United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share


DoD News Briefing: Captain Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, USN, DASD (PA)
April 10, 1997 1:30 PM EDT
Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.

I think some of you already realize that we have 45 West Point cadets here today. They're visiting as part of a public speaking course.

We also have Ben Stanley, who is a senior from Parker High School in Janesville, Wisconsin. He's part of the Washington Seminar Program.

With those welcomes, I'll try and answer your questions.

Q: Can you shed any light at all on this report by some airline pilots that they believe they saw a missile on the night of March 17th. Can you confirm whether or not it might be possible that that was any sort of scheduled missile test?

A: Jamie, I can't shed any light on the report. I think you'll have to talk to the NTSB for details about what they may be looking into with regard to the report.

Q: Can you confirm that the Navy fired two missiles that night?

A: Indeed, off the coast of Florida there were missiles fired in connection with a test that was being conducted, Trident missiles. But I don't really see any connection between a flight which is out of New York City and a missile test off the coast of Florida.

Q: If the planes were flying out of New York, and apparently they were over about Philadelphia at the time, and they're looking south/southeast, in the direction of where this missile test took place off the coast of Florida, and they're at 30,000 feet, and this is a very high-flying intercontinental ballistic missile, do you know if it's possible at all, if they were looking in the right direction at the right time to have seen this missile?

A: Jamie, I think it stretches the imagination to believe that anybody could see a distance of 1,900, 2,000 miles, no matter what altitude they're flying at.

Keep in mind that this missile test off the east coast of Florida was basically in a north, but primarily eastern direction -- toward the Azores. The pilots were flying in a westward direction. So again, I think it stretches the imagination to think that pilots could have seen this particular test. I don't claim to know what they would have seen. It just seems to me that the test that was conducted that day off the east coast of Florida, has [no] relationship to what the pilots may have seen.

Q: What does the military, the Pentagon and the military do in terms of conducting missile tests to ensure that they don't interfere with civilian aviation or mariners at sea or even populated areas of land?

A: There's a process that any military unit that is conducting tests like this goes through, and it involves filing what is called a "Notice to Mariners". This is a notification so that pilots, mariners, even people who might be affected on the ground are notified that there is going to be such a test. There is coordination between the unit and the FAA so that the area in which such a test is going to be conducted, it can be assured that there is not going to be any kind of conflict with civilian air traffic or any other kind of traffic that may be going on.

Then, of course, during the course of the test, the flight is monitored so if there's a problem, the missile can be destroyed prematurely, if necessary.

Q: Do you know if such documentation exists that could be brought forth, made public?

A: For...

Q: . ..that notification was made of this particular test.

A: The NOTAM [ Notice to Airmen]? The NOTAMs are a matter of public record, so I'm sure they're on file some place. The FAA is the body that normally files those.

Q: Do you limit missile tests to certain areas?

A: Oh, yes. There are certain areas off the east coast where such tests are conducted, and there's a range off of the eastern and southern part of Florida, is one example that I'm aware of. There's some in the Caribbean where tests are conducted, there's some out in the Pacific. But generally speaking, they're in areas that are not high traffic areas, where traffic will not be interrupted by such tests.

Q: This may sound a little silly, but does the military ever conduct missile tests either in busy air corridors or over populated areas of the United States?

A: No, they don't. And there are... Again, it stretches the imagination to think that the military would be involved in any kind of a missile test around New York City.

Q: [General] Estes was talking about a big review after the TWA crash, whether any military assets could have been involved. Do you know if that came up, with an explanation of all these reports of missile sightings?

A: I am not familiar with the review that you're talking about, but I am also not aware of any kind of military involvement in that episode, either.

Q: What can you tell us about the lost A-10 aircraft?

A: The search is still going on and will continue until we have further information about what has happened to the aircraft. I think a lot of you have already been reporting that the area of the search has been extended up into southwestern Colorado, an area where there is a lot of snow cover at present, where there has been an accumulation of snow since the aircraft disappeared, and it is possible that that is playing some role in our ability to find the aircraft at this point, but we really don't have any further details.

Q: Is the assumption that the plane crashed and the pilot is dead?

A: At this point I think it is best to say that we're still conducting the search. We don't know what happened to the aircraft. We don't know what happened to the pilot. We'll continue looking until we get answers to those questions.

Q: Is the military looking into the pilot's personal background to determine whether, not so much that this aircraft was stolen, but that he used it to commit suicide?

A: I don't know that that was the case. I would refer you to the Air Force for any information on that aspect of the search.

Q: Mission shift on to Guantanamo Bay. There's a report that the U.S. is letting down its guard, removing mines from the area immediately surrounding the base. Can you tell us if that's true and why it's being done?

A: Joe, what I know about that is that this is part of a multi-year program to explode aging mines down there at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The U.S. Marine security forces down there have been conducting these detonations. This was a program which was actually in place before the presidential directive and at the time it was planned for completion by the year 2000. As it is right now, we anticipate that we will, by stepping up the clearance activity, will have all of the mines eliminated by the end of 1999.

Q: Are the mines actually being detonated or are they...

A: Yes, they're actually being detonated.

