United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


DoD News Briefing, March 25, 1999

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA
March 25, 1999 2:30 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. I'm sorry to keep you waiting.

Let me start with a couple of administrative announcements that are important.

First, Secretary Cohen is going to travel to Arkansas on Tuesday to address the Arkansas State Legislature. This is part of his effort to reach out to the country and talk about the military and the people in it and the job that they're doing. This will be piped back here if you want to listen to it, but the trip is also open to press coverage.

Second, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization and the Army will conduct a test of the Theater High Altitude Air Defense Intercept System at White Sands Missile Test Range in New Mexico on Monday. As you know, the THAAD is one of the theater missile defense systems that the Army and the Defense Department are developing for the future, and we will have videotapes of this test after it occurs. Unless there's a postponement of the test, we'll also have a briefing here on Monday at 1500, 3:00 p.m., by Lieutenant General Lyles and Lieutenant General Kern from the Army.

Q: Is in fact the second round of attacks underway in Yugoslavia?

A: Let me just finish here. (Laughter)

I'd also like to welcome a guest from Poland who is the political adviser to the Council Of Ministers of the Secretary of State of Poland, and at some risk I will attempt to pronounce your name. It is Ms. Ondyczy-Widawska, as I have it here. Welcome. We're glad you could be here. At least you recognized your name, so that's one step in the right direction. (Laughter) Well, you still recognized it. (Laughter)

Finally, there are some students here from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces to study media and military relations, and we welcome them.

Now, Bob.

Q: Can you tell us, is there in fact a second day of attacks underway in Yugoslavia?

A: Allied forces have launched a second day of airstrikes over Yugoslavia. They are ongoing as we speak.

Q: Does it include air as well as sea?

A: I don't want to get into the geometry of the strike right now. It will be ongoing for some time. It has begun, and we will have more details later.

Q: Not to get into the geometry, but can you in general terms describe it? Would it be more substantive that yesterday? The same punishing--just in general terms.

A: It will be another substantive strike. It will be severe. We are satisfied with the results of yesterday's strikes, and we will continue to focus on a variety of targets, but principally on air defense targets, and also on military targets in and around Kosovo, the types of assets that the Yugoslavs are using against the Kosovar Albanian people.

Q: You say you're satisfied with yesterday's strikes. What makes you satisfied?

A: What makes us satisfied? We think that we are making progress against our goals. We think we've sent a very strong message that we're serious about trying to stop the VJ army, the Serb army, from attacking, and that we're prepared to move against its forces until the attacks stop.

Q: Are you going to use the B-2 and the B-52 in this second round? If so, how many aircraft?

A: Because the strikes are underway right this minute, I'd rather not talk about the composition of the packages.

Q: General Clark said from Brussels today that he has indications that the Serbs were intensifying their offensive against the Kosovars. Does NATO feel an obligation to respond directly against the forces that are involved in that operation? Or is that right now too risky of a military task given what it takes to take out tanks and troops?

A: I think we are responding against the forces broadly defined, and...

Q: Not broadly. I asked particularly.

A: Well, I think we're responding against the forces. We have taken--I'd say about 20 percent of the targets yesterday were VJ, that is Yugoslav army targets, or MUP, Ministerial Special Police targets. These are the forces that are being used to attack the Kosovar Albanians in Kosovo, and we will continue to focus on those targets.

Q: Are those deployed units or barracks or headquarters or what?

A: Without getting into specifics, we are focusing on the very forces that are being used and assembled for use against the Kosovar Albanians.

Q: Ken, if you used the 20 percent figure, can you assign a figure to other categories of targets?

A: As General Shelton said yesterday, the focus yesterday was primarily on air defense targets.

Q: Eighty percent?

A: I wouldn't use that. There were various categories of targets that were cited yesterday. Command and control, etc.

Q: I'm led to believe there were very few SAM missiles, very light SAM missiles in the response, in the air last night, or Wednesday night. Is this because we've destroyed their command and control system, or we're flying beyond their range? Or they may be rusted and dilapidated? Do you have any explanation?

A: First, we believe that it is a serious air defense system that does present a significant challenge and significant risk to the allied pilots. I don't know, you were right, there were not surface-to-air missiles fired last night. We don't know why that was. It could in part be because of degradation of command and control. We just don't know at this stage. But it is clear that when we fly in such a hostile environment we do take steps involving the attack or suppression of air defenses, as well as various evasive actions to avoid or make it difficult for our planes to be targeted.

