DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ATSD PA
Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.
I'd like to start out by welcoming a group of Brazilian military officers who are here to study Army public affairs practices. They're in the back of the room. I won't do them the dishonor of pronouncing their names, but if you have a chance to talk to them you might say hello.
Some of you have asked that we share long-range public affairs plans with you, so I'm going to tell you about a long-range public affairs event. On Tuesday at 11:30, General Shalikashvili is scheduled to hold a press conference here. We will not have a 1:00 p.m. briefing after that. This is, of course, always subject to change, but that's the current plan.
Q: Any purpose behind that?
A: The purpose is a free and frank exchange of information with the press about military activities in Haiti and the Gulf.
Speaking of Haiti, Major General David Meade, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, assumed command of the multinational forces in Haiti this week. Lieutenant General Hugh Shelton has left. General Meade's assumption of command means that the Combined Joint Task Force 190 has relieved Combined Joint Task Force 180 in Haiti. 180 was the task force that was designed to basically invade Haiti, and of course those plans changed.
The USS MT. WHITNEY, the command ship for Task Force 180, and coastal patrol ships USS MONSOON and USS HURRICANE have detached from operations around Haiti and are returning home. So there are currently no naval ships dedicated to operations in Haiti.
Jumping to the Middle East, we reached a milestone in our Persian Gulf operations this week. We have flown more than 50,000 sorties--this is the U.S. and coalition forces--50,000 sorties under Operation Southern Watch to enforce the no-fly zone below the 32nd Parallel in southern Iraq. These flights were done in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 688 which called for Iraq to ease repression of its own people. And the flights were to monitor repression as well as preventing him from using any aircraft to attack Shiites in the south.
Q: How many years has that been going on?
A: This has been going on since August 27, 1992.
Q: Do you have a cost?
A: I'm afraid I don't know the cost, but we'll get that for you.
Q: Do you know exactly when that point was reached--the 50,000 flights?
A: What unit and what day?
Q: Not exactly, but was it last week...
A: I think it was this week. Actually it's surpassed 50,000. More than 43,000 of these flights were conducted by U.S. aircraft. About 32,600 of the flights were directly over Iraq. The others were refuelers and AWACS and other planes that could fly over other areas.
Later today--this is another long-range plan--at 3:00 p.m., Secretary Perry will present the Department's Distinguished Civilian Service Award to seven DoD career employees in the Pentagon Auditorium, Room 5A1070, and it's open to the press. I can give you more details if you want, later.
Finally, I want to note that this is John Tirpak's last briefing as the Pentagon correspondent for Aerospace Daily. He's been in the cockpit there for six years. He begins next week as a feature writer for Air Force Magazine. We wish him well, and we assume we'll see him back here often.
I'll take your questions.
Q: What about the U.S. consulting its allies on speeding up admission of some European countries to NATO? These reports have been around, and now NATO sources are saying that the U.S. is pressing the allies to speed up talks on...
Who's talking about speeding up the admission of these East European countries?
A: You know from your trip to the NATO Defense Ministers' meeting in Seville in September that this has been under discussion among the allies for some time. What's going on now is we've started a process for looking at the terms for expanding NATO. We're studying the circumstances and the conditions under which NATO will be expanded. I think the discussions will go on for some time. The basic foundation for NATO expansion is the Partnership for Peace. We'll sort of grow out of that into NATO expansion at some undetermined time. There's no deadline. I'm not aware that we're putting pressure on the allies to accelerate this.
Q: Is there an idea afoot here that perhaps membership should be sooner rather than later?
A: I think what we're looking at is, we're trying to devise a series of steps that will be taken by countries that want to get into NATO eventually. And the fundamental steps are: they should be democracies, and they should be free market economies, and they should be part of the European economic system. After they meet those standards, NATO membership is something that could be considered after that.
Q: That's been the criteria all along. Is this being speeded up?
A: I told you, I don't believe it's being speeded up.
Q: And you don't believe the United States is exerting any pressure to move a fairly sluggish NATO body politic in the direction of considering this a little faster? Their basic posture is to consider it never?
A: I don't want to characterize our allies as sluggish, but that's not my impression.
Q: There's no pressure by the U.S. to move this along?
A: I think we're moving in an orderly way. This is something that's going to take time. That's been our position from the beginning, and it remains our position.
Q: Your three criteria--democracies, free market economies, and part of the European free market system--doesn't include anything about reform or modernization of their military or efforts to bring their military into...
