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DoD News Briefing - June 11, 1996

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
June 12, 1996 1:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, June 11, 1996 - 1:30 p.m.

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing.

I want to bring you up to date on a couple of items, and then I'll take your questions.

The first is Liberia. We now currently have almost 2,400 Marines either in Monrovia -- I think there are 260 in Monrovia - - and the balance are off-shore in the GUAM Amphibious Ready Group. We are going to draw down that force significantly later this month. I think on the 27th of June, the two ships, the GUAM and the PORTLAND will sail out, and they'll be replaced by the USS PONCE, which is an LPD that carries about 700 Marines, so the force will be about one-third of what it is now. We think this force is more than adequate to provide security in the area. The 700 Marines, it's a special air/ground task force that can do special operations, pilot rescue, and provide security services in Monrovia. So that will happen later this month.

As you know, we once had 2,900 Marines in the area, but we drew down to 2,400, and now we'll go down to 700 at the end of the month.

Q: The 260, is that part of the 2,400?

A: Yes. They're ashore. They're part of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 22nd MEU. As I say, nearly 300 of those are ashore, and the rest are on the ships.

Q: The 260 will stay ashore?

A: Well, they'll come out and, I suppose... I don't know how many we'll keep ashore. But the reason we can do this is, first of all, we've evacuated about 2,500 people in total since the beginning, so most of the people who need to be evacuated or want to be evacuated have, in fact, been evacuated. The total number is 2,500 people, including 483 Americans. So the evacuation is over.

Secondly, it's much calmer now in Monrovia than it was a month or so ago. The West African peacekeeping force which goes under the felicitous name is ECOMOG, is working now in Monrovia to maintain peace in the area.

Q: So there will be a total of 700?

A: There will be a total of 700 Marines on this USS PONCE.

Q: This is an unscheduled deployment. Will this come out of O&M funds? Will you see a supplemental for this one-ship task force?

A: The financial experts in the Directorate of Defense Information will be glad to answer that question for you. I assume that the Navy and the Marine Corps have adequate flexibility in their budgets to provide for this important deployment.

We will continue, obviously, to work for a more lasting peace in Liberia. We've been engaged in that through the State Department and will continue working on that as the Marines provide security in the area.

I also want to bring you up to date on Admiral Smith. Admiral Smith will most likely leave his post next month, July. The exact date will depend on when Admiral Lopez is confirmed by the Senate to the rank of full admiral and also, of course, to the post that he'll be taking over from Admiral Leighton Smith.

Admiral Smith has done a magnificent job in Bosnia -- both as the commander of the Implementation Force, COMIFOR, and before that as the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces South of Naples. It was from Naples that he ran the bombing campaign in August and September that led to the, I suppose as much as anything, led to the Dayton Accord. But his two-year tour as CINC was up in April, and, as he said to a group of reporters in Sarajevo on Friday and as was reported, he had said to the Navy early this year, to Admiral Prueher and to Admiral Boorda, that he was ready to leave his post, if necessary, to allow for promotions within the Navy. He stayed on several months beyond the end of his two-year CINC's tour, and will be leaving, as I say, some time next month.

 

Q: Retiring, you mean?

A: He will retire. He does not have another post to go to in the Navy, so he'll have to retire, I believe, within 60 days of leaving his post. So you can count whatever day he ends up leaving his post, it will be two months after that that he'll retire.

There have been, I think, some highly unfortunate and inaccurate stories about Admiral Smith leaving under pressure, leaving because of disagreements with other NATO or IFOR commanders. Those stories are not true. They're flat wrong.

Finally, on the question of stories that were wrong, there was a wire service report earlier today saying that a U.S. patrol had encountered General Ratko Mladic. That story is also flat wrong. First of all, the patrol was Portuguese, and secondly, it did not encounter General Mladic. There was an incident involving some Bosnian Serb troops and a Portuguese patrol comprised, I believe, of two armored personnel carriers yesterday. It led to some confusion about what actually had happened. The confusion is sorted out, and we have absolutely no reports or evidence that they spotted or were close to General Mladic.

I'd be glad to answer questions on that or other topics.

Q: Could you reiterate the policy, what happens if peacekeepers encounter any of the indicted war criminals. What are they supposed to do?

A: They are supposed to detain them and turn them over to proper authorities which would be the police forces -- the law enforcement forces in the area.

Q: Are they allowed to use force to do that?

