd refer you to the Navy, particularly to Admiral Pease' detailed account of what's come up so far. This was a very serious incident and the Navy took it very seriously. Congressman Weldon, I understand, held a press conference on this today, and before he called the press conference he called the Secretary of the Navy and he called the Secretary of Defense to report on what he was going to do, and the charges he was making, and the charges that the family have made.
I would like to say that, first of all, this resulted from an apparent hazing incident, so we take that very seriously. The Navy has very clear policies against hazing. Those policies have been in place for some time, long before this 1995 incident took place.
The allegations, and the incident, were very thoroughly reviewed at the time. In fact, notes were made in the permanent records of a number of O'Brien's commanders -- he was a fireman in the Navy. Fireman O'Brien's commanders -- notes were made in their permanent records about this case and the allegations that were made. So, this means that every time these officers -- the commanding officer, the executive officer, and others -- come up for promotion, there's a note in their record about the problems that they dealt with and that were raised by Fireman O'Brien's case.
So, the Navy did take this seriously. I think it's had an impact on the careers of some of the officers involved, and the Navy will pay close attention to the requests made by the family and by Congressman Weldon.
Q: The sort of broader question here, other than the facts in this case, is does the Department of Defense or the services have a clear policy for how to handle investigations of hazing so that the people who are taking part in this aren't under such pressure that they feel compelled to take their own life?
A: Jamie, I think it's a mistake -- and, probably, too hasty on your part -- to make a sweeping charge like you did. This was a tragedy. We don't deny that. But, not everybody would be driven to the same action that Fireman O'Brien was, and I think we should be very clear about that.
The Navy tried to investigate this thoroughly and aggressively. The problem that they had was that they could not locate or identify people involved in an alleged hazing incident. I think that one of the results of what's happened over the last week -- and the attention that's been paid on hazing in the Marine Corps, to hazing in the Navy and other services -- is that all commanders have become more attuned to the need to combat hazing. As I said to you earlier, the Chairman met with the Chiefs last week and they reviewed the hazing issue. They're continuing to review that. The Chairman has sent a letter to the Secretary detailing some of the conclusions from his meetings with the Chiefs. This is a real leadership concern among the military and it's receiving top level attention now.
Q: Just because you impugned my question, let me just clarify here. The finding in this case -- and as you said, it was thoroughly investigated by the Navy -- was that perhaps some of the commanders, and as you said, these people got letters in their file, might have been too heavy handed in the tactics that they employed in attempting to root out this hazing for which they had zero tolerance. My question is simply a broader question of whether or not in the wake of this, are there clear policies in effect so that people don't go too far in trying to crack down on what's obviously a prohibited practice of hazing.
A: There are clear policies in effect proscribing hazing. Hazing is wrong and it is not tolerated in the military.
Q: The other day the Israeli Defense Minister proposed U.S. forces to participate in a joint Israeli/Turkish air-naval exercise in the sea. How did you respond to this request? It was by the Defense Minister of Israel to the DoD to participate in a joint Turkish/Israeli air/naval military exercise in the sea somewhere.
A: We have not responded to the request yet. We are still considering it. I would like to point out that right now the U.S. Navy has bilateral naval exercises with both Greece and with Turkey. We had our last bilateral Navy exercise with Greek ships in December of 1996, and we had our last bilateral exercise with the Turkish Navy in October of 1996.
We are considering the Israeli proposal for trilateral U.S./Israeli/Turkish exercises, but no decision has been made yet, and no commitments to hold such.
Q: Do you have a copy of this agreement?
A: I don't have a copy, there's no agreement. I said we're considering the proposal.
Q: Can you clear up whether or not there was any actual danger from radioactivity from these depleted uranium rounds that were apparently fired by mistake during exercises in Japan.
A: The technicians who were sent to the island to clean up after the mistaken firing of those rounds determined that there was no danger either to people or the environment. The radioactivity is very low-level, it's less radioactivity than you'd find in a 1950s vintage TV set, for instance -- which I grew up watching and seemed to have survived, except for hair loss. [Laughter] Charlie had the same problem, I can see. [Laughter]
Q: ... some of the public and the press ... Do these qualify as "nuclear weapons"?