Having said that, this does remain a risky operation. The air defense system is a strong system. It's redundant. The air defenders are well trained, and it is quite a heavy system in a small place.

Q: Do you think they're just preserving it, hoarding it for future...

A: That is a possibility, but we can't speculate on that at this stage. We can speculate, but not profitably because we just don't know.

Q: If there were no SAMs fired yesterday and the air defenses were not all that active, can you explain why the B-2 wing commander says that they took fire and that they saw all manner of threats around them?

A: Well, there are threats. They have 200,000 air defense guns, they have shoulder-fired missiles. Sorry, 2,000 air defense guns. As I get closer to Y2K these numbers get harder to manage. (Laughter)

Two thousand air defense guns, and they have shoulder-fired missiles. So I don't know specifically what the B-2 pilot or wing commander saw, but clearly they do have an active and thorough air defense system.

Q: So were the anti-aircraft artillery guns fired last night?

A: There have been guns; I saw reports that guns were firing today.

Q: Can you go into the B-2 a little bit on how successful, specifically, as much as you can, their part of the campaign was yesterday? Did they drop, as we are told, 32 two-thousand pounders? Were the hits pretty accurate as far as we know? Any problems getting there and getting back?

A: We're not getting into bomb damage assessment. I think General Clark made that clear, that it's premature.

Just let me say that the advantage of the B-2 bomber is that it is an all weather plane, that it's ordnance can be dropped because it's guided by satellite; it's independent of weather, and therefore it was successful in dropping its ordnance. It was successful in dealing with the weather conditions it faced. Actually, the weather conditions haven't been that bad. But the reason it was put into the strike package is because of its all weather capability, one, and two, of course, because of its stealth capability and its ability to hit targets such as bunkers or other hardened targets.

Q: Any (inaudible)

A: Not that I'm aware of, no.

Q: Can you flesh out for us the three MiGs that were downed, where those took place, how long, what were the circumstances of it, and a little bit about maybe the Dutch pilot involved? Will you be giving out the names of those pilots?

A: We will not be giving out the names of the pilots now. Obviously, it's up to the Dutch to describe their own military actions, but I can't go much beyond General Clark. We have reports of three MiG-29s--top of the line MiGs were shot down, two by U.S. pilots and one by a Dutch pilot.

Q: Three or four?

A: Three.

Q: What about a MiG-21?

A: It's unclear at this stage whether another plane was shot down or crashed for some other reason, and we are still looking into that.

Q: Any shot on the ground? In other words any destroyed on the ground?

A: There were some destroyed on the ground, but I'm not getting into details.

Q: What additional measures are you taking to protect our forces in Bosnia? And will the training of the 10th Mountain Division have to be changed at all to reflect a more dangerous mission in the air?

A: Well, first of all, the 10th Mountain Division from Watertown, New York, Camp Drum, is not going to deploy for another few months, I believe. Isn't that correct? You probably know the dates exactly. Summer.

Q: Some of them are already there.

A: It's another few months.

The force protection is and will always be a priority for unit commanders and force protection is the job of unit commanders in Bosnia and elsewhere, and they have the authority to take steps that they think are appropriate to match the threat they face.

There has been some increase in force protection measures. I don't want to go into them, but there have been some increases in the last few days in Bosnia.

As far as training goes, force protection is actually one of the highlights of the training that soldiers receive before they go into Bosnia. It's something that's on their mind every minute of the day when they're on duty and frequently when they're off duty as well. And I suspect that the 10th Mountain Division will get the same thorough training in this that all the other soldiers there have gotten.

Q: Ken, can you confirm reports that NATO armor is moving back and forth along the Macedonia and Kosovo border as kind of a warning to the Serbs not to try to engage them in any way? And have there been any provocations?

A: First of all, we don't anticipate that there will be engagement by the Serbs across the Macedonian border, and if there were, it would be a serious mistake by the Serbs.

In line with what I said earlier about local commanders being able to take measures to protect their forces, there has been some defensive dispatch of armored personnel carriers along the Macedonian border. This is being done by NATO commanders in the area.

There are some U.S. forces, as you know, in Macedonia as part of Task Force Able Sentry. They have actually been withdrawn from the border areas, from the observation posts that they've manned there and been brought back into Skopje to their headquarters, but there are other NATO forces that have been deployed there either as the extraction force or as the enabling force to prepare for a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. And those are the forces under the direction of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps that have--the NATO rapid reaction corps that have deployed some along the border.

