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DoD News Briefing - 9 May 96

Presenters: Captain Michael Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)
May 09, 1996 1:30 PM EDT

Thursday, May 9, 1996 - 1: 30 p.m.

announcements. First of all, we have a number of foreign journalists with us today. I'd like to welcome four radio broadcasters from Kazakstan and four print journalists who cover foreign affairs from the Czech Republic. They're all visiting the United States as part of the International Visitors Program and we welcome you all.

Secondly, I would like to note for you all that tomorrow at 10 a.m. in the Rose Garden, President Clinton will present the Commander-in-Chief's trophy for the outstanding service academy football team to the Air Force Falcons. If you'd like to cover this event, you should contact the White House at area code 202- 456-7150.

On Saturday, there are two ships from the Navy being commissioned. They're both Osprey class Coastal Mine Hunter ships. BLACK HAWK will be commissioned in a ceremony at noon at Pier 2 at the Naval Education and Training Center, Newport, Rhode Island. Congressman Jack Reed of Rhode Island will be the principal speaker at that ceremony. And ROBIN will be commissioned at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Naval Station at Ingleside, Texas and Congressman Soloman Ortiz will be the principal speaker at that ceremony. Ships of this class are the world's largest mine hunters constructed entirely of fiberglass. We'll have releases for you later today with more on those commissioning ceremonies.

And finally, on Monday, Secretary Perry will deliver a major speech on what he calls Preventive Defense. He'll discuss opportunities for the United States to prevent conditions for conflict and to create the conditions for peace. This address to the Harvard University Kennedy School will bring together a number of ideas into a single coherent security strategy for post- Cold War America. And the speech is scheduled to commence at 6:30 p.m. on Monday. And with that, I'll be happy to try and answer your questions. Yes, Joe?

Q: I understand there was a crash of a helicopter at the Sikorsky plant. A helicopter destined for the Marine Corps, I understand. Do you know where it was -- what part of the Marine Corps it was to go to?

A: I don't have any details on that. But we'll see if we can't put you together with the Marine Corps and try to find out some of what was going to happen. I'm aware of the crash, but I just don't know where the aircraft was destined.

Q: Was it civilian or Marine crew on board?

A: Civilian. Jamie?

Q: Just a housekeeping matter. Secretary Perry's speech to the Harvard University Kennedy School, is that at Harvard?

A: At Harvard.

Q: It's not in Washington?

A: In Boston.

Q: Will you be piping that in here?

A: We're looking at that. And certainly, if you're interested, we will make that happen.

Q: On the subject of Liberia, the State Department indicated yesterday that the Pentagon is considering, assuming that there's a peace agreement in Liberia, providing some equipment and perhaps training for peacekeepers there. Can you give us any details on what kind of surplus equipment and what kind of training might be under consideration for a possible future Liberian mission?

A: Well, first of all, I want to stress the fact that one of the conditions for this is that we want to make sure that ECOMOG can demonstrate a renewed capacity to play a neutral and effective peacekeeping role. But having said that, the United States, I think you heard yesterday in testimony, made it clear that we are prepared to provide up to about $30 million from existing resources in equipment and other assistance which would include some assistance in training personnel. It would not involve any U.S. personnel actually on the ground in a peacekeeping role.

Q: But you have to have U.S. personnel on the ground to train the people.

A: On the ground at some location, but not in Liberia to do that. Now, as for the exact kind of equipment, the information I have indicates that it would be trucks, generators, medical supplies, those kinds of things. And the training assistance would be in the area of small arms, command and control procedures, and the other kinds of things that are necessary to enhance peacekeeping efforts.

Q: Who would make the determination as to whether they've lived up to the terms of this?

A: Well, I think that would be done in the interagency, but certainly the people on the ground there who are in a position to assess which I might point out include the ambassador who is still at the embassy there along with I think it's about 17 of his colleagues on the embassy staff. They are certainly in a position to see how things are going in that regard.