A: That's what's happening. That's why I said that the Partnership for Peace is really the foundation for this. That's what the Partnership for Peace is devised to do--is sort of give them a feel and a taste of NATO. That's why we've been strongly supporting the Partnership for Peace and Eastern European involvement in it.
Q: Also on NATO, the consultations with the United Nations over when and how to use force in Bosnia. Do you have a progress report on...
A: Yes. Those discussions are not complete, but they should be completed soon. I'm confident that we'll end up with an agreement that will move toward the type of criteria that were established at the NATO Defense Ministers' meeting in Seville at the end of September. Basically, the NATO Defense Ministers then agreed that airstrikes, when used, should be used more effectively than they have in the past. The three standards for effectiveness were that they should be more timely, they should be allowed to go after multiple targets, and the airstrikes should be launched without significant warning. What is being discussed in New York, I believe, will embody those three principles.
Q: What you are looking for is also a way so that the UN commander on the ground cannot act as a barrier to this? Or do you see...
Q: ...specific request from the UN commander on the ground?
A: That's a good point. The so-called two-key concept will remain. That is that the UN commander on the ground must request the airstrikes, and then NATO must decide to accept or reject the request. So it's a two-key concept.
Q: Once that's accepted, then these other three things would kick in?
A: The idea is, that once the UN requests airstrikes, that the airstrikes be done as effectively as possible. These negotiations are designed to reach agreement on the definition of what constitutes an effective airstrike.
Q: You mean once the UN authorizes the NATO request?
Q: Could you give us a rundown of the forces that are currently in the Gulf region, and perhaps some detail about what kind of group President Clinton will be meeting with tomorrow in Kuwait.
A: There are a total of 28,296 U.S. personnel in the region as of yesterday. That includes 8,961 ground forces--Army and Marine Corps. Troops are still flowing in. Members of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division are still arriving in the Gulf and they will be until November 11th. The brigades of this division will carry out training exercises with the pre-positioned equipment there, and in conjunction with the Kuwaiti forces.
The second part of your question, I can't answer that because I don't know what the details of the White House plans are now.
Q: Do you have a break-out of number of ships or aircraft?
A: No, I can get that for you.
Q: What do you expect the high end will be on the troops as of November?
A: We're anticipating about 13,000 ground troops and 34,000 total U.S. forces.
Q: When will the drawdown begin? When will the withdrawal of those troops begin?
A: I think Secretary Perry has said that the ground troops will be home by Christmas, and I would expect the drawdown to take place over the month of December until Christmas time.
Q: Can you tell us any more about whether the United States is considering pre-positioning additional supplies in the region--either on the ground or on ships--that might be closer than the ones that were used in this last exercise?
A: It's been the nation's policy going back to the Bush Administration to pre-position three brigades of equipment in the area. Before this latest incursion into the south by Saddam Hussein, we had about half a brigade force in Kuwait. Kuwait has agreed to allow us to put in a full brigade's worth of equipment, and they're building a new storage area for it south of Kuwait City.
In addition, Qatar is allowing us to station a brigade's worth of equipment there. We're still in negotiations with other countries in the area to come up with a site for a third brigade's worth of equipment.
Q: How about forces? Are you going to leave some higher level of actual bodies in the region?
A: It's not my expectation that we will. There will be regular training exercises, though--as there have been in the past--with units going over from the U.S. to marry up with their equipment and perform exercises, wash off their equipment, put it back, and return home.
Q: How about a naval presence? There was a discussion of adding more Tomahawk shooters to the Persian Gulf?
A: I think some of that is still being worked out. But my expectation is that the naval presence will stay basically at the level it was before this latest buildup, and that was a fairly robust presence. We've had a robust presence in the area for decades.
Q: There's a report out of Kuwait that U.S. officials are discussing putting A-10s on the ground there. Can you confirm that?
A: That's true.
Q: What else?
A: That's basically it. A squad of A-10s will be deployed in Kuwait.
Q: Will some of the equipment that they're exercising with in the Gulf remain there--that, for example--that was taken off the ships, in order to fill these brigade quotas that you're talking about? Or do you have any understanding that that will be new equipment moved in?
A: I can't answer that question. I'll try to find the answer.
Q: When this first came down and we got the initial briefing--maybe it was just my impression, but I think it was widely held--that we'd have a huge force there very, very quickly on the ground. The pace seems to be very relaxed. I take it that the 24th is still flowing for weeks yet. The impression was that at least the 24th Division would be there within a week after the initial announcement. Is there a problem with the flow? Is it an airlift problem, is it a sealift problem?