Q: Given the fact that you said that the air defenses are formidable, that this is a risky operation, and also given the fact that servicemen in the past have attempted suicide when they could not live up to their perception of their obligation to only give name, rank, and serial number and date of birth under torture, have you given any thought to perhaps liberalizing the code of conduct for this peculiar kind of operation so that you take the pressure off these pilots if they should be downed?

And secondly, if any of them should have to make an anti-American statement, would you assume that it was given under torture?

A: These are tactical questions that I can't answer. In response to a question you asked me on Tuesday, any NATO personnel that were shot down and captured by Yugoslav forces would be entitled to all the protections offered by the Geneva Convention, and they would be covered by the provisions that apply to prisoners of war, that govern the treatment of prisoners of war. They would assert their status of prisoners of war, and they would request to see a representative of the International Committee for the Red Cross or of a friendly government. Their conduct would be governed by the code of conduct.

I'm not aware of--I will take the question, but I'm not aware that we've given particular consideration to liberalizing or changing that at this stage. There has been some liberalization in the past, I understand, and I assume that applies, but whether we're considering anything special for this mission, I can't answer that question.

What I can say is that we will take, obviously, every single effort we can to prevent planes from being shot down, and should there be a loss of an allied plane, we have very robust, well trained combat search and rescue teams available to search for them.

Q: The embassy in Macedonia has been attacked. (inaudible) has been stormed and burned. I don't (inaudible). But are you considering or have you moved additional Marines or other forces to protect that embassy and other embassies in the region?

A: There was a demonstration outside the embassy. My understanding is that it's been dispersed. It was dispersed after some helicopters from Task Force Able Sentry flew over the demonstration. There have been also demonstrations in other places, in Skopje.

It's a little ironic that these demonstrations are occurring now because Chris Hill, the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, was, I think, the leading force for the peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis and the one who negotiated more days than anybody else to try to achieve a solution. It was his work that led to the core of the Rambouillet talks. He has been involved in virtually every meeting to achieve peace in the last six to nine months.

But my understanding is that that demonstration has dissipated now.

In terms of embassy security, that's a State Department issue. Obviously we will respond to their request should they make a request...

Q: No request has been made?

A: I'm not aware. This just happened in the last several hours, and I'm not aware that any specific requests have been made.

Q: Were they just Slicks, do you know?

A: I don't know what kind of helicopters they were.

Q: There are reports of shelling inside Albania. Do you have anything on that? And what response would NATO make if this was confirmed?

A: I don't have, I've seen those reports as well. I don't have independent confirmation right now. In terms of the NATO response, the NATO response is not to specific actions as much as to a pervasive pattern of repressive activity by the Serb army and the Serb police forces in Kosovo.

I think we've made it very clear--the President's made it very clear, Secretary General Solana has made it very clear, Prime Minister Blair and everybody who's spoken on this topic has made it very clear--that we are trying to diminish the Yugoslav ability to continue this repression in Kosovo.

Q: But if you find that in doing that in a general sense you have sparked a retaliation by the Serbs, do you plan to respond in a different way, in an intensified way? Has that already begun? And are you intensifying the strikes to respond to their retaliation?

A: I think it would be logical to assume that as or if military strikes continue, that they will focus more and more on achieving our primary goal, which is to reduce the ability of the Yugoslav forces to target or repress the Kosovar Albanians.

Q: We're getting reports along the same lines of accelerated Serb efforts to deal with the KLA in the harshest of terms, mass executions, patterns of executions in the countryside, and rolling up villages as they're going through. Are you aware of this kind of activity?

A: I have no confirmation of those reports. I've heard those reports, but we do not have confirmation that that's occurring. Certainly there have been efforts to crush communities in the past and to burn down villages in the past, but I can't confirm that such action is going on right now or that they've been going on today.

Q: Do you think they're accelerating these efforts since the beginning of the activities?

A: I think right now their primary focus is on trying to suppress the UCK or what we call the Kosovar Liberation Army. That's what they've been focusing on.

To the extent that they believe the Kosovar Liberation Army is being hosted or kept in certain villages, they have in the past destroyed those villages.

Q: And murdered all the people in the villages in the process?

A: They have done that from time to time, which is why this is such an important issue. This is why we're trying to stop that type of repression and killing and to return to what we hope could be a peaceful solution for this problem in Kosovo.