A: They are allowed to use whatever means they need to, to protect themselves and to carry out their mission. If they encountered an indicted war criminal, they would, as I say, do what they had to do to detain the person and turn them over to the proper authorities.

Q: A report from this building says that perhaps as many as a brigade of Bosnian Serbs were in that general area conducting exercises. Even though we don't know the exact number, maybe give or take a few, around a thousand troops. If a U.S. patrol came across one of these war criminals and the patrol or whatever size of U.S. force or the IFOR force was heavily outnumbered, what happens then?

A: That's a good question, but it doesn't apply to what happened here, so let me describe, first of all, what happened here, and in the course of answering that question, I think I will answer the second question as well, but if I don't answer it, you can come back, Ivan, and ask it in another way.

There was a Portuguese patrol, as I said, I believe it was comprised of two armored personnel carriers, in the Multinational Division Sector Southeast, which is basically a sector run by the French. It was operating under the control of an Italian unit. They encountered about eight armed Bosnian Serb soldiers. They stopped them and questioned them. The soldiers said we are authorized to train. We have permission from IFOR as required, when soldiers carry out training exercises. The Portuguese said, where is this permission? They said, well, come back to our headquarters, and we'll show you the permission.

At that time, the Portuguese left with the Bosnian Serb soldiers and went back to the unit headquarters, this Bosnian Serb unit headquarters.

The Italians in the area saw this happening, and they didn't know what was happening, so they reported it up the chain of command to the headquarters. There was a moment of confusion when some people lept incorrectly to the conclusion that the Portuguese had somehow been captured or abducted by the Bosnian Serbs. They never had been. They were voluntarily accompanying them back to check out some papers.

When this report went up the chain of command, air cover was dispatched, and the U.S. 2nd Brigade, which was in an adjoining sector in MND North, right across the boundary line, was put on alert with a lot of heavy artillery, tanks, etc. So immediately, other forces in the area -- air forces were mobilized and ground forces were put on alert.

Then the Portuguese went back, they checked the papers, the patrol checked the papers at the unit, the Bosnian Serb unit, found that they indeed had been authorized, or satisfied themselves that they had in fact been authorized to carry out a training exercise, and they returned to their patrol. They left and said, thanks for showing us these papers, or whatever they said, and moved on.

When it was reported what happened, then the air cover was removed and the U.S. 2nd Brigade and other forces in the area stood down.

So, to answer your question, I think you can deduce from that, in a situation where soldiers believe they'll face some risk, other troops in the area are immediately put on alert and become ready to assist in any way that's necessary. In this case, no assistance was necessary because it was just a question of checking out authorization.

Q: Was it Mladic that showed them the authorization back at headquarters?

A: Your hair is becoming a lot like his. [Laughter]

Q: Do we know where Mladic was, by chance?

A: We do not. I do not know where Mladic was at that time, but our people in Tuzla and in Bosnia generally say that he was not seen, he was not approached, he was not encountered in that area.

Q: Are people generally saying...

A: Pardon?

Q: Are there conflicting reports? You said our people in Tuzla generally say that he was not...

A: No, they say he was not there. They don't say he wasn't there. They say he wasn't encountered. The wire service report said that a U.S. patrol encountered Mladic and left without doing anything, left empty handed. One, it was not a U.S. patrol. Two, they did not encounter Mladic. Three, they did not leave empty handed because they weren't out there to, there wasn't a possibility of seizing anybody. So, with those three crucial points, the first paragraph of the story is wrong.

Q: Otherwise it's accurate? [Laughter]

A: I didn't get into the second paragraph. I was so riveted by the first paragraph that I stopped.

Q: The Portuguese troops have the appropriate orders to follow to go to check the papers, and some other methods?

A: We believe they acted appropriately. I don't know what their exact orders were, but they properly challenged the armed men when they found them; they listened to their explanation; and then, rather than just accepting it at face value, they went to check the voracity of the information.

Q: If they were Americans instead of Portuguese, they would be following the same procedure?

A: I'm afraid I can't describe that in... I assume they would, but I don't know that for a fact. There's no indication that these people did anything that was outside the normal procedures that should be followed in a situation like that. And I want to point out that there was significant and adequate protection in the form of nearby forces monitoring what was going on.

Q: What's the policy regarding training like this by the former warring factions? Is that permitted?

A: Training is permitted as long as it's authorized. In this case, it was authorized.

