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DoD News Briefing, Friday, April 2, 1999

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
April 02, 1999 2:45 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Tomorrow I plan to brief at about noon and not brief on Sunday, so you can plan your schedules accordingly.

We will man the Directorate of Defense Information both tomorrow and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

After I brief here at 3:30, we'll have another briefing from Lieutenant General John McDuffie, who is the Director of Logistics for the Joint Staff, and he will talk about some of the humanitarian support that the Defense Department is giving in both Macedonia and Albania to deal with the refugee issue there.

He was one of a group of people who met with the President and with NGOs this morning at the White House. He'll come and report to you on some of the changes that have taken place recently. There's been, for instance, a large augmentation in the amount of aid that the Defense Department will be delivering shortly to refugees in that area.

Q: Immediately following your brief?

A: I said it will be at 3:30.

Q: ...in addition to the $50 million that we've been talking about?

A: It's an augmentation of food and other items. It's included within what's been happening, but the new money, of course, allows an expansion of aid, so this is taking the dollars and talking about the goods that the dollars will buy.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: Can you bring us up to date on the plans for the THEODORE ROOSEVELT and its battle group?

A: They are still currently plans. There has been no formal decision yet. Until there is, I guess I can't discuss it.

Q: Can you, however, at least explain why, if they might add more firepower, why it might be significant; if they should take place, what they offer what they could be doing?

A: Well, the THEODORE ROOSEVELT battle group, of course, is a standard carrier battle group led by a nuclear-powered carrier, one of the most modern in the fleet. It is traveling with two cruisers, the USS LEYTE GULF and the USS VELLA GULF; a destroyer, the USS ROSS; a frigate, the USS HALYBURTON; and a fleet combat support ship, the USS ARCTIC; and also a submarine, the USS ALBUQUERQUE. Of those, the USS LEYTE GULF, the USS VELLA GULF, the USS ROSS and the USS ALBUQUERQUE are all cruise-missile capable ships. So it would bring a large amount of firepower, both in terms of airplanes -- approximately 50 combat aircraft, 40 or 50 combat aircraft, and the cruise missiles to the Operation ALLIED FORCE.

As I said, there's been no final sign-off on this. It wouldn't surprise me if the THEODORE ROOSEVELT is vectored into the Mediterranean in support of ALLIED FORCE for awhile, but there's been no final decision.

Q: Just to follow up, should the ROOSEVELT go in the Adriatic, could you explain why that might be an advantage in terms of would it move the war planes closer to the targets?

A: Well, it would be an augmentation of our force. It would give us additional planes to help us do the job we're doing, which is to continue with our systematic, day and night attacks designed to choke off the Serb military.

Q: And they would, I would presume, be closer to their targets so you could have more continuous...

A: They would certainly give us the ability, would give NATO the ability to carry out a greater number of strikes, adding aircraft.

Q: Can you bring us up to speed on the three soldiers? What else do we know and what's happening?

A: We know precious little. There was a report early this morning, I thought an encouraging report, that the Serbs are going to allow them to call their families. But we have no indication that that in fact has happened.

I might point out that were they allowed to call their families, they might have a hard time getting through because the media is choking the lines of the families. So I ask you to maybe back off a little in your calls so that important calls can get through if they're allowed by the Serbs, and we hope they are. It would be very encouraging if they did allow them to communicate with their families.

Q: Will they be put on trial? Do you know that? Have you heard about...

A: We have seen the reports that they were to go on trial today. We have no indication that that's begun.

Now I want to point out that there is absolutely no reason for these men to be put on trial, and in fact they should be protected from trial by the Geneva Convention. If they were to be put on trial there are some very precise procedures that must be followed. They must be given a certain amount of notice of their charges. They must be given representation, etc. But we do not believe there is any reason for these soldiers to go on trial whatsoever.

Q: Cohen has called that a kangaroo court. Would you say it's a kangaroo court?

A: I'd say the concept of free and fair justice in Yugoslavia today is probably remote.

Q: CNN just recently aired some interviews from Serb television of local citizens who purport to have seen these soldiers taken into custody and claim that they were in Serbia when this took place. Any reaction to that?