A: No, they do not. They're conventional weapons. They're made out of U-238 uranium, which is a very, heavy metal, and that's what gives them their anti-armor power. But, they are not considered to be nuclear weapons, they're considered to be conventional weapons.
Q: If they're very safe conventional weapons, why are the Japanese so upset about it?
A: Well, you'll have to ask the Japanese that question.
Q: Are we required to tell them that there is any kind of use of this sort of weaponry, even if it's a mistake?
A: Our rules don't call for using these weapons during training, and the reason is they're very expensive. The weapons are routinely tested in four U.S. ranges in the United States. They're tested -- as all ammo is tested -- to make sure that the lots of ammunition remain reliable over time and through various storage conditions. The authorities at the time, in Japan, when this happened regarded this as a routine training incident. It was a mistake that the shells were used, they were mislabeled. They cleaned it up, they didn't see any threat to the environment, they didn't see any threat to people. After all, this is an isolated island, no one lives on the island, and it's far away from population centers. And, they didn't think of it as a risk. Therefore, they did not report it to the Japanese ...
Q: Were they able to recover all or most of these rounds? They were in the sand, I presume.
A: I understand they were able to recover a little more than one percent of the rounds.
Q: Another subject, seven miles off-shore of Okinawa, a bomb lays on the ocean floor. Is this in the process of recovery?
A: We have notified the Japanese about that and we're taking the corrective action that we can. [Note: the bomb was recovered December 24, 1996 by the Marines and detonated the following day.]
Q: Was there a requirement for the U.S. to notify Japan?
A: The Marines believed there was not.
Q: What does the Pentagon think?
A: The Marines made the decision that there was not a requirement to notify the Japanese. [Note: Subsequently, it has been learned that the Marines notified authorities in the U.S. chain and decisions regarding the notification of the Japanese were made at a higher level.] We have apologized, or expressed regret that we did not notify them. We are essentially guests, and we try to be very good guests and very good stewards in Japan and we have expressed our regret for not having notified them after this incident occurred.
A: As I said, it is contrary to U.S. policy to use these particular rounds in training. They were only used because they were mislabeled, and therefore, the Marines thought they were using something different.
Q: If the Marines felt they didn't need to inform the government of Japan, why did the U.S. military inform the government of Japan, now?
A: Quite frankly, we informed the government of Japan after we got an inquiry from Japanese television in January of this year. But, as I said, our government has expressed regret to the government of Japan for the delay in notifying them.
Q: Why did you use the term "regret"? Why not just an apology?
A: "Regret" was the term that was chosen.
Q: Is the U.S. apologizing?
A: Under Secretary Slocombe called the Japanese Ambassador yesterday to convey our regret personally to him, and at the meeting that Deputy Secretary Kurt Campbell had with an Okinawan delegation yesterday, he expressed his personal apologies for the incident and the way it was handled.
Q: On Bosnia, the issue with the international force. Is there a consensus yet among the allies for the need for a special police force to capture war criminals? And, has any planning begun for that, as opposed to military commandos?
A: There have been discussions and these discussions are continuing.
Q: No consensus at this point on the need for that?
A: The discussions are continuing. I think that's all I can say about it at this stage.
Q: And, just a clarification on the Japanese thing. Did the U.S. have an agreement with Japan not to use those radioactive bullets?
A: I can't answer that question. It was our policy not to use them.
Q: These can't be classed, or can they be classed as "radioactive" bullets?
A: They have ...
Q: The term "radioactive" [has] been thrown around in these stories. I don't believe these things are radioactive in the sense of emitting dangerous radioactivity, or are they classed as "radioactive"?
A: I'm not a nuclear physicist. If I were, I probably wouldn't have this job. I'd be doing something else. So, I can't give you a detailed account on this. I've been told they have about the same radioactivity as lead.
Q: If there was no requirement to notify the Japanese, why did the U.S. regret delaying notification?
A: We felt this was awkward for the Japanese government and awkward for our government as well. And, as I said, we try to be good, responsible tenants in Japan. We're there to defend our national interests and the stability of the Asia- Pacific region as a whole. We think our deployment there is extremely important to stability in Asia. We want our deployment there to be as mutually beneficial to both sides. So, when we realized that the slowness in notifying them had created a problem for them, we expressed regret.
Press: Thank you.