Q: And you have no reason to believe at this point that this has been accelerated?

A: You're asking me--there's an ebb and flow to it. I do not have a specific confirmation of a new egregious action at this time. That's not to say that I wont' find one tomorrow. But I don't have one right now.

Q: You're aware of the reports...

A: I am aware of reports primarily from news reports.

Q: General Clark this morning said there would be no sanctuary and he was asked whether that meant that downtown Belgrade could possibly be targeted. Can you talk a little bit about whether that is indeed the case, especially if there are intelligence or command and control in Belgrade?

A: Andrea, I'm not going to talk about any specific target no matter where it might be.

Q: Have you gotten any reports about any collateral damage from any of these missions...

A: We've gotten some reports. We get some from the media. But we're not at the stage yet where we have assembled a full assessment of what's happened as a result of these strikes, so I don't think it's appropriate to talk about it until we have more information.

Q: Could you explain why the Able Sentry troops were brought back from the observation posts along the border? Weren't they intended as a kind of deterrent trip wire to prevent the Serbs coming across?

A: There are two reasons. First, as you know, the United Nations has ended that mission, which--the U.N. preventive deployment in Macedonia. So we were there as part of a U.N. mission with other allied countries, primarily countries from Scandinavia. That's the first reason.

The second reason is that when we went there, the soldiers in Task Force Able Sentry were the only outside soldiers in Macedonia. Now there are about 10,000 NATO soldiers in Macedonia. And as I said in answer to an earlier question, some of these soldiers have gone up and deployed close to the border between Macedonia and Kosovo.

So for those two reasons, our forces have pulled back from the observation posts.

Q:...brought out recently? This was something that was done prior...

A: They're still in Macedonia. They're at Skopje now.

The way it worked is, the 350-odd Americans who were there, approximately 350 American soldiers there, always, groups of them would go out and spend a week or ten days at the observation posts, which are quite remote, overlooking the border with Serbia. Then they would come back and spend some time in the base camp, and a new group would go out and stay in the observation posts. So the 350 people were never at the observation posts all at once. They were always moving in and out. Now they've all come back for the two reasons that I've listed.

Q: Can you comment, I saw a report in the BBC about the Serbian navy or the Yugoslav navy being specifically ordered to stay in port or risk being sunk. I don't understand what kind of threat they might pose besides some midget submarines I've heard that they have. Can you comment on that at all?

A: They have a mining capability, they have some on-deck armaments and other ways to wreak havoc with our ships. I think General Clark was very explicit that he had discussions with the Serb authorities about controlling the navy, and they apparently have honored those warnings.

Q: Could you address whether the Kosovo Liberation Army, if our bombing was successful and they saw an opportunity to regain territory, to take other military action, would that be, as far as the Pentagon is concerned, a welcome or unwelcome development? In other words, if they did what the Croats did before the Bosnian agreement, would that be welcomed at all?

A: First of all, I don't think the comparison is a proper comparison because the Croats were at a much different stage of military training and development than the Kosovar Liberation Army is at this stage. But the answer to your question is that we made it clear to both sides that what we want in Kosovo is peace, and the Kosovar Albanians have actually signed the peace agreement. They have stood in line for peace. They put their name on the line for peace.

The Serbs have not done that. The Serbs have chosen repression while the Kosovar Albanians have chosen peace. We think that the Kosovar Albanians want peace and they would like a peaceful resolution, and they understand that that's what we're aiming for through these military actions underway today.

Q: Can I take it from that that it would be unwelcome if they took advantage of whatever damage came through the bombing and did an offensive.

A: For months we have been asking for restraint on both sides. We have gotten much more restraint from the Kosovar Albanians than we have from the Serbs.

Q: Have the strikes to this point degraded Yugoslavia's military capability?

A: To the extent that they have fewer assets today than they had yesterday, yes. But I would be misleading you if I told you that they're not yet--that they are at a point where they can't continue their aggression or repression of the Kosovar Albanians. We have not degraded it to that point. But we're only in the second day.

Q: For some months now we've heard expressions of concern in this building about the operating tempo of U.S. forces, particularly the Air Force. Now that tempo has been increased again.

What's the judgment here about how long this operation can go on before we begin to see signs of stress with equipment breaking down or people making mistakes because they're working 19-and 20-and 25 hour days?

