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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
March 25, 1997 1:45 PM EDT
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

I'd like to start by congratulating former President Bush on his second successful parachute jump in 50 years, 52 years, I guess. Quite an accomplishment. I think we can call him an honorary Golden Knight on the basis of this. The report from people out on the scene in Yuma is that he made a perfect landing, along with the two Golden Knights. Landed exactly where he was supposed to land, on both feet. So it was, I guess, a much more pleasant jump than his first one. I believe he's the first person ever to be elected President who had parachuted out of a plane, and I'm certain that he's the only former President to parachute out of a plane after leaving the presidency.

I'd like also to announce that President Clinton has nominated Major General Claudia Kennedy of the Army for appointment to the grade of lieutenant general and assignment as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. General Kennedy is currently the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence for the Army. If confirmed by the Senate, she will be the first female lieutenant general in the Army. As you know, the Navy and the Marine Corps already have three-star flag officers.


With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Could you give us a situation update on the COSCO facility in California? The last we heard Secretary Cohen was reviewing the matter. Where does that stand, and what exactly is he reviewing? Today the local commission out there gave its blessing.

A: Some members of Congress have raised national security concerns about the operation of the China Ocean Shipping Company out of Long Beach. As you know, COSCO has been operating out of Long Beach since 1981, but new concerns have been raised. Secretary Cohen has said that he will evaluate these concerns and look into the national security ramifications of COSCO operating out of Long Beach. This is something that is in the process of being done. I can't tell you how much time it will take.

I might just take a minute here and suggest that this is, without commenting on, or prejudicing in any way, our look at the concerns raised by members of Congress, it seems to me that this is a situation where people have added two and two and gotten 22.

COSCO has been operating out of Long Beach, into and out of Long Beach, since 1981. It is subject to a variety of U.S. laws, as is any shipping company that operates in U.S. ports. These laws involve, obviously, customs laws, they involve health laws, a variety of laws that apply. And the negotiations going on now in Long Beach are not between the United States Navy and COSCO. They are between the City of Long Beach or the Port of Long Beach and COSCO. Any relationship will be between the City of Long Beach and COSCO -- not between the United States and COSCO or the United States Government and COSCO. The reason for that is that under the base closing process, local authorities -- local towns or cities where bases reside-- set up reuse authorities, and it's their job to find ways to privatize the former military operations. It's the reuse authority that negotiates ways to bring private clients into using these facilities. That's what's happening in Long Beach.

It was under that capacity that the Mayor of Long Beach, Mayor O'Neill, requested a meeting with Leon Panetta to come by and meet with a group of government officials in order to promote her plans for privatizing the naval station in Long Beach which, as you know, has been vacant since September 30, 1994. The Navy moved out on September 30, 1994. It was closed as part of the 1991 BRAC process. She came to Washington and met with Leon Panetta and with officials from HUD, officials from the Transportation Department, and officials from the Navy in order to discuss her plans and to try to mobilize federal government help in assisting here in privatizing.

As I said earlier, one of the things she wants to do, or one of the things Long Beach wants to do is to build a rail corridor, the Alameda Corridor, into the former naval station in order to make it easier to ship goods to and from the port. Long Beach also has a plan to set up an amusement park on another former Navy facility, it used to be a hospital, I think, and they want to turn that into an amusement park. They've gotten some money from HUD to do that. So there are a number of government agencies involved in helping Long Beach make the adjustment from being a Navy town to a town based more on private commerce.

Q: Zaire. Could you just update us on the number of U.S. troops in the region? And also, can you comment generally on the likelihood that an evacuation mission will actually have to take place?

A: Let me take the second question first.

One of the things we learned from Albania was that stability in a country can deteriorate very, very quickly. That's what happened in Albania, and there are fears on the part of some in the government that that could happen in Zaire.

What we have in Zaire is a rebel force conquering territory, moving from east to west. We have some other rebel groups either in the country or threatening to move into the country from the south. As you know, President Mobutu was out of the country for a long period of time. He's ill. He's returned now to the country and is trying to reestablish stability. In Zaire there's also an army which has not been able to stand up and fight, and in fact has retreated in the face of invading forces.