A: No. We'll have to just wait for the current review to be completed. I'm not sure that I would believe accounts on Serb television about this, but I think we should all wait until the review's complete.

Q: Is it still your belief, though, that these soldiers were in fact in Macedonia?

A: That is our belief, but to tell you the truth, we won't know until this review is over.

Q: The advantage of having the TR battle group stay in the Adriatic is clear. What's the alternative? What are the factors the Pentagon is weighing? What theater are you going to have to leave uncovered if TR stays in the Med?

A: It's not clear that we would leave any theater uncovered, but we would-- certainly, the THEODORE ROOSEVELT is scheduled now to go to the Gulf to replace the ENTERPRISE, and we would put another carrier in, if the THEODORE ROOSEVELT stays, and -- I say there's no decision, no formal decision yet -- another carrier would come to the Gulf to replace the ENTERPRISE. So we would maintain our...

Q: Does that leave the WESTPAC open? Normally there's a carrier...

A: The KITTY HAWK is from that area.

Q: That would be the one that would have to go into the Gulf.

A: Right. And then we might move another carrier. But the fact of the matter is that if the KITTY HAWK were to move, she would go into the Gulf.

Q: Who's decision is it to put the TEDDY ROOSEVELT in the Med? Is that the NAC? Or have they given its permission now that it's a DoD decision to put it there?

A: In this case it would be our decision.

Q: The NAC has given its okay...

A: I don't know about that. I think this would just be an augmentation to the air force that's already there, that's already in use.

Q: The B-1 was flown last night. A, did it drop ordnance, or was it socked in by weather? Can you give us a sense of targets it did hit if it was used?

A: The B-1 did drop ordnance. We don't have a clear bomb damage assessment because of continuing bad weather, but the B-1 was used to attack some fairly large staging areas in Kosovo.

Every day the Yugoslav army sets up a series of staging areas where they bring fuel trucks together and other repair and provisioning trucks, and then they cycle through their armor and APCs and artillery to sort of resupply their forces. These staging areas are not constant places. They move around. There are different places every day or every night. Obviously we look hard for these staging areas. The B-1 is well equipped to deal with those types of wide-area targets.

Q: Could you comment on the reports that an informal moratorium (indiscernible) from today, April 4th up to 11th, due to the (indiscernible)?

A: Sorry. Say that again.

Q: Could you please confirm a report that an informal moratorium is in effect not to strike Serbia from today, April 4th up to the 11th due to the Catholic and Easter, and...

A: Those reports are not correct. I don't think there's any reason to -- I think it would be hard to justify suspending these airstrikes while the Serb army and special police are continuing to attack the people of Kosovo.

Q: For the limited operation in Kosovo, did you communicate with KLA or people in (indiscernible)? Who did you (indiscernible) the leader of Kosovo today?

A: I do not know what our communications are with the KLA. That's something that would be up to the State Department.

Q: May we have an assessment what you succeed so far regarding targets in Serbia?

A: Sorry?

Q: May we have your assessment what did you succeed so far regarding targets so far in Serbia?

A: Well, we've given a series of assessments, but basically we have been working first against the air defense system and we've been degrading the air defense system, specifically concentrating on the linkages in the air defense system.

I've pointed out here before that there are really three elements in dealing with air defense systems. One is the attacks through missiles and bombs, the kinetic attacks. The second is the defense, suppression through electronic means. And the third is flight tactics. All of which combine, have combined to give us what we consider to be a tactical maneuverability around and through the air defense system with acceptable risk to our pilots.

In terms of command and control, we've had some impact on degrading the nationwide command and control facilities, basically hurting the central nervous system of the country, the command and control nervous system of the country. We've been obviously focusing on VJ and MUP targets in Kosovo, but we've been doing that in two ways. First, we've been attacking where possible individual units or areas including barracks and headquarters facilities. We've attacked by now, I think, 11 VJ and MUP headquarters units in the area, and some outside Kosovo as well.

We have been also attacking with more force in recent days the supply lines that are used to sustain units in the field. We've been concentrating on petroleum facilities. Now we're concentrating on lines of communications, bridges, and other communications or transportation elements that are used to bring supplies to the troops in the field. That's basically a quick assessment of what's been going on.

