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DoD News Briefing, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 1999

Presenters: Captain Mike Doubleday, DASD PA
February 09, 1999 1:30 PM EDT

Captain Doubleday: Good afternoon.

Let me start with two announcements.

The first is that the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation is today releasing his 1998 Annual Report to the Congress and to the Secretary of Defense. This is a copy of it, but it's also on the Internet, which for many of you may be a little easier to get to.

The report describes the operational and live fire testing performed on 160 military systems in 1998, and assesses the contribution each weapon system makes to JOINT VISION 2010, the conceptual framework for how U.S. forces will fight in the future.

We do have a few limited hard copies, but I would encourage anybody who would like to look through this report to check the Worldwide Web at www.dote.osd.mil.

The second thing I wanted to bring to your attention is that Secretary and Mrs. Cohen are hosting a special tribute to the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces at an evening performance on President's Day, next Monday, February 15th at 7:00 p.m. at Constitution Hall in Washington. The event is open to the news media. The tribute is entitled "The Pentagon Pops," and it will feature a highly talented group of military musicians and vocalists from all four of the military service bands. Also appearing will be country and western vocalist David Ball and pop singer Peabo Bryson. There is a Blue Top release on this event with more information. If any of you would like to cover this special show, please give your name and affiliation to Glenn Flood in DDI.

With that, I will try and answer some of your questions.

Q: The other day Eleanor Specter, DoD Director of Defense Procurement, criticized Greece's decision not to buy U.S. early warning aircraft. Do you know the reason?

A: As I understand it, Ms. Specter wrote to the Greek Director General, Armaments Directorate, to ask specific questions about Greece's procurement process for selecting an airborne early warning system. She is concerned that the decision-making process was not consistent with the Defense Industrial Cooperation Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Hellenic Republic.

I have a copy of her letter, which I would make available to you. Please see either Glenn Flood or Lieutenant Colonel Steve Campbell in DDI, and they can give you a copy.

Q: Is there a response from Athens to this letter?

A: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: It was reported that Turkey is ready to buy U.S. attack helicopters for its armed forces on the condition, however, that you must first release source codes of advanced fire control software. Any comment?

A: It's my understanding that Turkey has not yet made a decision on which helicopter it would like to purchase, and at this point it would be premature to talk about what will be released.

Q: The Cypriot Foreign Minister is present to be at the so-called -- is going to have meetings here at the Pentagon sometime next week regarding the demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus during his special visit to Washington, D.C. Do you have anything on that?

A: I am aware of a visit, but he is not going to be here at the Pentagon as far as I know.

Q: And the last, can you please comment on reports that you are planning to deploy U.S. troops in Cyprus on the neutral zone separating totally 10,000 Greek and Turkish soldiers under NATO umbrella in a confederated Republic of Cyprus.

A: The United States has no plans to deploy U.S. troops to Cyprus.

Q: I'm asking under NATO initiative.

A: We have no plans to deploy U.S. troops to Cyprus under any circumstances.

Q: Mike, the Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia has said, according to the wires, that under no conditions would Yugoslavia be willing to have foreign peacekeeping troops in Kosovo. Any reaction to that?

A: Well, I think you know that NATO has already taken a very firm stance on this, and that stance is that if the Serbs are responsible for the failure of these talks, that there will be very swift and severe consequences for them to pay.

I would also point out that we're in the midst of negotiations, and there has been no final agreement on any of this yet. I think we should all just stand by and see what happens there.

Q: In discussing -- presumably though, there are discussions going on in the building on the ifs and whens concerning ground forces. Would it be acceptable for the United States or American forces to serve under a foreign ground commander in Kosovo?

A: First, let me point out that I think, as all of you are well aware, there first of all has been no agreement, and as a result of that, the President has made no decision on U.S. military participation in a NATO operation.

Having said that, as you point out, there is certainly a lot of discussion going on between the United States and the allies about the role that NATO might play in all of this. I think you're also aware that the leadership here is very heavily involved in consultations with the Congress on this issue.

The issue that you raise regarding the leadership role, I would only point out that the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe is an American; the chain of command in Europe in the Southern Region runs through another American four star officer -- in this case it's an admiral who is Commander of Allied Forces in Southern Europe. His name is Admiral John Ellis. In addition to that, there are many examples that we have of U.S. forces operating with allies in a variety of circumstances where a U.S. commander is not in operational control.

We make a distinction. Operational control has to do with the ability of a commander to organize and to employ forces in a way that fulfills the mission that that commander has been given. This, however, does not extend to logistics, to administrative, to disciplinary control, which is maintained by individual nations. I would cite for you the operation that we've had for several years in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia called ABLE SENTRY where the United States has been providing a unit. We have always been under the operational control of the U.N. commander there, who is normally from one of the Scandinavian countries.

Q: Is there anything new to report about the situation about the no-fly zones?

