Before we begin, I'd just like to welcome Arsen Gasparian who is the press spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Armenia. He's visiting today to see how we do things here in the Department of Defense, and we certainly welcome him.
In addition, we have 20 journalism students and their professor who are visiting us today from American University. Some of that group may some day end up in the front row of the briefing studio here today, so be on your toes. Welcome to all of you from American University.
And we also have Ms. Carrie McCabe who is visiting us today. She's a journalism student at James Madison University. She's also picking up a few tips on how we do things here in the briefing studio.
With that, I will take your questions.
(Pause, laughter) Thank you very much.
Q: No, no, no. We're not going to let you off that easy.
Q: Can you tell us anything about why the IG has taken over the investigation of the chemical logs?
A: Well I think you know that the issue of the chemical log which was maintained by the Central Command Forward headquarters in Riyadh is an issue which has perplexed a lot of people here in the building. Dr. Rostker's office has been working to unravel the question of where the missing parts of that log are presently located. His team has been doing a lot of research on that project for the last six or eight weeks, and thus far has not been able to find any of the pages, either in electronic form or in hard copy form.
You may recall that in 1994 there were 36 pages which were found at Central Command Headquarters at McDill Air Force Base down in Florida, and so far that's the extent of the log that we have been able to find.
Dr. White, when he was briefed on what Dr. Rostker has found to date, felt that because of the interest which this issue has raised amongst veterans and on the Hill, and with the American public, that it would be appropriate to provide another level of investigation effort to the issue, and as a result of that, he asked the DoD IG to take a look at this, drawing upon the research that Dr. Rostker's group has done thus far.
Q: Is this an indication that the powers that be are not confident in Dr. Rostker's abilities to carry out this investigation?
A: Not at all. Dr. Rostker's group has been working on this, as I mentioned, for six to eight weeks. They have interviewed more than 20 individuals. They have put together a lot of information, including the fact that there was a virus introduced while the log was being assembled and maintained in Riyadh. That may have destroyed some entries into the log. But as I say, Dr. White's primary objective here is to find any of the pages that we can, that existed on the log, including the full electronic version of the log, if possible. As a result, he felt that much as we have done in the past in providing a second look on other aspects of Gulf War Illness, it was appropriate to have this effort be reviewed by the DoD IG and to have the DoD IG try and find the missing pages, and if they cannot be found, to explain why it is that they have not been able to be uncovered.
Q: Why is it felt that the IG can do a better job than Mr. Rostker's office?
A: I don't think it's a question of doing a better job, it's another job. Dr. Rostker's group had certainly taken this to a very fine level of detail and had, indeed, done a lot of research over the course of the last six to eight weeks. They interviewed a lot of people, they put together a lot of the story as to what might have occurred with this log. But there is something to be gained by having the DoD IG also take a look at it. The primary goal would be if they would be able to find any of the missing parts, that certainly would be to everyone's advantage, because what we're looking for here is to provide as full a picture as we possibly can to the story of anything that may be relevant to Gulf War Illnesses.
Q: Is this also a case, maybe politically, where if the IG can find nothing, comes to the same conclusions that Mr. Rostker's office did, that this would have a quieting effect on the Congress?
A: I think everyone would say that if you've had an effort conducted by one group and that same effort is looked at again by a second group, that there is evidence that the conclusion, if they are the same, is going to have greater impact, yes.
Q: Secretary White kept referring to the non-availability of these CENTCOM logs and the questions and answers prepared for the Senate Armed Services Committee. The semantics perplex me. Is Jimmy Hoffa non-available? Or are these logs missing? Are they gone forever?
A: I don't think we can answer that question yet. That's exactly why Dr. White turned over the issue to the DoD IG. His goal is to find the log in its fullest form, if it still exists, and to produce it not only for the effort that's being conducted by Dr. Rostker, but also for use by the veterans organizations and other groups in the American public that have questions about this issue.
Q: As I read the presentation, I guess that was Rostker's paper that was put out accidentally by the Armed Services Committee?
A: Let me rephrase that. It was inadvertently sent to the Armed Services Committee.
Q: It should have been sent to us, right?
A: It was incomplete since there were individuals who were still working on the issue.