Q: How do you assess the (indiscernible) plays a very crucial role for your forces?

A: It would play a very crucial role in positioning a peacekeeping force into Macedonia which could then move into Kosovo, but right now that peacekeeping force is not moving into Kosovo. So that port will be crucial when we get to the stage of putting a force to maintain peace and protect the Kosovar Albanians into Kosovo.

Q: By all accounts, the forces of Slobodan Milosevic are continuing with some success their campaign in Kosovo, particularly evicting tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians. Can you say whether this campaign, this NATO bombing campaign, is having any effect in slowing that down?

A: We believe that the campaign is having the desired effect of degrading and diminishing the ability of the Serb forces to continue their operations. We always knew this would take a long time. They have put away quite a lot of reserve fuel and other supplies, and we are attacking those where we can and preventing them from resupplying. This is going to take some time. We've said that from the beginning. And we are prepared to stay the course.

Q: Is there any news on approval for sending of Apache helicopters or any other kind of Army assets?

A: There is no news on those fronts.

Q: Can you say how extensive daylight operations have been so far? Characterize it in some percentage terms of something like that?

A: I can't. We've concentrated more on night operations than daylight operations. There have been some daylight operations, but generally our advantage is at night...

Q: Is it a tiny percentage, less than...

A: It's quite a small percentage. There certainly have been some missile attacks during the day.

Q: Any manned air flights?

A: I will have to check on that. I think almost all of the manned aircraft, if not all, have so far been during the evening, but I'll have to check on that.

Q: When will the new F-117s arrive, and have there been any changes to try to assure that something like what happened last Saturday doesn't happen to one of them again?

A: First of all, it's reasonable to assume there would be changes but we won't, for obvious reasons, talk about the changes. And secondly, the second batch of F-117s is supposed to arrive this weekend.

Q: Following up on the Army question, is there any active consideration of the Army ATACMS? And what would be the political significance of that? Would that be a first step toward ground troops, since you might have to have some forward presence for that?

A: I think instead of talking about things that could happen, I'll just wait until they do happen to discuss those.

Q: Is there an active consideration of them, though, rather than just a consideration as one of many weapons that are considered?

A: We're always considering ways to augment our force. I think I'll just wait until we make the decision.

Q: There have been reports that the (indiscernible) are going to turn over the remains of the F-117 to the Russians. Do you have any comment on that, if they would do that?

A: It's not surprising if they were to do that.

Q: Have you actually attacked any targets in central Belgrade yet?

A: Certainly close to central Belgrade. I guess it depends on your definition of central Belgrade.

Q: Other than the headquarters building you mentioned the other day, have you attacked anything closer into central Belgrade than that headquarters building?

A: I don't believe so at this stage.

Q: Why is that?

A: Some of it has to do with weather, but I wouldn't -- as General Clark said, there's no sanctuary.

Q: Are there any preliminary figures on the cost of the operation to date? Knowing we don't know how many sorties precisely or how many bombs dropped, can you give a sense of -- if there is any preliminary, what are some of the elements that would go into wrapping up a cost figure say in a month or so that would give some precision?

A: First of all, there are no preliminary figures yet. I asked the Comptroller that the other day. You're as good an accountant as I am. You can put on your green eyeshade and figure it out. Obviously it's a combination of fuel and ordnance dropped and some other marginal operational cost increases that come from an operation like this.

Obviously we're paying people the same amount that we would be paying them otherwise, and there are certain fixed costs. And then there are additional costs for, as I said, the variables such as fuel and ordnance.

Q: There's a lot of talk today from NATO about the possibility that Milosevic is preparing a move against Montenegro, personnel changes, etc. What's the message from NATO about what he would face if he decided to move forces, for instance, from Serbia into Montenegro?

A: I think he would face intensified attacks that would focus on those particular forces.

One of the advantages of trying to cut off lines of communication, fuel supplies, and attacking other targets needed to sustain forces -- it would make such movement more difficult.