A: No, I think most of you are aware that over the last few days it's been relatively quiet. I think in the northern no-fly zone today there was a report of AAA, but there have been no strikes taken by U.S. aircraft in either the north or the south in the past four or five days.

Q: Could you please comment on a report that the Turkish government asked you to make some changes in the no-fly zone over northern Iraq?

A: I don't have any specific information regarding what the Turkish government is reported to have said. I can tell you, though, that our operations in northern Iraq and those in southern Iraq continue, and we intend to enforce those two no-fly zones.

Q: If I can just get back to this operational control. So the objection that folks have is not so much with the operational control of American servicemembers, but the disciplinary and the logistics side. Is that the problem?

A: First of all, I think most U.S. military people, at least those who have had experience working with Allied forces, don't believe there is a problem. We have done this for years and years and years. We have numerous exercises that we've conducted with NATO partners over the years where our units have been under the operational control of a senior officer from some other nation, but it has all worked out very well.

The point I was trying to make was that based on our long experience, the business of disciplinary activity, the business of administrative control and also logistics support for a unit is maintained by the individual nations.

I also think in this particular instance it's important to point out [that] the United States is a full participant in NATO, both at the political and the military levels. Any decisions that are made regarding a role that NATO might play in a peace implementation in Kosovo would have to be taken by the North Atlantic Council where we are fully represented and where we would be a very active participant in any decision-making process.

In addition to that, there is a military side to NATO where the Supreme Allied Commander is an American, has been for -- since NATO was first established. And General Clark, who is the Supreme Allied Commander, has, of course during his tenure, been overseeing the operations in Bosnia. If NATO takes a decision to get involved in peace implementation in Kosovo, he would be the senior officer overseeing that NATO activity. And so there would be U.S. representation in the chain of command. It's not as if we are totally divorced from this thing.

And as I say, most U.S. officers who have worked in any kind of a situation in NATO have an appreciation for the fact that these things work out without any problems.

Q: Going back to World War I, the Marines in the Rock of the Marne Division, 3rd Infantry, fought under French control. Why is this such a problem now?

A: I think, as I say, for the uniformed side it is not a problem, but I think the overall process that we go through any time there is going to be an operation involving U.S. troops, there are issues raised and discussed in the public forums that we have, and this is just one of them that comes up from time to time. Certainly it's one that deserves an airing.

Having said all of that, I need to footnote all of this once again with the fact that, number one, we have no peace agreement. We have a whole list of requirements that the President outlined last week, and the President has made no decision on U.S. participation in the NATO operation should NATO elect to go that way.

Q: I'm not sure if you can answer this question at this point, but can we jump forward just for planning purposes to let's say there is a peace agreement. How long would this process take between the time the President decides to send troops or not and when they might be in Kosovo? Will it be sort of a drawn out thing where it might take a few weeks, or...

A: I can't give you a definitive answer on that mainly because at this point the full scope of what the military mission might be has not been nailed down. I should leave it there. I should not even speculate at this point on how long it should be before military people could get in there.

Q: Captain, it was reported in the European press that recently you've reduced your forces in Bosnia. Do you know the exact number?

A: I think we are presently at 6,000... Let me just see if I've got that. 6,900 [sic, actual 6,700] right now, and it's going to continue to move down. I think we'll be at 6,200 before we have come to the level that we have in mind. 6,200.

Q: Are there not also concerns in this building in the event that a peacekeeping force is sent to Kosovo about what kind of leverage such a force might have on the UCK, the Kosovo Liberation Army, given that they're a guerrilla force? It's a little hard to see how you bomb them; it's a little hard to see how you pressure them.

A: I think you raise a very important issue but it's only one of many that military people are going to be concerned about.

This falls under the overall kind of list of issues that U.S. military leaders would want to have addressed before they would feel comfortable with any kind of a military operation, and it wouldn't have to be just applied to the situation in Kosovo but any kind of military operation. Military leaders are always looking for a very clearly defined mission with a command and control structure that makes sense and works.

In this particular instance, what the President has outlined is what we call a permissive environment, which is essentially an environment where hostilities have ceased, and I think we're also looking for an environment where the factions that are warring have agreed that there is a desire on both sides for peace to occur and for peace to be implemented, and for some outside organization like NATO in this case to make that happen. So all of those factors are playing a role in the thinking that is going on regarding this issue and in the discussions that we're having with our NATO allies.

I misspoke. The Bosnia force is presently at 6,700 not 6,900, but it is going down to 6,200.

Q: What happened to those 200? Where did they go?

A: I think it was just my misreading of the card.

Q: The Iraq News Agency is reporting out of Baghdad that a U.S. plane in one of the no-fly zones today was struck by Iraqi fire, although not downed. Do you have any reason to believe that may be the case?

A: I have not only no reason to believe it's not the case, I have every evidence that that absolutely did not occur.

Anything else?

Press: Thank you.