A: I think maybe you had a misimpression with how fast the 24th was going to get there. The idea always was that they were going to get there when their ships got there with the equipment. There was half a brigade's worth of equipment there.
Q: We were told the ships would be there in four or five days after the initial announcement was made. We're past that point.
A: Two things have happened. First is, the threat has changed dramatically, and that clearly has influenced the deployment plans because at one stage, as you know, we were going to send over the Marine Expeditionary Force and we decided not to do that. That's the major change.
In terms of the ships, I am not aware that four or five days was the... I saw longer sailing times than that from Diego Garcia. But the idea always was to have the troops fall in on the equipment as it arrived by ship. I would have to go back and check on the precise sailing times--I don't have them here. But I thought some of the sailing time was up to ten days, eight to ten days.
Q: All the ships are there now, though?
A: That's right.
Q: But not all the 24th is there?
A: That's right.
Q: That's because of the threat?
A: The threat is different. If you're trying to read into this that there's been some glitch, I don't think that's the case.
Q: The first thing that was going to move was the 24th Brigade that fell in on the pre-positioned equipment. That stuff was already there. They were supposed to be the first ones on the ground to provide the stop if the Iraqis came across the line. They didn't get there until.... The full brigade wasn't there until this week. That's indicating some slow down. They were supposed to be there before the decision was made to curtail the buildup?
A: There were troops from the 24th there, I believe, within two days, and there was a fairly substantial number of troops there within four days. Remember, there was an ARG in the area that got there quickly, that moved up from the southern part of the Gulf. So I can't give you the specific deployment pattern of every part of the 24th, but you had fairly substantial troops there early on.
Q: But you didn't have a full brigade of the 24th taking up this equipment until almost three weeks after the crisis started?
A: First of all, you talk about crisis. The crisis was over relatively soon. Why was the crisis over so quickly? I think the crisis clearly was over quickly because we were able to mobilize a substantial force there in a very short amount of time. If you look at the naval forces, the air forces, and the ground forces combined that we were able to bring to bear, it clearly had a deterrent and intimidating effect. That was the design, and it worked.
Since then, there have been changes in the deployment plans principally of the Marines. But the troops have been flowing out in an orderly manner; they've been marrying up with the equipment and moving out. But I think you have to admit that the threat now is considerably different than it was as week or two ago, and there's less need for urgency at this stage. But the troops are going over, they're marrying up with their equipment, and they're conducting training exercises.
Q: Can we return to the Air Force, for just a moment, and the A-10s?
Q: How many aircraft does that squadron represent? How many support people have to go with them to keep them going?
A: I believe there are 24 aircraft, and I don't know about the support.
Q: They will join an already permanently pre-positioned group of aircraft from the U.S. Air Force. Do you have any idea what that represents? At a normal, non-crisis kind of time?
A: There were, I think, slightly under 80 aircraft in the area before this began, I think the number is 77. They will augment that. One of the tasks they'll face is enforcing the demarche that we issued last week. That's one of the reasons they're going over there.
Suzanne, you asked earlier about ships in the Gulf and planes. There are 16 ships now in the Gulf. The GEORGE WASHINGTON and the destroyer BARRY have departed. The EISENHOWER is coming in. There are 2,000 Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit on four ships from the TRIPOLI Group. There are approximately now 270 aircraft in the area.
Q: Do you have any idea how long it will take to get those full brigades into Kuwait and Qatar? Is that something that may take a year or so, or....
A: I don't know about Qatar, but into Kuwait, I think most of it will be there by early next year. I would guess by the first quarter of next year most of it will be there.
Q: These 270 aircraft, are those all U.S. or U.S. and allies?
A: I believe these are all U.S. aircraft.
Q: When will the A-10s be in Kuwait?
A: I don't know that.
A: I don't know. If I knew "soon," I'd say, "soon."
Q: Now that there's a definite ceiling on the number of troops that are going to be there, and there's some sort of outline as to how long they're going to be there and what they're going to be doing, do you have clearer cost figures besides the $500 million to $1 billion?
A: All I can tell you is, it's likely to be at the lower end of that range.
Q: This pre-positioned equipment on the ground, is that in addition to what's on the ships, or instead of what's on the ships? Is that three brigades or five or six?
A: I believe it's in addition to what's on the ships, but I'll check that.
Q: Two questions about the buildup, one about the air and one about the troops in Qatar. On the air, is it anticipated that, apart from the supplies necessary for the A-10s, the U.S. is going to pre-position any more supplies or munitions for aircraft--particularly ground attack aircraft--in the region? That's been said to be one of the shortages in this present...
A: I can't answer that question.