Q: On the tactical missile system, is that something that can be decided at the operational level? Or because you have to put offensive ground troops in to go with it, is that something that would have to be a political decision?

A: This would be the type of decision that would be considered by NATO, and rather than get into details, I think we just ought to wait and see what the decision is.

Q: You're saying a decision that might involve the possibility of ground troops would be -- the final decision would be NATO's, and not...

A: First of all, nobody is talking about ground troops in Kosovo. Let's make that very clear.

Q: Anywhere? Yugoslavia?

A: Nobody is talking about ground troops in Yugoslavia.

The President has made it very clear that ground troops will be sent after a peace agreement has been signed to enforce peace, not to fight a war. Beyond that, we should just wait for details to emerge if a decision is made.

Q: I was really questioning because so many lawmakers dislike NATO making such a final decision. But this ATACM decision would be a NATO decision and not a...

A: It is something that would have to be considered by NATO, yes.

Q: Can I follow up on Thelma's question? Sorry to press the point, but has the United States consulted with Albania or Macedonia yet about placing additional U.S. military forces and equipment such as ATACMs on their territory?

A: Obviously, if military forces were to be moved to another country we would have to consult with that country at the appropriate time.

Q: Have you done so yet?

A: I think I'll just leave that question unanswered.

Q: Do you contemplate humanitarian airdrops, humanitarian rations, down to the refugees?

A: For the reasons I've already cited, no.

Q: Has the sensor-fused weapon, CDU-97, been used yet? Is that off the B-1s?

A: I don't believe that's been used yet, no.

Q: Also, will you guys have to ask for a supplemental from Congress to afford this whenever you do finally tally your bills?

A: At some point, yes. But I don't think we've reached that stage yet.

Am I being triple-teamed here by CNN? There might be some rule against sending three people from one news organization to a briefing. I [only] see one person from the Washington Post here.

Q: There are reports coming out of the official Yugoslav news agency now that court proceedings have begun against the three American soldiers. They've begun gathering evidence. It's unclear whether they've actually appeared in court at this point, but a representative of the court said they could be charged with waging aggression, [which] is apparently the charge which they said carries a 15-year prison term.

A: First of all, as I've said earlier, we see absolutely no justification for criminal prosecution of these soldiers.

Second, I have not seen those reports, so I can't comment on the specificity of the reports. Just before I came here I checked and had not seen any reports out of Yugoslavia in that.

But the Geneva Convention is very clear that they cannot be tried or punished for carrying out their military functions, their assigned military duties.

Q: For several days you and other Administration officials have said that what's going on now in terms of the refugees is something you expected to happen. If that's true, why is it only now that we're seeing an effort to put the logistics in place for large-scale relief efforts?

A: As I explained to you earlier, international aid organizations had prepositioned enough food to feed 400,000 people through September into the area. Not all of that food is readily available right now, but we do believe we have enough food to feed 100,000 people for several weeks. It's because not all that food is available that we are scrambling to get more food in. It's also -- let's face it, even though we predicted that there could well be a flood of refugees, and George Tenet was quoted at length on National Public Radio today from testimony that he gave for the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, laying out what his prediction was, and his prediction was, well known to the Administration and well known to the American public because it was made publicly and recorded by National Public Radio and probably by many other news organizations.

I don't think anybody could foresee the breadth of this brutality that has led to this flood of refugees. But we certainly realized that a spring offensive was possible, and we certainly realized that a spring offensive would have grave humanitarian effects. That has happened.

Now there has been a considerable amount of food prepositioned, but because of both the flow of refugees and the fact that some of that food is not now available because it's in Kosovo or Montenegro or other parts of Yugoslavia, we are putting more food in, and General McDuffie will talk about that when he's here in 25 minutes.

Q: Are you still having some problem with Macedonia, for example, in their cooperation, and you're sending Talbott there today in order to work these things out, so that hints that they weren't actually worked out beforehand. Why not?

A: Sometimes in life not all details are worked out beforehand. I don't know about your life, but certainly in mine they're not all worked out beforehand.