Q: It mentions, as I read it, and I read it twice, there are 12 separate copies of these logs. All of them have either been destroyed or vanished. Twelve of them -- including the ones at ARCENT, including ones at Corps levels -- 7th Corps and 18th Corps. All those are missing as I read that report. Is that correct?
A: I, Pat, can't comment on that since the report that you have read, which we inadvertently sent up there to the Hill, was an incomplete report. I think that what we need to do is to wait until the issue has been investigated fully by the DoD IG before we come to any kind of final determination on the whereabouts of the log.
Q: There was also the implication that after the veterans group in Atlanta had sued through the Freedom of Information Act to obtain these logs, that Sergeant Clement Craddock actually inspected a complete set of these logs a month later after that suit had been filed, and that they disappeared within a day or two after him seeing them.
A: I can't comment on that because I don't know that to be correct. And another thing, Pat, that I want to correct that you're saying here. What we are talking about here is a log. In military parlance, this essentially is a journal which is maintained by either a unit, in the case of the Navy by a ship. In this particular case, it was maintained by a desk, the NBC desk at the CENTCOM Headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And what it attempted to do was to maintain on a day-by-day basis an account, in an abbreviated form, of any of the issues that arose during the course of the time that the headquarters was forward deployed to Saudi Arabia, to maintain an account of issues related to nuclear, biological or chemical matters.
Q: Back to the timing of the FOI suit and the last observed, observation of a set of these CENTCOM logs, and the appointment of the Inspector General. Is there any concern that there was criminal activity in the disappearance of these logs?
A: I think the only thing that has been said on that at this point is a comment made by Dr. Rostker to kind of sum up his findings to date, and that was that he has thus far, his office's look at this issue thus far has uncovered no evidence that the log was intentionally destroyed.
Q: Isn't the IG more generally tasked with looking at criminal activity rather than looking at...
A: Well, the IG looks at a range of activities associated with the Department.
Q: But isn't it more criminal....
A: No, I don't think you could say that at all. The IG has the responsibility to look at issues assigned to it by both the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary, and indeed, the Congress can request the DoD IG undertake a look at various issues. We've said in this particular case that we will make available to the Congress the results of the DoD IG investigation on this, and we will also make it available to the PAC as well as, of course, to the public.
Q: Can you comment on logs maintain at 7th Corps and 18th Corps, NBC logs?
A: No, I just don't have that level of...
Q: Did you see that reference to them in this report?
A: I think you can generally say that certainly at the corps level, at the component level, at the headquarters level, there would be a log, at least a log maintained, which would recount the major activities of the unit during the course of the time period covered.
Q: Those logs are also missing?
A: I don't know that to be true, Pat.
Q: I gathered that from that report.
A: I don't know that to be true.
Q: Is there any indication that the virus or whatever other problem that's been eating these chem records affected any of the other CENTCOM records? Are there missing logs, records...
A: I can't answer that question. I just don't know.
Q: Is there a normal procedure or regulation dealing with logs such as this for any unit? After a mission, are they sometimes just kept on a computer, are they typically printed out or shifted to another hard drive? Is there any kind of normal process...
A: I don't think that there is any directive that specifies exactly what is to happen with a log once it's been completed. Certainly with the Navy, they are all maintained at a central location, but I cannot speak for how other branches of the service do it.
Q: There's a proposal on Capital Hill to broaden the medical coverage to include Reservists and members of the National Guard who currently can't be treated at VA hospitals. How does this building look at that proposal?
A: We believe that, first and foremost, what should occur is that anyone who is ill because of their service during the Gulf War should have medical treatment available to them. We and the Veterans Administration are working very hard to see that that is done.
Q: Would you support this legislation?
A: I think that we would want to hear from the Secretary of the Veterans Administration. He is presently looking into the issue of expanding coverage for veterans who served in the Gulf War, and we're looking for his advice and counsel on this before we have any kind of comment that we would want to make. But I would say that for those who are on active duty, certainly they are receiving the kind of treatment that you would want to see them receive in the aftermath of illness.
Q: How quickly is this going to be resolved concerning coverage?
A: I don't have a timetable for you, but my expectation is it will be resolved in the near future.
Q: Is Bernie's office going to give us more on the IDA analysis of the...
A: Once we have the full analysis completed, we will be back to you and provide a briefing so that you can understand it.
Q: ...this week?
A: I don't have a timetable for you on when that will be, either.
[Pause] Other subjects?
Press: Thank you.