In the past in Zaire and in Kinshasa itself, there's been looting and there has been disorder. There is not now. It is now calm in Kinshasa, and there are not any immediate signs that disorder will break out. But we have to be alert to that possibility and we have to take preparations to protect Americans in Zaire should it become a disorderly environment. That's the context in which we are now making preparations to help Americans get out of Zaire if the need arises. But I want to stress, the need has not arisen yet. These are preparatory actions. All of you who were Boy Scouts and maybe some of you who were Girl Scouts learned the motto "Be prepared." That's what we're striving to do here, to be prepared.

We have basically a three part plan underway. The first part of the plan is complete, and that's to deploy an enabling force of approximately 350 people into the area. Now only a small number of those people, a handful, less than a handful, several fingers full, [Laughter] have actually gone to Zaire. They are communicators, and they've gone to set up a communication facility in Kinshasa. The rest are either in Brazzaville, the Congo, or in Libreville, Gabon. And they're basically a headquarters element and an air traffic control operation in Brazzaville, and an air traffic control operation in Libreville. The idea here is, although it's been said many times that Brazzaville is just across the river from Kinshasa and it's easy to get across by boats, you can imagine a disorderly, unstable situation where boat traffic might be disrupted, and therefore it would be necessary to come in and use helicopters. So we have prepared for that possibility. We hope it doesn't happen, and there are no signs that it's happening now, but we just want to be prepared because this isn't like moving into Baltimore to do something. It's quite a distance away from our assets, so it takes some prior planning and staging. The first part, the enabling force, is there, on the scene, ready to go.

The second part is a force of about 325 people called the permissive force. These are the people who would actually move in and take people out if they needed to move out. It's a force that involves helicopters and some C-130s. That force is about 10 percent there, maybe 20 percent there by now, and it should be there in a day or two ready to go. That also will be in Libreville and Brazzaville.

The third part of the force are the Marines on the NASSAU. They are steaming now out of the Mediterranean -- they're in the Mediterranean, they're going to steam out of the Mediterranean and around, off Zaire. There are about 1400 Marines on the NASSAU, and it should be on station on April 2nd.

When the Marines get there, it will give us much more flexibility, obviously. It may be possible that some of the Army people, many of whom are from the Southern European Task Force, or SETAF, in Vincenza, Italy, will come back once the Marines are off station. But they aren't there yet, they won't be there for about a week, and in the meantime, the Army is on station ready to, with Air Force support, ready to do whatever needs to be done.

Q: Do we have a firm handle on the numbers of Americans there and where they are...

A: We believe there are about 500 Americans in all of Zaire, and there are about 320 in Kinshasa. Of those, I think there are about 40 associated with the embassy.

Some of the Americans are...and these are approximate figures because there's no requirement that Americans going into Zaire or any country register with the U.S. Embassy...so these are guesstimates...we know that there are some missionaries there, we know there are some business people there. It may be that the missionaries will decide to stay no matter what happens. That will be up to them. But we just feel that it's the job of the U.S. Armed Forces to protect Americans in potentially unstable situations, and we're ready to provide that protection if called upon.

The question of whether to evacuate embassy personnel will be made by the ambassador on the scene and by the State Department. Not by us. We're there to support the decision made by the State Department.

Q: There are those in Zaire who contend that the mere presence of this reasonably large contingent of U.S., French, and Belgian troops already affects the situation in Zaire, in that some see it as sort of a security blanket for Mobutu. Is that your intention?

A: No, that's not our intention. Our intention is to protect Americans should they need protection, and to be ready to do that as quickly and as safely as possible.

Q: Are you willing to take on any sort of secondary tasks to make sure that the Americans were protected? Are you going to do anything like keep the local airports open, things of that sort?

A: This is a situation where airports probably aren't really an issue. The geography of Kinshasa is such that most Americans... It's easier to get out by crossing the river than it is to get out by air, because it's much faster to just cross the river in a boat than it is to drive to the airport and fly out. My understanding is that most Americans live very close to the river, maybe right on the river, and the embassy is in that area, too. So it's relatively easy to get across if the boats are available. What we have to be careful about is falling quickly into a situation where there is an amount of so much instability that reliable boat transportation can't be assured. That's where we would be able to use our assets to get people out quickly.