As I've said to you, this has been a human tragedy made by Milosevic of huge proportions. We are working our hardest, along with the international community, other NATO countries, and international aid organizations to address it. We know how to get food to people. We know how to get water and medical supplies to people, and we will do it.

Q: Has there been any change on the use of UAVs? Is weather an impediment there?

A: The Predator has begun operations, and the Hunter UAV should begin operations next week.

Q: When did Predator begin?

A: The Predator? I think it began yesterday.

Q: Are there any changes in the number of U.S. troops in Bosnia, or any changes in their orders or mission?

A: There have been no changes in the numbers. As you know, they're finishing a swap-out, so actually the numbers are coming down but they were artificially high as one group was coming in, and another group was coming out. There was an overlap. The force protection measures that they follow are basically assigned day by day by their commander in response to local security concerns, and they change according to conditions.

Q: Have they changed at all since the Kosovo mission started?

A: Yes, they have.

The man from National Public Radio. After I gave you this advertisement, I should call on you.

Q: And the check will clear. (Laughter)

The bridge you spoke of yesterday over the Danube -- are bridges continuing targets? Can you tell us where they were? Are you trying to isolate the troops in Kosovo as, for example, all the bridges over the Euphrates were dropped during DESERT STORM to isolate troops in Kuwait?

A: Without identifying specific bridges, we are targeting lines of communication including bridges, and we will continue to do that in an attempt to isolate the military units in Kosovo.

Q: Did you take out another one last night?

A: I'm not sure we did last night for weather reasons.

Q: Railroads, too?

A: One of the bridges we took out in Novi Sad was a railroad bridge.

Q: One of the technologies in place to see through the clouds, so to speak, is the JSTARS ground surveillance airplane. Can you give a sense of how it's aided in targeting units on the ground in passing that data to fighter planes or to bombers?

A: It's performing as planned, and it is being helpful, yes.

Q: Ken, what is the primary concern of this building in the turning over of the F-117 wreckage, the possible compromising of stealth technology?

A: This is 22-year-old technology. We have moved beyond the initial stealth technology in our own designs. But to the extent that other countries have not been able to duplicate our ability in stealth, there obviously is some risk. But it is old technology. We believe it is technology that is quite difficult to duplicate. It requires very sensitive production processes, it requires quite a lot of computerized design. All in all, our primary regret is that a plane was shot down. And obviously there is some risk, but we don't think it is a huge risk.

Q: Is the primary the skin or the coating on the skin?

A: It's basically an aluminum plane with some coating on it. Obviously, there are two elements that make it stealthy. One is the coating, and the other is the strange, sort of prehistoric looking design of the thing.

Q: You said your regret was the plane was shot down. Are you saying that you've now come to the conclusion...

A: If it was shot down. He used the term "shot down."

Q: I just was asking, have we determined, have you determined yet, whether or not it was shot down?

A: No. The review is not yet over.

Q: With regard to bridges, is there some effort or some way of assuring that there are not civilians on those bridges when they're struck? Is there any way to provide some short-term warning, or...

A: We're generally not in the business of warning when our planes are going to fly and what routes they're going to take and when they're going to strike, so I think the short answer to that is no.

Q: Can you tell us anything more about the operation that happened today, like you did yesterday in some general terms. Things you might have done today that you haven't done before? Or in terms of the scale whether it was larger than it was the day before in the cost of things?

A: The weather is still a factor. I guess that the one notable aspect of last night's action was a greater concentration on fuel facilities, on major fuel facilities, than before, in an effort to make it more difficult to sustain the enemy force. We are obviously continuing to work on air defenses and command and control while focusing more and more attention to forces in the field in Kosovo, and I mentioned the B-1's role in that -- also to focusing on the lines of communication and supply needed to sustain the forces.

Q: Any impact from any of these yet? People running out of gas, units not moving that should be?

A: We believe we're having an impact. We have not seen tanks stopped in their tracks, if that's what you mean.

Q: Can you comment on the growing perception of criticism that the number of sorties, the bombing runs, are minuscule compared to DESERT STORM, that we are not going at it at the same level of intensity that we did in DESERT STORM?