Q: On Qatar, is it anticipated the troops and the armor--well the armor-- are unloaded? [Inaudible]
A: I'm sorry?
Q: Do you anticipate unloading and placing the tanks on the ground in Qatar, because it's essentially quite a fair ways from Kuwait?
A: I don't know the details. I think they're still being worked out.
Q: When General Shalikashvili was on the podium not so long ago, he talked about the operation. And getting back to cost, he underlined the need for a supplemental appropriation. Can you tell us when the Department intends to ask for one? And are you going to try to get it during the lame duck session?
A: We will ask for a supplemental appropriation for Haiti. That will probably be next year because right now the understanding is that the post-election session will be short and deal only with GATT.
Q: Do you have a clear picture yet of what our friends in the Gulf are really willing to pick up on this tab?
A: We anticipate that they'll pick up most of the cost. A team from the Defense Department, and from the State Department, is going to the Gulf next week to nail down details of the financing. As you know, the Gulf Cooperation Council has agreed to assume a large share of the cost of this operation.
Q: Some of the countries in the region have been squawking already, one in particular, about being a little tight on cash these days. Have you also begun to pick up those vibrations among some friends in the region?
A: As you know, the Secretary's been there, the President's there now, and we're in contact with the countries of the region, but the negotiations aren't over. As I said, a team will be there next week and we should have more information when they come back than we have now.
Q: Do you expect that Haiti supplemental costs will have to include something for this?
A: It's not my expectation that they would be mingled in that way. There could be a supplemental to cover readiness and training costs. There have been some training exercises that have been foregone in the course of these deployments that we would like to get back. So there could be a supplemental to do that, but these details haven't been totally worked out yet. They're still under consideration.
Q: Has the guy in the back seat of the F-14 had a chance to identify the probable cause of the crash on Tuesday that killed the lady Navy pilot?
A: I think it's premature now to talk about the cause until the investigation is complete, because what you don't want are conclusions based on impressions rather than on facts.
Q: But he didn't just punch out because he wanted an afternoon swim, I assume. He knew something was going on when he punched out. Has anyone talked to him? Has he had a chance to say? Did they have a flame-out, or was there a control problem--something that would lead to the crash? She was quite an accomplished pilot, and we'd like to know if it was mechanical and/or pilot error.
A: You'll know about this when the investigation is complete. The Navy is working on it now, and they're the best source of information.
Q: Is the Navy trying to recover the aircraft?
A: The last I knew, they were not, but I'm sure they will try.
Q: I'd like to ask about Haiti. Yesterday some 458 Haitians were repatriated from Guantanamo Bay. After those 458 were taken back, we understand that the operation has come to a grinding halt--that no Haitians are moving from Guantanamo. Can you tell me what's happened?
A: You were right, and it's in response to the suit involving the Cubans. There's a lot of confusion among the Haitians about this suit--which does not apply to Haitians at all--it applies to Cubans. There is, I think, a wait-and-see period going on now as the Haitians try to figure out what impact, if any, this suit has on them. But it has none.
Our expectation is that once the confusion over the suit clears up, and once the Haitians begin focusing again on the improvements taking place in Haiti, that the volunteers will begin lining up again to return.
Q: Is that the only way the Haitians can be returned to Haiti? Is if they volunteer?
A: Right now we're taking back volunteers, yes. Our expectation is that they will all volunteer to go back.
Q: Are you saying no one is volunteering to go back because they think they're covered by the suit and they think that would be a way for them to get to America?
A: The suit has generated some confusion. When the confusion is cleared up, we're confident that the Haitians will begin returning to Haiti.
Q: What is the status now of the suit regarding the Cubans? Is that being appealed?
A: There was a temporary restraining order by a court in Miami and there was a hearing yesterday that was being continued today. The last I heard, that hearing hadn't been completed yet. So we're awaiting further ruling by the Court. But I want to be clear on this: that that suit applies only to Cubans.
Q: Back to the budget situation within DoD. Can you find out for us how much funding is still available for crisis-type situations--for Iraq, Kuwait situations, Haiti, et cetera? How much padding is there in the budget, do you know?
A: I don't want to talk about our budget as including "a lot of padding."
Q: Pardon the term, but contingency funding.
A: I'll take that question.
Q: Can you tell us when there's going to be a brief on the results of the Secretary's trip to China?
A: What do you want to know? [Laughter]
Q: Has there been an announcement, or has the Pentagon decided to let a contract on the improved version of the Patriot missile? Do you have any status on that?
A: I don't know anything about that.
Press: Thank you.