Q: This may sound like a silly question, but you mentioned helicopters and C-130s. Do you know if we have any boats there?

A: No, there are plenty of boats there. I'm not aware that we're brought boats. We will have a big boat, the NASSAU, but that won't be up the river.

Q: Did cost considerations play any role in deciding to bring the NASSAU down instead of expanding the Army/Air Force operation?

A: I think right now the Army/Air Force operation will be adequate to do what might need to be done. Right now we're just waiting. Our hope is, of course, that various channels of negotiation that are going on -- the South Africans have been very involved; the French; we've been involved; the UN's been involved; a number of people are trying to find a peaceful solution to the problems in Zaire -- and that clearly would be preferable. If we can get a peaceful solution that includes a cease-fire and maintains stability there, then presumably the crisis will dissipate and people can go away. But right now we've taken the fastest course of action which was to move Air Force and Army people in there. Even when the Marines get there, my guess is that the military planners will probably decide to leave some of the air traffic control elements there, as long as they think they might be needed, just to give us the flexibility. But some of the Army people could come out. Those decisions have not been made and they won't be made for a week or more.

Q: Bringing the NASSAU down, is that a cheaper option then letting SETAF do the whole thing, if it came to that?

A: I'm afraid that I'm not an expert on the cost accounting of evacuations and I can't really comment on that. To the extent that the NASSAU is a self-contained unit that would be steaming around at sea anyway with Marines on it, whereas the Navy has to move in and the Air Force has to move in equipment, it requires less of an incremental cost and it would be cheaper, yes.

Q: Was that a consideration, given the difficulty of getting additional funds for contingencies like Bosnia and so on. The planning for these kinds of operations... is cost playing a significant role?

A: Well cost is always a consideration, but the main consideration here is protecting American citizens and putting ourselves in a position to provide that protection and help if called upon to do so. So far we haven't been called upon to do so. These are just preparatory and precautionary acts. But yes, cost is a consideration. It's not something that has prevented us from moving forward, nor can I conceive of a situation where we would be unable to perform the type of assistance that diplomats and Americans expect from us in unstable situations.

Q: Are any of the U.S. military personnel going to get imminent danger pay or hazardous duty pay?

A: I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that. We'll find out.

Q: Are Americans continuing to leave? And if so, how are they getting out? On their own.

A: Well, the main way to get out is by boat if they're in Kinshasa. I believe the number of Americans has been pretty stable there for the last couple of days. But you'd be better off checking with the State Department on that. There have been about, the figures we've had, there have been about 500 Americans there for the last couple of days. A week or so ago the figure was higher, it was around 650. So there has been some departure. But this is something that, as you know, the State Department has not ordered a departure of its personnel. It has authorized them to leave but it has not ordered a departure.

Q: When you said the NASSAU will be arriving on station, where exactly would it be arriving? And also...

A: You mean as to coordinates?

Q: Well, near...just generally...near any particular city or...

A: It will be... The geography of Zaire is that a little bit of it sticks out to the ocean, but Kinshasa itself is inland a little on the river. They would...

Q: (inaudible)

A: Yeah, they would be out offshore, off the Zairian shore, or off the shore of Congo, which is just north of Zaire. And I don't know the exact number of miles. It looks to me on a map they might be 100 miles away, 150 miles away.

Q: Could the NASSAU go down the river?

A: Well, we've all see the African Queen... [Laughter] But I don't think the NASSAU is going to be the next African Queen, no.

Q: If the general were to have given his conference call to us today, what would he have announced? Would he have just said what's happening there?

A: I think he would have answered your questions and given you an idea of how they've set up headquarters and how many people have come in, what's happening in Libreville and what's happening in Brazzaville, just giving you a situationer.

Q: How many people have come in? Do you have hard numbers on U.S. troops there now?

A: I thought I gave the numbers earlier. As of about noon today, according to my... Or as of early this morning, I should say, I believe there were 381 Americans, and that consists of 350 in the enabling force -- the headquarters and the air control element; and 31 in the permissive force that would actually take people out. I'm sure that number's gone up because a number of flights were supposed to arrive today, bringing in both people and equipment, C-5s, etc. So I'm sure that number is higher right this minute than it was when I was last filled in, but sometimes we don't have, we don't have bar codes on all these people, so we can't tell you immediately how many people are there and where they are.