Q: Just one other thing on the mines. Are other areas around the world except for the DMZ in Korea...

A: I'm not aware of other areas where we have a minefield, except along the DMZ in Korea.

Q: With the removal of those mines is there going to be an increase in the number of personnel assigned to GTMO for security?

A: Let us take that question. I'm not aware of any increase, but that's a good question. We'll get you an answer.

Q: How is the security being assured with these mines coming out?

A: We have a number of perimeter security measures down there which include personnel, U.S. Marine Corps personnel, and those, of course, remain in place down there.

Q: Do you know what the Cuban security deployment or array looks like on the other side of the line?

A: I don't, but I think the people at the Atlantic Command could probably give us a rundown on that. We'll take that one, too, and see if we have some kind of description we can give you.

Q: Yesterday we all saw Lockheed/Martin unveil their F-22 down in Georgia with a lot of dignitaries from Washington on hand. Do you know if any of the Congressmen or Senators were transported down there on military aircraft? If so, which ones?

A: I believe that they were, but I'd refer you to the Air Force for details on the transportation arrangements.

Q: Zaire. With the increasing political turmoil, what's it look like now, whether or not U.S. forces will have to go evacuate U.S. citizens?

A: I don't want to make any predictions on what it looks like, but I can tell you that we'll take our signals from the State Department, from the Ambassador, who will determine if there is a requirement for U.S. military personnel to be involved in any kind of evacuation of U.S. citizens.

Right now we have about 243 military people in Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo and about 169 in Libreville which is in Gabon. We've got the USS Nassau with about 1300 Marines off the coast of Zaire, and the Marines and the military people in Brazzaville and Libreville are standing by and at the ready in the event that they're called upon to help out. But right now they're in a 'wait and see' mode.

Q: Are any of the Marines on-shore?

A: Yes, there are about 100 Marines who have gone ashore, and I think...

Q: Where are they?

A: They are in Brazzaville.

Q: What are they doing there?

A: They are providing the kind of communications and security that you would expect if there were going to be any kind of an operation. All of that would be important to have set up in advance, rather than waiting until a decision were made.

Q: Are they included in that 243?

A: Yes, they are.

Q: Have they been put on any higher alert or brought in any more air assets for possible...

A: No, I'm not aware that their alert status has been moved up any. But keep in mind, the whole purpose of their presence there is to be ready to go in the event that their assistance is required, and as a result, they're at a very high state of awareness and preparedness for this kind of an operation.

Q: The CIA has apologized for its handling of the investigation concerning the Gulf War Illness, indicating that they apparently had a breakdown in communications. Still, critics are saying what was released indicates what they've been saying all along. This is why we are sick, this is how we got sick. How is this building responding to those claims today?

A: Joe, I'd just point out that we have a very extensive program underway right now to try and get some answers to the many unanswered questions regarding the illnesses which are afflicting Gulf War veterans. The programs that we have underway include medical research, include contacting those who were in various parts of the Kuwaiti theater of operations to get their insights into what may have occurred. But from what was released yesterday, it does not really add to our understanding of the illness itself. It certainly does add to our understanding of the operations that may have gone on, the intelligence assessment of what the environment may have been in connection with Khamisiyah, but it does not relate to the illness itself.

Q: As I asked you before yesterday the Turkish Embassy circulated that your Department of Defense accepted finally the Israeli's proposal for a joint military exercise with Isreal and Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean. Could you please confirm this information?

A: As I understand it, you're asking if there is an exercise involving Turkey and Israel which the U.S. will also participate in, is that correct?

Q: That's correct.

A: My understanding is that there is a proposal for such an exercise, that we are right now in the process of considering the timing and the scope of an exercise, but it has not gone beyond that.

Q: So far, this is not something on a permanent basis, to do that as long as long as the agreement exists between the other two countries.

A: There is... If there is such an exercise, we are willing to participate in it, but the timing and the scope of the exercise have not yet been determined.

Q: But Captain, it was reported that in this agreement Turkey and Israel (inaudible) legally, the Greek Island of Zavdos, Z-A-V-D-O-S, which is located south of the Island of Crete. Since you are going to participate, as you said, could you please confirm this information?

A: I am certainly not aware that that island is involved in the exercise, and since we're still looking at the parameters of the exercise, I can't really go any further than that.

Q: But did you see the context of the agreement between the two countries?

A: I don't know that it involves that island at all.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Korea. Could you put into some context the shooting incident that occurred I guess earlier today or yesterday?

A: This was an incident which occurred on Thursday, Korea time, as I understand it. It involved a very few North Korean soldiers, and I don't have a specific number for you, who were armed with rifles, who crossed over the DMZ very, very briefly. There were some shots that were fired by the soldiers from the Republic of Korea side, and the North Korean soldiers ran back over to their side.

We think this is an isolated incident, and we certainly don't view it as any kind of threatening event.

Q: Was there an exchange of gunfire, or would you classify these as warning shots fired?

A: I think I would say warning shots and not exchange of gunfire, although there was a sequence to it. But my understanding of the events is that the shots were actually fired into the air, which is kind of standard in these situations, which have occurred before, I might point out.

Q: How often?