A: From everything I've seen, the B-2 pilots are thrilled to be involved. From everything I've seen, other pilots are -- this is what they're trained to do. This is why they become pilots. My guess is that these pilots, while wary of the risk and concerned about the risk they face every day, are doing this because this is their profession.

I can't give you any idea of how long this is going to take. We don't have a time table. Secretary Cohen was very clear on that yesterday. But we are working in a variety of administrative and other ways to try to reduce the strains of our operating tempo. The Air Force actually has taken the lead in that by establishing the Aerospace Expeditionary Force and taking other changes that General Ryan has described to you. But I can't give you a finite estimate of how long this will last.

Q: Along the same lines, the Aerospace Expeditionary Force doesn't come into effect until October at the earliest. You have four operations going on now -- NORTHERN WATCH, SOUTHERN WATCH, Bosnia, and now this.

How sustainable is it?

A: Well, we have a big Air Force. I think it's sustainable. I think we can continue doing this. And I have every confidence that the pilots, the commanders, the people who maintain these planes, the people who operate the systems in the planes will be able to maintain the operating tempo as required.

Q: The THEODORE ROOSEVELT battle group I believe is due to deploy tomorrow from Norfolk to the Gulf. Will some or all of the ships in that battle group join the forces involved in the Yugoslavia operation if it's still going on when they reach the Mediterranean?

A: My understanding is that the THEODORE ROOSEVELT is departing for the Mediterranean tomorrow. I don't know. I'll find out. Is it scheduled to gap in the Gulf?

Voice: It's scheduled to arrive 6 April.

A: Right. And how long is it supposed to spend in the Mediterranean? We will find out.

Right now we are carrying out this operation without a carrier, and I think the results have shown that we can carry out a very forceful and significant bombing campaign without carrier-based air in this case. We've got plenty of aircraft, nearly 400 NATO aircraft, in the area working on this campaign.

Q: Given the question that you just answered about the operating tempo, are you telling me that there's no plan to use some or all the ships from that battle group to relieve or to supplement those...

A: I thought I was very clear. I don't know. We'll find out. (Laughter) I don't know how often you have to say "don't know" to get the message across, but we will find out.

Q: Getting back for a moment to the MiGs, can you characterize at all what happened? Were they all in the same area? Were they in different parts of Yugoslavia? Were they being aggressive, or were they just flying from one base to another? Can you give us any description?

A: First of all, I can't give you a lot of detail. They were not all in the same place. They were challenging our planes. It does appear that they chose to challenge our planes with aircraft rather than with missiles last night. There's no telling whether they will follow the same pattern tonight. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

Q: What kind of missiles were used to shoot down those planes?

A: I don't know the ...[cough]... We'll try to find out.

Q: You said no SAMs were fired. ...[cough]... fire air-to-air missiles.

A: I don't believe so, but I'll check on that.

Q: Were any HARM missiles fired?

A: I don't know. I'm not going to get into a list of all the ordnance that was used.

Q: Do we have any mathematics -- number of sorties, number of targets?

A: There were approximately 150 sorties and about three dozen targets.

Q: Three dozen targets?

A: The sorties include both strike and support sorties.

Q: There's been a lot of discussion about weather as a complicating factor in the operations. Did weather complicate last night's operations? And what's the forecast over the next four or five days in terms of bad weather or good weather?

A: I don't even believe the weathermen I hear here. (Laughter) But look, we invest--the weathermen the Air Force has are better. (Laughter)

First of all, weather has not been a terribly significant factor, but it has been a factor for some of the sorties. The weather outlook is pretty good for tonight, and beyond that I can't go.

Q: Has it been a factor in battle damage assessment?

A: Battle damage assessments are very complex. I mean to a certain extent it's been a factor. But it's a very complex process that involves more than just looking at pictures on CNN or any other network. (Laughter)

It involves bringing together--or reading in the Washington Post. It involves bringing together a lot of information from a lot of different sources.

Actually, there was a very interesting piece on Good Morning America this morning of a reporter who drove from Hungary into Belgrade and described what she saw along the way that was quite enlightening.

Q: Do you know how many cruise missiles may have been fired? You say 150 sorties. What about missiles?

A: Several dozen.

Q: Did you ever get confirmation on the report on the MiG-29s in Azerbaijan?

A: What do you want confirmed?

Q: Were they there? If they were, what the hell were they doing?

A: There were some MiGs in Azerbaijan, and there have been several public statements about these MiGS, and the public statements are contradictory. But according to one public statement, the MiGs were destined for North Korea, and according to another public statement they were destined for Slovakia. And we don't have any independent confirmation of where they were going.