Q: Yesterday the Secretary said that the number would reach 600.

A: Yeah, it will reach a little over 600. And that should happen late tomorrow or the day after.

Q: You're saying they're not in Zaire but they're right across the river?

A: That's what I'm saying. I can tell you where they're supposed to be. They will be actually, I think slightly, they'll be divided pretty much between Libreville and Brazzaville.

Q: Is it usual to have more evacuators than evacuees?

A: No. The enabling force is not really evacuators. They're more support. They're the people who run the airfield, run the headquarters, run the communications. They're not the people who would be going in in helicopters if there is an evacuation.

But as I tried to explain earlier, what we're preparing for is an unpredictable situation. In an unpredictable situation it's better to send in a solid, well trained, adequate force than a force that might be too small to do what you have to do.

Q: The issue of cost was raised, and I'm sure you don't have it now, but could we find out what the operation in Albania has cost so far, what it's expected to top out at, and perhaps also in the current Zaire efforts, how much that is taking away from Pentagon funding?

A: You understand that when there's a NEO, the State Department pays for it, but we'll get these figures for you.

Q: Secretary Cohen said this morning that there was nothing in the Helsinki Accord that would impede U.S. development of theater missile defenses. Some Republicans in Congress have disputed that, saying that just by, in a sense, essentially codifying this distinction between theater and national missile defense, it puts the U.S. at a disadvantage. Can you amplify at all why the Pentagon feels there's nothing detrimental to the U.S. interest in this agreement?

A: Let's be clear about one thing. It was Congress that said in the 1996 Defense Authorization Bill that there should be a codification of the difference. The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is a central building block of the arms control regime. What it says, it limits the amount, it limits the size of defenses that either the U.S. or now Russia, then the Soviet Union, could deploy.

The reason why this was important is that if you had no limit on anti-ballistic missile defenses, the only way around a large defensive system was to keep building more and more offensive missiles, so it would have been an encouragement, actually, to build arsenals that were much larger than either side was then contemplating. By capping the size of a defensive system, it made it possible to have a series of arms control agreements that reduced the size of offensive arsenals, and that's, in fact, what's happened.

As you know, the START I agreement limits each side to 6,000 countable launchers. That's down from around 10,000 or so before the START I agreement. START II would bring that down to 3,000 to 3,500 warheads. And President Yeltsin and President Clinton in Helsinki last week said they would like to move forward after the Russian Duma ratifies START II, to a START III agreement. That START III agreement would bring down warhead totals even further, and they talked in the range of 2,000 to 2,500. None of these reductions would be possible without an ABM Treaty.

So the question is, if you believe the ABM Treaty... So there's a dilemma. The ABM Treaty is important. We believe it's important to stability and to continued progress in arms control. The Russians believe it's important to stability and continued progress in arms control. We both believe that arms reductions make the world more safe and more stable.

On the other hand, we face a threat which is from theater missiles. Missiles that could be developed by rogue nations such as Iraqi SCUDs, that can threaten our forces deployed abroad. They can be used against port facilities, against airports, or against concentrations of forces.

We take the view that the theater ballistic missile threat is entirely different from a strategic missile threat which are longer range missiles designed to be used against our homeland, against the continental United States; whereas the main threat we face from theater ballistic missiles is that they would be used against our troops stationed abroad or the bases from which they operate. We need to develop, we learned clearly from Desert Storm, a theater ballistic missile defense ability. We are now working on that. We've got six projects underway.

We always maintained that the ABM Treaty allows us to develop defenses against missiles fired at less than strategic range, but we wanted to be clear and make sure that the Russians were clear so that there wouldn't be any confusion over this, and a lot of... or anything that could destroy or damage the ABM Treaty... that it was possible to proceed with theater ballistic missile defenses under the umbrella of the ABM Treaty, and that's what this agreement makes clear. It basically allows us to... it does... completely allow us to go ahead with all the projects we currently have underway, and it makes it very clear that the ABM Treaty is not challenged by the development of defenses against shorter range theater ballistic missiles. So we've given up nothing here. This allows us to do what we are already working on. It does nothing to interfere with the Clinton Administration 3+3 program which is to spend three years developing... I'm sorry. It does nothing to interfere with our theater ballistic, with our theater missile defenses. We think this is very good because it clears up any confusion about ABM and TMD.