Q: There's been reports that ECOMOG has not only not been doing a lot to stop the fighting, but may have also been participating in some looting and other activities contributing to the mayhem there. Can you confirm that the peacekeeping force is --

A: I can't confirm. I've seen those reports and it's certainly a very troubling development if that is the case. And that's the reason that the United States is interested in making sure that the ECOMOG forces are actually ready to assume the responsibilities that go along with this important mission. Yes, Joe?

Q: Can you tell us the purpose of the Joint War Games that are underway between the United States and Britain?

A: Yes. This is just, by way of introduction, I want to point out that this is an exercise that Dr. Perry and Defense Secretary Portillo have gone down to visit today. The plan was for the two defense secretaries to visit MT. WHITNEY which is the U.S. Command ship and also the British command ship ILLUSTRIOUS during the course of the day. Dr. White, on Saturday, is going down for a similar sort of review of the exercise. The exercise is called in U.S. terminology a combined joint task force exercise -- combined joint task force exercise. And what that means is it not only involves the services of the United States, the various services -- the Navy, the Air Force, the Army, the Marine Corps -- but also involves forces from the United Kingdom. That's the combined part. And they are working together with a goal of training to operate in the kind of an environment that we see more and more frequently in the world in which we live -- which is an environment that requires not only joint forces but coalition forces to address a situation.

You know the U.S. Atlantic Command, the U.S. Command that is sponsoring this exercise, is responsible for training ready forces to deploy worldwide in support of the theater commanders. USACOM, of course, is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, and they are the force provider; and the whole purpose of this kind of exercise is to have forces stationed in the United States with a ready ability to deploy anyplace in the world where they may be needed.

To give you some idea of the scope of this exercise, I might point out that there are a total of 45 ships, 53,000 service members from both the United States and the United Kingdom. And next week, after an amphibious assault which will take place tomorrow, there will be a portion of the exercise where 8,000 U.S. and British paratroopers will jump into Fort Bragg. They will be supported by carrier based aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE which will be flying sorties in support of this parachute jump.

Q: Is this the largest exercise ever?

A: I've heard that characterized in some of the media reports. I don't like to list the largest because I think there's always somebody who can come up with something that is bigger. But this is certainly one of the largest exercises that we've had in recent years. And again, it is an important one because it will exercise U.S. based troops in a very important area which will enable them to operate more effectively in the joint environment in which we operate so frequently today.

Q: Will there be translators at part of this so that the American and British troops can talk to each other?

A: [Laughter] This is one aspect of the exercise that has been researched in great detail and there will be many translators operating in connection with this exercise.

Q: Can you comment on -- I understand the House Intelligence Committee today passed out the Intelligence Reform Bill and it extends the authority of the CIA director. And I understand that Secretary Perry has had some concern about this before. Can you --

A: Well, first of all, let me separate pending legislation which by the way, although it may have passed and... Is this the House has passed it but it has not yet passed in the Senate, right?

Q: No. This a Committee action.

A: This is a committee action. So, let me separate what's happening over on the Hill from what I actually know something about, which is relationship between the Pentagon and the CIA and matters of intelligence. I think many of you are aware that Dr. Deutch and Dr. Perry meet on a very, very frequent basis. Dr. White, the Deputy Secretary, is also involved in those meetings and stands in for Dr. Perry when Dr. Perry is traveling. And I think that you will find everybody at that level believes that there is very close coordination between the work that is being done by the DCI and by the Pentagon on all matters of intelligence, and that we agree on virtually every aspect of intelligence.

Q: There's no concern over who has --

A: None.

Q: To go back to the exercise. Is this primarily a training peacekeeping operations? Would that be a --

A: Well, it's not only peacekeeping but also the kinds of skills that would be necessary in warfighting. I don't want to limit it just to peacekeeping. But you can see, when we're talking about close air support, parachute drops, those kinds of things. What these exercises do is to try and hone the skills of individual service personnel, units, a unit group, all the way up to the JTF commander so that, throughout the entire chain of command, people are well versed in all of the kinds of military skills that are going to be necessary for whatever kind of challenge confronts them. So, it's not limited to just one kind of operation.

Q: A question about North Korea about the talks. Can you give us the status of those talks in New York?