A: With enough regularity that we don't view them as particularly threatening.

Q: Do they indicate anything? [Laughter] Dissatisfaction on the part of the North Koreans with...

A: I think that would be reading way, way, way too much into this situation.

Q: Concerning the article that Bill Gertz wrote about China, he was reporting about a report from U.S. intelligence officials in China, analysts, that Mr. Spence, Floyd Spence, was quoted here as saying the Chinese leaders have said we are the enemy, the United States, that is, and stands as a major roadblock, checking their desire to dominate East Asia. And Mr. Spence goes on to say that the report that is being reported on here says as much

Could the Department of Defense comment on China's military buildup, especially their intelligence activities in the U.S. looking for our technology, our military technology, and their basic weapons buildup?

A: Bill, what I would propose is that we provide to you a copy of this report which is being circulated now, and it goes into quite a bit of detail on China in various aspects. This was a report which was required by the Congress. They now have it in hand, and I think we can probably provide you a copy of it to answer those questions.

Q: Can you say anything with regard to Mr. Spence's comments quoted here directly, saying that the Chinese believe the U.S. is the enemy? Does the U.S. military see it that way?

A: I think I would like to point out to you that we have a policy of engagement right now with the Chinese. You've seen a manifestation of that in the port visits that were recently conducted by Chinese vessels in San Diego and in Hawaii. We will continue to pursue this policy of engagement, which we think is the appropriate approach to take.

Q: The former CIA Director was quoted, the previous CIA Director, was quoted as saying that the sale of Chinese arms continues to be inappropriate in the eyes of the U.S. insofar as proliferation of their sophisticated weaponry.

A: Well, we certainly have expressed on several occasions our concerns regarding certain arms sales that are being made by the Chinese, and I think that our response in all of those instances is well known and a matter of record.

The report that I referred to earlier is up on the Hill now, and we can make sure that you have a point of contact so we can ensure that you get a copy.

Q: A question regarding Khamisiyah. The report yesterday indicated that an intelligence officer at the Pentagon in 1991 [was asked] to relate to them if there were troops near the area in Khamisiyah, but that there was no response given. Is the Pentagon checking out the accountability of that question?

A: We've actually got two rather large investigations going on regarding some of the aspects of Khamisiyah. The first one is being done by the Army IG, and we expect that that will be done sometime this summer. The Army IG is looking into all of the activities associated with Khamisiyah that Army troops were involved in -- that is destruction of weapons, what units were involved, where they were, all those kinds of things.

The other report that's being done right now is by the intelligence oversight people here in the building. It has to do with what intelligence was at hand in connection with Khamisiyah, when the intelligence information was disseminated, who it was disseminated to, all the kinds of questions that arise as a result of some of the documents that were released yesterday. Dr. Rostker, who is running our Gulf War Illnesses investigations, he has asked the Army IG to look into the matter that you just mentioned there.

The other thing that I want to point out also, I think it's worth noting in connection with Khamisiyah. I think some of you who have talked to unit commanding officers who were there at the time, some of you who attended the hearings where General Schwarzkopf was present, are aware that the number one concern that General Schwarzkopf had with regard to the entire Gulf War, had to do with chemical weapons. And as a result, he had provided very clear guidance to his commanders that this was certainly a threat, and one that the troops should take into consideration any time they encountered Iraqi units or Iraqi facilities, and we know from some of the conversations that we've had with people who were at Khamisiyah, that certainly unit commanders were very much aware of this and had taken steps to protect themselves, both in terms of the MOPP gear that they had troops in, the detectors that they had deployed to determine if there were any evidences of chemical agents in the area at the time. So those kinds of things were being done, despite the fact that not all of the intelligence got down to the unit commanders who were involved in these activities at Khamisiyah.

Q: As you said, the decision (inaudible) to participate in the joint military exercise between Israel and Turkey. Could you please check for me if in the text of the proposed agreement the other two contracted parties, (inaudible) included also the Greek island of Zavdos, Z-AV-D-O-S, and if those exercises will take also the Aegean Sea and the vicinity of the Republic of Cypress.

A: Let me see what we can find out. But again, I think the problem that I have in answering your question is that it is so preliminary at this point, the outlines of the exercise are so preliminary at this point, I'm not sure that we have identified the location that the exercise is going to take place.

Q: One more question since you are in the decisionary process to find out what's going on. According to DoD legal experts, it is prohibited by the law for DoD to participate in exercises when the contracting parties, include illegally the soil of another country allied to the U.S. Could you please confirm this legal citation, too?

A: I would certainly agree that we are not going to be involved in exercises where the exercise takes place in an area where we have not been invited or do not have the authority to exercise.

Q: So this thing relates also to my question as far as the island of Zavdos.

A: Before I answer that, I don't accept your premise that that island is a part of this exercise. We will try and make a determination. But let us look into that. I believe that at this point the exercise is in such a preliminary stage that we don't know exactly where the exercise is going to be taking place.

Q: This is not only one exercise. They say it will be eight of them around the (inaudible) in '97. That's why I'm very concerned as far as what on with that particular island.

A: We'll look into it and see if we can get any further insights into it.

Press: Thank you.