Q: MiG what's?

A: These were MiG-21s.

Q: Ken, the British Defense Ministry gave a briefing this morning on their participation in this operation, and they went into some detail about the cruise missiles launched from the British submarine and the British aircraft that were involved including some of, an account of some of the bombs that missed their targets and some bombs that weren't dropped and the reasons for that. Why can't we get that kind of routine information from the Pentagon?

A: Well, this is a NATO operation, and I'm taking my cue from the NATO Commander, General Clark. He prefers not to talk about such details at this time. If that changes, we'll change.

Q: Doesn't it increase your credibility when you admit, for instance, that not every bomb hits its target like the British did this morning? We never hear about any bombs missing their targets...

A: You haven't heard about many bombs hitting their targets, either. I think we've been pretty even-handed. (Laughter) And we'll continue to be even-handed.

Q: I'd like to get back to the Serb offensive for a moment. Critics of this plan have always argued that an intensified Serb offensive on the ground could be one of the results of air strikes.

One, I'm wondering what the administration's reaction is to the intensification that Clark has described. And, two, I seem to be hearing you saying that there's been an acceleration of attacking the deployed forces in Kosovo as a result to stop it. Is that correct?

A: I don't believe I said there had been an acceleration of attacking the forces in Kosovo. I said as air strikes continue, you could expect that there would be a focus on achieving a more aggressive focus to achieving our goal, which is to degrade the ability of the VJ and the MUP forces, that is the Yugoslav army forces and the special police forces, from attacking the Kosovar Albanians.

Q: Is the offensive forcing us to step that up any or no?

A: I don't think I'll get into the pace of the offensive. I just think that over time, after concentrating first on the integrated air defense system, you'll see a greater focus on the ultimate goal of the military operation.

Q: What about the reaction...

Q: You were saying earlier--I had two questions.

You said earlier this is only the second day, and you had also said that part of the reason you were saying it was successful is because you had sent the message to Milosevic. But evidently there's still no sign Milosevic has gotten the message. Does that mean that the American people should prepare themselves for a longer campaign than just a few days?

A: President Milosevic never got the message that we wanted a peaceful resolution to this dispute, and it may take him awhile to get the message that we're willing to use force as long as we need to to achieve the resolution.

We always thought that force was a last resort. That's one of the reasons we waited so long. It's one of the reasons we tried so hard at diplomacy. It's one of the reasons we kept sending Richard Holbrooke and other people back to negotiate. Ultimately, we got nowhere. So we have been forced to use the military option, and we will continue to use that option as long as we need to.

Q: Can you say it's going to be at least several days?

A: I'm not going to define this in any way.

One thing is clear. The person who can define it is Slobodan Milosevic. He can at any minute decide that peace is the best way to resolve this issue, and he can go back to the table and sit down and say that he's going to agree to a ceasefire, say that he's going to pull his forces out, and end this. That is the quickest way to end it, and it could happen at any time he decides to do it.

Q: Regardless of the...

Q: Is there any concern or evidence that Iraq or North Korea are taking advantage of the diversion of intelligence resources and focusing on Kosovo?

A: The short answer is no. We have seen no evidence that that is the case. The longer answer is that we have significant intelligence assets, and we are quite clear about where we have to target them, and we do.

Q: Have you see any evidence of the Russians following up on the grumbling about possibly breaking the arms embargo in Serbia?

A: I haven't seen anything more on that. It would be a mistake for them to do that. I do note that it seems to be a positive sign, but I should leave this to my colleague at the State Department, Jamie Rubin, but they have called for a Contact Group meeting in Moscow, which is a sign that they're trying to get a diplomatic initiative launched again.

We obviously would support a diplomatic solution to this problem. That leads to a real solution rather than just a delay.

Q: Last fall there was a press report that there was at least some discussion that the Russians might sell the S-300 [missile] to Yugoslavia. Has that gone anywhere past discussion?

A: I have not seen any more on that recently.

Q: At the beginning of the briefing you said, I think you said, that about 20 percent of the targets the first night were somehow connected to the VJ or the MUP.

Based on what you've just said a short time ago that there may be a greater emphasis now on the ultimate goal, would we expect that that percentage would go up with tonight's bombing?

A: I don't want to get into the specifics of what's going on now. It's an ongoing operation, and I think that everybody knows that in your world--people watch you all over the world--and the less said about tonight the better.