A: I hope later today to have a lot more detail for you on those talks. But let me just point out -- if I can find my right tab on this thing -- that we anticipate that the talks will be wrapped up soon and we'll be able to provide you with a summary. You know that our deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/MIA Affairs, who is James Wold, has been meeting with representatives of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea in New York since May 4th. The single issue of these negotiations is that of the repatriation of remains of U.S. and allied servicemen who were lost during the Korean War. This is a continuation of talks between the United States and North Korea on this subject. In January of this year, there was a meeting in Hawaii, but it ended with no agreement. However, there was agreement that there would be a subsequent meeting. That is what has been happening here.

As I say, as soon as we get a firm readout, we'll provide you with the information that we get from there.

Q: Has there been any agreements yet?

A: I cannot at this point tell you that there has been agreement but we certainly anticipate a very favorable outcome from these talks.

Q: How many people are still listed missing from the Korean War?

A: 8,100.

Q: And you're talking about something that is we'll be able to --

A: Later on this afternoon, we should have more details for you on this one.

Q: Thank you.

A: Anybody?

Q: I'm sorry.

A: One last one.

Q: Yeah, completely different subject again. Just on the new reporting rules for reporters in Bosnia. How do you enforce that? And just generally, what is the purpose behind it to control what is reported, or --

A: I know Ken Bacon has talked about this at some length. But, let me just point out a couple of issues. The first one is that, believe it or not, we do not force any military unit to take news media. This may come as a surprise to you, but this is actually the case -- that it is entirely up to the units, unit commanders, individual military organizations, whether they accept media under what we have started to call embedded media terms. That is to say, in these situations, the media actually spends some period of time with the unit. The advantage to the news media being that they get a fuller understanding of the kind of operation that's going on. The advantage to the military is that the reporting has a better flavor of the kinds of challenges that confront the unit. So, that will give you a little background on what the situation is.

Now again, we at the Pentagon don't demand that any unit take media. We certainly encourage units to take media. And one of the ways we do that is to recommend that the theater commander or the unit commanders come up with some kind of outline, ground rules, whatever it is that outlines the relationship that the unit is going to have with the media. And that was done before this Bosnia deployment ever commenced. It was done by the U.S. Army in Europe. They had a number of different rules. Some of them were pretty straightforward kinds of things. You know, the media have to get shots. They have to be ready to deploy. We do the same kind of things here with our DoD national media pool.

But, there is always some kind of an understanding with regard to what an individual soldier, what kind of a negotiating position he has with regard to what it is that he says. And, as I recall, in the early stages of the deployment, individual soldiers had to be asked whether they wanted to be identified in stories by name. Some soldiers don't want to, others are all for it. In this particular instance, now that the operation has matured somewhat and based on experience to date, there was a question raised as to how embedded media should handle quotes that they obtained during the course of the time that they spend with the unit. And Ken Bacon recommended to the people on the scene over in Tuzla who are actually working with the news media that the way it be worked is that the newsman simply go to an individual and say, "I want to quote you" on whatever it is that he wants to quote. And the individual has some opportunity to say whether he thinks that's the right thing to do or not the right thing to do.

What this has enabled us to do essentially is to get news media put together with the units which is something that we think is very important to do. And it has given a level of comfort to the units, unit commanders and soldiers who are involved in these deployments so that they realize that, after a week or two of being accompanied by a newsman, they have some opportunity to know what it is that they're going to be quoted on.

So, that's the thinking that we've gone through in this.

Q: How do you enforce it? If you quote someone are they - - their press credentials taken away or what?

A: You know, we haven't been confronted with this at this point and, in fact, the enforcement gets to be very tricky. But I would just say that the biggest risk that the news media have in violating any kind of understanding -- it doesn't necessarily have to do with this particular rule. But any kind of understanding that they have with the unit is that they've lost credibility if they violate what they have gone into, their accompanying the troops. Troops will have a hard time forgetting that somebody essentially didn't do what they said they were going to do. So, that's the biggest thing that they risk. And my guess is that they would have a hard time finding a unit to embed themselves with if they violated a ground rule.

Q: What is achieved by this if all the rules are followed and I go to you in the unit and say I want to quote you on this and you say I don't want this. To me, that seems pretty much where the whole crux of the issue is. You say no and, you know, it could be something innocuous or it could be something... Then we have a problem. We have a negotiation problem.