Q: If Mladic had been there and he'd been encountered by a small American unit, do I understand you correctly as saying they would not have, the guidance is not to just scatter, but to call in reinforcements and to detain them, if they've encountered them under those circumstances?

A: The guidance has been clear from the very beginning, that if we encounter indicted war criminals, we will detain them. But the first priority of our forces is to protect themselves. So, to detain them, we will detain them in a way that doesn't compromise, doesn't pose unnecessary risk to our own forces. So I think you can imagine that, in any type of contingency such as the one I've just described, that other nearby forces are put on alert, air forces are mobilized, etc., so that we have an adequate force to do the job.

Q: Can you describe what sort of backup force was moving when it was discovered that it was sort of a nothing incident?

A: I told you as much as I can, which is that air cover was called in. I don't know precisely what. And the 2nd Brigade, which is an armored brigade nearby, was alerted and they were ready to help in any way possible. That's the brigade with tanks and artillery. I frankly do not know what action nearby Italian or French troops took, but I assume they were on an equally ready and alert status.

Q: Can you talk about King Hussein's visit?

A: There are two major issues we'll discuss under the general umbrella of the warm and good relationship between the U.S. and Jordan today. The first, of course, is prospects for the Middle East peace process, what happens now. King Hussein has been a leader for peace in the area. They'll talk more specifically about the details of our F-16 sale to Jordan, which has been, I believe, announced on the Hill just recently, or submitted to the Hill just recently.

Q: If you'll allow me a brief statement first, then a question.

A: Sure.

Q: The brief statement is that at the old Love Field in Dallas, there used to be a statue of a Texas Ranger with one hand about to draw; the other hand holding up the hand to "stop". The caption was, "One riot, one ranger." There are some Marine friends of mine who would suggest that maybe the 700 warriors are 699 too many, but I don't expect a comment from the podium.

The question I have is that one of my stations in St. Louis is very anxious about the strike that's now in its second week against McDonnell Douglas by the International Association of Machinists. One, does the Pentagon have any reaction at this time? And two, does the Pentagon view a prolonged strike as having any effect on readiness?

A: Let me answer the second question first. We do not believe that this strike will have any impact on readiness. To be more specific, we've been assured by both the company, McDonnell Douglas, and by the machinists, that the strike will not harm readiness.

They believe that products currently under contract will be delivered as necessary. Secondly, there are adequate current stocks of aircraft parts and weapon system parts. We think the stocks are adequate to meet our needs worldwide. But, of course, we'll monitor the progress of the discussions carefully, just to make sure that we aren't caught short. But we believe that this strike will not harm readiness.

Q: Is anyone in this building engaging in conversations with either or both sides?

A: In the most general sense, yes. We've been in contact with the company and the union to assure ourselves that the strike won't harm readiness. That's our primary job. In the narrow and specific sense of trying to get involved in the negotiations, no. That's not the job of the Department of Defense. Our job is to make sure that our forces are well supplied.

Q: To go back to Admiral Smith. You said the stories were wrong in that he was leaving under criticism. The stories, though, allude to the fact that he was being criticized for not aggressively pursuing the war criminals and those kind of things. It's normally assumed that field commanders follow the direction of their superiors and particularly the civilian leadership. Is there any feeling in this building that Admiral Smith was pursuing policies other than what the Administration and the NATO leadership advocate?

A: Absolutely not. I'm glad you asked that question. Admiral Smith has worked as a member of the team. He's been instrumental in getting the IFOR force established. The force has done an extraordinarily good job and that reflects, to a large extent, the leadership that we've gotten from him, from General Walker, from General Joulwan, from General Nash and the other commanders of the force. He's done a magnificent job and will continue to do a magnificent job, I'm sure, until his last day on the job.

Q: Has the U.S. asked or has Japan offered to pay for that A-6 Intruder that was accidentally shot down?

A: I don't know the answer to that question. I'll try to find out.

Q: Ken, there's a lot more reporting this morning about the possibility of IFOR extending through '97 or into '97 or at least some elements of it. The Post, for instance, said there was a consensus-building within NATO for this. Is this something Secretary Perry intends to take up with his defense ministerial colleagues in Brussels?

A: First, IFOR. The IFOR mission is for about a year. We anticipate that the IFOR mission will be over on December 20th and that our troops will come out as close to December 20th as possible -- not just our troops, but troops of other nations, other IFOR participants as well. That is a little more than six months away from today. There are a lot of very important tasks to be accomplished between now and December 20th. The most important, the single most important task is to bring off the elections and to get democracy started in Bosnia. There are also important tasks involving the expansion and freedom of movement, involving refugee resettlement, and involving civil reconstruction.