Q: Does it draw a line that in a sense it's okay for all the programs currently on the drawing board, but could become a problem later as technology advances?

A: We don't believe so. We don't believe that it will become a problem later at all. And Secretary Cohen pointed out, this incorporates the language that was in the 1996 Defense Authorization Act. This was language that the Congress wanted us to include, and we included it.

Q: One other question, a different subject, just to clear something up. There have been reports circulating over the last couple of days because of a BBC documentary about an intrusion into U.S. military computer files. The report purports that sensitive information about troop movements and Patriot missile capability was stolen during the Gulf War and even attempted to be peddled to Iraq. Can you just clear those up for us and what the facts are in that case?

A: This seems to be another case of the hard charging media rediscovering a story that first broke in 1991, I believe. That's when the GAO testified about this before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

We have absolutely no indication that this computer, that computer hackers from the Netherlands, I believe, is the story, got access to unclassified DoD documents. One reason for that is that classified documents are separated from unclassified documents carried on the Internet. They're separate systems so it's harder to get into classified networks than it is to unclassified networks. And we don't have any indication that information was sold to the Iraqis by these Dutch hackers.

To the best of our knowledge, they were able to penetrate a government computer site and they were able to get some information on military personnel and logistics, but this was not classified or sensitive information, and we do not believe it was sold to the Iraqis.

Q: Did they try to sell it to the Iraqis? Was there an effort...

A: I'm not aware that they did, but we'll check further into that. I'm not aware that they did try to sell it to the Iraqis.

Q: Have hackers ever successfully penetrated any classified systems?

A: I'm not aware that they have, but I would be hesitant to say that they haven't because I'm not aware. We'll check into that. There have been extensive studies on this, as you know. We'll check into that.

Q: When you say that they obtained information that wasn't sensitive or classified, would it be safe to assume that this is information that somebody could get through regular channels if they persevered and made the right requests, that this is information that could and would be publicly released to the correct people under certain circumstances? I'm just trying to get an idea of...

A: Let me revise what I said. It was not classified. Some of it was sensitive from a privacy standpoint. As I understand it, they were able to get home addresses of some military personnel. We normally wouldn't release home addresses of military personnel, so it was sensitive from a privacy standpoint, but not classified or secret information.

Q: Not sensitive from a military strategic standpoint, in terms of giving away troop movements or troop positions that would have been of some military use...

A: We don't believe that it was.

Q: It was not public information and it was accessed through the Internet.

A: It was accessed through Department computers, yeah. Actually, I think they may have gotten in through some academic computers into a broader system.

Q: Can you confirm that in fact classified documents in Defense Department computers are on closed systems, not open to either the Internet or telephone modems, thereby making it impossible for anybody on the outside to access computers that carry classified information?

A: I can tell you that classified systems are physically separate from the Internet, which is easier to access. I think I need to know more about the setup of our computer systems before I can assure you beyond the shadow of a doubt what you want me to assure you of, but they are physically separate systems. If you'd like, we could get an expert on U.S. computer systems, on government computer systems, to come down and brief you...

Q: No, I bring it up because every time an Air Force computer is broken into on the Internet, it becomes a big story when in fact that computer often is nothing more than a server that contains a fact file for use by the media or the general public. I've been told by some people in this building that the computers that really do the work with sensitive information, with classified materials, are not connected to the outside world. I want to know if that's true or not.

A: They are separate systems that are not connected to the Internet.

Q: No. Are they connected to the outside world? If someone's in Texas...

A: As I said, I'm not an expert on the architecture...

Q: Could you take the question?

A: I will take the question, yes. Clearly, we have classified computer systems that connect people all around the world, but they are internal computer systems that are physically separate from the Internet. If you get that distinction. But I'll get somebody to answer that question.

Press: Thank you.

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