A: What this particular arrangement places heavy emphasis on the newsman in the field being able to work out with the soldiers in the field some accommodation. And I would like to point out by the way that most of the questions, if not all of the questions, raised on this subject have been raised 7,000 miles from the scene of the action. No one over there to this point that I know of has talked to Colonel Brzozowski about how horrible this is. And, for the most part, the news media on the scene have been able to work through without any problem.

Q: Mike, is that chronology correct, that to begin with concern about a Wall Street Journal article?

A: I'm not sure that you can pinpoint the exact start of concern on this. But, I would just say that anytime you get a situation where there is a story published and one of those individuals who has been a part of this story feels that one of the ground rules was violated, you're going to have a problem if you're a newsman and there has been, at least to my knowledge, one instance of that. And it's unfortunate when that occurs because I think that most of the soldiers, most of the commanders, most of the people over in Bosnia who are involved in this operation believe that the news media coverage which has been done on the operation has not only been fair but has been very illuminating about the operation. And I think that you will find that most of the units, most of the personnel, certainly Colonel Brzozowski, are interested in continuing to have news media coverage and news media embedded with the units.

Q: Do you know if there's consideration of a policy though whereas you would bring together all the soldiers who are going to be interacting with the reporters and say, listen, you're going to be with the news person for the next few days. You should be aware that anything you say may be finish up in a newspaper or on television. Do you know if they consider doing it the other way around...

A: Well, yes. Do I know whether they considered that? Yes, I think that's a part of the thought process and I'm not sure that I can go into all of the ins and outs of how these things are done. I will say though that, frequently in those kinds of situations, the idea of getting everybody in the unit together all at one time and briefing them and making sure that everybody understands is sometimes not a real possibility in a situation like we've got in Bosnia.

The other thing that I would say is that, after a number of days, there is a tendency of troops to kind of let down their guard and I think the biggest concern on the troops part is that sometimes they are not aware of all of the facts of a situation and they may be contributing to a story in a way that is well meaning, but is uninformed.

Q: Did Colonel Fontenot himself complain about the Wall Street Journal story since he's quoted here? Did he misunderstood the ground rules or did his commanders complain?

A: About the Wall Street Journal? I don't know the details of what Colonel Fontenot did with regard to that article.

Q: Was there a ground rule that was violated in that case or some other case?

A: For details on that, I would really encourage you to talk with people who are a little closer to the scene of the action. And I'm not sure whether you are in any position to talk to the reporter. I think the reporter is back over there now. But you know, if you're interested and really pursuing this story, I would encourage you to talk to the reporter and to others who may have been involved in this so that you can hear from this firsthand what their reaction is.

Q: Do you have any idea about how many so-called embedded media there are at any one time? I mean, a whole bunch of folks?

A: Well, it was larger numbers initially, but right now, I don't think we've got -- it's probably down at the ones and twos. It's not large numbers at all. Now that is not to say that there aren't media who go out during the course of the day. We arrange that. The situation with embedded media is somewhat different because with embedded media the whole idea is that the reporter becomes part of the unit, and with these other media visits, unfortunately, they sometimes are a little superficial because they're so quick. Go out for a couple of hours and hear about a situation. Talk to a couple of people. But it's a different sort of an arrangement and a different sort of an environment than you would find with embedded media.

Q: Mike, you were over [inaudible].

A: So again, it's a program that I think that you will find that the vast majority or people, very, very strongly support. And I think if you go down and talk to the people in Army Public Affairs, you'd find a lot of them who are cheering the fact that we were able to do this. And I think you'll also find a lot of people over in Europe who are also cheering the fact that we were able to have media there, have media in a position to see the units operate and they are led by General George Joulwan, who is the SACEUR and the CINCEUR.

Q: Is Tom Ricks of the Wall Street Journal welcome to embed with any of those units?

A: He's over there now and my understanding is that he is going to embed with a unit.

Q: Is he well liked? [Laughter]

A: I can't characterize how he feels. Anybody else?

Press: Thank you.

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