So IFOR will concentrate on accomplishing these tasks over the next six months, and then it will leave.

The Washington Post article today rightly pointed out that the question of what if anything happens after IFOR has not been formally addressed by NATO, and that it would be inappropriate to address it until later in the fall, some time after the elections. So it has not been addressed. It remains a topic for future consideration.

Q: Which elections are you talking about?

A: I'm talking about the elections in Bosnia on September 14th.

Q: Would this be, certainly wouldn't this be something that, at least in the whole plans of NATO, the Secretary and his colleagues will be talking about this week?

A: It is not appropriate now to talk about it because it can't be discussed intelligently. It's premature to sit down and hold a discussion about this now. There are too many variables.

Q: It's quite confusing, because Secretary Perry made his comment last week about thinking ahead and Mr. Kornblum at the State Department today made a similar statement about how there might have to be some sort of NATO involvement later.

A: What they said was that future involvement will be discussed later. They didn't say there would be involvement later. They said it was a topic for later discussion.

The Secretary has been very clear that this is a topic that should not be discussed now. It should be discussed later. I believe that's what Mr. Kornblum said as well, that the question of a follow-on presence, if any, is not ripe for discussion right now. It's something that, if it's discussed, will be discussed later, after the elections.

Q: Ken, aside from Secretary Perry not discussing what happens in Bosnia in the future, can you give us a highlight of the purpose of the trip he's making, what he hopes to accomplish?

A: I don't know whether you were at the briefing yesterday, but the trip basically has two main parts to it. The first is we go to Macedonia to celebrate the establishment of a facility named after Joe Kruzel, who was a great friend of Macedonia and a friend of all new democracies. He'll have a meeting with President Gligorov there, and then he'll meet with the American troops who are participating in the UN protective force in Macedonia, the UNPREDEP Force. They're in what's called Task Force Able Sentry, and he'll meet at their headquarters at the airport in Skopje with them. Then he goes on to Brussels for a series of NATO meetings that are held every year. The Nuclear Planning Group meeting, the Defense Planning Group meeting. This actually is an extremely important meeting, both because of the NATO topics that will be discussed, but also because on the second day, Friday, the Partnership for Peace countries will come in -- I think all 27 -- if not all 27 almost all of them will be there -- to meet with NATO. This is the organization that's been set up to build military to military cooperation between former Warsaw Pact and Soviet countries on the one hand and NATO on the other, to strengthen security ties in Europe, to make Europe more stable, and to help spread democracy through Europe.

The Secretary will have breakfast with defense ministers from the Partnership for Peace countries on Friday. There will be a reception for the Defense Ministers on Thursday night in Brussels. So it's an opportunity to hold both multilateral and bilateral meetings with Defense Ministers from these countries, as well as for them to meet in larger meetings with their NATO colleagues and to discuss security issues. It's partly because of the Partnership for Peace, I believe, that the IFOR mission has gone so well, which of course has brought together troops from Partnership countries like Russia and Ukraine and Poland, the Czech Republic, etc., and integrated them very smoothly into a NATO operation.

Q: The IG has closed the investigation concerning General Joulwan and it's resulted in the retainment of some funds to cover the travel of his wife. I also noticed that Secretary Perry has decided in the future all travel done by these high leaders will be considered official business.

Is this an effort to prevent any further investigations of improprieties by the use of military airlifts? What is the reason that the Secretary has made this change?

A: The short answer to your question is no. A longer answer is absolutely not. And a third answer is how could you even ask such a question? Now let me walk through exactly what happened here.

First of all, you've misstated what the policy is. The policy is that the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, SACEUR and SACLANT, now General Joulwan and General Sheehan, will be required users of military aircraft whenever they travel. That is, whenever they travel on official business, or if they go on a vacation, they have to travel on a military aircraft. Why? The reason is, these are very important Allied and NATO commanders. They have to stay in touch with the NATO command structure as well as with the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the President.

Right now, General Shalikashvili, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a required user. That is, he has to fly on military aircraft at all times.

If they fly solely to take a vacation, and the purpose of the trip is just pleasure, flying to a resort, then they would have to reimburse the government at full commercial air fare for that flight. That's what the rule says. But they have no choice about flying on their plane. They must be on their plane whenever they fly, as long as they're performing the duties of their job.