Q: Ken, before the operation started, there was concern about the Serbs moving some of the things that the United States and NATO wanted to hit. Can you tell us, were things where we expected to find them last night? Or were a lot of the targets not where we thought they would be?

A: I think it's fair to say that things were in their expected position, which was moved. (Laughter)

They have been moving their air defense. They've been moving their military assets, including tanks and artillery and other things. Dispersion is a standard defensive tactic, and the Serbs are very good at dispersion. That's one of the reasons why suppressing air defense systems is not an easy job, because in this day and age, sophisticated systems such as the SA-3, SA-6 missile can be moved. The SA-6 can be moved very easily. The Iraqis do that, and the Serbs do it as well.

Q: Is it fair to infer that we dropped less ordnance last night than we intended because a lot of what we expected to hit wasn't there?

A: I don't think that it would be fair to infer that, and I'm not going to get into any discussion of what our plans were versus what we actually did.

Q: Have they moved any of their assets into urban areas, possibly in hopes of preventing us from bombing them because of collateral damage...

A: You mean have they followed the Iraqi strategy? They--not to a huge extent.

Q:...troops in Macedonia. You said, first of all, I believe earlier, that you'd moved some troops up to the...

A: I didn't say that we had. Remember, there are two groups of troops in Macedonia. There are about 2,600 troops led by the French in the extraction force, the so-called EXFOR, that was sent there to help pull out the Kosovar verification mission people should they need it, and fortunately they did not.

Then there is a larger group, the balance, 7,800 or so, who are there as part of the enabling force that was going to pave the way for NATO's peacekeeping force to go into Macedonia. That is led by the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps under the leadership of General Michael Jackson, a British general.

They are the ones, it is the ARRC that had decided to move some armored equipment, generally armored personnel carriers, up around the border.

Q: Can you tell us how many troops and how much armor is up near the border? And secondly, whether the larger group of troops, the enabling, implementing troops, are they on any sort of heightened alert? Are their commanders getting daily briefs on the situation in Kosovo, on the air war? Are they preparing, are they training...

A: Those are all good questions, and I have a hard enough time keeping up with our own forces, as you can tell from questions on the THEODORE ROOSEVELT, let alone the British forces. So I think those questions should be appropriately asked to the British or to NATO. We can try to find out the answer, but I just don't have it at my fingertips now.

Q: How many days will it take before we get some initial sense of the success of this campaign against the air defense system?

A: That remains to be seen. It's a decision for General Clark to make, and he'll make it when he thinks it's appropriate.

Q: We got stuff during DESERT FOX incrementally...

A: I understand that.

Q: Has there been any movement of Serb forces towards that Macedonian border or any concentrating of forces along that border?

A: There has been a concentration of Serb forces along the Macedonian border and sort of the southern tip of Kosovo for some time, and that remains there.

Q: Back to this OpTempo thing. You get critics on the Hill saying the force is spread too thin already, now we're spreading it thinner. Are you--we've added one more significant contingency to a list that's already got several on it. Are we shutting down or scaling back any smaller, lower contingencies to give the Department some more head room? And beyond that, can you in any respect characterize the degree to which these rather sizeable commitments -- NORTHERN WATCH, SOUTHERN WATCH, Bosnia, now Kosovo -- to what extent are we burdening the force above whatever is a baseline, normal, routine, forward- deployment situation? How much more than we would normally be doing are we working people? Can you characterize...

A: First of all, let me put this in perspective. We have 1.4 million people in our military. Today we have approximately 6,200 people in Bosnia. We have 7,300 people, approximately, devoted to OPERATION ALLIED FORCE, which is the air campaign over Bosnia. That's from all services.

Q: You mean Kosovo?

A: Kosovo. Over Serbia and Kosovo, but involved in OPERATION ALLIED FORCE. So we've got 6,200 largely Army personnel in Bosnia; we've got 7,300 people devoted to OPERATION ALLIED FORCE. We have probably 18,000 to 20,000 people in the Gulf -- a large concentration of Navy personnel, obviously, and Air Force personnel as well. Now this is out of a base of 1.4 million people in the military.

I cite this, one, to put these deployments into perspective. We're not talking about divisions of people.

Obviously, every time you have somebody deployed, you have to have somebody who's preparing to deploy and training to replace that person, and you have to set up a supply chain to keep these people supplied and stocked up. But I think that these deployments are manageable.