A: It's entirely different weather challenges between flying over the desert and flying over Kosovo. The weather has been lousy, and that has had a big impact on the number of strikes we've been able to carry out.

Q: Is that the only reason?

A: That is a primary reason. Any military action involves balancing the need to strike targets quickly with the need to do it in a way that is as safe as possible to the pilots. We want to keep the risk as acceptable as possible, and this is one reason why we have big packages with a lot of EW suppression, and it's one of the reasons we tend to fly strike packages at night, because we have more of an advantage at night. But the weather has been a huge issue, and I would expect that when the weather breaks, as some of the forecasts say it's supposed to over the next couple of days, that you'll see a pick-up.

Q: Have any non-stealthy fighters had a chance to drop any bombs?

A: Yes.

Q: On the F-117, I understand that it might be hard to duplicate the technology, but what about learning to detect it and build in some kind of capability so that the F-117 isn't as effective.

A: The F-117 has been flying for some time. It's had extensive experience against Soviet-built missile defense systems. I'm sure the Russians have done a lot to study how it operates.

Q: A couple of days ago you said there were about 20,000 troops outside on the border of Kosovo. Can you say, have some of those troops moved into Kosovo; are they moving away from the area?

A: I think the numbers are pretty much the same. If anything, there's been some movement of troops down toward Kosovo. It hasn't been significant, a thousand or two, maybe. But the numbers are basically what they've been.

Q: Has the A-10 been used yet to go after tanks or armor columns?

A: The A-10 has flown in strike packages. I don't think it's launched any ordnance yet.

Let me tell you, the primary uses of the A-10s so far have been in its OA-10 role as an observer plane. It has a very good loitering capacity and it's been very helpful in helping other planes keep track of armored columns and deployments, so they can vector in to attack them. The A-10, also in part because of its loiter capability, is a very important part of the combat search and rescue operations.

Q: Was it used the other night to rescue the 117 pilot?

A: Without getting into the specifics of that operation, I can't answer the question.

Q: In what respect will operations improve once weather gets better? What are some of the types of targets you'll be able to go after more robustly once the weather clears...

A: Certainly, we'll be able to go after forces on the ground more robustly.

Q: Tanks and artillery?

A: Tanks and artillery are among the forces on the ground, yes.

Q: What's the weather report? When do you think it's going to clear?

A: It should be clearing in the next couple of days.

Q: Do you have a readout from the meeting between Milosevic and Rugova?

A: I'm sorry, I don't. That's something you might ask Jamie Rubin about, but I don't have a readout.

Q: What can you tell us about the attacks today in southern Iraq? Also, were they flying in the north today?

A: There were -- three planes violated the no-fly zone in southern Iraq, and we responded by attacking two targets in southern Iraq. It was the first no-fly zone violation since March 19th. And beyond that, you've seen the release from CENTCOM that laid out what happened.

Q: What about the north?

A: There were no violations in the north, and we did not fly in the north, either.

Q: How many sorties in general has NATO flown to date?

A: It's over 2,000 sorties. Of those, probably about -- I'm just guessing, which is always risky, but I would guess 15 percent are probably strike sorties. It could be higher.

Q: Last night, how many sorties were there?

A: I don't have the precise number on that.

Q: ...war planes?

A: This is a very hostile threat environment, so we spend a lot of time -- we devote a lot of time to suppression and CAP. Also, as you have seen from the map that Admiral Fry put up a couple of days ago, we have planes coming in from a variety of airports around Europe. So some have to fly farther than others and need to be refueled.

Q: One quick little question. Since you're right ahead of the announcement on the humanitarian aid, a few days ago you said that NATO has not been able to prevent even one single act of brutality. Is that still the situation?

A: I think we are having the desired impact of choking off the ability of these forces to be able to operate.

Q: What's the evidence for that?

A: We clearly are having some impact on command and control. We're seeing some morale problems in the army. The forces are clearly more weary of being hit. They've had to disperse more and having a harder time operating in large, coherent units. And we think that over time there will be problems with supply. We're not aware that there have been any yet, but we think that there will be some relatively soon.

Q: How can you possibly know about morale?

A: We have a lot of sources for our information.

Press: Thank you.

 

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