That is the change that the Secretary made, and that change was recommended by the IG.

Now, I think the Joulwan incident can be described best as the product of confusion as to what the regulations were. There was an anonymous charge that he had traveled inappropriately on government aircraft for personal reasons. The IG investigated 130 trips and found two trips that were open to question by General Joulwan -- two out of 130. The Secretary ruled that both those trips were made primarily for, that so much business had been performed on those trips that they could be called official trips, and there was no charge made against General Joulwan for making those trips.

There were six trips involving his wife and General Joulwan, in which they did not find an official purpose for her being on those planes, and General Joulwan has agreed to reimburse the government for those six trips at the commercial rate.

Now, there is nothing in this investigation that led the Secretary or anybody else in the Defense Department to question General Joulwan's integrity. There is nothing in this investigation that led them to question his effectiveness as Supreme Allied Commander Europe, or as the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Forces in Europe. Quite the opposite. The final disposition was a recognition of the importance of the job that he's performing for the Alliance and also for the United States.

I just wanted to say, so people don't rush to judgment on this, the types of trips we're talking about. One of the trips for which General Joulwan must make a payment occurred when his wife flew on his plane from Dayton, Ohio to Andrews Air Force Base. General Joulwan was not on the plane. This trip occurred because General Joulwan was coming to the U.S. for another reason. The Secretary of Defense asked him to go to Dayton to participate in the Dayton peace talks, so he made an unscheduled trip to Dayton for the peace talks. When he was there, the Secretary said, please come back with me in my plane. So, rather than return in his plane with his wife to Andrews and then on to his next destination, he came back with the Secretary, and his wife traveled with his staff in his plane at no additional expense to the government, back to Andrews. It was going exactly the same place, making exactly the same route at exactly the same cost it would have made had General Joulwan been in the plane. That is one of the trips for which he's reimbursing the government, for instance.

Q: Your answer begs one question. Why has it taken so long to fine tune the policy to the point where it is now, after all these years, of such traveling taking place?

A: The reason is very clear. When certain anonymous allegations about General Joulwan's travel were announced, the IG learned, and through the IG the Secretary of Defense learned, that there had been some confusion by General Joulwan's staff as to what the travel regulations were, and that corrections could be made to eliminate that confusion. One of the corrections to be made was the ruling by the Secretary of Defense that General Joulwan should fly on military aircraft at all times, or the SACEUR and the SACLANT, whoever they may be, should fly. So now they will be treated the same way the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is treated.

Q: Those three officers are the only three that have that rule?

A: Those are the three to which the rule applies right now, and they have to do with the importance of the European theater in terms of the SACLANT and the SACEUR.

Q: What was the other case of the wife traveling? You mentioned one case.

A: The other case was that General Joulwan took a helicopter to Carlisle Barracks because that was the way he could complete his appointments in one place and get to Carlisle Barracks in time. His plane had been prepositioned in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the closest large airport to Carlisle, the night before. His wife went with the plane to be prepositioned in Harrisburg the night before. He came up after the appointment in a helicopter. So she flew in this leg of the trip without him, and he will reimburse for that as well.

Q: Just the two incidents?

A: There were six trips. I just gave you two examples that were cited in here as trips that Mrs. Joulwan took alone without a husband; where she used a military aircraft without her husband, so they were open to question. And I gave you the details of the trip to show you how scrupulous the IG and General Joulwan were in wanting to clear up any questions about this type of travel.

Q: Did you issue this policy in writing?

A: Yes, we did.

Q: Effective when?

A: It was issued actually about two weeks ago. The decision was made about two weeks ago, and there was a story about it in Stars and Stripes, as a matter of fact, about two weeks ago.

Q: When Shali, Sheehan and Joulwan travel on vacation somewhere, they also pay their own airfare at a commercial rate, is that correct?

A: Yes. But they would go in a government plane and they would pay at a commercial rate.

Q: Any reason why CINCPAC was not included in that list? He's had a command that's had more tensions than the SACLANT or even SACEUR in recent years, and he's got the largest distance to cover out there. How come the rule doesn't apply to him?

A: It has to do with the Alliance and the demands of the Alliance, the NATO Alliance, as well as the responsibilities they face as U.S. commanders. It's pretty clear if you look at what General Joulwan's been doing recently, how he's been spending his time running the operation in Bosnia as well as carrying out all his other responsibilities, that he has to be in instant communication at all times.

Press: Thank you.