It is clear that in the last ten years, after the end of the Cold War, the basic tempo and structure of our deployments has changed dramatically. We don't have 300,000 troops sitting in Europe waiting for a Soviet attack. Instead, what we have are much smaller groups of troops operating much more intensely in spots around the world. But this remains a very small part of our overall military.

The services have been taking a number of administrative actions to try to reduce the strain of the high operating tempo on soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. One of those we talked about earlier, which is coming on line later this year, the Aerospace Expeditionary Force. All the services at the direction of the Joint Chiefs have been working to reduce overlapping training requirements, to try to rationalize training so that soldiers coming back from deployments in Bosnia, for instance, don't get sent immediately out into the field for a CINC exercise or some other exercise.

We have tried to build in family time at the end of deployments so that military people can come back and spend some time at a less demanding tempo.

Obviously, it's not always easy to do, but we have made considerable progress on this, and I think we could actually get you from the Joint Staff a numerical rundown of how much training days have been cut back in some of the services as a result of this.

In addition, I'm sure you know that in specific posts around the world--one that comes to mind is Fort Hood, Texas--some of the commanders have taken very specific steps to cut back on training and to eliminate things like weekend training. This was done, for instance, by Lieutenant General Schwartz when he was the commander at Fort Hood. He made it very difficult for soldiers to train on weekends, so they could have some time off and spend time with their families when they were back in Texas.

There have been a number of changes in the Navy. Admiral Johnson, the Chief of Naval Operations, announced some changes several months ago to try to reduce the demands for inspections on sailors after they come back from deployment, so they don't immediately have to gear up again.

I think that these administrative changes have made some progress. We are also looking at ways to reduce the time that people in so-called high-demand/low- density professions such as AWACS pilots, U-2 pilots and others have to be deployed in the course of a year. We've put stern limits on how many days they're deployed. So in some cases their deployments have been reduced by several months, a year, because of these limits.

It's not easy to do, but I think what we've found [is] it that over time commanders are finding ways to make deployments more predictable and to make time at home more predictable. So even though people know they have to be away from home for long periods of time, they also know that they'll be back at home for a predictable period of time so they can plan family events and professional education and their leaves and other things around these times they'll be at home.

Q: Is this operation going to undermine some of that progress?

A: The whole idea of these administrative changes is to try to balance the need to deploy with the need to give, to release the pressure, reduce the pressure of deployments. Many of these people were deployed anyway. They were already in Europe, they were operating out of home bases, but they weren't in the United States. If sailors are involved or Marines are involved, and there is an Amphibious Ready Group over there, these people would have been deployed anyway. So a certain number of them, those on the ships that have taken part in this, the PHILIPPINE SEA, the GONZALEZ, and others, would have been there anyway, whether they were participating in OPERATION ALLIED FORCE or not.

So it's important to sort of parse through the numbers and figure out who would be there ordinarily and who wouldn't be deployed ordinarily.

Q: You mentioned 7,300 forces are dedicated to OPERATION ALLIED FORCE?

A: American forces, yes.

Q: Can you break that out by service?

A: I'm not sure that I have a breakout here. We can get you a breakout.

Q: That includes the 2,000 Marines?

A: I believe it does. I don't have a breakout here, but we can get you a breakout.

Q: Has the United States eased its enforcement of the Iraqi no-fly...

A: Nothing like a good discussion of OpTempo to clear.... (Laughter) People have their own OpTempos, I can tell.

Q: Has the United States eased the enforcement of the no-fly zones in Iraq, or has Saddam Hussein backed off of his almost daily provocations?

A: There have been no violations of the no-fly zone by the Iraqi forces for the last five days or so.

Q: How about artillery fire?

A: There have not been the provocations that we had seen up until the last week or so. I think it's one of the longest quiet periods we've had since DESERT FOX.

Q: Is that because fewer U.S. planes are flying in the no-fly zones to be provoked?

A: There have been some down days because of weather and other reasons, but we are still patrolling the no-fly zones, particularly in the south, aggressively. I can't psychoanalyze why Saddam Hussein does what he does, but I can tell you this. It's smart for him to stop attacking our planes because he was losing a lot of equipment. He was losing radars, he was losing missiles, and he was losing air defense guns and he was losing command and control facilities. So, [if] he wants to hold onto his equipment, he should stop attacking the patrols.

Press: Thank you.

Additional Links

Stay Connected